Fundamental blunder elements appeared in Moscow’s scenario concerning the war in Ukraine. It turned out that the version of aggressive occupation of Crimea by Putin’s Russia in 2014 this time didn’t work by the same parameters. The war against Ukraine that is euphemistically called by the Russian officials “special military operation” and that was planned based on the Kremlin’s propaganda narrative about the liberation of Ukraine from neo-Nazis is far from looking like a pleasure walk amongst people who applaud the liberators. On the contrary, the whole world saw first ever horror filming after World War II in the Russia-invaded Ukraine. The Russian invasion of Ukraine caused a terrible shock inside the world community, which will not be forgotten soon.
Nostalgic for lost empire
Putin decided to wage the war on Ukraine when most of the Russians are affected by the “Weimar syndrome“ of the nostalgia for the lost empire and for the Soviet imperial grandeur of the 20th century. The Kremlin’s ideological investments dating from Putin’s terms massively capitalized on the frustrations of the Russian philistine caused by the humiliation of the dissolution of the USSR and particularly cultivated a new generation of young Russians that is often called Putinjugend, who are predisposed to the revival of the neo-Soviet conservatism and to the anti-Western phobia. Against such a background, Russian society that lacks sustainable democratic traditions accepted the structural institutionalization of the Russian state in which the main factor in the formation of self-consciousness and the place of the state in the world comes from the supreme authority with quasi-monarchic powers of the President and his administration, in such a society, most of the spheres of life of the citizens are established almost mechanically by the Kremlin elites that are reelected once in five years by formal elections presented by the power as an authentic social contract with the people whose loyalty is bought with assistance state measures and through the propagation of chauvinist nationalism and the alleged external threat by selective mentions of Russia’s grandeur and the nostalgia for “soft” restoration of the post-Soviet space.
Strategic mistakes and exactly opposite effects
But the “soft” reintegration of Crimea into Russia in 2014 didn’t work in the case of the whole Ukraine in 2022, degenerating into a real harsh war. Judging by the collective reaction of the West to the war in Ukraine, Moscow’s strategic mistake became more than evident. The Russian invasion of Ukraine led to the suspension of Russia’s membership in the Council of Europe. Sanctions were imposed against Putin, Lavrov, MPs and a large number of Russians banks. The Western exports to Russia were drastically limited. An increasing number of states stopped issuing visas to Russian citizens. Russia started to be disconnected from SWIFT and was subject to many other restrictive measures. Surely, the economic sanctions will not produce an immediate result, but in the medium and long terms thy will have a negative and even disastrous effect on the economy and the social sphere of Russia.
In the field of military security, Putin achieved the opposite result. He tried to justify the war against Ukraine with military-strategic security reasons so as to prevent NATO from coming closer to Russia’s borders. As a result of the war, it turned out that the presence of the NATO military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders grew to record highs in the last decades. Objectively, Putin’s policy led not to the removal, but to the intensification of NATO’s presence near the borders of Russia. No matter how the war in Ukraine ends, Moscow irremediably lost this country and most of its citizens as potential allies, this being the most serious political mistake of the strategists of the Kremlin, who admitted the possibility of a Russia war against Ukrainians.
World is looking for explanations
Russia’s war against Ukraine generated spontaneous reactions of empathy for the Ukrainians all over the world. Over 2 million Ukrainians fled their country already and their life changed dramatically overnight, with Ukraine facing a real humanitarian catastrophe. Instead, Putin’s aggressive policy affected Russia’s image so badly that it is now worse that at the time of Stalin. The whole world is trying to find a logical explanation for Putin’s war against Ukraine. His actions are incomprehensible, unconceivable and are harshly criticized by the main international leaders. Putin’s statements about the putting of Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert scandalized international public opinion further, favoring the supposition that Putin is increasingly nervous and could be mentally unstable. A number of U.S. officials, according to USA Today, tried to explain the aggressiveness of the Kremlin leader, presuming President Vladimir Putin is frustrated and possibly mentally unstable, erratic and raving. According to the United States’ reflection group, judging by his “incorrect” behavior and statements, Vladimir Putin suffers from brain fog induced by Long COVID. For his part, Professor Ian Robertson, a neuropsychologist at Trinity College Dublin, said the Kremlin leader could be suffering from “hubris syndrome”.
At the same time, a number of experts drew attention to the absurdity of Putin’s narrative about the occupation of Ukraine by neo-Nazis, which he claims justifies Russia’s war against the neighboring Slavic country. Putin’s assertion that Ukraine is led by neo-Nazi is groundless and is beyond any criticism. One should have sick imagination to accuse the President of Ukraine Zelensky, who is a Jewish ethnic speaking Russian, of neo-Nazism.
History repeats itself as a farce?
The explanation for this absurdity comes from the contradictory and confusing understanding by Putin of history, primarily from the way in which the ideologeme of the Great Patriotic War, which is how the Russians call the war against Nazi Germany (1941 – 1945), was built in Russia, as a basis for its national-state identity. For decades, the Kremlin has corrected its political blunders by continuously making mentions of the public memory of the great victory in the anti-Hitler war. As the invoking of the victory against German Nazism enabled in the past the Soviet regime to camouflage not the less odious crimes of Stalinism and Soviet totalitarianism, in a similar way Putin’s regime tries to justify the war against Ukraine by invoking the false fight against the so-called Ukrainian neo-Nazism, which was invented in the propagandistic laboratories of Moscow. The great German philosopher Heghel noticed that history repeats itself twice, the second time as a farce. This observation is perfectly valid also for Putin’s anti-Nazi approach in the case of the war against Ukraine.
Where can change come from?
As regards Russian society, its members for now do not react en masse to the tragedy in Ukraine or to the disastrous situation in which the country finds itself owing to the announced sanctions. Moreover, according to sociological surveys, over two thirds of Russia’s population supports the war against Ukraine. Owing to the massive state propaganda and to the rising wave of repression against any form of anti-war dissidence, most of the Russian citizens live in an imaginary political world and are governed by mental mechanisms and historical archetypes that annihilate the need of objective information, remaining hostage to official ideological models. In this situation, the main danger for Putin could come from the administrative and economic elites that are dissatisfied with the drastic constraint on their luxury way of life due to the imposed sanctions. Recently, President Vladimir Putin promulgated a law that allows confiscating the back accounts of state officials if these are higher than their incomes declared during the last three years and if there are suspicions that the money was obtained illegally. For Russia, which is known for the widespread corruption at the level of political elites, when Putin itself, according to the investigations of dissident Aleksey Navalnyi, is one of the main beneficiaries of corruption and who owns huge property, such a law is equal in value to the waging of a war against the Russian state functionaries. The promulgation of this law during the war in Ukraine reveals its real stake. This is to become a fatal weapon in the hands of Putin who this way obtains the possibility of stopping any revolt against him among the political elite at the incipient stage. In other words, the current political regime in Russia becomes increasingly authoritarian, while the state terror against anti-government dissidence is pervasive.
Rereading “Miorița” (“Ewe Lamb”) poem
Even if the propagandistic machinery of the Kremlin works very efficiently inside the country, outside it there are not many who would believe those false reports. The war in Ukraine generated an image catastrophe for Putin’s Russia. No one trusts now the current political regime in Moscow, which easily violates any of the commitments it undertook through international agreements, dynamiting this way the whole traditional European security system. In such conditions, all Russia’s neighbors like Ukraine become potential victims of the aggressive Russian military policy. Only time separates one case of Russian aggression against its neighbors from another. Now more than ever, it became clear that in the current international conjuncture, only NATO membership can provide a guarantee of safety against Russian military aggression. This conclusion is also perfectly valid for the perspective of building an efficient security system for such a state like the Republic of Moldova, which can enter the NATO umbrella only as an integral part of its historical space of national making. The ignoring of this unique option by the political class in Chisinau condemns the unfulfilled Moldovan state eastwards the Prut to the fate of a ewe lamb that passively waits for its turn at the abattoir of history.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.