Staunton, Mar. 3 – Vladimir Putin would certainly benefit if he were to win in Ukraine while his power and perhaps even his life would be at risk if he loses. But he can avoid the latter if he drags out the war as long as possible, something that could allow him to benefit almost as much as he would from winning, Maksim Trudolyubov says.
Indeed, the longer he can drag out the war, the more benefits he can derive at home by recasting the conflict not only as a new normal but as the occasion for many Russians to enrich themselves and to feel a new and more immediate link between themselves and the state, the Meduza commentator says (meduza.io/feature/2023/03/03/voyna-eto-novaya-norma).
In his recent speeches, Trudolyubov says, “Putin has presented this murderous war as a new norm of life for the country, although as usual, he avoids calling things by their own names … But there is something useful to him from such an approach. In the picture, he draws for the public, the war is a link connecting state and society” and one from which citizens only benefit.
Putin presents the war “as a way to get a decent job and increase one’s social status.” It means that there will always be good paying jobs and that anyone who suffers from the conflict will be provided with massive assistance. As a result, in simplest terms, “war is a way to get rich.”
According to Trudolyubov, “the Kremlin is calling for citizens to capitalize on the war and the opportunities it has created including the withdrawal of foreign firms.” In his view, Russian businesses “must invest in a paramilitary state.” He doesn’t say their tax burdens will go up but if most suffer increases slowly they’ll not notice or at least put up with it.
As a result, the commentator continues, “Putin’s main allies now are not the military and he security forces whose methods have failed in this war but rather civil technocratic officials – and it is with their help that Putin is trying not to lose the war by using social and economic mechanisms.”
“The prospect of an ignominious end forces rulers” like Putin to continue their wars “at all costs, even if they come to recognize that their original plan won’t work.” And “having lost the war, dictators are then in a position to save their own lives and freedoms but only by relying on domestic violence.”
Now, relying on technocrats from the economic bloc, Trudolyubov says, “Putin is creating a ‘people’s’ state build around the war, depriving society of any other support and tying it to himself. “ He began by making the war as invisible as possible; now, he is promoting the idea that many will benefit from the war.
How far he will be able to move in this direction depends not on himself but on the course of battle and that depends not only on Ukraine but on Ukraine’s supporters. If the latter do not provide sufficient assistance rapidly enough, Putin may be able to save himself by transforming the war into something many Russians will come to see as benefiting them.