عنوان مقاله [English]
Introduction: In late 2021, Western intelligence services began issuing warnings about Moscow's readiness to invade Ukraine, although Russian elites, including Putin, denied the claim. But to the dismay of observers and the concern of Western nations, he ordered an invasion in February 2022. At first, this action was supposed to be a short and decisive operation with the aim of overthrowing the Zelenskyi government. But the field calculations were wrong and Moscow admitted that every war has its own path and does not necessarily follow the pre-planned path and the plan of the military commanders. The 2022 Russian war on Ukraine sparked different and even contradictory analyses. Some believe that because of NATO's eastward expansion and Ukraine's desire to join this security alliance, the Kremlin is opposed to any option except war. Other scholars believe that Putin attacked Ukraine because of Moscow's strong desire to be recognized and respected as a "great power" or because of elements of Russia's strategic culture. Other studies have focused on Putin's personal characteristics and ambitions as the main source of the attack. This article examines the role of Putin's perceptions and miscalculations in relation to the issue of war.
Research Question: The key question of the study is: How have Putin’s misperceptions affected his policy towards Kyiv? There are also a few minor questions, such as: How Putin understands the international position of Russia and its relations with other countries, and how he perceives the intentions of other great powers.
Research Hypothesis: This study hypothesizes that Putin's misperceptions of Russia's military might, Ukraine's will and power to resist, his misperception of Ukraine's intentions and his misunderstanding of the reactions of third parties critically contributed to and precipitated his decision to go to war.
Methodology (and theoretical framework if there are): To determine the main variables of the research, a conceptual framework, based on the findings of some key scholars of the psychology of International Politics, namely Jack Levy and Martin White, has been adopted. According to the conceptual framework, 3 main categories of misperceptions play an important role in leading countries to war: 1) Misperception of oneself and enemy’s military capabilities; 2) Misperception on the enemy’s intentions and the degree of its animosity, and 3) Misperception on the intentions and reactions of the third parties. The second tier of the conceptual framework includes two key elements of Russian strategic culture, “fear” and “arrogance” which according to Martin White, are the main elements of a war. All of these factors could pave the way for a costly and all-out war. To investigate the role of these factors in the 2022 war in Ukraine, the research method of qualitative content analysis has been used. Directed qualitative content analysis, unlike conventional inductive approaches, is a comparative research approach. In this method, the researcher uses the existing theory and literature to determine the key concepts and variables. Based on those concepts and variables, the researcher begins to collect, code, decode and analyze the data. In the current study, according to the variables of the conceptual framework, the author has directly and indirectly pointed out Putin's views in this field in order to extract his possible misconceptions about Ukraine crisis. In collecting information related to Putin's words, the writer has referred to the interviews and documents published by the Russian Foreign Ministry. To strengthen the reliability of the research, the findings of the existing literature have also been examined. The collected data has been coded, decoded and analyzed in the conceptual framework.
Results and Discussion: Cognitive and psychological factors have played a significant role in creating the ground for the war in Ukraine. There is some evidence that highlights the role of the misperceived Russian elites, mainly Putin, in the war against Kyiv. These misconceptions are: 1) Misunderstanding of Ukraine's own and military capabilities, a) overestimating Moscow’s military capabilities and b) underestimating Ukraine's military capabilities 2) Misperception on the intentions of Kyiv; including a) Overestimating the animosity and evil intentions of Ukraine, and b) Underestimating the enemy’s will and courage to resist and 3) Misunderstanding of EU and US response to ongoing events, mainly underestimating their harsh and long-term response. These misconceptions, combined with two key elements of Russian strategic culture, fear and arrogance, led Russia to escalate the crisis into an all-out war. These findings contribute to the literature by articulating a meaningful conceptual framework. Combining cognitive factors with elements of Russian strategic culture can be useful for explaining some fascinating and illusory issues of Russian foreign policy.
Conclusion: Russia invaded Ukraine for a variety of reasons. Geopolitical, geo-economics, geo-strategic and even geo-cultural factors played a role in pushing Moscow on the path to war. These factors had taken roots for a long time and didn’t appear suddenly. The findings of this paper help to explain why Putin chose the war path despite previous restraints. Elements of Russia's strategic culture highlighted Moscow's perceived threats and called for an immediate response. In the process of orchestrating a credible and decisive response to threats, elements of this misperception helped significantly to convince Putin that the time had come for a military strike. The role of these misconceptions in the form, tactics, and objectives of the initial mobilization of Russian forces is quite clear. In short, Putin and other military elites’ misperceptions, along with fear and arrogance, paved the way for his war in Ukraine.