Putin’s rule is weakening

By | August 1, 2022

Timothy Snyder writes:

It seems to me, from a distance, that Putin’s rule is weakening. We now regularly hear from people aside from Putin (for example former prime minister and president Dmitry Medvedev) about the meaning of the war, the catastrophic consequences that await Ukraine and the West, and so forth. This is interesting, because it seems like a sign that Putin is losing control.

Usually the news coverage of such pronouncements focuses on their content. When Medvedev tells us that the war is Poland’s fault, or that Ukraine is a Jewish conspiracy, or that this or that action will lead to dreadful consequences, we pay attention. He is playing to a news cycle organized around fear. But the deeper story, I think, is that he and other people aside from Putin now feel authorized to make such colorful proclamations. Before the war there was less of this.

The doom propaganda serves a couple of purposes. On the surface, it shows (or rather seems to show) loyalty to Putin. At a time when Russia is losing the war, the best hope is to convince the West that Russia is somehow unstoppable — which it isn’t. Russia has had to pull back, just in this war, from a great deal of Ukrainian territory. Its forces in the south are in an unenviable situation right now. Russian history, like American history, is littered with defeat in war.

At the same time, the doom propaganda is rhetorical preparation for a power struggle after Putin falls. If Russia loses the war, the people saying radical things now will have protected themselves. For my part, I tend to see the drastic proclamations as evidence that important Russians (Medvedev, also Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov) understand that Russia can lose wars, and is losing this one. [Continue reading…]

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