‘Now or Never’: The Immediate Origins of Putin’s Preventative War on Ukraine


  • Geoffrey Roberts University College Cork


President’s Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was a classic case of preventative war decision-making. The public record shows that Putin went to war to prevent Ukraine becoming such a powerful NATO bridgehead on Russia’s borders that Kyiv would seek to forcibly regain control of Crimea and the Donbass. Putin foresaw a future war not just with Ukraine but with NATO and the assessed the risks to Russia of an immediate conflict were lower than the medium and long-term threat. The danger of Ukraine becoming a nuclear-armed state also had an important bearing on his final decision for war, as did his perception of the ultra-nationalist Kyiv government as an implacably  ‘anti-Russia’ regime.

Author Biography

Geoffrey Roberts, University College Cork

Geoffrey Roberts is an Emeritus Professor of History at University College Cork and a Member of the Royal Irish Academy. His latest book is Stalin's Library: A Dictator and His Books (Yale University Press, 2022).






Special Issue: War in Ukraine