Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu raised eyebrows in a video clip posted to Twitter, with translations of his recent speech suggesting that “the Soviet Union would return” soon.
While the translated remarks were deemed to have been taken out of context, according to Newsweek, it has shed renewed light on Russia ruler Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine that began Feb. 24 as “a special military operation,” sparking a war that has lasted into the summer and shows no signs of subsiding.
Military strategists have long believed Putin has designs on reconstituting the old Soviet Union, and Shoigu’s video clip shared on Twitter fed into that possibility.
The translation of the video, leaving out the context of Shoigu talking about the Soviet Union’s demise in the early 1990s, when the USSR permitted states to vote to secede from the Soviet Union. Shoigu remarked that Russian leaders felt the Soviet Union would either hold together or vote to reform.
“At the time, I am certain, especially among my generation, we were absolutely convinced that all of this was temporary, that our nation would once again be great and powerful, that the Soviet Union would return, and that no one would leave — everyone would live in peace and harmony,” Shoigu says in the clip, according to the Newsweek translation, adding that he wished “all those events truly remained history, and were never to repeat.”
A Newsweek fact-check showed Shoigu did say the “Soviet Union would return,” but it was reportedly stated in the context of the 1992 Russian leadership belief that the departed USSR states would ultimately voluntarily return.
There were other versions of the translation, including:
- “Soon, there will be a Soviet Union again and we will again live in peace,” according to one tweet.
- “This is all temporary. There will be the Soviet Union again, no one will go anywhere, and we will live in peace,” according to another tweeted translation.
Regardless of the exact words, the Newsweek fact-check acknowledged that the defense minister’s remarks were talking about the past Soviet Union reconstituting, and not Putin’s current stated intention to return Ukraine to Russia.
This is not disputed: Russian officials and state-run media have used terms such as “reunification” and a “coming home” of at least parts of Ukraine — if not the entire country.
Newsmax analyst Rick Gates, who has spent years studying Ukraine politics, on the night Putin’s invasion began, said portions of Kyiv and those west in Ukraine are too anti-Russian and Ukraine-nationalist to be go along peacefully with Putin’s designs to return Ukraine to Russia’s sphere of influence.
Gates did acknowledge that the southern and eastern regions do have some Russian sympathizers.
“The eastern part, obviously their culture, their people, they’re very much tied to Russia, the former USSR,” Gates told host Newsmax Rob Schmitt. “So they were in a position to kind of just roll over, and that’s exactly kind of what you’re seeing, which is why Putin is coming from the north and the east.”
Putin is likely to stick to invading areas easier to keep under Russian control, Gates continued, ostensibly predicting the war movement that would be lasting months later.
“I don’t think he’s going to go much further than Kyiv, because again, I don’t think Putin wants this to be a long, drawn-out affair,” Gates said. “I think he wants to try to get as much under his control, as quickly as possible, and then face some of the consequences, endured the sanctions, just like he did in 2014.”