Staunton, April 1 – Vladimir Putin is not a military strategist, and the decision to shift Russian forces from around Kyiv to the southeast in order to be in a position to defeat the Ukrainian army rather than go all out to achieve regime change now in Ukraine shows that, Dmitri Minic of the Paris Institute for International Relations says.
In his earlier remarks, the French expert says, Putin appeared to favor going for Kyiv but his military hasn’t been able to occupy that city and so he has agreed to those who argue for seeking victory by destroying the Ukrainian army in the field first (rfi.fr/ru/россия/20220401-в-окружении-путина-есть-разные-мнения-о-тактике-войны-но-нет-никаких-споров-по-существу-эксперт).
“The Russian army has not been defeated,” Minic continues. “It has suffered a shock and has been forced to change its strategy, but nothing has ended. In Russia, the spring draft has begun; and possibly the new soldiers will be sent to Ukraine especially to perform logistical tasks.”
Moreover, he says, unless Ukraine makes significant concessions such as recognizing Crimea as part of Russia and the independence of the Donbass “republics” and accepting neutral status, “the Kremlin will not stop the war,” and whatever differences on strategy there are in the elite will not change that.
“Putin is the epitome of the Russian military-political elites. He has a very hostile vision of the world,” one that involves elements of conspiracy thinking. He is extremely self-confident in his judgments, something that coexists with his awareness of Russia’s weakness and his fears that Russia could be quickly destroyed.
His advisors, Minic continues, “who must brief him support the same vision of the world.” They undoubtedly do disagree on how to fight the war in Ukraine but they do not disagree with him at all about the ultimate goal of regime change in that country one way or another.
For much of the last 30 years, there was a pro-Western faction within the highest posts in the military hierarchy. “But ten years ago, that ended. No opposition voices exist there now. All those around Putin have a similar education and a similar set of experiences and visions of the world, history and so on … Among them, there is no place for critical thinking.”
Like earlier Russian autocrats, Minic argues, Putin doesn’t want debate about what he is doing but rather wants all others near him to support his goals. Those who don’t are more or less quickly removed from the inner circle. And despite the problems with the 2008 military reform, he now has trusting relationships with Russian military leaders.
As far as the impact of sanctions is concerned, the French analyst suggests it has been real on some of the economic elite but had little on either the military-political elite and the population, both of which distrust the economic elite as in fact Putin has openly suggested in recent weeks.
The greater freedom of information Russians had experienced during perestroika and in the 1990s is ending with a kind of re-Stalinization in which people view having an opinion as a crime. “Russia is thus radicalizing in its attitudes toward the West.” Elites are pleased to see that, and only when the elites change will anyone be able to talk about fundamental change there.