The endless horror that started in Russia in 2020 may have reached the phase of its horrible end. The question is not just of Vladimir Putin's mental and physical health but the condition of his regime and country that has deteriorated visibly, Kalev Stoicescu writes.
Vladimir Putin, after becoming Russia's prime minister, started his rapid and bloody rise to the presidency in August of 1999. The FSB, which Putin headed between July 1998 and March 1999, brought everything it had to bear for the "organs" to take over the Kremlin. The false flag blowing up of Moscow apartment buildings in September 1999 that unleashed the Second Chechen War was supposedly the work of new FSB boss Nikolai Patrushev.
President Boris Yeltsin who foiled the KGB coup in August of 1991 and proceeded to dismantle that symbol of evil and oppression into several bodies gave FSB all the power it needed to save himself and his corrupt family.
Patrushev, Putin's loyal subject and comrade from their KGB days, is still standing next to the president and can very likely be regarded one of the architects of the bloody campaign against Ukraine. He has been the secretary of the Security Council of Russia since May of 2008 that saw Dmitri Medvedev installed as a puppet president. A position Putin himself held from March to August 1991 before becoming prime minister.
The Putin-Patrushev-Medvedev trio (czar-executioner-lackey) worked until January 2020. Medvedev became Patrushev's subordinate while keeping the role of the formal leader of the ruling United Russia party bestowed on him in May of 2012 (at the end of his presidency), which means little else than sharing responsibility with the FSB for maintaining United Russia's hegemony in the State Duma and regions.
The endless horror took shape in the form of amendments to the constitution approved at a "referendum" in July of 2020 that, among other things, gave the collective Putin the right to rule Russia until the czar's death.
The process that started in the conditions of the pandemic in January of 2020 and took off from there finally culminated in a full-scale and atrocious war on February 24 this year. Questions as to why Putin was in such a hurry to reinforce his authority (years before 2024) and solve the "question" of Ukraine and European security have famously been left unanswered. The timing and pace of events is almost never random. They usually come together in a puzzle of presuppositions and goals.
The endless horror that started proliferating in 2020 may have now reached the phase of its horrible end. The question is not just of Vladimir Putin's mental and physical health but the condition of his regime and country that has deteriorated visibly.
There are no successes to report, perhaps with the exception of weapons of mass destruction tests. The propaganda machine (for example, in the person of Vladimir Solovyov) is boasting Russia's likely nonexistent Poseidon drone torpedo (with a TNT equivalent of 100 megatons), apparently capable of sending a 500-meter-tall radioactive tsunami in the direction of the British Isles.
The Kremlin is scrambling to demonstrate "normality." That its "special operation" is going to plan and is now in its second phase. That supermarkets in Moscow and other cities (still) have everything. That hundreds of thousands will not find themselves out of work because of the exodus of Western companies. That Russian residents and companies will not run into financial difficulties (for which state and especially security salaries will likely be hiked temporarily and money pumped from the so-called rainy-day fund to key enterprises).
That Russian civil aviation can continue to function using stolen aircraft it cannot service or find spare parts for. That the demigod Czar is healthy and meeting flight attendants, for example; or perhaps soon with the Pope who, unfortunately, has picked up the Moscow-Beijing narrative of how the West and NATO are rather to blame for this horrible tragedy.
The Kremlin-controlled propaganda machine continues to churn out "news" from another planet called the Russkiy Mir that rarely has anything to do with the reality on Earth. Rather, like in Soviet days, rumors and whispers tend to hold a grain of truth that, of course, needs to be taken with a grain of salt and considering obvious circumstances.
Alleged Kremlin and FSB in-house sources now suggest that Putin is not only exhibiting signs of schizophrenia and Alzheimer's but also has stomach cancer and will soon be having surgery. Who else but Patrushev will stand in for the czar during his incapacity for work period.
It seems that Medvedev also wants to appear active (why not as the czar's successor being 14 years Putin's junior), spewing especially garish Ukraine rhetoric and threatening Sweden and Finland with nuclear consequences in light of their plan to join NATO.
There are several "balloons" in the air as tends to be the case in Russia. Alleged preparations for a general or partial mobilization to send even more cannon fodder and hardware to Izium and Mykolaiv. The expansion of the Russkiy Mir through the annexation of Donbas. Declaring a "people's republic" in Kherson that will naturally be merged with Russia. What to do with occupied Zaporizhzhia and parts of Kharkiv Oblast? They need to be kept also. Vsyo nashe – everything is ours! Everything than can be "liberated" from Ukraine.
Preparations for celebrating the magical May 9 are underway. Putin's "end of days" plane is circling Moscow on board which the master of the Kremlin can run the "special operation" even in the conditions of nuclear war. While use of nuclear weapons in this conflict is held rather unlikely, it can only be ruled out in the case of trustworthy and responsible states which Russia is not.
The Second World War, that Russia is currently imitating both politically, militaristically and propagandistically, also reached the Pacific where it only ended on September 2, 1945, a few weeks after the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Stalin lacked a nuclear bomb at the time, that he would likely have dropped on a (western) German city, while Putin has over 2,000.
Putin could try to end the war abruptly by using a low-power but strategically effective nuclear strike against a central or western Ukrainian city. It would also be possible to more or less match the Americans' reasoning in 1945: the war needed to be ended quickly by forcing the "fascists" to surrender to save the lives of countless Russian soldiers.
Putin is demonstrating ever more clearly that a total break in relations with the West no longer matters to him and that Russia will (as if) manage. As if there was nothing more to lose. His attack on non-nuclear Ukraine would not give NATO the right or need to respond in kind. The Russian saying tells us that if you want to hit a dog, hit the smaller one (my apologies to friends of dogs everywhere in whose number I also belong).
Therefore, there are several perspectives for the new future, and we can speculate that no final decisions have been made in the Kremlin. But Russia is wearing itself out, meaning it badly needs a win and soon. Something that could be passed off as a win. Otherwise, we will see the collective seppuku of the ruling elite loyal to Putin.
Rumors also suggest mutual disappointment between Putin and the FSB. The former is accusing and punishing the brass at FSB for the conspicuously poor planning of the "special operation," while the less loyal part of the organization tends to believe that attacking Ukraine was a fundamental strategic blunder from the first.
Putin's hopes now lie with the army control of which he has handed over to the "Butcher of Aleppo" Aleksandr Dvornikov. But the military also seems less than enthusiastic. Gen. Valeri Gerasimov only narrowly escaped Izium with his life. A coup is not completely out of the question should the war take an especially ill turn for the Russians. And modern weaponry the West has given Ukraine is definitely working as a catalyst to that effect.
Editor: Marcus Turovski