Staunton, April 25 – Ever since Vladimir Putin began his expanded war in Ukraine at the end of February, analysts in Russia and the West have been looking for dissent by Russian elites, hopeful that such dissent if it becomes widespread will force the Kremlin leader to change course and possibly end the war.
But most of the dissent that exists, Irina Borogan and Andrey Soldatov, co-founders of the Agentura.ru portal which monitors the siloviki in Russia, say, is very different: it is being offered by those in the military and the intelligence agencies who believe that Putin isn’t being aggressive enough (cepa.org/vicious-blame-game-erupts-among-putins-security-forces/).
The Russian military and the FSB have not concluded, as many Russians have, that Putin’s war in Ukraine, “with its enormous casualties and incompetent direction,” is a mistake. Instead, these agencies believe that Putin’s decision to limit his objectives to the eastern part of that country rather than seek occupy all of Ukraine is a serious mistake.
Many in the security community, the two analysts say, “now argue that Russia is not fighting Ukraine, but NATO. Senior officers have therefore concluded that the Western alliance is fighting all out … while [Russian] forces operate under peacetime constraints … In short, the military now demands all-out war, including mobilization.”
According to Borogan and Soldatov, “the frustration is becoming so intense that it has spilled over into the public space. Alexander Arutyunov (aka, the blogger RAZVEDOS), a well-known veteran of Spetsnaz of the National Guard, made a video plea to Putin: "Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, please decide, are we fighting a war or are we masturbating?"
Arutyunov, they report, “demanded a massive escalation, with a choice of airstrikes on Ukrainian infrastructure or an end to the war. The video went viral, especially with pro-military groups on VK and those Telegram channels affiliated with the Russian army.” Other officers have followed suit.
Clearly, they conclude, “the Russian army wants more war rather than less.” Moreover, these dissidents on the right have not criticized the defense minister who retains their respect; but “at least privately,” they have denounced the FSB for supposedly misinforming Putin about facts on the ground in Ukraine.
Eight years ago, Borogan and Soldatov write, “when the Russian army swiftly occupied Crimean, the military and the security services were on the same page with Putin: they fully supported his decision to annex Crimea and were enthusiastic about the way it was done.” But things are “significantly” different now.
And this “matters a lot” because for ‘the first time, the siloviki are putting distance between themselves and the president,” something that “opens up all sorts of possibilities.”