It is a fact that in recent weeks the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has been cornered by the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian forcesin a war that at first he thought would be easy to win, but over the months he has had to settle for desperate moves such as fraudulent referendums to illegally annex territories and have some consolation prize, albeit in a tricky way.
The Ukrainian army commanded by the president Volodomir Zelensky has made significant progress in the east and south of the countryliberating territories that were occupied by the Russian invaders and that Putin announced to annex them despite the fact that he loses presence and strength in those regions.
In this sense, it is worth asking: What would happen if Putin decided to take his losses and end the war?
Former US Ambassador to Russia for the years 2012 to 2014, Michael McFaulwho also knows Putin very well, spoke with the American media NPR, and assured that it is very difficult for the Russian president to “accept defeat.”
“He will double down, he will fight to the end, he might even use nuclear weapons”McFaul predicted.
However, despite this dim statement, the former ambassador believes that ending the war as soon as possible could be the most strategically favorable move for Putin.
“Tragically, and when I say this I want to emphasize that word ‘tragically,’ if he said, ‘Okay, I’m done. Let me have the Donbas and the Crimea’, the places he was basically controlling before he invaded again in February. I think there will be many leaders around the world who could support him.McFaul assured.
The American diplomat believes that the decision to withdraw from Ukraine would also be welcomed by Russian citizens.
Although it is true that there is a significant part of the Russian population that supports the war, the vast majority of Russians are ambivalent with respect to Putin’s goals.
“I think the vast majority of people in Russia are apoliticalThey don’t care about this war,” McFaul said. “The argument in favor is not convincing for them. So for him to say, ‘Mission complete, we don’t need your children to die in this war,’ my prediction is that the vast majority would support him,” McFaul said.
DIVISIONS IN THE ENVIRONMENT OF PUTIN
In recent weeks, the differences that some allies of the Russian leader have with the decisions that he and his senior military commanders have taken in the war have been made public, especially after the Ukrainian counteroffensive that has given him an obvious defeat the Kremlin.
“You are seeing signs, they are small signs, we should not exaggerate them, but it amazes me how much has happened in the last 48 hours,” McFaul said last Monday.
the chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin ridiculed the Russian war machine in publicsomething that undermines the Kremlin’s carefully controlled narrative.
Kadyrov, close to Putin since his father and former President of Chechnya, Akhmad, was killed in a 2004 bomb attack in Grozny, suggested that Russia should consider using a small tactical nuke in Ukraine in response to that loss.
The nuclear warning made headlines, but its public contempt for top Russian generals may have been just as significant in a Russia in which public criticism of the war effort from the upper echelons of the elite has been taboo.
“Nepotism in the military will not lead to anything good”, Kadyrov said, adding that the commander of the Russian forces in the area should be stripped of his medals and sent to the front with a pistol to wash his shame with blood.
It is public contempt for generals directing Russia’s war is significant because it indicates the level of frustration within Putin’s elite over the direction of the war, while also piercing the Kremlin’s carefully controlled narrative.
“If it were up to me, I would have demoted [el general] Lapin to a private, would have stripped him of his awards, given him an assault rifle and sent him to the front to wash his shame with blood,” Kadyrov wrote.
Prigozhin for his part, leader of the private paramilitary organization Wagner Group, expressed his support for Kadyrov’s sentiment.
“Kadyrov’s expressive statement is not quite in my style. But I can tell you, Ramzan, you are a star, tell it like it is!” Prigozhin said in a press release.
Although neither Kadyrov nor Prigozhin have gone so far as to directly criticize Putin, the fact that they are publicly complaining about Russia’s military performance is in stark contrast to the tone of the Russian elites at the beginning of the war. war.
“They weren’t talking that way in February,” McFaul said. “If that is what is being said in public, I can only imagine what the elites are saying in private today in Moscow.”