Putin the Great? Russian Leader Cites Imperial Past to Justify Ukraine War
Comparing himself to one of Russia’s greatest military leaders, Putin argued his war in Ukraine would reestablish Russia’s place on the world stage On Thursday, the 350th anniversary of the birth of famed Russian tsar Peter the Great, Russian leader Vladimir Putin appeared to draw historical parallels between the historic emperor’s conquests in Eastern Europe and his invasion of Ukraine on the basis that both of them had been intended to reestablish Russia as a major world power and fulfill the country’s historic territorial ambitions. Putin’s remarks, made at a meeting of young Russian entrepreneurs in Moscow, compared the ongoing Russian “special military operation,” which began in February 2022 after a months-long buildup along the Russo-Ukrainian border, to Peter the Great’s participation in the Great Northern War, a twenty-year war between Russia and Sweden over territory in northeastern Europe.
Putin argued that “it has also fallen to our lot to regain and strengthen” this recognition through a reassertion of Russia’s dominance in Eastern Europe. “If we proceed from the fact that those basic values form the basis of our existence, we will certainly succeed in solving the tasks that are before us,” he said. Putin’s comparisons to the Great Northern War come as Sweden and Finland have applied to join NATO, raising concerns of a potential second military conflict between Stockholm and Moscow.
Peter the Great, who ruled Russia from 1682 until 1725, is widely credited with modernizing the overwhelmingly-feudal Russian state and expanding its frontiers in the west. Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.
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