Vladimir Putin: Although Russian President Vladimir Putin was unable to organize a parade in Kiev, one is on the way to Moscow, and whatever happens on the battlefield, Putin is expected to declare victory at that event three weeks from now.
On May 9, Russia celebrates Victory Day, the anniversary of Germany’s surrender at the end of World War II, which is one of the country’s most important national holidays.
For more than 70 years, the Kremlin has used that date to honor successful heroism against the Nazis, but also to announce to the Russian people, as well as the country’s friends and rivals, that Moscow’s authorities reign over a big and mighty power.
Victory Day is all about military might, and when it falls in the middle of a conflict — even one that Russians are banned to refer to as a “conflict” and that state propaganda erroneously claims is going according to plan — there’s almost no choice but to exploit the occasion to brag about victory.
Putin will use May 9 as a sort of self-imposed deadline in Ukraine, according to US intelligence assessments, Russian foreign policy specialists, and plain sense. It’s not a deadline to win the war, which is unlikely to happen by then, but it is a deadline to act as if Russia has achieved something. Something significant. Something significant.
Over the next three weeks, the campaign will concentrate on Ukraine’s east, specifically the Donbas region near the Russian border, where there is a higher concentration of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers, and where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian state for the past eight years.
That’s where Putin will look for a face-saving victory, a tangible victory he can show the Russian people to prove he’s still the larger-than-life leader whose “special military operation,” despite all the hardship it’s causing Russians (let alone the disaster it’s wreaking on Ukraine), is worth the price.
Unfortunately, his desperation to triumph will very certainly result in even more death and destruction in Ukraine over the next three weeks.
So far, Putin’s war has accomplished almost exactly the opposite of his goals: enhancing Ukraine’s sense of nationhood, fortifying and uniting NATO and the West, tarnishing Russia’s military forces and strategists, and so on.
Putin, on the other hand, has mostly succeeded in concealing those truths from the Russian people, closing down alternative media, and driving true Russian journalists out of the country. As a result, practically all Russians now only consume state-controlled media, which is essentially propaganda.
Even tyrants, though, must be concerned about their domestic standing. Putin’s grip on power could be weakened if the Russian people see Putin’s Ukrainian endeavor as the fiasco it has been thus far.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin Will Not Back Down
With military casualties rising and Russia facing unprecedented diplomatic isolation almost eight weeks after Vladimir Putin deployed troops into Ukraine, a tiny but growing number of senior Kremlin insiders are silently reconsidering his choice to go to war.
The number of critics at the top of the food chain is still small, with high-ranking positions in government and state-owned businesses. According to eleven sources with intimate knowledge of the situation, they feel the invasion was a terrible error that will put the country back for years.
All talked on the condition of anonymity because they were afraid of retaliation if they did so publicly.
So far, these individuals believe there is no chance that Russian President Vladimir Putin will change his mind, and that he will face no domestic opposition. They claim that as Putin’s reliance on a small group of hardline advisers grows, he has disregarded attempts by other officials to warn him of the debilitating economic and political costs.
Some have expressed concern that if Putin fails in what he sees as his historic purpose, he may resort to the restricted use of nuclear weapons, as expressed by US intelligence officials.
To be sure, most of Russia’s elite continues to embrace Putin’s war, with many insiders supporting the Kremlin’s narrative that conflict with the West is unavoidable and that the economy will adjust to the sweeping sanctions imposed by the US and its allies in public and private.
And public support remains robust, despite the fact that the initial shock and disruption caused by sanctions have given way to a strange sense of calm in Russia.
Still, an increasing number of top insiders feel that Putin’s decision to continue the invasion will sentence Russia to years of isolation and heightened tensions, crippling its economy, jeopardizing its security, and eroding its global influence.
A few business tycoons have made veiled statements challenging the Kremlin’s plan, but many important players are too afraid of the escalating crackdown on dissent to speak out.
Skeptics were taken aback by the speed and scope of the US and its allies‘ response, which included sanctions freezing half of the central bank’s $640 billion in reserves and foreign companies abandoning decades of investment to shut down operations almost overnight, as well as steadily increasing military support for Kyiv, which is assisting its forces in blunting the Russian advance.
According to those acquainted with the situation, senior officials have sought to explain to the president that the sanctions will have a disastrous economic impact, erasing the two decades of prosperity and greater living standards that Putin had delivered during his leadership.
Putin dismissed the warnings, claiming that while Russia would pay a high price, the West had left him with no choice but to launch a war, according to the people. Putin has stated publicly that the “economic Blitzkrieg” has failed and that the economy will adjust.
They claimed the president remains confident in the public’s support, with Russians willing to put their lives on the line for his goal of national glory. The ruble has regained most of its initial losses thanks to strict capital controls, and while inflation has risen, economic disruption has been modest thus far.
Putin is adamant about continuing the struggle, despite the fact that the Kremlin’s aspirations have been scaled back from a swift, sweeping takeover of much of the country to a hard campaign for the Donbas region in the east.
According to this viewpoint, settling for less would leave Russia hopelessly vulnerable and weak in the face of the threat posed by the US and its allies.