Speed Reads

wiped off the map

Putin threatens Ukraine with loss of statehood

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that if Ukraine could lose its statehood if it continues to resist Russia's invasion, The New York Times reports.

"The current leadership needs to understand that if they continue doing what they are doing, they risk the future of Ukrainian statehood," Putin said in Moscow on Saturday. "If that happens," he continued, "they will have to be blamed for that."

The precise goal of Putin's invasion remains unclear, but few experts believe he wants to fully annex Ukraine. Taking part of a country — as he did with Crimea in 2014 — is one thing. Wiping an entire nation off the map would be something else entirely.

Likelier outcomes would involve setting up a Russia-friendly puppet government in Kyiv or incorporating large parts of eastern Ukraine into Russia while leaving a pro-Western rump in the west. Bold as annexing Ukraine might be, however, Putin has presented historical arguments he argues would justify exactly that, referring to modern Ukraine as a creation of the Soviet Union. 

Since the end of World War Two, the total annexation of one sovereign state by another has been exceedingly rare. Attempts that were subsequently reversed include Iraq's 1990 annexation of Kuwait, Indonesia's 1975 annexation of East Timor, and Ethiopia's 1962 annexation of Eritrea.

The People's Republic of China annexed Tibet in 1951, though whether Tibet was a sovereign nation prior to the annexation is debated. The reunification of Vietnam in 1975 was effectively an annexation of South Vietnam by the communist north.