The situation inside the Kremlin is coming to a head, the Ukraine war is taking its toll. An expert does not expect Putin to survive the crisis.
Moscow – The Ukraine war runs for Russia anything but successful, reports in the media about Putin’s rapidly deteriorating state of health and in Moscow allegedly even coup plans are being hatched. What’s going on in the Kremlin?
Anders Åslund, economist and expert on Eastern Europe, reminds the current situation of the last days of the Soviet Union. At that time, left-wing Sovietologists from the West claimed that the reports of dissidents and refugees were irrelevant, since one could only rely on official information. But the further the war in the Ukraine progresses, the less official information there is from the Kremlin – which, regardless of the truthfulness, was at least regularly published a few weeks ago.
According to Åslund, this is an indication that the Russian invasion is increasingly proving to be a “grand failure”. The goal of Wladimir Putin – all of Ukraine – according to the expert, was too arrogant and unrealistic from the start. In any case, the estimated 200,000 soldiers seem too poor for that. When Putin then decided to take up the war scepter himself, like Tsar Nicholas II and Adolf Hitler before him, the misery only increased.
Russia: Vladimir Putin sets an example for corruption
But the problems of the Russian military cannot be traced back to the Russian president alone. Also that former Putin buddy and acting Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu corruption on a large scale is said to have been paid for by the Russian state even for fishing trips to distant islands. According to Åslund, it’s hardly surprising that anyone who sets an example of an authoritarian kleptocracy leaves behind a maximum of corrupt followers.
But Vladimir Putin’s orbit does not seem to consist of corruptible yes-men, but also of submissive yes-men. Otherwise it would be difficult to explain, says Åslund in a guest article for the newspaper Kyiv Post, why the head of state made the threat heavy sanctions from the West simply ignored. But whether foolish or naive, the fact is that Russia has been struggling with economic problems ever since.
Radicalization in the Kremlin: Completely convinced of Vladimir Putin’s plans?
It is also striking that the personalities in the Kremlin who were considered moderate until a few months ago, such as former President Dmitry Medvedev or former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, suddenly became radicalized. It is possible that certain controversial statements can be traced back to actual wartime convictions – but possibly only to the desire for existential self-preservation.
Defense Minister Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov is said to have fallen out of favor with Putin. The reason: the failure of the Russian military in the neighboring country. So far, the Russian President has not shied away from dismissing highly decorated generals and military officers from their offices, although the two are still officially in office.
Expert theorizes: Vladimir Putin may no longer be in command
Åslund also theorizes that even Vladimir Putin now has little idea of the real situation. The president is considered paranoid and has been known to avoid meeting his close associates in person, preferring to hold meetings virtually. While Putin’s health and fear of a coronainfection could play a role, the head of state may also fear an assassination attempt from his own ranks.
“In the meantime, the even crazier one [Nikolai Platonowitsch] Patrushev should be in charge, while legally it should be Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin,” writes Åslund in his article. Patrushev is not only seen as Putin’s right-hand man, but also as a hardliner who is said to harbor great hatred of Ukraine and the West.
What will also happen in Ukraine and the Kremlin in the next few months, according to the Eastern Europe expert, it would be “very surprising if Putin survived the greatest Russian military loss since 1905”. (nak)
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