Putin is under pressure from Ukraine and hawks in Moscow

Posted on September 14, 2022, 9:00 amUpdated September 14, 2022 at 4:31 p.m

After the success of the Kiev army, Vladimir Putin found himself in the situation he hates the most: making decisions under pressure. The head of the Kremlin, who does not like to react to unfavorable initiatives, but today is forced to start again from the front. Because he is shaken on all fronts.

Military, with sudden Ukrainian offensives. And political, with a double opposition, unprecedented in almost a quarter of a century in power: these hostile victories are encouraged as small circles of liberal protest that try to use the opportunity to unite various grievances, but above all the hawks who have already accused the president of that it is too weak, and now they demand more radicalization.

High voltage

“This is a moment of great tension at the peak of power in Moscow,” warns Tetiana Kastueva-Jean, a researcher who specializes in Russia at Ifra (the French Institute of International Relations). Of course, it is impossible to understand what is going on in Putin’s head, especially when he is faced with the facts. For now, as always, the elites have aligned themselves with the Kremlin, are used to or forced to support the president and his narrative. However, national history reminds us that any political change will not happen from the street, but through influence games at the top. »

However, today Vladimir Putin is suddenly quietly criticized by those who until then served as a faithful relay of his propaganda.

The Russian army was criticized

Since the withdrawal of Russian troops to the north-east of Ukraine, state broadcasters have been allowed to express the chaos. One of the main spokesmen of the authorities, Volodymyr Solovyov, called the situation “serious, difficult”. In social networks, experts and pro-Kremlin bloggers dared to reproach the army, mocking the failures of the generals, questioning the combat capability of the troops.

Unusually, this public criticism may have been an expression of a deeper behind-the-scenes frustration in certain circles of power. Some from the pro-war conservative camp no longer understand how Vladimir Putin is going to “win” in Ukraine.

Limited risk

The risk to the authorities at this stage is very limited. Against the background of tiredness, even muted frustration of the population in the face of military stagnation, the Kremlin’s rhetorical statements and its shaky goals nevertheless cause growing nervousness. Vladimir Putin, considered a master of balance between the different “Kremlin towers” (hawks who accuse him of being too compromising centrist and liberals who accuse him of iron authoritarianism), could respond to this wave of uncertainty like an expert. surprised, acting again where we least expect it.

“But he should not forget the rule that is repeated in the history of our country: the elite supports the tsar, whoever he is, imperial, communist or released, like him, from the special services,” reminds a former influential figure in the Kremlin. Until the day when the elite realizes that the king is a problem and decides to solve it. »

Lethal weapon

Angered by military failures, this new “patriotic” opposition may force the Kremlin to step up transmission in Ukraine. Unlike the liberal opposition, discredited for being represented in the fifth column of the West, this nationalist protest would be considered legitimate by a population that had been indoctrinated with patriotic speeches for years.

While the Russian army has just launched “massive strikes” on all fronts in response to the Ukrainian counteroffensive, the most ardent are already calling on the Kremlin to withdraw its lethal weapon: the nuclear option.

“Let it be clear: the sanctions will not be lifted,” von der Leyen said

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