What everybody wants to know is, of course, why the Russians are doing all this insane shit. Why are they invading Ukraine, threatening the world, and waving about the nukes?
The reason is our old friend, the nation-building. Russia is a federation where people of different races, ethnicities, languages and cultures inhabit an enormous territory. These people don’t have much in common.
When you have such an extremely diverse population, you can either try to unite it around a powerfully positive set of feelings that will bind these people in love or you can try to unite the against a powerfully negative set of feelings that will bind them in hatred. In simpler terms, people need either to love or to hate together to feel they have something in common.
Remember, a nation is a myth. It is a myth that is so patently ridiculous that every vestige of reason has to be swept away by powerful emotions. Americans, for instance, glue themselves together with positive feelings of love and pride they direct towards the Constitution, the freedom, the American Dream, the Civil Rights movement, etc.
Russians never managed to create this kind of a shared positive emotional wave. So what’s left? Hatred, obviously. Hatred and blood. The blood spilled together is the greatest glue for communities.
The fear of the country shattering into dozens of little pieces has been extremely strong in Russia for decades. This is a really grave concern for the Russians that is nothing like the funny preoccupations of the silly little secessionists in Texas. Russians are uniting against the imaginary foe (big evil Americans) and are killing Ukrainians in the name of that hatred.
There is nothing like a search for a positive shared imagery in Russia right now. Until such imagery is generated, Russians will not stop lashing out in ever-growing violence.
Ukrainians, who also inhabit a large and diverse (although not anywhere near as large and diverse as Russia) country did manage to find a powerful positive agenda to unite around. And when Russians saw that, they really freaked out because they were being left behind even by the neighbors they saw as very similar to them. Russia needs to demolish Ukraine’s positive national project to convince itself that the project of hatred and violence is the only one possible.
P.S. For a smaller scale example of the same phenomenon, see Israel.