Putin on the alleged Ukrainian attack in western Russia
“The war in Ukraine is sapping the strength and resilience of Vladimir Putin’s regime,” the American think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has concluded. Even though Russia invested heavily in its military before its invasion of Ukraine — spending more than £50billion in 2021 alone — its performance on the battlefield has been “shambolic”. For how long the war may go on and how long Putin will remain in power are impossible to answer questions constantly raised. But Professor Mark Galeotti, speaking to Express.co.uk, has said the only surety in politics is the confrontation with the unexpected — something he believes Putin’s regime is unprepared for.
Despite months of setbacks, Putin and his regime’s resolve has not faltered. Just this week, Mikolai Patrushev, secretary of the security council of the Russian Federation, said that Russia “will achieve the demilitarisation and denazification” of Ukraine.
However, some believe the culmination of setbacks — particularly a single, stand-out event — could mark the end for Putin.
On the battlefield, some 200,000 soldiers have been killed, all of which will have been felt at home in Russia. This could create disquiet amongst civilians, which in turn places pressure on the elites and the Kremlin.
Some, like Russian dissident MP Ilya Ponomarev, believe that all of this will see Putin fail to make it to his next birthday in October, let alone another year of war.
Professor Galeotti told Express.co.uk that the 70-year-old President’s regime is now so “brittle” that an inevitable crisis will most likely be the cause of his fall.
He said: “It looks still very tough but it’s that much less flexible, less able to cope with crises. The point is that one of the guaranteed things in politics is you’ll be confronted with the unexpected at some point.
“When that happens, I think that Putin and Putin’s regime will be that much less able to deal with it. I have no idea if that’s going to be in a month, or a year, or a decade’s time.”
Although the end of the road for Putin doesn’t yet seem to be near — despite the International Criminal Court issuing his arrest warrant for the alleged kidnapping of Ukrainian children — many believe his regime is coming away at the seams.
This has, they say, been evident in the snippets of open criticism of Putin and his handling of the war effort from public figures in Russian life. This year, Wagner Group chief, Yevgeny Prighozin, posted a video to social media lamenting the lack of military equipment and supplies available to his mercenaries fighting in Ukraine.
Yet, Prof Galeotti was less sure that all of this added up to Putin’s quick demise. He explained: “Sadly, I think he’s going to be around for some time. All I do think is that this war and his rather foolish decisions around it are making his regime a lot more brittle.”
According to Max Bergmann, director of the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program for the CSIS, several crises combined could lead to Putinism drawing to a close.
Writing in January, he said: “If [the West’s] overall efforts prove successful and Ukraine can end the conflict on its own terms, Putin’s regime could fall.
“A failed war, combined with economic deprivation and loss of prestige, makes regime collapse a possible outcome. While it is hard to see how Putin departs, it is also hard to see how his regime survives such a situation.”
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The conflict has taken its toll on the Russian economy and society, although Moscow has largely been able to shield itself with trade with the East and by circumventing trade sanctions via former Soviet states.
Russia’s economy contracted far less than anticipated last year with experts estimating that the country went through a recession of 2.2 to 3.2 percent compared to International Monetary Fund (IMF) predictions that it would be at 8.5 percent.
However, doubts have been raised about the validity of the statistics coming from Russia.
The production of military paraphernalia appears to have boosted the country’s growth, but it does not improve living standards.
Agathe Demarais, global forecasting director at the Economist Intelligence Unit writing in for Foreign Policy, said this part of Russian GDP “will quickly be destroyed on the battlefield”.
She also pointed out that Russia’s export earnings increased last year because of the war-induced spike in energy prices.
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