Espreso. Global

West waits for Putin's death, Ukraine — for Russia's collapse

11 May, 2024 Saturday

From two weeks to infinity — this is the range of expectations for the end of the war in Ukraine since the beginning of the large-scale invasion


Looking back two years ago, we can sincerely admit to ourselves that back then, Oleksiy Arestovich's lie about "two or three weeks" (to end war with Russia - ed.) was quite in line with public sentiment. In particular, the activity of volunteers of both sexes was based on similar expectations. They said that Russia was only scaring, wanted to bring Ukraine to the negotiating table, would demand the whole of Donbas, would go no further, and would create some kind of analogue of Minsk 3. This was based on sincere beliefs: Putin understands only force, so if you kick him in the teeth, he will back down and crawl back to the demarcation line as of February 23, 2022.

A year later, after a noticeable slowdown in the Ukrainian Armed Forces at the front, phrases such as "this war is for a long time" and "everyone will fight" were heard.

And since the beginning of this year, when the government officially put demobilization outside the brackets of mobilization, people have been talking about the army as a "one-way ticket". Instead, even astrologers and Carpathian molfars have somehow stopped outlining the horizons of victory, limiting themselves to the general "Ukraine will win anyway".

Thus, the timing of victory and, accordingly, the timing of the end of the war is now more uncertain than ever before. This leads to a pessimistic conclusion: the war is forever, for generations.  

At the same time, the absolutely correct idea is being voiced more and more often: victory can be brought closer and expected only after a clear understanding of what exactly should be considered victory. And from this point of view, two scenarios are finally visible, each of which is assessed by repeaters as the most realistic. Significantly, neither version envisages Ukraine's victory on the battlefield with the subsequent pushing of the Russian occupiers back to the 1991 borders.

Let's start with the vision of the path to ending the war offered by the so-called collective West. Various people of different levels of influence on both sides of the Atlantic have made statements of the same content: only Vladimir Putin can stop the bloodshed at any time by ordering the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. However, there is also an understanding that the Russian dictator is not going to do so in the foreseeable future. Ways to put pressure on him have been exhausted, and methods of influence are not working.

The former commander of the Polish Army, General Waldemar Skrzypczak, in a recent interview emphasized: "The Russians have a several-fold advantage over the Ukrainian army, which allows them to conduct that offensive. Ukrainians lack soldiers and Ukrainians lack weapons and ammunition. Since the Russians have a military advantage, the offensive and the return of the occupied territories are unrealistic." But in the course of the conversation, he adds, as if by the way: "At the same time, Russia also has economic, internal, and social problems. Putin will not last forever, he will pass away in due time, just like Brezhnev."

Keep in mind that it was Polish director Patryk Vega who made the film The Death of Putin, presenting an English-language teaser earlier this year in Warsaw. Undoubtedly, the film is planned to be released to a wide English-speaking audience, perhaps the widest in the world. It will surely resonate with many people. It answers the question of when the war, which is draining the civilized world politically, economically and morally, will end. Putin will not last forever. He will die one day, just like Brezhnev and Stalin. The history of the twentieth century shows that both deaths, each in its own time, became significant because they brought the world, if not a permanent peace, then respite and détente.

The Western bet on Putin's death will not work. As the proverb says, while the grass grows, the horse starves. It is not entirely correct to measure the 21st century by the categories of the 20th century. At least because the current Russian dictator has taken into account all the mistakes of his predecessors. And he is acting in a time when isolationism is impossible, the Iron Curtain can easily be bypassed by Russian propaganda on the Internet and Telegram channels, and war crimes are not an obstacle to trade and economic relations. After all, Europeans brought up on Western culture did not disdain to trade with cannibalistic leaders in the past.

Add to this the undeniable fact that Putin has the best medicine in the world at his disposal. In order for him to die in the near future, he must be deliberately brought closer to his deathbed. The possibility of assassination attempts within his entourage was discussed in open sources even before the large-scale invasion. With the beginning of the invasion, there was more talk around this topic. However, this stage of the war began to develop in such a way that Putin's inner circle needs him alive. After all, he is the key to their enrichment and their power. I would not dismiss the version of the double: even if one day Putin, like Stalin, dies, his place will be taken by a controlled copy.

So, at least until 2030, the formal end of his fifth presidential term, the Russian dictator (or his double) will live on. So, the war will not end in this way. Although there is a suspicion, the collective West is slowly deciding not to let Ukraine completely burn down in anticipation of the desired but not publicly announced event - Putin's end.

Inside Ukraine, a different agenda is slowly taking shape. The heroism of our soldiers is still highly valued, and the Armed Forces enjoy the highest authority. But the further we go, the more often the end of the war is associated with the collapse of Russia as the last empire. Not so long ago, Valery Pekar spoke on this topic: "The Russian population is rapidly turning to the left. Such sentiments increase the fragility of the empire, as it was more than a hundred years ago. This indicates an accumulation of troubles, despite the triumphant reports of Russian statistics, which, as we know, never lies. If history repeats itself (and path dependence in Russian history is enormous), the empire will collapse due to the accumulation of gaps."

Russia has 21 national republics and more than 100 indigenous peoples. Separatist movements within Russia have different histories, motivations, spread, and potential. Not all of the peoples who sought to secede from the USSR in 1991 were able to do so. Some of them formed into republics within the Russian Federation, while others have no political recognition at all and their existence is denied by Russian propaganda. The North Caucasus, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chuvashia, and Yakutia are considered as the first candidates for rebel regions. Ukrainian politicians, political scientists and public figures are convinced that it is Ukraine that can actively contribute to the disintegration of the Russian Federation's constituent entities. And in June 2022, the Ukrainian parliament created the inter-factional parliamentary association "For a Free Caucasus". According to its head, MP Oleksiy Honcharenko, this will help the peoples of the North Caucasus oppressed by Russia.

Political scientist and military officer Mykhailo Basarab is one of the most active advocates of such developments, sincerely convinced not only of Russia's collapse, but also that the processes are already underway. Here is one of his recent posts on Facebook: "In Karachay-Cherkessia, a local resistance movement has engaged in a battle with Russian security forces at a checkpoint. For those who are not familiar with geography, the Karachay-Cherkessia Autonomous Republic is a North Caucasus region in the Russian Federation. For now, in the Russian Federation. I'll add an interesting nuance. There have been many cases of Kadyrov's men killing Russian soldiers because they had the misfortune to talk about their participation in the Russian-Chechen wars. This is the colourful relationship between Muscovy and the North Caucasus. It will definitely continue. It cannot be otherwise."

Basarab has many like-minded people in Ukraine who are equally convinced that it cannot be otherwise, that Russia will be shaken from within by freedom-loving peoples who are beginning to wake up. The USSR, which stood for seventy years and then collapsed in a few days, is often cited as an example. I will tirelessly remind you of this: The Soviet Union collapsed because Russia wanted it to. The so-called Union republics had their own capitals and their own national republican governments, albeit fully accountable to the Kremlin. The RSFSR, on the other hand, had no capital. After all, Moscow was the capital of the USSR, which unwittingly made Russians and Russia as a national state entity invisible in that state. Boris Yeltsin rode this horse.

Therefore, the bet of progressive-minded Ukrainians on the collapse of Russia as a way to end the war is as wrong as the West's bet on Putin's death. In addition, the West is afraid of Russia's collapse because it does not understand who will take over the nuclear potential. And who could be influenced to eliminate it, as was the case in Ukraine in 1994.

So the West does not need the disintegration of the Russian empire, and Ukraine will have no allies here. Meanwhile, Putin will not die. Russia will not collapse. A good bet is to transfer the war to Russian territory, with the prospect of occupation and forced demilitarization. But the West will not go for it, and Ukraine does not have the resources. In any case, the battlefield remains. We need modern weapons, more air defense, motivated and trained people, and consolidation — political consolidation too! This is more important for understanding victory than the destruction of Russia from within.

Specially for Espreso.

About the author: Andriy Kokotiukha, writer, screenwriter.

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the authors of the blogs. 

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