The Ukrainian War in Russia, Playing Field Politics, Shifting Responsibility, and the Victim Mentality
There is a clear parallel between Russia and the stages of childhood development.
Countries must accept their national identity, their history and their position in world affairs. It’s remarkably like children as they grow into responsible adults and accept their place in social hierarchies. Russia is a prime example of a country that is stuck at a stage of early childhood development. Russian statements and actions regarding the Ukrainian war reflect many aspects of playground politics and childhood development.
In the playground, young children will blame others for their actions. It’s about shifting blame, as children try to absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions. So children will try to avoid trouble by saying – “it wasn’t me”, “it was someone else” or “someone made me do it”. Part of it is trying to preserve their self-image. A parent should try to make the child understand that he must take responsibility for his actions and inactions. It’s part of the growth process.
Russia is like a little child who will not take responsibility for his actions. Every day there are many examples of Russian responsibility shifting. Thus, Sergei Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, is an expert in the transfer of responsibility. On Monday, June 6, 2022, Lavrov had to cancel a planned visit to Serbia in view of the airspace ban imposed on Russia by the EU. Lavrov blamed the canceled visit on “Brussels puppeteers” rather than acknowledging that the real cause was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is a great example of trying to pass the blame – “it wasn’t us and Russia is not responsible”.
President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials blame Western sanctions imposed on Russia in response to the invasion of worsening the global food crisis. This is another great example of shifting responsibility. On Monday June 6, during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Vasily Nebenzya, the current permanent representative of Russia to the United Nations, withdrew in response to a speech delivered by Charles Michel, President of the Council European Union, in which Michel noted that the EU had not imposed any sanctions on the agricultural sector and that the “Kremlin is using food supplies as a stealth missile against developing countries”. Nebenzya’s action to leave this meeting is a classic example of playing field politics based on trying to avoid acknowledging responsibility.
Before leaving that meeting, Nebenzya accused Western and Ukrainian officials of falsely accusing Russian forces of atrocities and that it was Ukrainian troops who were responsible for rapes and all other forms of atrocities in Ukraine. On June 4, the Sviatohirsk Lavra monastery in the Donetsk region was destroyed by fire. Russia’s immediate response was that “Ukrainian nationalists set fire to the wooden monastery” and that Russia was not responsible. Again, it’s about shifting blame onto the playing field trying to shirk from taking responsibility.
Shifting responsibility is part of another childhood response based on adopting a victim mentality. This tactic is akin to shifting blame and is used by children to justify their behavior. Thus, often a child who is held responsible for his behavior tries to position himself as a victim. Russian politicians and officials see Russia as always the victim and never the aggressor or aggressor. It represents a form of cognitive distortion, or a form of thought error, in which the child truly believes that he is not responsible and that he is the victim. Of course, for Russia, the shifting of blame, combined with a victim mentality, is wrapped up in a political game of disinformation that includes the weaponization of social media. Nevertheless, shifting responsibility is about avoiding responsibility for irresponsible acts.
With children, it is extremely difficult to persuade a child to take responsibility for their actions. One problem is that a victim-blaming mentality represents a distortion of reality that allows a child to avoid acknowledging responsibility. It’s always someone else’s fault.
It is time to treat Russia like a child who cannot or does not want to take responsibility for its actions. Russia must grow up and stop blaming others for its actions and inactions. For the Russian-Ukrainian war, there are at least four victims: the Ukrainian people, those who will experience food and energy poverty as a direct consequence of the war, Russians, including conscripts and their families, and the planet. It is important to remember that the Russian-Ukrainian war is both a humanitarian crime and a climate crime. It is time for Russia to take responsibility for these crimes rather than continue to shift responsibility and recognize that it is not the victim but the aggressor.