American Analyst: Putin is Actually Afraid of a Free Ukraine. Podcast

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«I don’t think that Putin is after territory,» says American Ukraine observer Andrew Fink. «He is after federalizing Ukraine, which would mean the end of the Revolution,» just as China is trying to stop a free Taiwan.

In most of the media accounts circulating these past weeks, Ukraine is portrayed as a relatively helpless player in the tension with Moscow. But what if, actually, Vladimir Putin is afraid of Ukraine?

Andrew Fink lived in Kyiv for nearly six years until 2020 while working on his PhD dissertation at the University of Leiden, in the Netherlands. He was studying the uses of conspiracy theories in disinformation campaigns. To get more perspective on the current Ukraine-Russia tension, I spoke with Fink, now based in Tallinn, Estonia, on the Real Ukraine podcast. 

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Euromaidan: A revolution that scares tyrants worldwide?

The «impact of Euromaidan,» Ukraine’s 2014 people-driven Revolution of Dignity, has been ignored or underestimated by many observers of the Ukraine-Russia situation. 

«I think we need to realize how much Putin and Putin’s people might be driven by fear, not of NATO, not of the EU, of a free Ukraine. I tend to believe that is his ultimate target. It’s not some new European security structure. … I think those are mostly distractions from what’s going on this winter.»


«If Ukrainians manage to flourish … and they are on course to do so,» Fink says, «Russians are gonna say if those people can do it, why can’t we do it?»

Andrew Fink

Russian propaganda as well as some Americans have depicted Euromaidan as an American-orchestrated coup by the administration of Obama-Biden or as a racist, chauvinistic campaign. 

Fink says Ukraine and its 2014 revolution are nothing of the sort.

«The Maidan Revolution is not a massively nantionalist, chauvinist project, as it is sometimes depicted in Russian propaganda» he says. «It is very broad-based and accepting. Ukraine is one of the most tolerant places I have ever been.»

Ukrainians standing in the main square, the maidan, of Kyiv during the Revolution of Dignity, Euromaidan. 

These things – Ukraine’s tolerance, civil society, freedom of speech, free elections, and the power of the people-driven revolution, coupled with the fact that many Ukrainians speak Russian – are a threat to Putin, just as free Taiwan, which is Chinese in culture, is a threat to tyrannical Beijing, Fink says. 

«Does Putin really believe Russian propaganda about how the Revolution of Maidan is a western project, or is he acting from much more selfish interests that he doesn’t want Russians to get the idea that they can kick out corrupt dictators and have free elections?»

«I don’t think that Putin was after territory. He was after federalizing Ukraine, which would mean the end of the Revolution.»

But if Putin fails to stop Ukraine, «a free Ukraine might even be a glimpse of the future, of Russia without Putin.»

An alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania, Andrew Fink, a writer and entrepreneur, earned his master’s at SOAS University of London in near and middle eastern studies, and he has long studied Vladimir Putin’s tactics and motives. He also speaks Russian and Persian.

Read more: «Russian-speaking Doesn’t Equal Russia.» A Brief Look at Kharkiv, a Bilingual Ukrainian City.»

Find more stories about the Russia threats at our Defending Ukraine page

Joe Lindsley, an American journalist (follow on Instagram or LinkedIn), is editor of Lviv Now.

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Lviv Now is an English-language website for Lviv, Ukraine’s «tech-friendly cultural hub.» It is produced by Tvoe Misto («Your City») media-hub, which also hosts regular problem-solving public forums to benefit the city and its people.

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