Is this the End-Game for Putin?

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Fighting with an expeditionary force, the Russian colonial war against Ukraine, itself engaged in an existential total-war, was never going to be victorious. Putin, having finally realised the calamitous situation in which he finds himself, has gone all in. Ordering a mobilisation and threatened that nuclear strikes are “no bluff”, the Russian president is set for the final showdown.

Plagued by eternal corruption and nepotism, the eastern European state has no hope of sustaining a modern war against a near peer enemy, which the Russian commanders mistakenly thought Ukraine not to be. With the reputational sunk cost being too great to even merit a though for a reconsideration of vectors, Putin’s only choice is continued escalation of fratricide, between people he mistakenly believes to hail from one family.

Contemplating the scenarios for the coming winter, the Russian president was painfully aware of Ukrainian territorial gains and the cost of preventing them from turning into his domestic PR losses. The subsequent reaction to Putin’s inability to evokes images of the final convulsions of a fish without water than a president looking for a righteous victory.

Presented as a tour de force of military strategy on Russian media, the move to draft yesterday’s plumbers and accountants to face a battle hardened and motivated Ukrainian force is being spun on Russian media as a long awaited inevitable precondition to victory. Even the decision to enlist convicted rapists, murderers and cannibals was given praise. And as Putin bathes in sponsored admiration, a gradual, and hopefully seismic, shift is happening in Russian society, while his status as the unequivocal face of the war alludes him.

With the home front being first priority for the dictator, we may just be seeing too many internal workings in the cracks though the Kremlin walls for the Russians to pretend accepting his infallibility. Accusations and rumours of the battles between Kremlin factions have served as a welcome distraction for Putin, and respite from opposition focus on the corruption and inefficiency of all that is Russia. But the war is different. The war is Putin’s baby. His propaganda machine, tasked with ensuring total bondage of the people has this time misfired and put the Putin stamp on a disaster.

While the masses gather gingerly on the street, the misnomer that is, Putin’s elites circle for signs of weakness. Cautiously, articles in marginal newspapers and posts on Telegram propose one or another of Putin’s cronies as his potential successor. Fleeting, these posts can be Putin testing the loyalty of his pawn as much as pawns moving into checkmate. And with the stakes raised to bring about Russian world domination in a battle of chicken that is “realistically capable of turning [the world] into radioactive ash”, there will be too few who wish to follow this tyrant into the bunker.

HJS



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