Vladimir Putin & Russia May 2022-

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Vladimir Putin & Russia 2021-April 2022
Putin’s Road to War

Putin’s rule is weakening
So what comes next?
Timothy Snyder
The equilibrium that keeps Putin in power — mastery over rivals, soft support in the population, the integrity of the army — is challenged by the realities of an unpredictable, costly war. Putin has been good at keeping us all in a fog. But now he himself seems lost in the fog of war.
No one can say what exactly is happening inside the Kremlin. But a general predicament does seem clear. The trap laid before Putin (willingly or unwillingly, consciously or unconsciously) by rivals, by the public, and by the army looks like this: we will all agree with you that we are winning the war — and we will all have no one to blame but you if Russia loses it. This is all quite vague, half-unsaid, clouded by emotion, displacement, taboo, and fear. But it is the general picture. And in its fundamentals the trap was laid by Putin himself.

July/August 2022
Can Putin Survive? The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
By Vladislav Zubok
(Foreign Affairs) Putin’s regime is more stable than Gorbachev’s was, but if the West can stay unified, it may still be able to slowly undermine the Russian president’s power. Putin grossly miscalculated by invading Ukraine, and in doing so he has exposed the regime’s vulnerabilities—an economy that is much more interdependent with Western economies than its Soviet predecessor ever was and a highly concentrated political system that lacks the tools for political and military mobilization possessed by the Communist Party. If the war grinds on, Russia will become a less powerful international actor. A prolonged invasion may even lead to the kind of chaos that brought down the Soviet Union. But Western leaders cannot hope for such a quick, decisive victory. They will have to deal with an authoritarian Russia, however weakened, for the foreseeable future. …history foreshadows a positive end to this dystopian WWIII. Volodymyr the Great survived in Kyiv because of help from his Nordic relative, Haakon Sigurdsson, the ruler of Norway — and his Viking descendants in Sweden and Finland are choosing NATO and Volodymyr Zelensky over Vladimir Putin.

Did Putin blunder the Kremlin into a dystopian World War III?
by Mark Toth and Jonathan Sweet
(The Hill) This war is not what the Pentagon, politicians or Americans in general thought it might be: a nuclear and/or biological Armageddon. But it is global in scale — especially economically — and its outcome will be as defining as the end of WWII. Nothing less than global democracy as we have known it since 1945 is at stake.

9 June
Putin the Great? Russia’s President Likens Himself to Famous Czar
(NYT) Among President Vladimir V. Putin’s motives for invading Ukraine, his view of himself as being on a historic mission to rebuild the Russian Empire has always loomed large. On Thursday, Mr. Putin went further, comparing himself directly to Peter the Great.
Peter, Russia’s first emperor, has always been an object of fascination for Mr. Putin, who himself comes from St. Petersburg. The Russian president keeps a bronze statue of the czar by his ceremonial desk.
But in recent days, Russian officials have been promoting the comparison between Mr. Putin and Peter with special energy; the governor of St. Petersburg on Thursday said that he felt the same pride for today’s Russian soldiers in Ukraine “as we take pride in the memory of Peter’s warriors.”
There is at least one historical problem with the official Putin-Peter comparisons.
The czar is known for opening Russia’s “window to Europe,” building St. Petersburg in a European mold and bringing Western technology and culture to Russia. Mr. Putin’s Ukraine invasion, many Russians fear, has slammed that window shut.

31 May
Putin’s Hard Choices
Why the Russian Despot Can Neither Mobilize Nor Retreat
By Michael Kimmage and Maria Lipman
(Foreign Affairs) [B]ecause the first phase of the war has been so costly for Russia and because Ukraine’s military is mounting such stiff resistance, Russia faces serious difficulty achieving anything meaningful on the battlefield without committing much more manpower than it currently has available.
Calling up large numbers of reservists while putting Russian society openly on a war footing solves the problem in theory. But it is something for which the Russian public is fundamentally unprepared. … Full-out mobilization, which would make war an inescapable fact of Russian life, would revolutionize the regime Putin has constructed since coming to power in 2000.
… The scale of the Russian invasion is vastly greater than anything undertaken in 2014, and the break between Russia and the West is almost without precedent: the scale of sanctions, the restrictions on travel, the shutting down or exit of Western institutions from Russia. And so, in the coming months, Putin will face a punishing choice. He could de-escalate and try to mend relations with the West. Or he could wage full-scale war on Ukraine, deepening even further the rift with Europe and the United States.

23 May
Russia’s Putin will be in a sanatorium and out of power by 2023, ex-MI6 chief predicts
Former MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove said Russia’s leader will likely enter a long-term medical facility and not return to power once he is out
(SCMP) His predictions line up with other reports of Vladimir Putin losing power and receiving medical treatment
The former head of British intelligence predicted Russian President Vladimir Putin will be out of power by next year and in a medical facility for long-term illness.
Sir Richard Dearlove was head of the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, from 1999 to 2004. He made the predictions about Putin on Wednesday during an episode of the podcast One Decision, which he co-hosts.
“I’m really going to stick my neck out. I think he’ll be gone by 2023. But probably into the sanatorium, from which he will not emerge as the leader of Russia,” he said, adding that the sanatorium would be a way to move Putin out of power without a coup.
Bellingcat’s Christo Grozev, an expert on Russian security, said last week top Kremlin security officials believe the war in Ukraine is “lost” and that Putin is losing his grip on power.
Ukraine military intelligence chief Major General Kyrylo Budanov told Sky News last week Putin was in “a very bad psychological and physical condition and he is very sick”.
Former British spy Christopher Steele recently said sources told him Putin is seriously ill and regularly leaves meetings for medical treatment, contributing to “increasing disarray in the Kremlin.” Steele, who led MI6’s Russia desk for years, compiled the infamous Trump-Russia dossier, much of which was discredited.
Putin health bombshell: Despot has ‘successful cancer op’ after ‘deepfake’ appearance
(Express UK) Vladimir Putin has had a “successful cancer operation” following rumours his recent appearances on media outlets were either pre-recorded or made with “deep-fake” technology.

19 May
Three Signs That Putin Might Be Reassessing His Plans
The war in Ukraine drags on, but there are signs of change
By Tom Nichols
(The Atlantic) The armies sent to Ukraine by Russian President Vladmir Putin continue to murder, rape, pillage, and destroy, all in the name of … well, no one but Putin is quite sure. But there are signs that some kind of Russian reassessment might be underway.
… Be assured that Putin is going to go on hammering away at Ukrainian cities and infrastructure with artillery and missiles. But his plan of capturing Ukraine whole has failed, and his forces have now lost the battles of Kyiv and Kharkiv. They’ve won—if “winning” means anything at the moment—the battle of Mariupol, by reducing that besieged city to rubble. The onslaught is not going to end anytime soon.
Nonetheless, three things have made me wonder what’s going on in the Kremlin. I am connecting these pieces of data by pure speculation at this point, but taken together they seem to be a pattern. One is Putin’s Victory Day speech, another is the phone call between U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, and the last is a striking Russian television appearance by an incisive critic of the war, retired Russian Colonel Mikhail Khodaryonok.
… Putin may have to settle for turning this war of conquest into yet another frozen conflict, where he feeds Russian boys into the meat grinder while pondering his next idiotic move. How long Russians—and the Russian military—will put up with that is anyone’s guess.

18 May
Inside Putin’s Propaganda Machine
Current and former employees describe Russian state television as an army, one with a few generals and many foot soldiers who never question their orders.

16 May
Anders Aslund: Western Advocates of Appeasement Need Crash Course in Putinology
Anders Åslund is the author of “Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy”.
(Kyiv Post) In reality, neither bleeding heart liberals nor diehard realists truly understand Russian President Vladimir Putin. They fail to recognize that he is an authoritarian kleptocrat who does not care about Russia’s national interest and is focused instead on his power and wealth.
He hides this self-interest behind a façade of revisionist Russian nationalism that helps secure popular support for his criminal rule.
As I have argued in my book, Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy, Putin’s personal politics combine authoritarianism and kleptocracy. He needs war not to make Russia great again but to increase his popularity and justify his repressive domestic policies. Putin also fears the rise of a democratic Ukraine and views the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration as an existential threat to his own authoritarian regime.

13 May
Vladimir Putin, Family Man
As Western nations place sanctions on people close to the Russian leader, including family members, the strict secrecy surrounding his private life is being punctured.
(NYT) A former K.G.B. operative steeped in the agency’s ways of subterfuge, disinformation and the Janus-like ability to present different selves depending on the situation, he has shrouded his personal life in secrecy and wrapped it in rumor.
He has two officially recognized daughters from his first marriage, but according to independent Russian news outlets and unverified international news reports, he may have four more children with two other women. Yet even his acknowledged daughters, now approaching middle age, are so hidden as to be unrecognizable on a Moscow street. His former wife, whom some biographers believe he married to improve his chances of entering the bachelor-resistant K.G.B., essentially vanished from view even before they divorced.

10 May
Ian Bremmer: What Putin’s Victory Day speech means for the war
The speech was important not because of what was said, but because of what wasn’t.
President Vladimir Putin was widely expected to use the occasion to do one of two things: either declare victory in Ukraine and lay the groundwork for some sort of frozen conflict, or escalate—turning the “special military operation” into a proper war, ordering a general mobilization of the Russian people, announcing the annexation of Donetsk and Luhansk, or going nuclear (figuratively, though sadly not entirely) and taking the war to NATO.
As it turns out, he did neither.
… Despite having few notable military achievements to show for, Putin could have used the speech to declare the second phase of the “special military operation” in Ukraine successful, having “liberated” Russians in the Donbas who had been previously “oppressed” by the Kyiv regime. He could have said that Ukraine had been effectively “de-Nazified and de-militarized,” having defeated the Azov battalion in Mariupol and degraded Ukraine’s military capabilities. All of this is false, of course—Russian forces have not yet managed to fully capture the city of Mariupol, let alone secured the entire Donbas, and Ukraine’s military is better armed than ever thanks to Western support. But Putin maintains near-absolute control of information within Russia, so he could have sold this narrative to his domestic audience.
Why is it bad news that he didn’t? Because that claimed “victory” could have been the face-saving offramp he needed to lock in his gains, cut his losses, and freeze the conflict—or even to start negotiating a ceasefire and a rollback of sanctions

Biden says he is worried Putin does not have a way out of Ukraine war
Biden said Putin is a very calculating man and the problem he worries about now is that the Russian leader “doesn’t have a way out right now, and I’m trying to figure out what we do about that.”

9 May
9 Theses on Putin’s Fascism for 9 May
How Putin’s myth of 2022 differs from the history of 1945
Timothy Snyder
In a number of writings since 24 February 2022 (and indeed since 24 February 2014, the date of the prior Russian invasion), I have tried to explain how Putin’s interpretation of the Soviet inheritance tends toward fascism, and thus how he justifies (at least to himself) invading Ukraine by reference to the the Second World War. Putin’s celebration of Russia’s ostensible innocence today provides the occasion for a summary of these arguments.
Russian propaganda about 1945 and 2022 is summarized in the popular slogan: “We can repeat!” But history, of course, does not repeat. And we cannot make it do so. The whole idea of repetition involves choosing a particular point in the past, idealizing it, ignoring all the context and everything that followed, and then imagining that it can be relived. Whoever performs this exercise eliminates any sense of responsibility: we were right back then, therefore we are right now, and we will always be right — no matter what we do. And so fascism’s “redemptive excess” of “patriotic arbitrariness” is attained.
Putin’s Victory Day speech gives no clue on Ukraine escalation
(Reuters) President Vladimir Putin exhorted Russians to battle in a defiant Victory Day speech on Monday, but was silent about plans for any escalation in Ukraine, despite Western warnings he might use his Red Square address to order a national mobilisation.
Western capitals had openly speculated for weeks that Putin was driving his forces to achieve enough progress by the symbolic date to declare victory – but with few gains so far, might instead announce a national call-up for war.
Heather Cox Richardson: ” [T]he powerful speech of the occasion came from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, filmed outside walking down Khreshchatyk Street, the main street in Kyiv, where normally there would be a Victory Day parade. Zelensky claimed Ukrainian ownership of victory against the Nazis in World War II, then turned to the story of the present.
Ukrainians are fighting, he said, “[f]or our freedom. For our independence. So that the victory of our ancestors was not in vain. They fought for freedom for us and won. We are fighting for freedom for our children, and therefore we will win…. And very soon there will be two Victory Days in Ukraine. And someone will not even have one left.
In Putin’s words: What Russia’s leader said at Victory Day parade
Russian forces and Donbas volunteers are ‘fighting for the Motherland so no one forgets the lessons of World War II’, says Vladimir Putin.
(Al Jazeera) Russia on Monday marked the the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
The following are quotes from his televised speech at the annual Victory Day parade in Red Square:

CTV News: “Diplomatic Community” May 3: what is Putin up to?
Will he declare ‘war’ on May 9 Victory Day? It would be a risky move and an admission that the “special military operation” is going the wrong way. Concern is high for food exports.

1 May
Vladimir Putin has gravely miscalculated in Ukraine
The Russian president has achieved a lot since his forces invaded Ukraine, says DW’s Miodrag Soric. It’s just that it was the opposite of what he wanted.
… Russia’s army has failed Putin. His propagandists will need to dream up some sort of victorious achievement in time for the May 9 parade, then disseminate this fabrication on state-controlled television.
… Putin must further isolate his country and escalate the conflict for his own political survival. How great must his desperation be, if he now resorts to threats to use nuclear weapons? Conventional weapons have apparently not delivered the expected results.
His actions are also leading the West toward independence from Russian energy imports within months, something it would never have done otherwise.
Nobody is talking about a swift victory over Russia — on the contrary. NATO expects this confrontation to drag on for many years. Moscow must never be allowed to be so strong again, able to wage war on other nations.
Russia must be forced to pay for Ukrainian postwar reconstruction, it must be made to withdraw its troops from Georgia and Moldova, and to leave Belarus. During the 1980s, the economically superior West used the arms race to bankrupt Russia. History is repeating itself. However, today’s Russia is weaker than the Soviet Union was at the time. And the West is bigger, more united and more powerful than ever.

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