Why Putin Needs this War
A recent article from Maria Snegovaya argues Putin will survive his war. Regardless of its final outcome, she argues, Putin will remain in power. Her case makes a lot of sense. For example, popular support for the invasion is strong among Russians. Moreover, Putin’s approval ratings increased after the war began. She also argue the Russian elites or siloviki is unlikely to rebel against their leader. Indeed, they largely agree with Putin’s justifications for the war. So, why do so many commentators and analysts believe Putin will not remain in power for long?
Putin needs this war. He doesn’t a victory nor does not even need the war to go well. He simply needs the war to go on. His popularity among Russians depends upon a rally around the flag effect. A negotiated peace will lose Ukraine to the West. This war has already established new ties between Western countries and Ukraine. Peace will lead to a consolidation of economic and political connections. Public support will likely falter as Ukraine drifts away.
Perhaps more importantly any negotiated settlement will expose disagreements within Russia’s political elites. Some will remain committed to any direction Putin takes. However, some genuinely believe in the war and may not accept a negotiated outcome. Snegovaya argues, “A number of these security men share Putin’s beliefs about Ukraine and the West.” The presence of the war avoids difficult political conversations.
Brian Whitmore said years ago on the Ukraine Calling podcast, “Any Russian imperial project begins and ends with Ukraine. The Putin regime understands that to see a democratic Ukraine turn West would mean the end of this regime.” Indeed, Putin cannot lose Ukraine, but he does not need to win it either. Putin simply needs this war to go on regardless of the collateral damage.
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I’m not sure that is what Putin is thinking but it does make sense. It worked well for George Bush Jr.
Thanks for reading the piece and for your thoughts!