The end of World War II is celebrated in Russia on 9 May – the ‘Great Patriotic War’ for the Soviets first and then for the Russians – the day in which the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany to Marshal Žukov was signed in Berlin in 1945 . In Putinist Russia this date has acquired great importance, overshadowing the other symbolic date of the great parades on Red Square, November 7, the anniversary of the October Revolution.
Although Putin has increasingly distanced himself from Bolshevism, for example by repudiating its federalist soul which recognized the legitimacy of the existence of a Ukrainian state and by embracing instead the Tsarist imperialist vision which regards Ukraine as a Russian ‘region’, nor has he preserved some icons, such as the rhetoric of the Russian mission – almost divine – against Nazism and the military power of the Red Army. Rhetoric used hands down to justify the invasion of Ukraine with the very aim of ‘denazifying’ it, even when it was clear that, although there are far-right parties and movements in Ukraine, the goal did not make much real sense, even because these parties and movements are not very representative, and in any case much less than in many other European countries.
This year, May 9, with the military parade on Red Square, takes on a particularly important value and analysts have formulated several hypotheses on what Putin will do on that symbolic occasion. It is quite obvious that Putin would have liked to arrive on Red Square on Monday and present himself with a Bushian “mission accomplished”, but his initial plans for a rapid capitulation of Ukraine have failed and therefore on May 9 he will not be able to celebrate the end of the operation. special military, as he calls it. What will he do then? Analysts are divided on two hypotheses.
First hypothesis: general mobilization and large-scale “war”
The former, which are also based on British intelligence reports, say that on May 9 the Russian president will take advantage of the emotional wave of the celebrations for launch a general mobilization against ‘Nazism’, even using Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory as an excuse, both real and simulated ones, and perhaps even for this reason formally declaring war on Ukraine. The motivation behind this sensational decision derives from the situation on the field. Although after a month of war, on March 26, Russia declared that it would focus only on the Donbass by withdrawing from the north and Kiev, in the following month it was unable to make significant progress even in the south-east. Of the 120-130 BTGs (battalion tactical groups) initially arranged on the 4 lines, after the defeats, the withdrawal and the reorganization of those in the north, analysts believe that about 90 battalions on a 900 km front. Russia is committing over 60% of its operational combat military forces to Ukraine, yet this is not enough. The Russian army in Kherson has lost ground, in Kharkiv it has been pushed back 20 km towards the Russian border and in the last few hours the Ukrainians are also advancing towards the strategic hub of Izyum. Certainly the strenuous defense of Mariupol diverted important resources and energies to the Russian advance, remembering very much the sacrifice of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae which delayed the Persian advance.
So if Putin wants to conquer all of Donbass and also keep the corridor with Crimea and beyond, up to Kherson, where the ruble was introduced and an independence ‘referendum’ was planned, he absolutely needs new resources and above all a new one. narrative to be able to go on for months in this war: hence the need for general mobilization, and martial law to quell any internal revolts against compulsory conscription.
Second hypothesis: the fictitious victory
A second hypothesis, supported for example by Dmitri Alperovitch, is that May 9 will not be used by Putin as an opportunity for a further escalation rather to declare a fictitious victory, to be resold internally thanks to the control of propaganda. The ‘denazification’ of Ukraine, which was initially intended as the overthrow of the Kiev government, can be reduced to the defeat of the Azov regiment at Mariuopl, ‘demilitarization’, i.e. the transformation of Ukraine into a neutral state without a large army , can be passed off as the destruction of factories and infrastructures and the ‘protection of Russian speakers from genocide’ with the conquest of the Donbass (yet to be completed, however, so much so that the parades scheduled for 9 May in Donetsk and Lugansk have been canceled) and the corridor with Crimea. On the other hand, Putin’s objectives have never been clear and clear and therefore they are equally malleable and resalable in various forms to the Russian public opinion, lobotomized by years of propaganda and media control. According to these analysts, the general mobilization and the escalation of the conflict would be very risky for Putin because he would risk undergoing an even more serious defeat in the probable case he fails anyway, so it is better to be content with a half victory to be resold as a full success.
The third way: stasis also on May 9th
To these two hypotheses I add a third one, a middle ground: on May 9th nothing special will be announced and Russian operations in Ukraine will continue with a war of friction on the front and missile launches from afar, until things on the ground they do not change substantially, either due to a sudden Ukrainian collapse or a Russian retreat, or until Putin decides to really sit down at the negotiating table and collect as much as possible. To understand which of these hypotheses can prevail we should try to put ourselves from the point of view of the Moscow regime.
The two souls of Putinism
I identify two souls in Putinism: the ideological one, of Putin and his circle, who dreams, dreamed at this point, of the rebirth of Russia as a respected and feared ‘Eurasian’ power in the world, and that of the kleptocrat, of the oligarchs who got rich. with the botched privatizations of Boris Elcin, who think only of their personal assets and enjoying the fruit of the robberies in the opulent and hated – on paper – West.
The two souls live, or at least lived until February 24th, in perfect symbiosis. When Putin and his ‘siloviki’, that is, former service officials and ex-military, took power, they made a very clear pact with the oligarchs: you continue to steal and do business but you have to stay out of politics, we in return we will not go into your business much as long as they support the regime. Khodorkovsky, the richest of the oligarchs at the time, tried to rebel but was punished with the expropriation of his Yukos and imprisonment for 10 years, until he was sent into exile abroad. ‘Hit one to educate a hundred’, so he was and the others understood. But the two souls, which often overlap, have been more or less in love and agreement for 20 years and perhaps, if the ‘Special Military Operation’ had lasted a couple of weeks, with a new Ukrainian puppet government and with limited Western sanctions, they would do so for another 20 years. But things went well differently right away and Russia has plunged into unprecedented isolation. Today, therefore, the kleptocratic soul necessarily needs an exit if it wants to hope to one day review its own yachts for hundreds of millions of euros in seizure or, in the case of the ‘middle class’, go for a holiday on the Côte d’Azur. and in Sardinia and pay by credit card. On the other hand, however, the ideological soul has thrown the ball very far and it is now difficult to pull the handbrake. To have the support of the population, the propaganda has pushed a lot and we see it by observing Russian TV, where they continue to talk about the holy war against the West, nuclear attacks, even the dismemberment of Ukraine with Poland and where the divine mission against the West is so felt that in the “not improbable case of a nuclear holocaust”, they say, “the Russians will go to heaven anyway“because I’m on the right side.
In my opinion, even if it is not very clear now, these two souls, the ideological one and the kleptocratic one, will soon come into conflict. On the one hand, Putin would like to end the war according to his initial objectives, on the other hand this would mean plunging Russia further into the abyss with an all-out war. And while it is true that economic sanctions and international isolation have historically almost never led to regime change, it is also true that Russia, unlike Saddam’s Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Cuba etc. it did not start from a situation of isolation, but was strongly integrated into the international system from the industrial, economic-financial and other points of view. Suffice it to say that the daughters of Putin, of the foreign minister Lavrov, of the spokesman Peskov, all have studies in Western universities and very expensive houses in Paris and London, even Peskov’s daughter did an internship in the European parliament for a French deputy. And today they are all under sanctions. Will all these oligarchs be able to accept living in a closed and self-sufficient state?
Whatever the case may be, Putin’s military adventurism that began on February 24 represents an incredible long-term strategic defeat for Russia. If Putin said he unleashed all this for Russia’s security, for its ‘living space’, recalling Hitler’s obsession, no one actually made Russia as weak and in danger as Putin himself. He wanted Ukraine out of NATO and ‘demilitarized’, when instead continuing the war led the West to supply even heavy weapons (tanks, artillery) to Ukraine, and now NATO standard weapons, which are replacing those of Soviet derivation that Ukraine had until 24 February. Finland and Sweden will probably join NATO and so Russia will really find it at the borders. The Russian conventional army then proved incapable and inefficient and its technology obsolete. The sinking of the Black Sea flagship, the cruiser ‘Mosvka’, is just the most glaring example. Russia has lost its conventional military deterrence.
Meanwhile, Putin has also removed from his sphere of influence those countries that have always, some more or less, gravitated in his orbit, such as Moldova and Georgia, which have asked to join the EU as a consequence of the invasion of Ukraine. , while Kazakhstan, Moscow’s closest ally after Belarus, said that Ukrainian territorial integrity must be preserved and so did Uzbekistan. And even Lukashenka, recently interview to the Associated Press seems to have wanted to distance himself from Putin by saying that this war “has dragged on too much”, calling it “war” and not a ‘special military operation’, and that he is in favor of negotiation.
Then, when Europe finally diversifies its gas and oil supply, Russia, already on its knees due to sanctions, losing the first voice of exports will enter a terrible economic recession that will bring it back decades and it will take years. before it can redirect itself to other markets. In conclusion, speaking of the much-invoked negotiation in Italy, Ukrainian President Zelens’kyj on 6 May during theintervention at the Chatman House in London he again clearly hinted at the possibility of renouncing – for now – the return of Crimea and returning to the situation of 23 February. Could it be a hand extended to Putin, an offer of a way out, for May 9? What will prevent Moscow, the ideological madness seen on Russian TV or the opportunism of the kleptocrats?
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What Putin will do on May 9: 3 scenarios
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