This weekend, pro-Moscow rebels - backed by what NATO says is the open participation of Russian troops - restarted the war in Eastern Ukraine.
Putin said the Ukrainian army was essentially a foreign legion for NATO, not pursuing the interests of NATO as a state but instead serving the geopolitical goals of restraining Russia.
Bill Reisinger, Political Science Professor at the University of Iowa, says the motives behind that statement are two-fold: appeasing the right-wing base and reaffirming Putin's perspective of Western limits on Russian power.
"It captures more of a prevalent way of looking at things [...] more broadly with the Russian elite, which is that the expansion of NATO in 1990s and early 2000s and other developments and the role of the United States more generally is really motivated by a desire to keep Russia from achieving the great power status to which it is entitled."
Reisinger will be giving a lecture "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Vladimir: Russia's Future Between East and West" at the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council this Wednesday.
On this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Reisinger about Putin's leadership and the most recent fighting in Ukraine.