Vladimir Putin & Russia May 2022-

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Vladimir Putin & Russia 2021-April 2022
The Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)
Putin’s Road to War

Is Vladimir Putin suffering from a serious illness?
Ross McGuinness
The health of the Russian president, 70, has been the subject of speculation, including claims he has cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
(Yahoo!news) The Kremlin has been forced to make repeated denials that Putin is sick, as their leader deals with the backlash from the international community and criticism from within his own country over his invasion of Ukraine. US intelligence officials appear divided over reports that Putin is unwell.
Vladimir Putin’s health explained in 9 points
Where have the rumours come from? In May, leaked audio emerged in which a Kremlin-linked oligarch appears to suggest Putin has blood cancer. The recording was obtained by New Lines magazine, and contained the claim the president was “very ill”. …
There are further reports that Putin has Parkinson’s and pancreatic cancer. … What about the Kremlin? Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has denied that Putin is ill. He told French television channel TF1: “I don’t think that sane people can see in this person signs of some kind of illness or ailment.” Lavrov pointed out that Putin was making regular appearances in public. In July, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Everything is fine with his health.”
What does this mean for Russia? Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele said in June that Putin could become medically incapacitated within three to six months and then ousted as Russian leader. Steele told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One: “This is a strongman regime where people have to have fear of the leader and if the leader is incapacitated medically then there will be a move against him, I’m sure.”

21 November
‘Golden billion,’ Putin’s favorite conspiracy, explains his worldview and strategy
(NPR) An idea that first emerged in the twilight years of the Soviet Union, the golden billion is a conspiracy theory that posits a cabal of 1 billion global elites seeks to hoard the world’s wealth and resources, leaving the rest of the planet to suffer and starve.
For years a fringe theory in Russia, the idea has been increasingly espoused by President Vladimir Putin and other top Kremlin officials as an attack line against the West amid a breakdown in relations over the conflict in Ukraine.
“The model of total domination of the so-called golden billion is unfair. Why should this golden billion of the globe dominate over everyone and impose its own rules of behavior?” Putin asked in a speech last July.

18 November
Russia risks becoming ungovernable and descending into chaosThere is growing opposition to President Putin at home
By Arkady Ostrovsky Russia editor, The Economist
WHEN RUSSIA’S president, Vladimir Putin, invaded Ukraine on February 24th 2022, he set out to grab territory, deprive it of sovereignty, wipe out the very idea of its national identity and turn what remained of it into a failed state. After months of Ukraine’s fierce resistance, its statehood and its identity are stronger than ever, and all the things that Mr Putin had intended to inflict on Ukraine are afflicting his own country.
Mr Putin’s war is turning Russia into a failed state, with uncontrolled borders, private military formations, a fleeing population, moral decay and the possibility of civil conflict. And though confidence among Western leaders in Ukraine’s ability to withstand Mr Putin’s terror has gone up, there is growing concern about Russia’s own ability to survive the war. It could become ungovernable and descend into chaos.
Putin vs. the Russian People
Over the last decade of his more than two decades as absolute ruler of Russia, Vladimir Putin has repulsed domestic opposition, repressing civil society and human rights defenders in the Russian iteration of anti-democracy operations worldwide. But, as former Canadian Ambassador to Russia Jeremy Kinsman writes, Putin’s increasingly dysfunctional relationship with the Russian people has its roots in the trauma of the last century as well as in the power abuses of this one
(Policy) Born in the midst of Russia’s horrible 20th century, Vladimir Putin is truly “homo sovieticus,” suffering from limitations a closed totalitarian society imposed on its citizens, including ignorance about what makes the rest of the world, especially Western democracies, tick. He misunderstands as weakness and decline the normal democratic cacophony of competing voices and forces in liberal democracies. He simply doesn’t get it, and so he has got wrong the rapport de forces at every level of comparison, except possibly that of thermonuclear posture.
Putin is the worst combination of ego, autocratic instinct, and longevity in uncontested power. His competitive nature insists he be seen as the smartest person in any room. He is the nation’s only decider, unnourished by contrary opinion, seeing himself as the only one strong enough to do the really rough things that his mission calls for. His belief in the decisive impact of power is a great danger. He brandishes nuclear threats, believing his adversaries will buckle before him.
… just as Americans eventually rejected the Iraq invasion as self-destructive, Russians will sooner or later turn against Putin’s losing war on another country’s soil. On September 21, any Russians still trying to ignore the war swiftly under-stood, when Putin ordered a partial military mobilization, that the war was now coming for them.
…. Now, with the reality of mobilization, and at least 80,000 body bags, the war and Putin’s lies are coming home to ordinary people. The recent escalation in long-range bombing of Ukrainians — who are defeating Russian soldiers close-up every day — won’t win many Russian hearts and minds. As the young and bright take Russia’s future to the exits, apprehension of generalized economic loss is growing. There is shame apparent that the very name “Russian” has been debased, undermining the most important asset of a leader in war…the support and commitment of the people. … Can Putin be fired? Sidled out? Usurped? By whom? In time, the people will decide Russia’s fate. They have made Russian history before and will again.
Russia’s Missing Peacemakers
To put it simply, the Russian elite sees the war against Ukraine not as expansionary but as a war for self-preservation.
By Tatiana Stanovaya
(Foreign Affairs) This embarrassing retreat [from Kherson]—which follows Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive in Kharkiv province in September—has caused many Russian elites to question and challenge the invasion. People who opposed the war from the outset (but who stayed silent to stay safe) have been joined by many people who actively supported the war but are now convinced that the invasion has been mishandled from the start and privately want it to end. Some of them worry that Russian President Vladimir Putin is unfit to lead, prone to missteps, and overly emotional in his decision-making.
…even if there is growing domestic demand to “rethink” the war and focus on internal problems, there are serious complications that make it hard for these realists to turn into peacemakers. Russia’s realists are wary of any negotiations that might lead to a humiliating resolution, which could threaten their political future—or even their physical safety. Notably, no one in Russia’s leadership has publicly supported any form of territorial concessions, which would amount to an acknowledgement of Russia’s defeat and could lead to criminal prosecution. If the West wants these realists to transform into a party of peace, it should make it extremely clear to Moscow that peace would not lead to a Russian strategic disaster or state collapse.
There is little that the United States and Europe can do to insulate realists from domestic threats. But if the West wants to strengthen its voice in the Kremlin, it should outline a proposal in which Russian-Ukrainian peace talks would result in a simultaneous Russian-U.S. dialogue over Moscow’s strategic concerns. This dialogue would be designed to firmly guarantee to Moscow that Russia would continue to be a stable, autonomous state. The United States could do this by agreeing to discuss the future of NATO. The West would also have to offer Russia guarantees that Ukraine will not be used as part of a Western “anti-Russia” project, as Putin alleges.
Where’s Putin? Leader leaves bad news on Ukraine to others
By DASHA LITVINOVA
(AP) — When Russia’s top military brass announced in a televised appearance that they were pulling troops out of the key city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, one man missing from the room was President Vladimir Putin.
Putin’s silence comes as Russia faces mounting setbacks in nearly nine months of fighting. The Russian leader appears to have delegated the delivery of bad news to others — a tactic he used during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, Putin chaired a video meeting on World War II memorials. That was the day when he was expected to speak at the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia — but he not only decided not to attend, he didn’t even join it by video conference or send a pre-recorded speech.
Independent political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin attributed Putin’s silence to the fact he has built a political system akin to that of the Soviet Union, in which a leader – or “vozhd” in Russian, a term used to describe Josef Stalin – by definition is incapable of making mistakes.
“Putin and Putin’s system … is built in a way that all defeats are blamed on someone else: enemies, traitors, a stab in the back, global Russophobia -– anything, really,” Oreshkin said. “So if he lost somewhere, first, it’s untrue, and second -– it wasn’t him.”

16 November
Putin’s Fear of Retreat
How the Cuban Missile Crisis Haunts the Kremlin
By Timothy Naftali
(Foreign Affairs) From the moment he announced the invasion of Ukraine in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted that this conflict could evolve into a nuclear one. “Whoever tries to interfere with us,” he said, “should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences as you have never experienced in your history.”
Both Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden are old enough to remember the Cuban missile crisis, and Biden has already revealed that he is thinking about the crisis as he manages the U.S. response to Russia’s aggression.
But the two leaders appear to have different understandings of the lessons of the Cuban missile crisis.
Americans tend to remember the peaceful outcome of this effort, but Russian leaders then, as now, understood the humiliation that backing down before the United States signified. In the end, Khrushchev’s efforts to repackage the events of October 1962 as some kind of victory failed. Two years after the Cuban missile crisis, Khrushchev would be removed from office by his colleagues on the Presidium for incompetence. Whereas Biden sees the importance and promise of statesmanship in the resolution of the Cuban missile crisis, Putin unsurprisingly sees only weakness.

13-14 November
Putin Runs out of Options
The Kremlin has employed every weapon in its well-stocked conventional and hybrid arsenals to win in Ukraine and divide the West. It isn’t working
By Mart Kuldkepp, Associate Professor in Scandinavian History and Politics at University College London.
(CEPA) The physical war of blood and battlefield is one of Russia’s two conflicts. The other, its hybrid war against the West, is also reaching an impasse. The torrents of disinformation about Nazis, bioweapons, Satanists, dirty bombs, impending nuclear attacks, and so on, have already crossed the threshold beyond which no further escalation is possible. Instead, the propaganda overreach has forced Russia’s supporters into the embarrassing conundrum of explaining the supposed biological process by which killer mosquitoes judge the nationality of those they bite.
Three Fronts
Putin is losing against Ukraine, against the West – and at home
By Edward Lucas
(Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)) Ukraine’s liberation of Kherson comes six weeks early. Western intelligence estimates in September were that it would take until Christmas before the Russians were forced out of the only provincial capital they have occupied. …
The victory is a game-changer on another battlefield: the contest in the West between sympathy, timidity, and fatigue. The outcome is clear. Contrary to the naysayers’ predictions, military and other support for Ukraine has proved neither futile, nor insanely risky, nor prohibitively costly.
… the third front in this war — the one raging in Moscow — matters most of all. Putin is implicitly blaming his generals for the loss of Kherson. But that belies his claim to be the country’s real boss. The carefully crafted official narrative about the war is in shreds. Talkshow hosts, once reverential, are openly cynical or despairing. Hardliners — the real danger for Putin — are caustic. Blame for the war must land somewhere soon, and it will do so with devastating effects.

8 November
Putin’s Wars: From Chechnya to Ukraine
(New York Journal of Books) Two important questions for European and American foreign policy continue to be: What are Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy and security desires, and especially since early 2022, what is he willing to do to achieve them? The discerning of Russia’s military capabilities and intentions are constantly under scrutiny, and this volume on Putin’s wars provides a timely and useful primer on understanding the modern Russian military and its wars.
It is important to know the history and background of Russia’s military since the collapse of communism to understand Putin’s worldview and subsequent actions.

4 November
Unpacking Putin’s obsession with 18th-century Russian leader Grigory Potemkin (audio)
(CBC Radio Day 6) As Ukraine continues its counter-offensive in the Kherson region, Russian forces have been busy digging up the remains of 18th-century Russian prince Grigory Potemkin, a famous Russian statesman known for his romance with Catherine the Great. Historian and author Douglas Smith tells us how the theft of Potemkin’s bones fits into Vladimir Putin’s broader obsession with Russian imperial history.

28 October
Russia removes bones of 18th-century commander revered by Putin from occupied Ukrainian city
By Anna Chernova and Rob Picheta, CNN
Potemkin played a critical role in the annexation of Crimea from the Turks in 1783, and his memory is central to those within Russia intent on restoring the country’s former imperial reach. Putin largely leaned on his legacy for justifying the annexation of Crimea in 2014. … Prince Grigory Potemkin was a Russian 18th-century statesman, army general, a favorite and adviser to Empress Catherine the Great. His name has come up a few times in the Kremlin since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Most recently, in his speech at the ceremony for annexing new territories, Putin mentioned Potemkin as one of the founders of new towns in the Eastern part of Ukraine referring to the territory as Novorossiya which stands for “New Russia.” … The move to remove his remains were made as Ukrainian forces bear down on the city of Kherson, following a series of successful counter-offensives in the surrounding region.

1 November
Russia’s Wagner Group ‘have as much power in Kremlin as ministers’
Russian dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky tells UK parliamentary group of ‘terrorism’ threat
Mikhail Khodorkovsky told the foreign affairs committee that Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman who finally admitted in September 2022 that he had founded the group, had as much access to Putin as the formal government officials.
He said Prigozhin was behind the recent appointment of General Sergey Surovikin to head the military operation in Ukraine and was working in close conjunction with him in Ukraine.
He accused Putin of using mercenary forces such as the Wagner Group, which often recruits people from prisons, because it allows him to lie, deny responsibility and implement an illegal foreign policy.
Restarting troop conscription would be a very dangerous political decision for Putin, Khodorkovsky said, adding that resistance to the mobilisation had forced him to bring the process to a premature end.
He claimed 700,000 people left Russia following the mobilisation and said this represented “a serious blow to Putin’s defence industry and for the economy of Russia”, potentially a more significant blow to Russia’s economy than any normal sanctions imposed by the west.
Khodorkovsky urged the UK to take in many of these Russian exiles saying: “These people are the most active and educated people with certain financial means including 30,000 Russian programmers mainly based in Cyprus. It has significantly hit Russia’s ability to pursue the cyber war.”

27 October
Jeremy Kinsman: Putin vs. the Russian People
Putin, writes Jeremy Kinsman, embodies “the worst combination of ego, autocratic instinct and longevity in uncontested power.” But at the end the day, the Russian people themselves will determine his fate.
(Policy) Over the last decade of his more than two decades as absolute ruler of Russia, Vladimir Putin has repulsed domestic opposition, repressing civil society and human rights defenders in the Russian iteration of anti-democracy operations worldwide. But, as former Canadian Ambassador to Russia Jeremy Kinsman writes, Putin’s increasingly dysfunctional relationship with the Russian people has its roots in the trauma of the last century as well as in the power abuses of this one.
Can Putin be fired? Sidled out? Usurped? By whom? In time, the people will decide Russia’s fate. They have made Russian history before and will again.

26 October
How Martial Law Will Change the Workings of the Russian Government
Andrey Pertsev
By creating a legislative fog and handing over power mechanisms from official institutions to interim emergency structures at both federal and regional levels, Putin is in effect acknowledging that the power vertical system he created is extremely inefficient.
(Carnegie) Russian President Vladimir Putin put the Russian government system on a semi-martial footing with a series of executive orders on October 19. Those orders established special legal regimes in a number of regions that are relatively close to the front line, and created new coordinating structures charged with war-related issues. Both changes aimed at solving the numerous problems caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine are in fact more likely to wreak new havoc within the system.
Putin’s Risk Spiral – The Logic of Escalation in an Unraveling War
By Peter Clement
(Foreign Affairs) Putin’s threats about escalation have alarmed Russia’s European neighbors as well as the Biden administration. Yet his willingness to gamble on Russia’s military might did not begin in September, or even when he invaded Ukraine in February 2022. As the 2018 speech shows, his appetite for risk had been growing well before the current war. And although many questions remain about how far he is now prepared to go, an examination of how his thinking has evolved helps explain why he has taken this course and what he may decide are his most plausible options in the coming weeks and months. For the West, understanding Putin’s risk calculus may be as important as gauging Russia’s actual military strength in providing clues about what Russia will do next.

18 October
Boris Bondarev: The Sources of Russian MisconductA Diplomat Defects From the Kremlin
(Foreign Affairs) If defeated, Putin will face a perilous situation at home. He will have to explain to the elite and the masses why he betrayed their expectations. He will have to tell the families of dead soldiers why they perished for nothing. And thanks to the mounting pressure from sanctions, he will have to do all of this at a time when Russians are even worse off than they are today. He could fail at this task, face widespread backlash, and be shunted aside. He could look for scapegoats and be overthrown by the advisers and deputies he threatens to purge. Either way, should Putin go, Russia will have a chance to truly rebuild—and finally abandon its delusions of grandeur.

7-11 October
Putin’s endgame? Kremlin infighting spills into the open
Insiders are publicly jockeying to take advantage of shifting Kremlin power dynamics as Putin’s war against Ukraine turns against him.
(Politico Eu) For the first time in two decades, the Russian president’s opponents think it more likely than not that he will depart in the near term, although they disagree about how the endgame might play out, who might replace him, and when. Much depends on the course of a war that is turning against him and undermining his air of invincibility.
Putin’s Regime Faces the Fate of His Kerch Strait Bridge
The attack on the crucial link between Russia and Crimea matters less for its tactical significance and more for what it says about the course of the war.
By Eliot A. Cohen
(The Atlantic) It struck a prime symbol of the project of Russian imperial restoration, an expensive structure designed to link a Crimea reincorporated into Russia with the motherland. It damaged a crucial supply route. It showed that Ukraine could reach deep behind Russian lines to hit, with exquisite precision, a key and extremely well-defended target. It was, above all, a personal as well as a national humiliation: This was Vladimir Putin’s pet construction project, and it was the most unwelcome gift possible on his 70th birthday.
Vladimir Putin is weakened and his opponents are preparing to strike
Putin’s foes claim Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has hastened the next revolution. Others aren’t so sure
Chris Brown
(CBC) Exactly when Vladimir Putin will fall from power, Alexey Minyaylo isn’t sure — but he believes it’s close.
Minyaylo, 37, is perhaps best known in Russia for his efforts to get non-Kremlin affiliated candidates on the ballot for the 2019 Moscow city elections.
Some of Minyaylo’s public projects include polls that show real public opinion on the war and finding safe ways for Russians to express an anti-war stance.
With Russia’s army in disarray in Ukraine and a mass mobilization push to enlist hundreds of thousands of Russian men sparking unrest across the vast country, Minyaylo believes the pre-conditions for Putin’s demise are taking shape.

4 – 5 October
Ian Bremmer: Putin is becoming more desperate. Could he use a nuclear weapon?
This past week has seen the most dramatic escalation of the war in Ukraine since Russia’s initial invasion on February 24. It comes directly on the back of Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with his last remaining important friends on the global stage—the leaders of China, India, Kazakhstan, Turkey—all of whom directly pressured him in private and in public to end the war.
What did Putin do in response? He escalated.
…we have to take the nuclear threat seriously: Putin is increasingly boxed in, with no good military, diplomatic, or economic options to turn the tables. He’s losing badly on every front, and in seven short months Russia has gone from China’s most important partner on the global stage to a bigger Iran—a global pariah. Is it possible Putin views nukes, the ultimate game-changer, as the only move he has left? …
Despite all the actions taken by the West in the last 7 months, he has continued to escalate. It is now clear that at the end of the day, the decision to deploy nukes is up to Putin, and there’s little anyone can do to change that.
I still think it’s very unlikely that the Russians would actually use nuclear weapons on the battlefield. But it’s much more likely now than it was a couple of months ago, and the more desperate Putin gets, the more plausible this scenario becomes. The war is becoming more dangerous.
Will Russia use nuclear weapons? Putin’s warnings explained
(Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin, who rules the world’s biggest nuclear power, has repeatedly cautioned the West that any attack on Russia could provoke a nuclear response.
Will Putin use nuclear weapons, how many such weapons does he command?
Much depends on how Putin perceives the threat to the Russian state and his rule.
Putin casts the war in Ukraine as an existential battle between Russia and the West, which he says wants to destroy Russia and grab control its vast natural resources.
Putin warned the West he was not bluffing when he said he’d be ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia. Some analysts say Putin is bluffing but Washington is taking Putin seriously.
By claiming 18% of Ukraine as part of Russia, the room for nuclear threats increases as Putin could cast any attack on these territories as an attack on Russia itself.
Russia’s Nuclear Bluster Is a Sign of Panic
Yielding to Putin’s blackmail would be folly.
By Eliot A. Cohen
(The Atlantic) Moscow now specializes in Soviet-style bluster and hysteria. Nowhere is this more evident than in the nuclear threats issued by President Vladimir Putin.
In his speeches announcing the annexation of four Ukrainian oblasts that his battered army does not fully control, Putin raised the specter of nuclear war. In the finest tradition of Soviet whataboutism, he spoke of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, calling them an American precedent for … what, he did not exactly say, but the meaning was clear.
Putin is making these threats for several reasons. Russia is losing the war in Ukraine and losing it badly. It was routed out of Kyiv in the first phase, its forces were driven from Kharkiv oblast in the second, and its defenses—manned by ill-equipped, demoralized, and badly trained units whose positions have probably been compromised by no-retreat orders from Moscow—are being breached by Ukrainian offensives in the third. The fall of Lyman was but the first disaster; a still bigger blow will occur when the city of Kherson, which may have 10,000 or 20,000 Russian soldiers in it, falls to Ukrainian troops. In the meantime, in the words of the retired Australian general Mick Ryan, Russia’s logistics and command system are being corroded by incessant precision attacks.

21-26 September
Putin’s debacle is breaking his country — and he might pay the price
WaPo Editorial Board
Like so much else in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s senseless and vicious assault on Ukraine, his attempt to mobilize Russian men to fight has turned into a debacle. After months of preserving relative calm about the war among the Russian public — through a combination of propaganda, lies, censorship and harsh punishment of criticism and dissent — Mr. Putin has broken the quiet himself. Thousands of Russian men are running for the exits.
For many years, Mr. Putin maintained what scholar Masha Lipman dubbed a “no-participation pact” with a swath of the Russian public: These people agreed to stay out of politics in exchange for the government not interfering in their daily lives. After the war began, many Russians kept quiet or just tried to ignore it; mass protests did not break out. But the mobilization threatens to destroy this compact. Sociologist Greg Yudin notes that Mr. Putin did not initiate a political mobilization before launching the military one. He says Russians are quickly snapping out of lethargy and asking questions that they hadn’t for a long time. This might weaken Mr. Putin still more. Ukraine and its allies must keep the pressure on.
The Russian Clocks Are All TickingPutin is running out of time.
By Tom Nichols
(The Atlantic) Putin, like many authoritarians, relies on an image of personal invulnerability, and so he rightly fears the political risks of military defeat. At home, even his most loyal sycophants are demanding that he do something to stem the losses in Ukraine.
Putin has answered this call by making two foolish moves. First, he is now getting personally involved in some of the operational decisions in Ukraine; second, he has begun a conscription drive that is supposed to mobilize an additional 300,000 men into the Russian military. Both of these decisions will speed up the clocks on the many growing threats to his regime, including sanctions, social unrest, and military collapse, among others.
Vladimir Putin’s ship of fools is sinking fast. Will he take everyone down with him?
The scale of the Kremlin’s strategic failures in Ukraine is epic – and the exploded myth of Russian power may lead to the unravelling of the regime
Simon Tisdall
(The Guardian) Putin’s speech last week, mobilising reserves, preparing territorial annexations, and threatening nuclear war, might easily have followed a different tack. Instead of escalating, he could have claimed victory, declared a ceasefire.
An offer of negotiations would have wrongfooted Kyiv, stymying its advance, freezing the conflict and dividing Moscow’s enemies. He could have won time to regroup. He could even have put his hand up, swallowed humble pie.
But he didn’t do any of that. Ever resentful and vindictive, Putin lacks the necessary courage and imagination. He got it wrong, again. And so a critical moment passed. Now it’s Russia’s regime, not Ukraine, that faces shipwreck.
The Kremlin Must Be in Crisis
Over the next few days, the bogus referenda will gather headlines, and the nuclear threats will create fear, as they were designed to do. But we should understand these attempts at blackmail and intimidation as a part of the deeper story told by this delayed speech: Support for Putin is eroding—abroad, at home, and in the army. Everything else he says and does right now is nothing more than an attempt to halt that decline..
By Anne Applebaum
(The Atlantic) If an American president announced a major speech, booked the networks for 8 p.m., and then disappeared until the following morning, the analysis would be immediate and damning: chaos, disarray, indecision. The White House must be in crisis.
In the past 24 hours, this is exactly what happened in Moscow. The Russian president really did announce a major speech, alert state television, warn journalists, and then disappear without explanation. Although Vladimir Putin finally gave his speech to the nation this morning, the same conclusions have to apply: chaos, disarray, indecision. The Kremlin must be in crisis.
…now that Ukraine has successfully recaptured thousands of square miles of Russian-held territory, the sham referenda are being rushed, the nuclear language is being repeated, and the mobilization expanded. These are not the actions of a secure leader assured of his legitimacy and of the outcome of this war.
In part, the crisis stems from Putin’s fears that he will lose whatever counts as his international support. No ideology holds together the global autocrats’ club, and no sentiment does either. As long as they believed Russia really had the second largest army in the world, as long as Putin seemed destined to stay in power indefinitely, then the leaders of China, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, along with the strongmen running India and Turkey, were happy to tolerate his company.
Putin announces partial mobilisation and threatens nuclear retaliation in escalation of Ukraine war
Russian president threatens west with nuclear retaliation, saying ‘we will use all the means at our disposal’

17 September
Putin’s Russian Empire is collapsing like its Soviet predecessor
By Taras Kuzio, professor of political science at the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy
(Atlantic Council) As Vladimir Putin’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine continues to unravel, growing numbers of Western experts are predicting the breakup of the Russian Federation itself. While Russia may yet survive the debacle in Ukraine, it is already apparent that the Kremlin has suffered an historic loss of influence in the wider post-Soviet region. As in 1991, this collapse has been brought about by Ukraine’s drive to escape Moscow’s control.
Since the early 1990s, the Kremlin has insisted that the West recognize the former Soviet Union as Russia’s exclusive sphere of influence. This demand predates Vladimir Putin’s rise to power by nearly a decade and is one of the central pillars of modern Russian foreign policy. In other words, Moscow never truly accepted the verdict of 1991 and has always sought to retain its imperial influence throughout the former USSR.

For Russia’s Putin, military and diplomatic pressures mount
(AP) — Pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin mounted on the battlefield and in the halls of global power as Ukrainian troops pushed their counteroffensive Saturday to advance farther into Ukraine’s partly recaptured northeast.
At a high-level summit in Uzbekistan, Putin vowed to press his attack on Ukraine despite recent military setbacks but also faced concerns by India and China over the drawn-out conflict.

13 September
Ian Bremmer: Ukrainian counteroffensive leaves Putin with few good options
Ukraine has turned the tide on the war. That makes Russia even more dangerous.

10 September
The World Putin Wants
How Distortions About the Past Feed Delusions About the Future
By Fiona Hill and Angela Stent
(Foreign Affairs September/October 2022 issue) Vladimir Putin is determined to shape the future to look like his version of the past. Russia’s president invaded Ukraine not because he felt threatened by NATO expansion or by Western “provocations.” He ordered his “special military operation” because he believes that it is Russia’s divine right to rule Ukraine, to wipe out the country’s national identity, and to integrate its people into a Greater Russia.
He laid out this mission in a 5,000-word treatise, published in July 2021, entitled, “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” … This treatise, and similar public statements, make clear that Putin wants a world where Russia presides over a new Slavic union composed of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and perhaps the northern part of Kazakhstan (which is heavily Slavic)—and where all the other post-Soviet states recognize Russia’s suzerainty. He also wants the West and the global South to accept Russia’s predominant regional role in Eurasia. This is more than a sphere of influence; it is a sphere of control, with a mixture of outright territorial reintegration of some places and dominance in the security, political, and economic spheres of others.
Understanding his objectives is central to crafting the right response.
As Russians Retreat, Putin Is Criticized by Hawks Who Trumpeted His War
Russian bloggers reporting from the front line provide a uniquely less-censored view of the war. But as Russia’s military flails, these once vocal supporters are exposing its flaws, lies and all.
(NYT) The outrage from Russian hawks on Saturday showed that even as Mr. Putin had succeeded in eliminating just about all of the liberal and pro-democracy opposition in Russia’s domestic politics, he still faced the risk of discontent from the conservative end of the political spectrum. For the moment, there was little indication that these hawks would turn on Mr. Putin as a result of Ukraine’s seemingly successful counteroffensive; but analysts said that their increasing readiness to criticize the military leadership publicly pointed to simmering discontent within the Russian elite.

6 September
Why Vladimir Putin still has widespread support in Russia
Alexander Hill, Professor of Military History, University of Calgary
(The Conversation) Russian public opinion polls have suggested an increase in Putin’s popularity after the invasion. Support for the war itself is not as high as Putin’s overall approval rating — but he can still count on majority support for the invasion.
Additionally, the Russian economy has remained surprisingly robust — to a considerable extent helped by the sanctions meant to damage it. By denying themselves Russian oil and to a lesser extent gas, European countries contributed to an increase in oil and gas prices that has buoyed the Russian coffers.
Western commentators have also suggested that, simmering beneath the opinion poll numbers, there is latent opposition to Putin that isn’t being expressed because of fear. At the same time, there have been arguments that the Russian population is subject to a barrage of pro-Kremlin propaganda and therefore unable to really question the status quo.
There’s no question the Russian population is subject to a Russian media largely loyal to the Kremlin — and speaking out publicly against the war will certainly get you into trouble in Russia. But that doesn’t mean Putin lacks genuine supporters.

12 August
Putin and the divas: how the Kremlin waged a cultural offensive on the West
During the Cold War the arts bridged the divide between East and West. Now the Kremlin uses its prima ballerinas and opera stars to strengthen the regime
(The Times UK) As the war continued and a complex web of links between the arts world and the Russian state emerged, a wider question needed to be answered: had Putin been using culture to wield soft power beyond Russia’s borders?
“It is precisely because of the support of the most visible figures of Russian culture that Putin gained his unlimited power and is now using it against humanity in this bloody war that is destroying Ukraine,” the choreographer Ratmansky declared.

30 July
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.

13 July
Political Analysts Join Russia Exodus As Top Think Tank Closes
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has warned of Russia’s increasing “international isolation” in a statement on the closure of their Moscow center by the Russian Ministry of Justice on April 8.
Writing on social media Monday, Carnegie said they “regretted” the Russian government’s decision, but pledged that their staff would continue their research.
The Russian government shuttered the think tank after claiming they had “discovered violations of the Russian legislation”, but didn’t provide further details.

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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