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Below is mostly my opinion on how things in Russia are (hindsight is that I never truly lived in Russia, just was born there and left when 8 to Cyprus and then eventually Netherlands. Most of my opinion is thus formed on my visits to Russia, what I learn online and the things I talk about with Russians still in Russia and abroad).

Russian culture and history is extensive but full of tragedies and unlearned lessons.

It's tragic what Ukraine has to deal through due to Russia's leaders miscalculated decisions based off misinformation and expectations to overwhelm Kyiv in first days of war and take over the country.

The extent of this tragedy is hard to understand in full. Some humans truly have no moral bounds or empathy. This gives a summary of what happened in first days of the war.

It's hard to stay truly informed on what's going on unless you take the time to study the sources of claims you read. I love and recommend Credible Defense subreddit's daily discussions as a nice way to get fact based reporting.

Also like analysis of Anders Nielsen, Michael Kofman, Perun & William Spaniel. Ukraine/Russia report sub although with some bias tries to give news from both sides of the war.

I have a maybe naive look on the situation but I do try to operate on facts as much as possible.

With that said, here is my reading on why an active invasion of Ukraine in 2022 happened.

The war with Ukraine started with annexation of Crimea in 2014. Since then internationally this annexation was never accepted. Ukraine had greatly reduced water flow to Crimea. The expensive bridge built by Russia to Crimea is not enough to sustain the region properly.

Since 2014, east of Ukraine had bursts of infighting happen in the region and continued until 2022, when the decision to move military towards Ukraine was made.

Someone on Reddit summarized it well.

They got away with it in Chechnya, Georgia and Ukraine in '14, so why not try it again? Combine that with Putin believing the "hype" of the Russian military reforms and you got the current situation

Beyond the above simplified reasoning and truly thinking this would be a 3 day operation, these few things most likely played a role in actually deciding to do such a stupid thing:

  1. Putin thought US interfered and had impact on Ukraine's change of government in 2014 away from pro Russian views president at the time. In Putin's world view, many eastern Europe countries that border Russia are under Russia's zone of influence and thus had less agency over their foreign policy.
  2. Putin has been in power for over 20 years and has twisted interest in history that brought him a certain world view he thinks is right. Whilst destroying most all free speech institutions in Russia as well as removing any kind of political opposition through a well funded police apparatus and well vetted closed circle favoring loyalty over skill and honesty. Information going to the top has been degraded more and more due to corruption or fear of bad news. This in turn made Putin and probably his closed number of people with real impact on Russia's policies to be misinformed on what is actually happening on the ground in Ukraine like what the sentiment in there is. FSB group investing in buying Ukraine's politicians was sacked immediately after it was clearly responsible for promising swift victory in 3 days. This situation has been degraded even more rapidly as COVID arrived and Putin seemingly was isolated even more from everyone.
  3. Get land access to illegally annexed Crimea and solve Crimea's cut water situation.
  4. Ukraine's industries would be seized and be taken over by Russian oligarchs. Ukraine, especially the east, has sizable natural gas reserves with many industries and food production.

Some say war was inevitable due to how the borders of Ukraine were chosen after disillusionment of USSR.

The big question though is why is the Russian society so apolitical. There's a lot of resentment in many people of Russia with how 90's have been handled. For many in Russia, 90's was their first experience with something most close to democracy even if briefly.

Stability of Russian state is often correlated well with oil/gas prices which is why Putin whilst not being known by anyone pre 2000. Rose quickly in popularity during start of 2000s as oil/gas prices rose and there was a reset happening as far as relations between West/Russia went.

It's hard to believe that official reasons like denazification and supposed protection of borders from NATO (all completely made up) has any weight on why Russian's don't protest. The simple answer is that it's a complete police state where not a single public demonstration in Russia worked in the public's benefit. All public judges have been in service of political party, not the constitution for long time.

Each public demonstration resulted in more aggressive response by the state.

It's fair to say that invasion of Ukraine is a complete catastrophe to both Russia and Ukraine and by side effect Europe. There is silver linings of Europe having been forced to look more aggressively towards energy independence. However as temporary measure still be energy dependent on other countries, namely Qatar.

Russian government lost all credibility after they claimed that an invasion of Ukraine was preposterous and impossible right before it happened so the only hope the conflict ends is with a decisive Ukranian military victory and full retrieval of Russian invaders from occupied lands.

As it stands Russia is becoming more and more dependent on China for support and that can't lead to anything good for Russia and its future territorial integrity.

There's a lot of talk around collective guilt of Russians for this horrible war. But given the sham that elections in Russia are and that people in Russia have no say in which direction Russia goes especially with respect to its foreign policy, it's tough subject. I personally think countries should not discriminate against Russians simply for them being born in a country that does bad things. Locking everyone up in tyrannical country with no ways out won't help from preventing these wars happening again.

I personally hope to do my best in trying to make the situation better by providing top of the class tools for education which hopefully will allow any person of any country to be independent of government's funding. Perhaps this way less people will choose the job of going into Russian police to beat protestors up or maybe at least make them think more about what they are truly selling out for short term gains. A lot of people in Russia sadly, still gain majority of their income solely from the government. You can't have independent thinking when your entire livelihood is dependent on being on same line with the government on all matters.

I have a hard time imagining that many people truly support this aggression towards Ukranian people having been shown the facts of civilian bombings and killings. Most people in Russia, in my opinion, are either depressed due to how powerless they feel or simply ignorant to what is happening to their lives and are just trying to make best of it.

It hurts to see this happen to a country with millions of people. I personally want to travel to Russia and meet the different people there. Ask them how they live, what they think. Russia is incredibly varied in culture and I want to feel how different regions live and survive given current conditions. I think/hope that more and more people start to grow conscious of the fact that they need to focus everything on either immigrating away or starting to care more actively about their more and more disappearing agency in this oppressive country. Or else even with Putin's death, nothing will change. No lessons will be learned and history will repeat itself.

From places I've been in Russia, I truly loved Saint Petersburg and Moscow. The services are often superb. Many food options. Easy ability to travel with metro/bus. Interesting architecture that you won't find anywhere else. Filled with mostly friendly and welcoming people.

I don't know when and if ever the situation will change positively for Russia. But I hope for the best. It's painful to see so many people driven by hate, especially when hate is generalized to a whole country of people. I hope love wins and better systems finally get built to prevent messes like this from happening again.

I also hope non violent speech will never be silenced in Russia as it's crucial for a healthy society. And ideally saner laws with respect to psychedelics get passed. I think alcohol and cigarettes as the main drug of choice for majority of the population plays a role in why things are the way they are. Some MDMA therapies can be very helpful for all.

All of this is just my opinion and I genuinely don't know a lot. The west has many issues too and lies a lot with their sophisticated propaganda machines for crafting out new 'current thing' narratives. So I just try to live my life and build great tools that hopefully accelerate the future where all countries are free from oppression.

I also hope the discourse around conflicting topics like the above get healthier and not purely based on emotions. This is only way I see most everyone improve and minimize our chances of future mess ups.

I have a mostly Russian Twitter List I fancy and use daily. For political updates, there's many accounts I like. Julia Ioffe, Michael Kofman & Max Seddon do nice summaries often. Like Meduza publication too. Коллектив has nice video channel that shows life in Russia.