On Russia's formal claim to territories it knew it wouldn't control

[Originally posted to the Fediverse - Source]

One of the “big decisions” that looks puzzling in relation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is why did Putin decide to declare Russian sovereignty over more parts of Ukraine (Kherson and Zaporizhzhia) not when he could still hope to actually conquer them, but at a point in time when it was already evident that the Russian army could not plausibly cling to what it had, much less gain new ground.

I have looked at it mostly as an additional line of defence against possible (?) short-term intra-elite contestation, i.e., basically, a coup: before the new annexation, any would-be challenger could move back to pre-24 February lines and actively negotiate for peace without having to admit any step-back from the official policy line, while trying to gain legitimacy by offering an end to war and talks of de-isolation of Russia. Any such line of action is now made more impervious by the official and constitutionally-protected claim to these regions.

But what about the long term?

In the latest issue of his newsletter - always a recommended read - Sam Greene has some thoughts on the long-term political usefulness of perennially unsatisfied irredentism, taking clues from Serbia.

Giorgio Comai
Researcher, data analyst