By Paul Goble
Because Vladimir Putin is a ruthless dictator, he can ignore at least for a time the views of his own population. But only for a time because the views of what remains of civil society about his aggression again Ukraine are spreading to the families of members of the elite and even to the elite itself.
The scope of opposition among the remnants of civil society in Russia to his war is breathtaking, with almost all groups, formed for whatever reason, voicing their outrage, holding demonstrations, and circulating petitions which are garnering an increasing number of signatures. (For the most comprehensive list to date, see zona.media/article/2022/02/27/vse and rosbalt.ru/russia/2022/02/28/1946296.html.)
This opposition has now spread into the families of members of the elite – for examples, see zona.media/article/2022/02/25/no-war – and even key members of Putin’s circle (rfi.fr/ru/россия/20220227-дерипаска-и-фридман-выступили-против-войны-в-украине and themoscowtimes.com/2022/02/28/some-of-russias-elite-oppose-war-in-ukraine-a76648).
And the liberal leaders of the ten million-strong Russian diaspora have now organized an Anti-War Committee. It too may not have immediate impact on the Kremlin dictator; but it will provide language and arguments too dangerous to make if one lives in Putin’s Russia but which will affect others (t.me/khodorkovski/5387 and newtimes.ru/articles/detail/209568).
Putin and his thugs are undoubtedly counting on the primal patriotism of the so-called “dark people” to see him through; but even they are less than enthusiastic. And unless Putin can win some key victories with minimal losses, it is unlikely that even this group in the population is going to stay in his corner for much longer.
At some point, he won’t be able to sustain his policies or even himself because those on whom he relies are drawn from portions of the population that are almost as anti-war as those who have already spoken out.