The Russian army had to evacuate positions in the northeast of Ukraine, Russian citizens are fleeing Crimea, and their soldiers are getting into trouble in the south of Ukraine. The fact that the Ukrainians are decimating them is already being talked about in the Russian media. Until recently, the audience there was only informed that the “special operation” was going well. How does the Russian public react to this change? Isn’t that a shock?
I think it’s definitely a shock. Many Russians are going through sobriety. It is beginning to dawn on them that this was not a special military operation, but an open war against Ukraine with the aim of destroying it. This is how it gradually gets to the public, and with it the pressure on the Russian defense forces and the country’s political leadership begins to grow.
With the further advance of the Ukrainian army, the problem of the Russians will deepen. Part of the Russian public considers some territories, such as Donbas, but especially Crimea, to be part of Russia’s integral territory. The awakening and the shock will be greater and greater. Russian President Vladimir Putin has embarked on a risky path and is dragging Russian society and the entire country with him into the abyss, which an ever-increasing share of society is aware of.
The Ukrainian army liberated the entire Kharkiv region
The war in Ukraine
Russian propagandists and bloggers are already reporting on the failures of the Russian army, and some politicians are also talking about them. According to the wishes of the public, how should the Kremlin react to this? What is Russian society calling for?
There are two tendencies. A part of society is certainly calling for a general mobilization for Russia to destroy Ukraine. It would mean the mobilization of personnel and financial capacities. To reverse the state of war operation against Ukraine. This view will grow and pressure Vladimir Putin to act.
The second view of the public is that the special operation in Ukraine was not truthfully informed from the beginning. This part of the public will want revision of the conflict, or its complete cessation.
These two opposing tendencies will deepen. However, none of them sound good for Vladimir Putin. He himself would lean towards the first option, but the problem is that he is actually afraid of people’s reaction to a general mobilization. How would the public react if the conflict affected the middle and upper classes, especially in larger cities such as St. Petersburg or Moscow? He lied to Russian society, mystified it and dragged it into a huge war, which entails isolation and deterioration of living standards.
Part of the representatives of St. Petersburg accused Putin of committing high treason because he dragged Russia into the war. Why did they call now?
Vladimir Putin and his entourage decided on the operation alone. Without asking the opinion of anyone in Russian society. They dragged them into the war. It is true. The fact that these people have not been so active since the beginning of the war is due to the overall repressive context. As the conflict in Ukraine developed, so did repression against people who opposed the war. Likewise, the level of censorship was deepening, bringing the country back to Soviet times.
The Russian regime cornered its own society with the war. He did not give her the opportunity to speak out other than by conflict with the government power. This line will also deepen. Russian society is isolated in the international arena. The West clearly declares that, according to it, there is a certain principle of collective guilt for the Russians, or at least partial responsibility for what is happening. And he demands that Russian society differentiate itself and make its opinion clear. This is a trend that will continue and threaten the position of the Russian president and his regime.
St. Petersburg councilors called for the ouster of Putin, the court is already punishing them
Apart from St. Petersburg deputies, critics of the war usually do not target Putin. They rather criticize the army or the Ministry of Defense…
This is due to the fact that in Russian society there is still a feeling that maybe the people around the president are bad and make mistakes, but he himself does not know about it or does not decide about it. It is a traditional postulate that has been valid since the time of Stalin and throughout Russian history. However, this will change over time. Criticism will increase and will not be limited to the Ministry of Defense or the General Staff of the Army, which are on the front lines of failure. It turns out that since the beginning of the war, political logic, not war logic, has been at play. Hand in hand with this, criticism of Vladimir Putin will also increase.
What if Putin does not want to end the war, but on the contrary tightens up and declares a general mobilization?
He is being pushed into it partly by Russian bloggers and commentators, but also by representatives of the security forces. But mobilization has a very high political and social price. It is something that can shake up the internal conditions in Russia. And it may even bring down the Russian regime. It’s one thing to watch TV and cheer or curse at what the situation looks like in Ukraine, it’s another thing to pick yourself up and go there to physically fight. A broad wave of resistance may arise against the mobilization.
Mobilization is an element that distinguishes contemporary Russia from totalitarian systems. In Russia, the element of positive motivation is missing, and the Russians cannot force it in any way beyond money or repression.
So could the end of the war be near? Will the Russian company also call for him? After all, after the beginning of the conflict, according to surveys, the majority of Russians supported the so-called operation in Ukraine…
It’s more complicated. As recently as last November, at least half of Russian society feared and did not want a conflict with Ukraine. This changed after Putin’s regime began to “mobilize” the public in the form of propaganda and its own interpretations of the events in Ukraine, banning the media and liquidating all opposition to it. These are things that can mobilize society for a certain purpose in the short term, but are unsustainable in the long term. It turns out that a whole range of information and starting points of the regime for the war with Ukraine were false. More and more people in Russia are beginning to realize this.
Kadyrov figured out a way to mobilize and not get Putin involved
The war in Ukraine
The Russians calculated that, after months of energy war, they would be able to dismantle the West, which would stop supporting Ukraine, and thus put Russia “on the horse”. If the Kremlin managed to thwart Western support for Ukraine, it would have a much easier situation. If we, as the Czech Republic, the EU and the United States, can stick together and continue the anti-Russian sanctions, continue to support Ukraine financially and militarily, then Russia has no chance in the long term. The war will prove to be unsustainable for him and the Russian army will gradually collapse. We are already seeing signs of this trend reinforced by the determination of Ukrainians not to give up.
What will happen next in Russia is a very interesting question. One thing is clear. If Putin loses the war he started in the innermost circle of his advisers, Russian society will not accept him. Russian society does not accept defeat. And things start to happen in Russia. They will definitely mean a large degree of destabilization, which can turn into a civil war, internal disintegration, conflicts between regions. Tenze moves inside Russia.
Do you think Russia has any hope of becoming a European-style democratic state in the future?
I think it’s not out of the question. Two things are necessary. The Russian army will be broken and defeated, and the Russian society will be cleansed, especially of the perpetrators who were behind the decision of that aggression. There will be an international tribunal that will free Russia from people like Vladimir Putin and his closest allies, for example from the Security Council of the Russian State. Then it can begin to purge itself, as Germany purged itself after World War II. The process was long, but it brought Germany back to the democratic path and gradually cleansed the country of the perpetrators of Nazi crimes. So Russia can also be democratic. For this, I stand up with our initiative Friends of Free Russia.
The Ukrainian minister ruled out freezing the conflict with Russia
What if the war in Ukraine becomes a frozen conflict? The Russians will continue to hold the Donbas, the Luhansk and Donetsk Republics, Crimea, the Ukrainians will not be able to get the territory back… Would it be acceptable for the Russians?
I’m not sure. They will get bogged down in even more mud than they have been in so far. It has cost Russia an awful lot so far, due to sanctions, financial support to so-called separatist regions, and so on. This is something that is not a good option for Russia. That is why it also decided to “operate” in Ukraine. If the conflict gets stuck again, it will not be a good option for most Russians, especially in a situation where the Ukrainians can now shell targets directly in Crimea or Donbass.
This option is not sustainable in the long term so that Russia controls the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, because from a military point of view there are no natural obstacles that the Ukrainians could not overcome. The big question is what will happen with Crimea. A Russian president who loses Crimea will lose the support of his own population and fall.