Former US ambassador to Russia: Putinism may be coming to an end

Former US ambassador to Russia: Putinism may be coming to an end
Image via Creative Commons.

Eleven months have passed since Russian forces launched a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine that President Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin allies are still vigorously defending. But that war, for all the damage it has inflicted in Ukraine, has not gone well for Russia. Putin clearly didn’t anticipate how vigorously Ukrainian forces would fight back, or how much blowback he would get from U.S. President Joe Biden and his European NATO allies.

In an op-ed published by the Washington Post on January 24, Michael McFaul — former U.S. ambassador — lays out some reasons why he believes that Putinism may now be in decline in Russia.

“Wartime leaders change generals when they’re losing, not winning,” McFaul explains. “On January 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, was to replace Sergei Surovikin, who was appointed just a few months earlier in October, as his new overall commander of Russian military forces in Ukraine. The only reasonable conclusion: Putin understands that Russia is losing in Ukraine.”

READ MORE: Why America’s 'misogynist incels' adore Vladimir Putin and 'modern-day Russian fascism': journalist

The diplomat continues, “This shake-up at the top of the military is not the only sign of Putin’s recognition of failure. He canceled his annual end-of-year news conference, evidently reluctant to take questions even from a mostly loyal and controlled press corps. His solitary and subdued appearance at the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Kremlin on Orthodox Christmas communicated little confidence.”

Three bad signs for Putin, according to McFaul, are: (1) “Major Russian victories on the battlefield are unlikely,” (2) “Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine triggered the most comprehensive sanctions we’ve seen imposed against a single country, ending two decades of Russian integration into the global economy,” and (3) “Putin’s societal support is soft and declining.”

“Public opinion polls show he still enjoys popular support,” McFaul observes. “But these polls in Russia have high refusal rates, which should not be surprising in a country where you can go to jail for 15 years for ‘public dissemination of deliberate false information about the use of Russian Armed Forces.’ The minority responding to these polls supports the regime, but the majority who choose not to respond likely do not.”

READ MORE: Vladimir Putin 'would use a nuclear weapon' in Ukraine before accepting defeat: Retired Army brigadier general

Read Michael McFaul’s full Washington Post op-ed at this link.

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