Justifying War in Ukraine: An Analysis of Speeches, Excerpts and Interviews by Vladimir Putin
For two years now the war in Southeast Ukraine has claimed approximately 10,000 lives and countless casualties. Pegged as a civil war, the conflict is waging on between pro-Western nationalists and pro-Russian separatists. The war ignited after the public ousting of President Yanukovch in Maidan Square in the midst of thousands of protesters, and the subsequent annexation of Crimea. Although the Russian Federation maintains it does not have a military presence in Ukraine, U.S. intelligence and Ukrainian military officials have evidence otherwise. As a result, the West has imposed significant sanctions on "Putin's Russia". This study explores how Putin justifies the Russian incursion into Ukraine through his own rhetoric, and further, whether this rhetoric changes when speaking to a domestic versus international audience. In the context of framing, this study analyzes 57 speeches, interviews, and excerpts of Vladimir Putin focused on the Crisis in Ukraine, from the years of 2013 to 2016. Throughout the literature, Kin-state rallying, Russian encirclement by enemies/isolation, Russian ethnocentrism, blurred legal rhetoric, and manipulation of historical myth, are the predominant frames that emerge. By way of propaganda, the findings indicate that Putin's most frequently used justifications frame the conflict through Russia's necessity to protect its brother nation from an unstable government, and the projection of blame onto the West. In effect, this study not only emphasizes the significance and implications of framing by elites in conflict, it also sheds light on the current debate over Putin's motivations in Ukraine.