Putin Is Backed Into a Corner

The  day after Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of Donetsk and three other regions of Ukraine, Russian troops abandoned Lyman, a strategic city in eastern Donetsk. Ukrainian forces have retaken the city. They are expected to advance further east from there.

This Washington Post map shows what Russia occupied yesterday. The red stripes indicate areas dominated by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, and the pink parts show where Russian troops were in control yesterday. This is after seven months of fighting.

Back on August 8, the U.S. Defense Department estimated that as many as 80,000 Russian troops had been killed or wounded in Ukraine. A month ago it was estimated that Russia had lost more than 2,000 tanks and almost 49,000 military personnel. That pink territory has been very expensive. I don’t know how much Russians understand about what’s going on, but I suspect that if they were shown the map above and asked if the “gains” were worth the sacrifices their nation is making, they would say no.

Last spring a lot of commenters were saying that Putin wouldn’t back down, although that was before everyone knew how incompetent his military was. Now that Putin has made his big annexation declaration, along with a big, splashy public rally about it, he hasn’t exactly given himself a graceful way to step back. I fear the only way this war can possibly end is with Putin’s removal from power.

I fear Putin may have become something like a cult leader. Think Jim Jones, David Koresh. Having given themselves godlike status, when the outside world started closing in they chose destruction, taking themselves and their followers with them. They couldn’t bear being ordinary human beings again. I have no idea how rational Putin may be. The speech he gave yesterday isn’t reassuring.

During the 37-minute address, Putin decried “Satanism” in the U.S., referring to transgender issues in a tone suggesting a seasoned viewer of stateside conservative media. “The repression of freedom is taking on the outlines of a ‘reverse religion,’ of real Satanism,” he said, adding that the open attitudes toward gender identity are a “denial of man.” In a question posed to “all citizens of Russia,” he asked, “Do we really want to see perversions that lead to degradation and extinction be imposed on children in our schools from the earliest years, for it to be drilled into them that there are supposedly some genders besides women and men, and offered the chance to undergo sex-change operations?”

The invasion of Ukraine, in this light, is a battle against these values and the “the ruling circles of the so-called West,” which Putin referred to as “the enemy” and “deceitful and hypocritical through and through.” He paused for applause as he condemned western colonialism in Asia, from the Opium Wars to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “They created a precedent,” he said in a terrifying addition, referring to the nuclear attacks. In more recent aggressions, he also blamed the U.S. and allies for blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines connecting Russian natural gas to the European Union.

(Here in the U.S., our own Tokyo Rose is also pushing the theory that the U.S. sabotaged the Nord Stream pipeline. See Russian TV is very excited about ????? ???????’s Nord Stream theory.)

See also Putin Is Trying to Outcrazy the West.


9 thoughts on “Putin Is Backed Into a Corner

  1. Several thoughts:

    Neither side is willing to give an inch, and so it's going to be one long grind, until that changes.

    One Russian blogger said that everyone in Russia has somebody in their family who's for this war and someone who's against it.

    For someone who sold this war as the "de-Nazification" of Ukraine, it's a short step to call his opponents Satanic. My take is that this is just tired propaganda to get the country on his side. When there was a USSR, it was as though WW2 never ended, in the way they kept the public's attention on it, as a means of inducing fear and control. "Satanic" is a lot of self righteousness, similar to our own right wing's disdain over western sexual identities.

    It's less that Putin is a cult leader and more that he's a garden variety despot, whose been in power for so long that of course he's surrounded by incompetents, and has been living in a bubble for years. Ruth Ben-Ghiat has posted some articles about this on substack. He really is nothing special but has the entire security apparatus under his control and has nukes. I would not been surprised if he used them, because his conventional military is in such bad shape.

    I follow bloggers who left Russia. The further away they get from Russia the more they open up. The describe a "1984" like dystopia, where you could be arrested for any reason, and where it's a propaganda state. It's a crime to call it a "war" for example. You see masses of people changing the way they think because of this. It recalls the closing scenes from "1984" (the movie) where O'Brien continually asks the protagonist, "How many fingers am I holding up?" Before long, he sees the number of fingers O'Brien wants him to see.

    Of course this means a massive brain drain out of Russia, and for all these reasons and more, the country will be set back decades.

    (apologies for no links, I'm chillin on my porch on a small tablet)

    • When there was a USSR, it was as though WW2 never ended, in the way they kept the public's attention on it, as a means of inducing fear and control.

      It's struck me in the past that Russians were more obsessed with World War II than other participating nations. I realize the Nazis did terrible things in Russia but they did terrible things in other places. I take it Soviet propaganda kept the memory alive.

  2. "Hoist with his own petard"from Shakespeare refers to a bomb (petard) and the results of setting it off accidentally by your own actions. That describes the mess Putin is in.

    He's a megalomaniac who believes his own propaganda. Russia wanted a Superman to lift the country after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Putin filled the spot by getting control of the media and using them to build the myth of a testosterone-charged leader. (Case in point is the completely staged incident of Putin finding some rare artifact when he was swimming – a photo-op that let him show off his bare chest,) No counter-narrative is allowed (in public) that would ridicule him for the stunt. 

    Putin is not a politician-puppet in the mold of western capitalism. He can make or break any oligarch in Russia. (There's the theory that a string of oligarchs falling out windows is the result of criticism in private of the Ukrainian misadventure. If so, Putin crushed any attempt to organize against the war.) It's a hint how brutal politics in Russia is, and why Putin can't step down. He either wins this war (in the perception of Russians) or he dies at the hand of the next regime for his failure.

    The failure is Putin's. He bought into his own delusions, surrounded himself with yes-men, including (it seems) generals who inflated the capability and preparedness of the Russian army. (weapons and troops) His intel was (at best) flawed. It seems Putin thought Ukraine would quickly fold when faced with the might of the Russian invasion (The Russian generals may have hoped the government would flee and the military collapse BEFORE the flaws became obvious. The failure to take Keiv proved the weakness of the vaunted forces that rolled over the border. Given the equipment, Ukraine could meet the threat. 

    I've seen video, (purportedly) of shoulder-fired rockets that can target a tank or a combat helicopter or even jet fighter. I've seen real photos of a lot of tanks destroyed. Exactly how many planes, tanks and soldiers is open for argument, but it's hard to argue that after seven months, Russia has gained little territory and is losing that at the moment. 

    The fascinating battle is completely invisible. Putin's enemies see he's weak but any move to eliminate Putin must be so secret, Putin does not see the knife. Because Putin uses assassination almost as casually as Trump uses lies. There's never been a shortage of ambitious Russians – it's not a question of if, but when. And who.

    • There's never been a shortage of ambitious Russians – it's not a question of if, but when. And who.

      That's what I'm thinking also. 

  3. I'm 1/2 Russian.

    Let me tell you one of the big reasons why Russians fear change:

    They'd all say, "Sure, it's bad now.  But it could always be worse."

    Who replaces Putin?

  4. Putin has become so desperate he is unleashing Tucker Carlson.  Tucker is fingering Biden and the United States for the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines.  Putin is airing his accusations on Russian TV, where one might suspect someone might think him a credible reporter rather than a propaganda peddler.  

    Tucker does appear to bend his reality toward unscrupulous authoritarians who he admires.  I am sure he would self-identify as a conservative though hate monger and chaos instigator seems to be his stock in trade.   He does love to appeal to the Qwazy wing of the republican party with dubious reality contact. 

    Why do some people not understand that unscrupulous authoritarians tend to make their citizens lead miserable lives if they get to live at all. I suppose Tucker enjoys being a useful tool for Putin.  He is working on international appeal for a grand vision of a fantasy world he and Putin see while looking in a distorted rear-view mirror.  So far it is producing misery, destruction, suffering and death in huge proportions.  The reasonable expectation of the vision looking forward is for much more unwelcome horrible outcomes. It is high time for de-escalation.  

  5. Some favorite Russian video bloggers –

    Natasha’s Adventures – I finally left Russia…

    Alisa – Why We Left Russia. The first part of this video features scenes of relative opulence in Moscow, which sets you up for surprise, as they abandon Moscow for a much more impoverished country. Halfway thru the video, six months have passed, and Alisa opens up about why they left. She mentions “1984” in her discourse.

    Eli from Russia, is kind of a counterpoint, she avoids discussing politics, and produces lovely videos about Russian culture. She’s certainly a bit of eye candy as well.

    Ruth Ben-Ghiat puts Putin in context – Putin’s War on Ukraine Reveals the Dysfunctions of Authoritarian Rule

    Tuckyo Rose is our Lord Haw-Haw.

  6. I despise Tucker Carlson, and I HATE the entire right-wing propaganda machine.

    But something isn't false just because our political enemy says it.

    I find it very hard to believe that Russia blew up the Nord Stream pipelines.  Those pipes – and the gas [that *was*] in them – were economically and strategically important- to Russia.   

    NS2 alone cost $20B; Russia (or Russian financial entities) owned a majority stake in that.  The pipe had been filled with pressurized gas before Germany nixed the deal; since then, it has served "as a 750-mile-long storage tank for some $350 million worth of Russian natural gas" [1].  Those are direct economic costs, and big ones.

    Strategically, the NS pipelines were a very important bargaining chip in potential negotiations with NATO over ending the war in Ukraine.  Germany, in particular, really needed that gas, for residential heating, electricity generation, and as inputs for many of its heavy industries (Germany *invented* chemical fertilizers, and still has a huge chemical plants).  That "bargaining chip" has been destroyed.

    Western Think-Tanks have twisted themselves into knots trying to invent reasons that Russia would have destroyed its own very valuable assets.

    I don't claim to know who blew the pipelines, but I do know that [some of] Russia's enemies had far greater reason to do it than Russia did.  Ukraine certainly would have wanted to do it, but they probably don't have the ability to do it without US help.  Same goes for Poland, and maybe the Baltic states; all have good reasons to fear/hate Russia (*and* Germany!).

    I don't want to believe that our Government would do something like this (especially since the sabotage released something like 1/2 Billion cubic meters of NatGas – which is mostly Methane, a potent Greenhous Gas – into the atmosphere).  But sadly, an honest review of our history through my lifetime shows that we are very capable of far worse.  (The invasion of Iraq is Exhibit A, but there are plenty of others)

    Still, the thing which bothers me most about this situation (NS sabotage) is (1) US media blindly parroting "unnamed officials" and "intel experts" who instantly blame Russia, and (2) the lack of critical thinking among Progressives who should know better than to believe everything our Government says (even when it's run by Democrats!).

  7. Lachlan Murdoch runs fox and allows Tucker to spew.

    Don't ever forget the Murdoch's role the past 33 yr.

Comments are closed.