Russia's search for ontological security and the Ukraine invasion


  • Katie Ryan University of Otago



Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 astounded political commentators across the globe. Seemingly nonsensical from a physical security perspective, the announcement of invasion resulted in economic sanctions against Russia, the rapid decline of President Vladimir Putin’s reputation in the international sphere, and dissent amongst Russian citizens. This article contends that while invasion is difficult to justify from a physical security approach, the pursuit of ontological security is a convincing and meaningful explanation for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Unpacking how biographical narratives and behavioural patterns sustain a state’s sense of Self demonstrates that Russian state selfhood was reaffirmed through invasion. This argument is developed in reference to masculinist narratives surrounding the Russian Self, including an imperialist role identity, a masculine Self contrasted with a feminine Ukrainian Other, and a drive to defeat supposed fascist forces within Ukraine. In addition, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sustains ontological security through fitting into a behavioural pattern of consistent conflict. Ontological security is a highly necessary consideration when analysing global conflict, particularly in the case of the 2022 Ukraine invasion.