This report examines Russia’s preparations for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine: domestically, in Ukraine itself, in the global information domain, and in building its relationship with China.
For Russia, crushing Ukraine’s quest for democracy was central to meeting its objectives of reshaping the post-Cold War order in Europe and globally, restoring its own status, and reconstituting the Russian empire and Russian world. Its preparations in the political and informational, military, and economic domains for a full-scale war in Ukraine were too extensive and overt to go unnoticed, but they were not acted upon. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the evidence went against the dominant narrative in the West and was simply brushed aside.
In the political and informational domains, Russia’s domestic preparations including cementing the regime’s authority, and taking advantage of the population’s Soviet nostalgia and aspirations for the restoration of the Russian world and the empire. Limited economic preparations were intended to safeguard Russia’s economy against current and future Western sanctions, while Russia’s extensive military preparations involved large-scale defence spending and extensive military modernisation efforts.
Russia’s preparations beyond its own territory included: a campaign within Ukraine to divide society and discredit the democratically elected leadership; a campaign directed at the rest of the world about Ukraine, discrediting the country and its people as an object of sympathy and support in their resistance against Russia; and a campaign of intimidation designed to instil in western leaders and populations a fear of obstructing, impeding, or offending Russia.
Russia also worked to build a relationship with China. China’s support is essential to Putin’s ambitions. But equally, China’s strategy for confronting the United States – which China cannot do alone – depends on Russia remaining at least a quasi-great power.
Download and read: How Russia Went to War: The Kremlin’s Preparations for Its Aggression Against Ukraine (PDF)