Monday, August 01, 2022

Is Putin losing his grip?

Timothy Snyder, the author of Bloodlands and other good books about Eastern Europe, thinks that Putin's grip on Russia is weakening. He points out that lesser Kremlin figures like Dmitriv Medvedev and Sergei Lavrov are behind a lot of the chest-thumping in recent months. "Before the war," Snyder writes, "there was less of this.... I tend to see the drastic proclamations as evidence that important Russians ... understand that Russia can lose wars, and is losing this one." Their bluster improves their chances of replacing Putin if he gets taken down.

Another is the Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov. He has loaned his troops for the Ukraine war but somehow manages to keep them out of harm's war: their casualties are the lowest of all Russian regions. A shakeup in the Kremlin would leave him well positioned to claim independence for Chechnya.

"[O]ut there in the real world," Snyder goes on. "the Russian army is taking losses, in equipment and in officers, that threaten its integrity as an institution, not to mention its ability to fulfil its many other missions beyond Ukraine." (Congress was recently briefed by American intelligence that Russia has lost 75,000 men killed, wounded, or captured in Ukraine, a huge portion of its invasion force.) "The Russian state is not designed for a war of this kind," Snyder says. "It looks fascist at the top, but it lacks the fascist capacity for total war."

"For the war to end," he concludes, "Putin must feel the politics change around him; and so for the war to end, Ukraine must win. For the West, this means patience and firmness and the consistent supply of the weapons Ukraine needs."

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