Ukraine and the Global South: Putin’s Two-Front War Against the West (Part One)

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 20 Issue: 168


Addressing an expanded session of the Russian Security Council on October 30, President Vladimir Putin outlined a new concept for the struggle against the West (, October 30). Putin is seeking to enlist the Global South (not his term) into this struggle alongside Russia. The main novelties are: first, positioning Russia itself at the forefront of anti-Western forces, called upon to reshape the world order; and second, merging Russia’s war against Ukraine and its hybrid war against the West into a single theater of conflict with intercontinental dimensions.

Putin tied his speech to the fighting between Hamas and Israel, ongoing since October 7. He used this context to enflame grievances against Western “neocolonialism,” directly aligning Russia with the presumably aggrieved. He portrays Russia’s war in Ukraine as not only a Russian cause but also a selfless, heroic effort on behalf of rising anti-Western forces in the world.

The Kremlin’s advisory apparatus and propaganda machine have only started elaborating on the themes Putin outlined in the speech (analyzed below). Its ramifications will undoubtedly extend to US and European policies toward Russia, diplomacy surrounding the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin’s recruitment of allies in the Global South, the impact on Russia-watchers in the West, the response by traditional Russian nationalists, and Moscow’s handling of Muslim subjects in the North Caucasus (see Part Two). Based on the Russian president’s remarks, the following themes should be expected to emerge in the coming days and weeks:

Theme #1: The West as the Common Enemy

Putin posed the rhetorical questions, “Who, in fact, masterminds the tragedy of the peoples of the Middle East and other parts of the world?” He then provided an answer to his own question: “They are the current ruling elites of the United States and their satellites, the main beneficiaries of world instability, from which they draw their bloody rents.” Resisting the US-led West, consequently, Russia “upholds [its] own national interests as well as the interests of peoples who suffer from the West’s neocolonial policy.”

Theme #2: The United States as the Main Strategic Enemy

Putin said, “It is necessary to understand where the root of evil is: It is that spider trying to envelop the whole planet into its web, aiming for our strategic defeat on the battlefield.”

Theme #3: Those Cooperating with Russia Are Reshaping the World Order

“The American-style order, with one hegemon, is falling apart, going away, gradually but inevitably passing into history. But the United States is not reconciled to this; on the contrary, it tries to preserve and prolong its dominance, its global dictatorship.” The US-led West, however, comes up against “new centers of power in the world, sovereign countries unwilling to humiliate themselves and play the role of lackeys. Russia is one of the leaders of this objective historical process.”

Theme #4: War in Ukraine to Define Norms of World Order

Russia’s enemy in Ukraine is “the Kyiv regime and its masters across the ocean.” Putin, however, merges two theaters of conflict into one: “The US ruling elites and their satellites” are pouring arms and money “both into Ukraine and into the Middle East.” In Ukraine, therefore, “Russia fights a battle for the norms of a just world order, for countries and peoples to be free. We keep fighting. Our soldiers and officers are losing their comrades, our heroes, in this fight.” By the same token, the Russian president adds, “helping [the cause of] Palestine is possible only by fighting against the masterminds of that tragedy. We, Russia, are fighting exactly against them in our special military operation [in Ukraine], both for ourselves and for those who aspire to authentic freedom.”

Theme #5: Russia Is Fighting the West in Ukraine

According to Putin, “The spider uses people on the territory of today’s Ukraine after having brainwashed them for decades. Fighting against this enemy in our special military operation, we—I emphasize this again—strengthen the positions of all those who fight for their own independence and sovereignty.” Putin comes up with a new motivation, beyond the national, for Russians to fight this war: “In order to genuinely stand for truth and justice, to resist the evil and oppression that the West spreads. Our soldiers and officers are fighting near Donetsk, at Avdiivka, on the Dnieper. Theirs is the choice of real men, real warriors: to join the ranks of their brothers, arms in hand. Be there, where Russia’s fate is being decided along with the fate of the whole world, including the future of the Palestinian people.”

Theme #6: The West Is Targeting Russia’s Internal Order

Putin casts the war in Ukraine and his call for global anti-Western mobilization as defensive actions by Russia: “They [in the West] plan to contain and destabilize their competitors, their geopolitical adversaries, among whom they count our country. … Failing to advance on the [Ukrainian] battlefield, they are trying to weaken and split Russia on the inside, to sow the seeds of a smuta [state collapse].”

Theme #7: Putin Draws Closer to Hamas

While conceding that Hamas had initiated the present, all-out war through “terrorist attacks” on Israel, Putin proceeds to weigh heavily in Hamas’ favor: “Instead of punishing the criminals and terrorists, Israel unfortunately chose to avenge itself on the basis of collective responsibility, indiscriminately killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people … [Watching this], our fists are clenched and our eyes are filling with tears.” Putin’s concludes “The key to resolution of this conflict is the creation of an independent, sovereign, full-fledged Palestinian state.”

*Read Part Two.