The Russian President was left with no choice – in his eyes – but to invade Ukraine and stop local sovereignty shifting into the hands of America and its Western allies.
Ukraine joining NATO – following in the footsteps of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – would diminish Putin’s power in the Slavic region even further and strip him of dignity, said Dr Ashraf, speaking on Besieged: A podcast about Putin’s invasion of Russia.
He said: “This lack of dignity. This lack of feeling that they are a power in their own right, who shouldn’t be threatened or put themselves in a situation where an external power might determine or influence their destiny, is what's driven this thing.
“So, what we see is that he (Putin) takes over Crimea in 2014, which historically there was a reasonable claim that it was Russian, certainly in population terms.
“And I think he’s made it clear, since, that Ukraine should not become closer with the West either, through EU membership or NATO membership, but particularly NATO membership, and unfortunately the West has ignored this."
He added: “Henry Kissinger said as far back as 2014, NATO should not expand further otherwise Russia will feel threatened.”
The second episode of the Besieged podcast, titled Dignity, Strategy, Regret, also looks at a number of other issues linked with understanding Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine.
In it, Dr Ashraf explains the claims of ‘Nazification in Ukraine’ – a trope repeated numerous times by Putin and his allies and used on the Russian state news channel, RT, to encourage public backing of the invasion.
“There is a right-wing extremist presence in Ukraine,” said Dr Ashraf.
“They've been there for around a decade or so and the only difference between President Putin and the West is that the West regards these as peripheral extremists who have very little influence, and President Putin feels that they do have a great deal of influence.
“These people are ultra-nationalist in their outlook, and they do have very strong links with Nazis through history and through the Second World War.
“And what President Putin is really concerned about, and what many Ukrainians are, is that in Ukraine you have two linguistic groups - the Russian and Ukrainian speaking people - and one of the demands of the Nazis is that they will eliminate Russian as a language but also, possibly, Russian speaking people as well.”
He added: “I am by no means condoning or trying to justify Putin’s invasion, what he has done is dreadful. I am simply trying to explain his actions.”
Besieged is produced by Dane Vincent and hosted by Peter Warzynski and invites experts from Loughborough University to discuss wide-ranging issues linked to the war in Ukraine.
It can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, TuneIn+Alexa and YouTube.