MOSCOW – Vladimir Putin has been in power for 15 years. Over this time, many people have graduated from high school and college, served their time in the army, started a family. And their whole adult life went to the tune of the hysterical shrieks by the Russian intelligentsia: this regime is doomed! Putin has two or three months left! Everything will collapse in a year! Change is inevitable!
Nobody wants to deal with the question of why nothing has happened. They deny even the obvious, the consolidation of the population around the government after the attack on Ukraine, saying “it is all propaganda, there is nothing like that in reality, people are about to rise up.”
We have a lot to ponder about. We now see an obvious example of the effectiveness of the ceaseless lying in the information society. All illusions generated by technological fetishism have been exploded. With free access to information, the lie consolidates and mobilizes society, invulnerable to any revelations.
Putin-haters’ logic is a sad spectacle. Saying that Putin is smart, strong and dangerous, that his regime would not collapse as easy and soon as often imagined, that we have hard, bitter and tragic time ahead of us, is enough for one to be labeled at once as Putin’s henchman, accomplice of the regime and so on. Going down this way, we would be forced to list as a Nazi toady and accomplice of Hitler the man who said in 1940: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.”
However, when signs appeared of Putin’s defeat, the first in 15 years, we started to hear weird noises. I covered pacifism before a few times, but there is something else now, presented in different genres by Dmitry Bykov and Mikhail Yampolsky, who produce wordy arguments about “rebellion” and “rebels” who shall be recognized as independent political actors with the right to negotiate, with Russia’s participation limited in these arguments to media support, private donations and romantic volunteers.
Thereby, they are denying the obvious: there is no rebellion in the Donbas and there was none in Crimea as well. This is a hybrid war, waged by Russia against Ukraine, an aggression by one country against another. It is completely pointless to negotiate with some riffraff who the Russian border guards do not allow back into Russia, acting as barrage detachments, and have them immediately disarmed even if allowed back.
The Ukrainian army will determine the outcome. The Donbas terrorists have no strong roots and do not enjoy the support of the population which would enable them to wage a prolonged guerrilla war. Should they be bombed into oblivion and the border blocked with air support now, it will be over.
A most serious legal dispute about Crimea will follow, even as holding that peninsula without invading some other Ukrainian regions is very difficult. The seriousness of this dispute is already recognized by those Kremlin loyalists who have an idea how much Ukrainian property was seized as a result of Russia’s act of robbery.
Of course, the Kremlin will have plenty of other opportunities to harm Ukraine, but the main question is whether or not it will opt for a massive invasion. It is clear that with the Ukrainian air force dominating the skies, the previous tactics of delivering reinforcements and weapons becomes a failure. Therefore, there is a pause in the actions of the West, as all wait for the Kremlin’s choice: an admission of defeat with the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luganda [portmanteau of Luhansk [People’s Republic] and Uganda. – Ed.], as it once did with Iranian Azerbaijan and the Republic of Mahabad (only ignorant and stupid Dima Bykov can compare the Donbas terrorists with the Israelis), or war.
The fact that they were preparing for a war and planning a massive invasion shows in the militants’ strange tactics. They tried to seize the airport only in Donetsk, and this attempt started turning the tide of the fighting. There has been no attempt at a classical capture of communications, as no railway or strategic highway has been cut off. Some television stations have been captured, but it still looks like a sloppy work. Nothing has been heard of any attempts to seize banks.
Sketch by Anatolii KAZANSKY from The Day’s archives, 1998
They have been focused on seizing administrative buildings, the loci of formal authority rather than sites of its enforcement, especially communication nodes. Seizures of administrative buildings are mostly symbolic in nature as well as these of the state security buildings and even military units.
For all these reasons, it seems that the terrorists were assigned exclusively symbolic role: to capture the halls of power, to create an impression of a regime change, in order to hold some null and void referendums and create formal grounds for the arrival of those who would take a real control of train stations, airports, banks, and everything.
Ramzan Kadyrov’s paramilitaries and Ossetian detachments were not to linger in the Donbas. Their task was to prepare the ground for the invasion of the Slavic brothers’ army, but it turned out to be an occupation of lands inhabited by Ukrainians and Russians by forces of alien cultures and creeds. It obviously did a poor job of building up pro-Russian feelings among the locals.
Now, the destruction of Sloviansk and Donetsk by Kadyrov’s forces is growing into a more plausible prospect. This is understandable, as Sloviansk should become the center of a shale project. Putin’s predecessors blew Kyiv and DniproHES, utterly disregarding civilian casualties, so there is nothing unexpected in his plans. As he failed to create a Novorussia, it is necessary to inflict maximum damage on Ukraine. I think that invaders will leave a scorched earth zone in Crimea, too, when the time will be up. It was done this way in Georgia, where the Russians burned forest. It is a horde, after all.
Putin has been beaten now, and beaten by the Ukrainians in the Donbas, which bodes less than well for this crime boss. I remember how he wept passionately about Russia’s travails in the 1990s: “The weak get beaten.” It is only that nobody was beating Russia then, and its UN representative did not have to listen to colleagues saying that they were bored with his lies, and the world looked up to the G8, not the G7.
Situation is like that in Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov’s classic novel The Golden Calf: “‘The house stood here for 40 years,’ Mitrich explained self-importantly, pacing in the crowd, ‘survived all the regime changes, it was a good house. It has now burned down with the Soviets in power. This is a sad fact, citizens!’”
Putin’s personal defeat will certainly affect his position in the world and in the CIS. The union of three authoritarian states Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan is based on military and political domination of the Kremlin. However, Alexander Lukashenko, far from supporting the DPR and Luganda, is already displaying disobedience, while experts from Kazakhstan make skeptical statements about the prospects of integration.
Russia is still in the throes of chauvinist hysteria, but some people are already publicly asking questions about why news of Russian soldiers’ deaths in Ukraine are silenced and why their remains are brought to Russia secretly and without honors. The humiliation of the state and its citizens is becoming increasingly apparent.
Putin’s greatest insult of the Russian state is not his privatization of power, and not the current humiliation in the UN, and not even the soldiers without insignia whom he sent to Crimea and the Donbas. It is the practice of secret awards to journalists, these most public people. He demonstrates that it is now a private matter concerning only a narrow circle of people, his fellow shareholders in a company exploiting the Russian state. Masses do not even need to know those whom this merry band appoints as the nation’s heroes. National recognition is worthless and not wanted.
Russia’s population will have to recognize that it all is only fair. This is a revenge for the fact that the Ukrainian state was suppressed during the so-called civil war, which was, in fact, the first war for the restoration of the empire, and for the Holodomor, and for the pre-Second World War and post-Second World War terror campaigns. We must accept it, and find a new way to build a relationship with the Ukrainian state, with growing evidence that it will not fail. Ukraine decided the fate of the Soviet Union in 1991. The fate of Russia is in Ukraine’s hands now.
Putin, however, has another reserve in domestic politics. It is time for a great purge of the ruling elite. Therefore, residents of Russia should understand that one may not take part in intraspecific struggle, conflicts within the elite and the authorities’ fight against the elite. Do not raise pikes in air when boyars are hurled from the tsar’s porch. The streltsy who did it with joy and passion were then calmly and methodically destroyed.
From time to time, we see entirely loyal people who castigate the Duma and the bureaucracy. All this is deliberate discrediting of residues of the institutional democracy with one purpose: to instill the idea that Russia does not need all these parliamentary excesses, that the country needs a dictatorship.
Oprichnina began with a massacre of the boyars, but it was ordinary villagers and townspeople who suffered most from it at the end. Ordinary citizens made the bulk of the victims of the Great Terror, originally directed against the nomenklatura. Such is the nature of vertically organized terror, the technology of dictatorial and tsarist purges: they must reach the base of the pyramid. So, do not be like the streltsy. It is better to stay away from the tsar’s porch as if it were the Grimpen Mire.
They have already directed this campaign against Anatoly Chubais, as he is a good additional topic for two minutes hate. After all, people can grow bored of all that talk of the Kyiv junta and the Benderites [widespread misspelling of Banderites. – Ed.].
By Dmitry SHUSHARIN, historian and political journalist, special to The Day