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Russian officials are promoting an information operation that falsely frames Russia’s war in Ukraine as existential for Russia, the Insitute for the Study of War wrote in its latest update.
During an interview with TV channel Rossiya-1 on Feb. 26, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin said he did not know if "such an ethnic group as the Russian people can survive in the form in which it exists today" if the West succeeds in "destroying the Russian Federation and establishing control over its fragments," the ISW reported in its update.
Putin claimed the West already has a plan "set out on paper" to destroy Russia.
According to Putin, "Russia had to suspend its participation in the START treaty in order to ensure its strategic stability and security in the face of a concerted Western effort to use START to cripple Russia’s strategic prospects," the ISW wrote.
Russia on Feb. 21 suspended its participation in the New START treaty, which limits the size and composition of the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.
Putin's statements, along with other similar statements by Russian officials, are likely attempts to present the war as having higher stakes for Russia and the West than it actually does, the ISW wrote. Putin also likely hopes to set the stage in order to later accuse Ukraine and the West of threatening Russia's existence in response to Russia's failures on the battlefield.
As the ISW noted, "no prominent Western official has called for the dissolution of the Russian Federation, and Western leaders have been very careful to articulate their aims as being to enable Ukraine to liberate all its territory at most."
"Putin’s language is designed to fuel support for the war in Russia and stoke fears in the West of the instability that would follow the collapse of Russia to deter Western support to Ukraine and persuade the West to coerce Kyiv into accepting Russian demands."