Skip to main content

Why Putin believes Russia has no other way to survive without winning Ukrainian war

By Fumiko Yamada 

The Ukraine war has entered such a critical phase that Putin cannot think of ending the war without achieving victory. But the question is, why can't he think about it when the loss is apparently much greater than what Russia has gained from this war? In February 2023, Vladimir Putin said that if Russia concedes defeat in this war, not only the Russian Federation but the Russian nation may collapse. At the time, commentators in both Moscow and the West also believed that Putin was actually practicing a campaign rather than speaking his own words. They do not think that losing Ukraine will collapse Russia, and neither does Putin (Polit.ru, November 25, 2022).
But now it doesn't seem that way. Putin actually believes that Russia has no other way to survive without winning this war. And the larger population of Russia does not disagree with that idea. Recent opinion polls indicate that the Russian president has wide public support, despite the various ills. Levanda, an opinion poll published by Russian Field, found that 80 percent of Russians responded yes to the question of whether they supported Russia's "special operations" in Ukraine. More than 55 percent of them strongly supported this. On the other hand, only 15 percent of Russians opposed the war.
Surprisingly, 59 percent said yes when asked whether they supported a new Russian military campaign in Kiev. 26 percent of Russians oppose renewed attacks. Sixty-six percent said they supported a peace deal on Putin's terms, while 24 percent opposed it. (geopoliticalfutures.com/russians-attitudes-toward-the-war, 3 March 2023) This trend in opinion polls shows no major differences in attitudes among Russians regardless of age or income.
In general, regardless of the type of ruler, internal public opinion plays an important role in whether or not to engage in something like war. Despite the sanctions imposed by the Western world on Russia, this widespread support for Putin does not seem likely to force Russia to accept any negative terms to end the war in the near future.
There were reasons to believe that Putin was once talking about the breakup of Russia for propaganda purposes. One of the reasons for such a view is that Russia is now much more ethnically homogenous than the Soviet Union was in 1991, and any secession would now have to set Russians rather than non-Russians against ethnic Russians (Vz.ru, July 13, 2022). When Mikhail Gorbachev last threatened the country's future, the Kremlin took extremely harsh measures against non-Russians within the borders of the Russian Federation (Holod.media, February 14, 2023). Furthermore, even most Russian opposition parties are against any secession within the country and warn that declaring such a goal would be in conflict with their interests (Echofm.online, March 1, 2023). Moreover, among Russians who oppose Putin and his war in Ukraine, there are also fears of a possible breakup of the country (Business-gazeta.ru, January 3, 2023). Indeed, many of them and others have long supported Putin because they believe he has blocked the country's potential disintegration with his brutal war in Chechnya (Graniru.org, April 15, 2022).
Thus, Putin has every reason to use it as a propaganda tool in raising the specter of isolation of Russia and the Russian nation in order to gain popular support for himself and his policies. He is thought to take this tactic, especially when such ideas are presented as a goal of Western policy. And indeed, it is certain that the Russian leader took these into account when he made his comments.
But at the same time, according to Russian commentator Alexander Skobov, the reality is that Putin, more than any previous Russian ruler, fears that a loss or retreat from Ukraine would create an 'abyss' that would engulf his rule and that the imperial structure would collapse suddenly and unexpectedly. Can it?
Skobov's analysis states that, like other empires, the Russian Empire has always been a composite of different regions and peoples. It is held together by force. In order to subjugate a 'vertical' administration, its ruling class directly interfered with the natural emergence of horizontal relations between the various parts of the empire (Kasparov.ru, March 6). But at the same time the Russian nation is encouraged to feel superior to everyone else. The organic connection of this imperialist character of the Russian state with the authoritarian tradition extending to the whole system of social relations is obvious and helps to make the Russian system as 'anti-Western'. Alexander Dugin, known as Putin's mastermind, gave it a theoretical basis in his conception of the Eurasia doctrine. Now both Russian theorists and leadership consider the West a threat to both the Russian state and nation.
As a result, Russia effortlessly transitioned from being a 'besieged fortress' to 'a crusade' seen as a nest aimed at destroying the 'sinful and evil West' (Kadhangdhatra.tn, March 6, 2023). And thus, Russian elites naturally seek to counter that danger by creating a vicious circle, in which fear of isolation reinforces both authoritarianism and anti-Westernism. And that means: 'A Russian empire cannot be liberal and cannot be part of Western civilization or community.' Putin's fear of the disintegration of Russia and the Russian nation thus becomes an integral part of his hatred of the West.
As a result, Putin also fears that without the support of an authoritarian power, his state's imperial identity will easily split into regional identities. And then the 'accursed West' will absorb Russia piece by piece' (Kasparov.ru, March 6, 2023). Putin's fear of Russia's disintegration is not meant to scare people. In fact, this is a real and deep concern of Putin himself. And here lies his hatred of the West as a civilization that the West rejects rights outside of Russian state power.
Skobov is not alone in seeing Putin's hostility to the West and fear of deep-rooted isolation. Vladimir Marchenko, a political observer at Tatarstan's Business Online portal, said that Putin's understanding of how the issue is connected comes from the influence of Ivan Ilyin, who is known as the Kremlin chief's favorite philosopher. According to the Kazan analyst, the real reason Putin admires Ilyin, not Ilyin's commitment to fascism. Rather, it is their shared obsession with the risk of Russia's isolation and their common commitment to do whatever it takes to prevent it (Kasparov.ru, October 2, 2022). For Marchenko, like Skobov, Putin's authoritarianism is therefore not primary but a reflection of this fear, which distinguishes both from other Russian thinkers who have flirted with fascism. In addition, it explains why Putin is committed to overcoming divisions in Russia, even if he does not hesitate to use force to prevent disintegration.
Another Russian analyst, Vladimir Pastukhov, observed that this had never happened before in history. All over the world, as well as in Russia, so many people are focused on the possibility that Russia may break up. This is in sharp contrast to previous years. Few expected radical changes when the Russian Empire collapsed in 1917 and the Soviet Union in 1991 (Polit.ru, 3 Ryb, June 3, 2022). Now Russia's existential fears drive Putin's policies. For this reason, Putin's words about isolation seem to be taken much more seriously.
Some Western experts once predicted that Russia would collapse within a year or two as a result of the war. Timothy Ash, Associate Fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Program, says that while there is little chance of positive change with the emergence of reformist forces, the Russian Federation is more likely to split into many new states. Others are less confident about any imminent regime collapse in Russia. Associate Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program. Joanna Sjostek says Russian authorities are adept at cracking down on protests and have stepped up repression. Experience shows that mass protests generally pose a real threat to an entrenched authoritarian regime only when there are divisions within the elite as well.
From the opening reference to Russian public opinion, it is clear that there is a strong fear of the country collapsing ethnically, both at the leadership and public levels. The Chatham House report shows that such a desire in the West has been revealed at various times. As a result, Putin cannot be expected to end the war easily. The question is, what direction is the outcome of the war in Ukraine? Beijing's success in ending a diplomatic rift between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two of the Middle East's warring powers, could encourage the country's leader Xi Jinping to mediate an end to the war in Ukraine. He gave such a hint.
It is true that China is the country that will benefit the most in the short term from Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But these gains may also come with risks in the medium or long term. The Kremlin increasingly feels the need for Chinese military assistance for Moscow to avert a Russian catastrophe in Ukraine. And this military aid would mean China falling under the economic sanctions of the West. Such a ban, like the Russian ban, would hurt the economy of the West as well as China. But there will be no other way for America and its allies. The big danger for Beijing would be a major disruption to its rise plans, something China would not want ahead of time. For this reason, it seems that Beijing is going to take an initiative to stop the Russia-Ukraine war.
The question is, under what conditions this war can be an agreement? It goes without saying that the conditions of war have not yet developed for either side to meet the conditions unilaterally. If there is to be an agreement to stop the war at this time, it will be through taking a position between the two sides. It is difficult to say for sure what will happen. However, the United States, Europe, China and Russia-Ukraine must agree on this, which may include giving up the land of Ukraine, the country not being part of NATO, as well as lifting the sanctions imposed on Russia. However, no simple equation is visible to either side in this case.

Comments

TRENDING

Crucial to revisit roots, embrace core Hindu principles: love, compassion, harmony

A note on religious leaders'  Satya Dharam Samvad in Haridwar: *** In a groundbreaking gathering, more than 25 religious leaders including Swamis, Acharyas, Pujaris, Gurus, and Sadhvis from all over India convened to discuss the tenets of Hinduism on September 16th, 2023, in Haridwar, to discuss and discern the current trajectory of Hinduism. This brand new initiative, the Satya Dharam Samvad, was inspired to organize its first assembly in response to the December 2021 Dharma Sansad, where hate speech and calls for violence against the Muslim community contravened the essential principles of Hinduism. Religion is being used to incite riots among Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, etc. In the face of such hatred, Swami Raghavendra felt that something meaningful should be done in the present climate. 

Maoist tendency of mechanically adhering to Chinese path ignores Indian conditions

By Harsh Thakor  The C.P.I. (Maoist) formed in 2004 with merger of the C.P.I. (M.L) Peoples War and the Maoist Communist Centre has demonstrated courage in intensity compared to any great revolutionary struggle in the history of the world. It leads the largest armed movement of a Peoples Guerrilla Army in the world today and proved themselves as the true torch bearers of the Indian Communist movement.

Significant step towards empowering and particularly engaging with informal workers

ActionAid note on drive to empower informal sector workers Odisha with the support of District Labour Department: *** The Odisha Unorganised Workers Social Security Board (OUWSSB) facilitated an Unorganized Workers Awareness Camp at the Red Cross Bhawan in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. The event took place in collaboration with the District Labour Department at Khordha, Centre for Child and Women Development and ActionAid Association. This informative event aimed at empowering informal sector workers by disseminating crucial information regarding their eligibility for various social security schemes provided by the Government of Odisha.

We need to resurrect Neruda, give birth to poets of his kind amidst neofascist rampage

By Harsh Thakor  On 23rd September we commemorate the 50th death anniversary of Pablo Neruda, whose contribution to revolutionary poetry was path breaking. Pablo Neruda’s poetry manifested the spiritual essence of revolutionary poetry and how poetry was a weapon for a revolutionary struggle. The story of his life illustrated the spiritual transformation undergone a human being to transform him into a revolutionary and how environment shapes the lie of revolutionary.

Dev Anand ably acted as westernised, urban educated, modern hero, as also anti-hero

By Harsh Thakor  On September 26th we celebrated the birth centenary of legendary actor Dev Anand. Dev Saab carved out a new epoch or made a path breaking contribution in portraying romanticism and action in Bollywood cinema, giving his style or mannerisms a new colour. Arguably no Bollywood star manifested glamour in such a dignified or serene manner or struck the core of an audience’s soul in romantic melodies. Possibly we missed this evergreen star being cast in a Hollywood film. Dev Anand is like an inextinguishable soul of Bollywood. Although not as artistic or intense as Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor or Ashok Kumar ,Dev Anand surpassed them all for liveliness or flamboyance, with his performances radiating g energy on the screen, in realms rarely transcended. In his own right, Dev Saab, was a craftsman, like his classical contemporaries, with a characteristic composure. Perhaps never was a Bollywood star so suave, bubbling or charming as Dev Anand, who often looked like an Indian versi

Grassroots NGO enlightens people of Kupwara with intricacies of Right to Information

J&K RTI Foundation and Founder Civil Rights Movement Kupwara note on how RTI Pend is empowering Kupwara with insights on Right to Information Act: *** RTI Pend, the grassroots initiative aimed at democratizing access to information, hosted its 2nd event in Kupwara. On the request of the Civil Rights Movement Kupwara, this event was tailored to enlighten the people of Kupwara with the intricacies of the Right to Information Act, presented in their local language and dialects. The event successfully bridged both offline and online participation, addressing queries on the spot and offering applicants practical solutions.

Abrogation of Art 370: Increasing alienation, relentless repression, simmering conflict

One year after the abrogation by the Central Government of Art. 370 in Kashmir, what is the situation in the Valley. Have the promises of peace, normalcy and development been realised? What is the current status in the Valley? Here is a detailed note by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties , “Jammu & Kashmir: One Year after Abrogation of Art. 370: Increasing Alienation, Relentless Repression, Simmering Conflict”:

Agro-biodiversity through seed identification, conservation, replication, crop selection

By Kuntal Mukherjee, Basant Yadav, Shivnath Yadav* This article is mainly based on a journey of the three of us since 2010 based on field experience, study of different articles, reflective journeys with local community based organisations, villagers and practitioners in Chhattisgarh. The slow growth of Agriculture in India with near stagnation in productivity since mid ‘80s in contrast to the remarkable growth during the green revolution period has come to the front as a great concern. In post WTO era Indian Agriculture has been witnessing structural changes, uncontrolled influx of agriculture goods and commodities from foreign countries due to open market nature. The gradual reduction in subsidies from internal production leads to increasing cost of production of agriculture produces at the farm gate. It causes gradual decrease in internal production as well as productivity and posing threats to small farm and stakeholders. 

Indian youth can choose political career which offers tremendous opportunities

By Sudhansu R Das  The Indian political sector is growing faster than any other sector in the world. This sector has been fully liberalised. Political career in India is open to any age group starting from 25 plus to 90 plus; people with any educational background, even an illiterate person can contest election in India. An old man or woman with multiple organ failure can become leader of a political party; they can control party workers from the hospital bed also. Social status, physical and mental ability seldom stand in the way of a political leader. Advanced age is not an issue which can be reversed with effortless ease. 

Commodification of road accident deaths: The hidden health hazard of motonormativity

By Chandra Vikash*  Jahnavi Kandula, an Indian student from Andhra Pradesh, studying in America was killed in a road accident by a police motor car in January 2023. Now, 8 months after the accident, a bodycam video of Daniel Orderer, who is the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, has gone viral on social media. He was laughing at her death and saying that “she was 26 years old, anyway… she had limited value… just give her $11,000 (ie Rs 9.13 lakh)”.