1. Back to the starting point: Russia conducts a “special military operation” targeting Kiev and eastern Ukraine with the explicit aim of ousting the government that complies with the West — the EU and NATO — and replacing it with a pro-Russia one. Occupying territories bordering the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in the east of the country that are loyal to Moscow is supposed to protect them against constant incursions and attacks by Ukrainian forces and secure the annexation of Crimea by military means. At the same time, Russia declares that its much broader strategic goal is to secure its own existence against the advance of the Western military alliance up to its western border. It sees NATO and the EU’s co-opting of its Black Sea neighbor as an anti-Russian outpost, possibly also for stationing American medium-range missiles, as a fundamental threat to its own strategic defense capability — a threat that must be repelled.
These two objectives are on quite different levels.