Will Putin survive his ‘catastrophic’ war in Ukraine?

Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin. Illustrated | Getty Images

When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his three-pronged invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February 2022, his goal was to erase Ukraine as a sovereign nation within days. At the time, it seemed like a plausible goal, in Russia and in the West. Nearly a year later, Ukraine’s survival is a much safer bet than Putin’s.

Ukraine has systematically and strategically taken back half of the territory seized by Russia, inflicting a humiliating loss after a debilitating setback. As Ukraine’s battlefield victories pile up, the US and its NATO allies are equipping the country with increasingly sophisticated weapons.

“If 2023 continues as it started, chances are Ukraine can fulfill President Volodymyr Zelensky’s New Year’s pledge to retake all of Ukraine by the end of the year — or at least enough territory to end Russia’s threat once and for all.” he writes. Liz Sly up The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, Russia’s sanctioned economy struggles to produce or import new munitions, and the heavy losses on the battlefield have prompted Putin to submit an unpopular draft.

War is unpredictable and Ukraine’s blood and gifted treasure are not infinite. But if Russia, the former superpower, loses its war in Ukraine, will that end Putin’s grip on power? Or his lease? In other words, will Putin survive his invasion of Ukraine?

There are a number of ways Putin’s war could ruin Russia – it is already turning Russia into a failed state, with uncontrolled borders, private military formations, a fleeing population, moral decay and the possibility of civil conflict,” writes Arkady Ostrovsky The economist – but there are really only three ways it can bring down Putin himself: he can die, resign or retire involuntarily.

Putin’s life

Putin makes himself into a physically fit, hockey-playing judo champion who hunts game and occasionally rides a horse shirtless. But as he emerged from his extreme COVID-19 isolation, rumors began to circulate that he was ill or even dying.

Valery Solovey, a Russian political analyst and Kremlin critic, claimed in 2020 that Putin had cancer and Parkinson’s disease and had emergency surgery sometime that year. New lines magazine reported in May 2022 that “a growing chorus of those close to Putin or in his domestic intelligence apparatus” are muttering about his ill health, and that an unidentified “oligarch close to the Kremlin” was secretly recorded describing Putin as “very sick with leukemia.”

“The evidence for the preponderance of disparate, if not contradictory, claims about Putin’s imminent demise is Putin himself,” wrote Michael Weiss. New lines. “He sure looks bad. The bullfrog face, the clumsy way of walking, the restless behavior at events on television.’ Putin “really doesn’t feel very well,” especially after Russia’s military defeats, Solovey told Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency in November 2022. “He’s having problems, stomach aches, etc. Most likely he’s having trouble controlling himself.”

Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, told ABC News in January that “Putin is terminally ill, he will die before the war is over and there will be a transfer of power.” Based on their human sources, he added, “we think it’s cancer.”

“There are two ways to explain why there are so many rumors about Putin’s health.” The economistsaid Arkady Ostrovsky in June 2022. “One, of course, is political, if you will: so many people around Putin now realize that he committed this extraordinary blunder that drove Russia into this catastrophic war. There are many people who see the best way out and wishes, namely that Putin dies in office.”

“The other, of course, is the possibility that he is very, very seriously ill,” although “we can’t verify this,” Arkady added. “However, the fact that they are in circulation is politically significant. It is a testament to how fragile this regime is and how quickly it could unravel, how much is being held together by Putin and how many people want him dead.”

The Kremlin has disputed the health rumors. “In recent months, Ukrainian, American and British so-called ‘information specialists’ have been spreading various fakes surrounding the president’s health,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in July. “But it’s nothing but fakes.” CIA Director William Burns also threw cold water at the rumors, telling the Aspen Security Forum in July that “there are a lot of rumors about President Putin’s health and as far as we can tell he is completely too healthy.”

Putin’s power

Almost as soon as Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and certainly since it started to go badly, “there has been ongoing discussion about how long Putin will remain in power, his hypothetical demise a result of ill health or domestic political ousting. “. Shawn Cochran writes in War on the rocks.

Certainly, there is no shortage of people willing to take Putin’s place.

Abbas Gallyamov, Putin’s former speechwriter, told Khodorkovsky Live in January that Putin’s inner circle “no longer sees Putin as a guarantor of their stability,” and that they personally fear the rise of the founder of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin. Rather than risk being violently overthrown like Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi or losing the next election, Putin will anoint a “trusted subordinate” as the next president, and “have the chance to end his days peacefully”. in his billion-dollar palace on the Back Sea. , said Gallyamov.

“I think there are chances that Putin will be removed from office,” said former Russian diplomat Boris Bondarev, who quit Russia’s United Nations mission in May over the war. Daily mail in December 2022. “But first he must be considered by his own people as a loser, as someone who lied and fooled them,” and “that will only happen if he is truly and widely defeated in Ukraine.” If that happens, Bondarev said, Putin’s elite could “force him to go to sleep and never wake up.”

Until now, Russian nationalists and pro-war military bloggers have kept their sharp criticism of the war in Ukraine to the Russian defense ministry and military generals, not to Putin. But a prominent military blogger, former Russian militia commander Igor Girkin, suggested in January that he would support Putin’s removal from office even if such a statement had “suicidal” consequences, the Institute for the Study of War think tank reported.

Putin himself “understands that this has been a mess,” but “I don’t think he’s accepted defeat, because the essence of being Putin is never accepting defeat,” military scholar Fred Kagan tells CBS News. “The trick here is to help Putin understand that he lost this round and it’s time to fold this hand,” and that’s up to Ukraine’s military and NATO weapons.

“If Putin resigns (voluntarily or not) while the war in Ukraine is ongoing, his successor may choose to stop fighting, but the decision will not be easy or risk-free, and this applies regardless of who replaces Putin Cochran writes War on the rocks.

Putin’s prospects

So, can Putin survive? “Russia has already lost this war militarily and politically by some measures,” judge Ivan Gomza and Graeme Robertson The Washington Post, and “research suggests that it is politically costly to lead a country to defeat in war.” But “highly personalistic” dictators like Putin “are much less vulnerable to losing office after defeat in war” than democratically elected leaders, and “as long as Putin continues to provide significant personal benefits to his closest allies, they are likely to stick together.” .” , for fear of hanging separately.”

Still, “Russia has a history of regime change in the wake of failed wars,” from the Bolshevik Revolution after the Russo-Japanese War and World War I to the collapse of the Soviet Union after its defeat in Afghanistan, Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage inscribe Foreign Affairs. “Revolutions have taken place in Russia when the government has failed to meet its economic and political goals and has failed to respond to crises,” as its legitimacy has been compromised.

“Putin is at risk in all of these categories,” Fix and Kimmage added. “Putin’s war in Ukraine was meant to be his crowning achievement, a demonstration of how far Russia had come since the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991,” but he managed the war poorly and now the country’s economy is in trouble. “In the face of these bleak trends, Putin has doubled down on his mistakes, insisting the war is going ‘according to plan’.”

Russia’s economic and battlefield losses suggest that Putin’s grip on power is weakening, but he is “more confident than most people think,” Maria Snegovaya wrote at the press conference. Magazine for Democracy in April 2022. “Previous Russian military defeats have brought about social and political changes”, but not all of them. In defeat, as in Josef Stalin’s failure to conquer Finland in 1939-40, Russia’s subjugated elites are unlikely to “present a serious challenge to Putin”.

And a “weakened Putin” is not one of Russia’s greatest weaknesses, Askold Lozynskyj argues at the Kyiv message. Those are “that it is a prison of some 100 captive nations, that its economy is unproductive, and that its military power is grossly exaggerated due to its lack of financial resources.” Putin is “bad,” but “not delusional,” Lozynskyj adds. “He is aware of internal turmoil within an empire that he maintains through violence and repression.”

If it becomes clear that Ukraine will not be defeated, the “most likely” scenario is that Putin resigns and a “vicious power struggle” ensues between different factions – pro-war right-wing nationalists seeking a reckoning, authoritarian conservatives who committed to the status quo, and “semi-democratic” reformers, counters Alexander J. Motyl Foreign policy. “We don’t know who will win, but we can confidently predict that the power struggle will weaken the regime and distract Russia from what’s left of its war effort.”

You may also like this

Oscars 2023: 12 contenders that could earn surprise nominations

Everything you need to know about the storm hitting the northeast

5 devastatingly funny cartoons about endangered gas stoves

Leave a Comment