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The ongoing turmoil in Ukraine has frequently been compared to the Yugoslav crisis of the early 1990s – and, indeed, there are many similarities.Russian President Vladimir Putin's tactics in Ukraine do resemble those of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic during the breakup of Yugoslavia. Putin's misuse of World War II references in propaganda, aimed at fueling intense Russian nationalism, is often said to be a cut-and-paste replica of Milosevic's disinformation campaigns in the early 1990s, which stirred up anti-Croat sentiment among Serbs.Both Putin and Milosevic empowered ethnic kin in the countries over which they wanted to assert control, before launching military invasions under the pretense of protecting those kin. Of course, Putin's Russia is not Milosevic's Serbia.Putin remains involved in Ukraine for reasons that seem largely pedagogical.For Ukraine – and its new government, in particular – the message is that the country cannot survive, at least not within its current borders, without Russia's support. Putin also wants to show Ukrainians that, at the end of the day, the West does not really care about them. The West's motivations in Ukraine, too, seem more pedagogical than strategic: to show Putin that changing borders by force is unacceptable in Europe today.
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