Former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch discusses the war, reflects on her time as ambassador

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As we mentioned, the war in Ukraine continues, with Russia gaining ground in some regions and retreating in others. We welcomed Maire Yovanovitch to Arizona Horizon. As a former ambassador to Ukraine and a high-profile figure in the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump, Yovanovitch offered a unique perspective on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Why is Vladimir Putin so interested in Ukraine?

Yovanovitch pinned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “obsession” with Ukraine as an expression of his beliefs that Ukraine is a part of Russia. 

“He believes that the Ukrainians are not a distinct people and culture, that Ukraine does not have a right to exist, and he wants to bring it back into the fold of Mother Russia, recreating, take your pick. The Soviet Union, the Russian Empire. I think he made three miscalculations. One, that his military was up to the task. Two, that the Ukrainians would not resist, and three, that the West would not be united.”

The invasion itself, as well as the number of miscalculations made by Putin, surprised Yovanovitch in some ways. She considered the current conflict to the illegal annexation of Crimea and other invasions of Ukrainian territory enough for Russia.

“It was destabilizing Ukraine, and that Russia felt that it had had enough with that. But then of course, we saw the buildup of Russian men and material on three sides of Ukraine, then it became clear that there was going to be an invasion.”

Do the Russian people feel the same way?

Yovanovitch notes that it’s hard to tell whether the Russian people truly believe in Putin’s mission to “de-Nazify” Ukraine. But she traced out the “cocktail” of messaging Putin feeds the Russian people.

“They are being fed this pack of lies about the “Nazis in Ukraine,” and how they’re working with the U.S. and NATO, and that Putin had no other choice, and that the Russian military are heroes, defending Mother Russia. So, that’s the gaslighting, that’s the disinformation, the lies. But he taps into this very strong vein of Russian nationalism, and of the “great patriotic war,” as they called World War II, which was the fight against the Nazis, the German Nazis.”

Maire Yovanovitch

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