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You are too committed to the idea of Putin being a comic book villain bent on world domination to contemplate any rational motivations or outcomes. I will grant you, there exists a not insignificant chance you're right. But be honest, it's just that if you are, it's too boring and pointless to bother talking about any of it. We may as well just launch the nukes now and have done with it if that really is the case, spare everyone the bother.
I just don't believe in villains like that, honestly. Not even Hitler was that kind of senselessly and pointlessly evil. Even in the full extent of Nazi depravity and genocide, there were concrete, material, geopolitical motives. The only people, historically, who insist on such a reductive analysis of events and figures are propagandists. There's usually much more complexity to the truth.
We don't make a great use of rare earth yet, but we are going to need them, and lots of them, going forward. The scale of the transition cannot be understated. The urgency to get off fossil fuels necessitates it, and with the ongoing ripple effects on supply chains, all the major players are questioning their reliance on global supply lines. Globalisation itself is starting to show cracks at the seams. Europe has learned the lesson first hand in the past year that if you are reliant on somebody else for something you need, you are liable to get fucked over.
Nobody is talking about "justifying" this war, very little about any war is just. We are talking about power, here, and the methods of gaining it. If you think it's implausible and stupid that Putin is motivated by strategically seizing a major source of raw materials Europe would otherwise have on its doorstep, and thus the power that comes with it, but instead think it makes perfect sense that he's motivated to do it out of, what... Soviet nostalgia? Pure Darth Vader will to dominate? That's kind of self contradictory.
Putin wants Ukraine because it would make Russia, and therefore him, more powerful. That's the same reason we want it. The resources and strategic location of the country are all part of that. There can be no such thing as a neutral Ukraine, free from the influence of Russia or the West. It's one or the other. All this is about whether it's with us or them.
If Putin wanted a pointless war for war's sake like Goldstein's book describes, he wouldn't have chosen Ukraine to start it in.