By Paul Goble
Vladimir Putin’s blitzkrieg has succeeded in only one way: it has led to the defeat of a country but a very different one than the Kremlin intended, Dimitry Savvin says. It has resulted in the defeat of Russia and the victory of Ukraine, a situation that leaves Russia facing ever tougher questions about what can and should be done.
“Putin has already lost the war and will lose even if he is able to take Kyiv and reach Lviv,” the editor of the Riga-based Russian national conservative Harbin portal says. As a result, the situation may develop in many ways; but tragically, the positive variants are less probable than the negative (harbin.lv/k-chemu-vedet-putinskiy-razgrom-rossii).
According to Savvin, “the Russian Federation will not be able to win just as the USSR was not able to do so in Afghanistan but instead will only be able to withdraw sooner or later from Ukraine just as the USSR did from Afghanistan.” That is due in the first place to the heroism of the Ukrainian military and the Ukrainian people.
But it is also a reflection of the success Ukraine has had in nation building and the failure of the Kremlin’s “soft power” there, its diplomatic efforts over the last eight years, and the incompetence and lack of realism in the Russian expert community which utterly failed to foresee the disaster that has occurred, Savvin continues.
And now, even if Russia takes control of Kyiv and Lviv,” he says, “for the control of Ukraine will be required an enormous occupation army which will have to be fed, armed, and formed by draftees because there won’t be enough professional soldiers for that.” That and the certainty of resistance will place untold burdens on Russia.
“But alas, even all this will not make inevitable either the fall of Putin personally or what is more the fall of the neo-Soviet regime in Russia.” Instead, Russia now faces the prospect of an extended war in Ukraine and ever greater repression at home as the Kremlin struggles to keep control of the situation.
This new terror will involve not only the suppression of political opponents but also the impoverishment of much of the population to support the war effort and the expulsion of ever more of Russia’s best people, further undermining Russia’s chances for a better future for all its peoples.
China will partially compensate Russia for its losses in the war and as a result of Western sanctions, but only partially because Beijing does not want to see Russia strengthened too much or to have its own relations with the West compromised. As a result, while Putin will likely be able to keep power, his will be over an ever weaker Russia.
Putin could try to escape from this situation by withdrawing his army from Ukraine back to the lines of February 20, Savvin suggests. But if he did, he would discredit his entire approach to Russia and the world over the last decade or more. It is unlikely he is ready to take such a step for personal reasons even though it would correspond to the needs of Russia.
Or, and this is the best but perhaps the least likely outcome, Putin could be forced out by others and they could pull out of Ukraine. That would likely end the sanctions regime sooner, but it would not necessarily change the situation for the better. Any changes might be limited to cosmetic ones and that would soon be undermined by the quality of the new people in charge.
There is of course a fourth possibility, Savvin says; and that is a decision by Putin to start a nuclear war. That would not solve his problems but simply end them, along with ending his country and much of the world. One can only hope that Russians will prevent that, acknowledge their defeat and change their country’s policies.
At present, the prospects for such an outcome do not appear great, but at least they give hope, “and hope is the maximum we can count on today.”