Exodus from Putin’s Russia and widespread opposition to his war

Date:

Exodus from Putin's Russia and widespread opposition to his war

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Friday, October 21, 2022.
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • Vladimir Putin finally got Russian society to understand that it was at war when he declared a “partial” mobilization of the country.

  • Most of the bombed infrastructure buildings were constructed during the Soviet era.

  • The conflict in Ukraine, known as the “special military operation,” will not be an exception.

  • Even though it’s unclear how the “Putin crisis” will end, there are signs that the Kremlin’s succession dispute has already started.

  • The real challenge for Russian leaders after Putin is that they may have to make changes that weaken their power, even if they don’t like them or agree with them.

Vladimir Putin finally got Russian society to understand that it was at war when he declared a “partial” mobilization of the country. In just a few minutes, the president undid all of his propaganda from the seven months of fighting with Ukraine. He also broke the social contract that had been in place in the country for more than twenty years. He had been in charge.

Most people in this society didn’t think about the war, and many didn’t even know it was happening until the mobilization order was given. On the internet, people for and against military action in Ukraine had heated arguments, and propagandists yelled at each other almost every day on TV. However, Russia’s apolitical society did not show much interest in this; most people do not read political websites or watch political television programmes, either pro-government or oppositional ones.

On September 21, a significant and permanent change occurred. Resistance and awareness have emerged. Unquestionably, it is terrible that Russia only cared about the disaster in Ukraine when it directly affected them. But in the end, it took American society a while to become aware of the Vietnam War.

In one way or another, the war came to define both public and private life, as well as being something that everyone knew. And a widespread evasion of mobilization was the initial reaction to what had happened. If you believe the official low estimate, more young men left the country after Putin’s speech than the army had planned to call up.

The number of border crossers was close to 600,000. There are more than three times as many refuseniks in Ukraine as there are soldiers. And only those who ended up in adjacent states are included in that number. Large masses have assembled at the Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Georgia borders. They departed in automobiles, bicycles, scooters, and even on foot. On the other side of the border, many volunteers met and helped the newcomers in Kazakhstan. At the same time, thousands of young people who stayed in Russia tried to avoid the recruiting stations. Some ran into the woods, and others set fire to administrative offices and military recruitment centers.

There is no way to recruit a million or even 1.2 million men in the upcoming months, notwithstanding what people on social media networks claim. Instead of the officially announced 300,000, it’s anticipated that the government would only be able to call up between 140,000 and 150,000. Even this seems unlikely, given how the business world, government, and infrastructure are right now. The military and government can’t take care of them well, put them into groups ready to fight, give them cutting-edge weapons, or even get them to where the fighting is happening. There is an effort to split up about 50,000 soldiers among the working groups. It’s unclear how much such restocking will boost the front. The effect can be stopped, especially if the new soldiers tell the others how things are in the back. Those called up for the combat army become a more significant burden since they lack both training and battle experience.

The soldiers must reserve space at training centres and barracks throughout the country. Because they don’t have enough money, teachers, or commanders, they have to do nothing or undergo useless training. The drafted officers aren’t very good at their jobs and are even more cynical than the regular soldiers.

Present problem

The regional authorities appear to be struggling, despite their best efforts to keep the peace. Failures occur at every level of the chain of command. When left on their own, groups of people who aren’t well-trained or equipped cause problems for the military and civilian authorities. It is pretty challenging to keep discipline and control. There have been reports from across the country of drinking, brawling, and disobedience. Many times, it would be impossible to house the conscripts physically. The government makes use of sports fields, nursing homes, and stadiums. People are occasionally left in an area.

At the beginning of October, there were over 16,000 conscripts on the front lines, many of them without the right gear or training. Many people paid for their uniform purchases. The combat units received recruits, but this did not make them stronger. Instead, losses skyrocketed, and mass funerals started to take place in Russian cities. On social media, there were many examples of giving up, running away, leaving, not following orders, and even joining the enemy. The second part isn’t very shocking: disloyal civilians were sent to the front lines as punishment for working with the opposition and protesting against the war.

Resistance manifests itself in more direct ways in autonomous national territories. Dagestan, Yakutia, and Tyva all saw protests, with more and more places joining in over time. Interestingly, the protest’s focal point ended up being Dagestan, where many contract soldiers went for the particular operation. Truth be told, though, the reason why military service is so prevalent in this area has less to do with devotion and more to do with demographic poverty. The social and national protests have now come together.

It is frequently stated that minority population genocide results from mobilization. This is exaggerated. In actuality, authorities are unconcerned with what happens to the Yakuts, Buryats, Tuvans, or Avars. Internet rumors say that the government is putting most of its efforts into mobilizing people in rural areas and small cities because it is worried about unrest in big cities. But a large number of minority representatives are concentrated there, which makes it hard for them to get things done compared to how many of them there are.

The turmoil in Dagestan demonstrated the effects of such behaviour. Indeed, there weren’t a lot of demonstrators in Makhachkala (in absolute numbers, the protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg drew much greater crowds). But it is crucial to note that most of the group, made up of Russians and Dagestani women, turned out to be very aggressive and determined. Neighborhood police, on the other hand, were hesitant to approach residents. As soon as the protests in Dagestan happened, the local governments in Moscow and St. Petersburg stopped their mobilization efforts out of fear that similar things would also happen there.

The mobilization eventually broke the “Putin social contract,” which said that people should stay out of politics in exchange for the government letting us live our lives in peace. But a new problem has come up: how will society survive if there are no traditions or practices of solidarity and social bonds have been weakening for decades? When suddenly awakened to politics and civic engagement, how will individuals behave?

We can see one possible scenario for this in Daghestan. There will most likely be other choices. Whatever the situation, society won’t be the same as it was before September 21. Nevertheless, the ruling circles managed to turn things around with careless actions. The nation has, at last, started to awaken.

The near future will demonstrate whether the authorities can handle the crisis. Up to this point, the Russian government has been shown a remarkable capacity to dig itself out of even the deepest graves. It’s true that every time they got back on their feet after a crisis caused by their actions, they thought they were safe and started digging a new hole. They might eventually dig down to a lethal depth.

The military, the General Staff, many officials, and now many citizens all know that the war has been lost from a strategic point of view. Another part of the population goes through mood swings, from feeling very patriotic to feeling sad. The culmination of unfavourable news for the Russian government and people was the bombing of the Crimean bridge on October 8. The Kremlin has to respond to this otherwise. Massive bombardments against the Ukrainian territory’s infrastructure facilities were conducted for several days. Of course, that made the patriotic section of the people happy, but only for a short while. The bombing had very little of an impact in terms of military operations. Almost 100 rockets were launched over two days, and about half were shot down. In the meantime, thousands of structures would need to be taken offline to effectively stop Ukraine from being able to fight a war. A few days later, at a summit in Astana, Putin admitted that Russia didn’t need to keep doing these raids because it would quickly run out of advanced missiles if it did.

Most of the bombed infrastructure buildings were constructed during the Soviet era. The USSR also built these buildings because they thought they might be attacked, even with nuclear weapons. They were built with several safety margins. The Antonovsky Bridge across the Dnieper, which Ukrainian forces were only able to damage but not destroy despite firing around 200 missiles at it, is an example of how excellent the survival rate of such buildings is. All the damaged power plants were back in operation, and the damage was fixed within a couple of days. And once more, the news from the front lines was depressing.

In such a circumstance, an increasing number of people (including war opponents, anti-war activists, and Kremlin-affiliated officials) are considering what will happen after the conflict rather than how it will play out. History tells us that every significant military loss in Russia’s past led to a revolution or the start of major reforms. The conflict in Ukraine, known as the “special military operation,” will not be an exception. It is obvious.

Putin, of course, cannot end the conflict or admit defeat without risking the demise of his government. That partly explains why Kremlin-aligned politicians and diplomats in Russia have started urging dialogue. Neither Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, nor Valentina Matveenko, the chair of the Federation Council, made it clear what the terms of a possible settlement would be. Still, it is very clear that neither the Russian government nor the Ukrainian side wants Russian troops to leave the occupied territories. The Kremlin’s officials seek to deal with the West above the heads of the Ukrainians since they see no way to bargain with Kyiv on any conditions acceptable to Putin. However pessimistic American and Western European politicians may be, one shouldn’t hold out hope that such attempts will be successful. Putin is becoming too dangerous. His resignation from power is a requirement of the negotiations from the Ukrainian side. Even though many of Russia’s elite would be happy with such a solution, it doesn’t seem likely since Putin would never agree to such a requirement.

Even though it’s unclear how the “Putin crisis” will end, there are signs that the Kremlin’s succession dispute has already started. At the request of the General Staff, the prosecutor’s office began an investigation on October 14. It found that war correspondents and other people who supported Putin’s campaign tended to blame the army generals for the losses and called for the open and systematic murder of the Ukrainian people as a response. These comments and suggestions never made the military happy, but up until recently, they kept quiet. Now that things are changing, they’re starting to fight back.

Without Putin, the leaders of the West and Russia would probably be able to agree to keep the current system in place. Russian political scientists and officials are already talking openly about possible presidential candidates. But it seems unlikely that the powerful will be able to keep their power and prevent more significant changes from happening. Both disillusioned nationalists and their opponents (liberals and leftists) agree that the whole system is corrupt. People are still being made afraid by Kremlin propaganda with the idea that if they lose the war, another government will take over. Russia is in danger of collapsing and becoming confused. The general public may believe these stories, but the highest level of government knows this is not a real threat. For an economy based on getting and selling raw materials, keeping a single political and economic area is essential. The pipe won’t be cut into bits by anyone.

The real challenge for Russian leaders after Putin is that they may have to make changes that weaken their power, even if they don’t like them or agree with them. On the one hand, there will need to be at least some small steps toward political democracy to make the West happy. On the other hand, the working classes will ask for a redistribution of resources, more equality, the end of the unpopular pension reform, and a change in society.

The war crisis and other things show that the oligarchic capitalism model that has grown up in Russia over the past 30 years is ending. As one of my friends put it, Russians have a long-standing custom: whenever we lose a battle, we declare a revolution.

Analysis by: Advocacy Unified Network

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