Putin, unaccustomed to losing, is increasingly isolated as war falters

By | December 30, 2022

The Washington Post reports:

When Vladimir Putin visited Minsk last week to discuss deepening cooperation, a sarcastic joke by his host, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, seemed to ring all too true. “The two of us are co-aggressors, the most harmful and toxic people on this planet. We have only one dispute: Who is the bigger one? That’s all,” Lukashenko said.

As Putin approaches New Year’s Eve, the 23d anniversary of his appointment in 1999 as acting Russian president, he appears more isolated than ever.

More than 300 days of brutal war against Ukraine have blown up decades of Russia’s carefully cultivated economic relations with the West, turning the country into a pariah, while Kremlin efforts to replace those ties with closer cooperation with India and China appear to be faltering the longer the war grinds on.

Putin, who started his career as a Soviet KGB agent, has always kept his own counsel, relying on a close inner circle of old friends and confidants while seeming to never fully trust or confide in anyone. But now a new gulf is emerging between Putin and much of the country’s elite, according to interviews with Russian business leaders, officials and analysts.

Putin “feels the loss of his friends,” said one Russian state official with close ties to diplomatic circles, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “Lukashenko is the only one he can pay a serious visit to. All the rest see him only when necessary.” [Continue reading…]

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