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War is a risky sport. After all, no one knows this better than belligerent President Vladimir Putin. The massive attack on Ukraine almost two years ago was a disaster for Putin. The campaign, which was supposed to last a few days and which was supposed to parade Russian soldiers in Kiev, turned instead into a massacre of elite Russian soldiers, a triumph of Ukrainian guerrilla tactics, and a Russian flight from the areas surrounding the Ukrainian capital. And all of northern Ukraine.
Also this summer Disaster was near. Power was shaken when rebel leader Yevgeny Prigozhin sent his well-trained soldiers against Moscow, and no military unit took responsibility for stopping them. For several exciting hours, power was in limbo in the Russian capital, until Prigozhin realized that the stakes were too great; He did not want to isolate Putin – at least as he said – but only Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
These examples Putin's war in particular appears to have been a risky sport. This means that confident opinions about the course and outcome of war are also a risky sport, because the many uncertain variables of war mean that any answer is fraught with many uncertain factors. Let's try anyway, based on the facts of the past six months, namely that the front lines in Ukraine have barely moved, and that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has failed.
Because despite both Despite the near-disaster, the war went remarkably well for Putin. At home, the consequences of widespread economic sanctions are minimal. However, the economy contracted by 2.1 percent in 2022, much less than Western politicians had hoped and believed. But last year the economy grew again by 3.1 percent, according to Reuters figures.
Putin makes an impression A kind of normalcy, and when the abnormal happens, as happened when 25 people were killed after what appeared to be a Ukrainian missile attack on Belgorod on the border with Ukraine on Christmas Eve, Putin uses it as an excuse to unleash his holy wrath. Because of the Russian “unlawful attack on civilians.”
For this too This feeds Putin's main narrative that Russia is waging an undeclared existential war against the West. The war in Ukraine is a defensive war to restore the Holy Russian Lands and defend Russian spiritual values. The opponents are “Nazi” Ukraine, which the anti-Russian West bought and paid for. While Holy Russia defends itself, as it did against the Catholic Poles after the death of Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century, Napoleon's attempted invasion in the 19th century, and Hitler's invasion during World War II, as it is called in Russian.
This is it This is the message that must be conveyed home before Putin is elected to his fifth presidential term in March. Because although Putin has long established himself as a Russian dictator, he is not indifferent to his position or how he is a dictator. Elections give Putin legitimacy, and their purpose is to show the Russian people and elites that he is in charge and in complete control. Therefore, the elections scheduled for March will also serve as a referendum on the war in Ukraine. The elections should emphasize the fig leaf of normalcy that Putin offers.
Now of course This is also a lie. Because despite the image of normalcy, Russian society has changed dramatically because of the war. Nearly a million young and well-educated people have fled the country and become migrants. Anyone who deals with the political opposition is punished with years in prison. People are careful about what they say and where. Terrorism has returned – albeit in a mild form so far – again, and Russians have a genetic memory of the communist and tsarist eras because of the consequences that this entailed. Keep your mouth shut.
He still keeps Putin's popularity. In the poll conducted by the independent pollster Levada in November last year, Putin received 85% support. This support had emerged from the lows of the 1960s when the full-scale invasion began almost two years ago. This tells the story of how Putin's state has so far governed with sane calm in the blurred landscape of historically harsh sanctions. About how Putin deftly manipulated the history of the cause of the war and its preconditions, despite the dramatic defeats in the war and the impending coup. In short, how war became political oxygen for Putin.
It's bad news For the world, the war in Ukraine is Putin's oxygen. Put more clearly, the war has become Putin's political drug. It will take a lot – perhaps too much – for him to become sober again.
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