By Dr. Dmitry Radyshevsky
Putin has climbed the tree he can’t get down from. His elites will remove him. Expect a quiet Kremlin coup-d’etat.
Western sanctions have robbed the Putin elite of everything he has given them. The Russian elite does not want to remain international pariahs. With Putin in power, they are doomed.
A repetition of the annexation of Crimea, a blitzkrieg to seize Ukraine that would have caused a new wave of admiration for Putin in Russia and shock in the West, is not working out. Not yet, at least. The Ukrainian army gives a worthy rebuff, although they are badly outnumbered and outgunned. Western weapons help and the Russian army suffers huge losses. Western sanctions are destroying the Russian economy. What’s next?
Putin is on his way to establishing control over major cities – in particular, Kyiv – and over the Black Sea. However, on the way to this Pyrrhic victory, the Russian army will suffer horrible losses. It will be a painful blow for the Russians. The Russian army is accustomed to easy remote victories, as they had in Syria, and has already forgotten about Afghanistan and Chechnya. Afghanistan left more than 15,000 dead Soviet soldiers, the first Chechen campaign ended with about 6,000 Russian soldiers dead, the second Chechen campaign saw 7,500. Russian losses in Ukraine in the first week of hostilities alone exceeded 5,000 soldiers, according to Ukrainian data.
Russian propaganda deliberately does not publish data about military losses, because it does not contribute to the popularity of the campaign. There will be a growing understanding among ordinary Russians that the situation is not at all what the propaganda says. In the event of the occupation of the whole of Ukraine – with monstrous losses among Russian soldiers and the civilian population of Ukraine – a protracted guerrilla war will begin there. Inside Ukraine, a split and a civil war between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces is possible. Horror and Syria-2 are on the border of Europe.
Another possible scenario: Russians will occupy and either annex or rule through proxy only Eastern Ukraine where the majority of population have traditionally spoken Russian. That includes Kiev, Odessa, Kharkiv – big cities that the Russian army is attacking right now. Ukraine will be effectively split in half along the Dnieper river.
It’s hard to imagine that the West will accept it, but both the West and the besieged Ukrainian government may accept Putin’s compromise: Ukraine declares its neutrality in its Constitution, NATO promises not to extend Ukraine an invitation to join the block, the West and Ukraine accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea and north-eastern regions of Donbas/Luhansk. Putin is pressing with the offensive to make this offer acceptable for the West and desirable for Kiev. The question is: who will break first – his regime or the government of President Zelensky?
Ukraine is suffering horrible destruction, but the Western sanctions are also taking a heavy toll on the ordinary Russians and the pro-Kremlin elite. A protest movement is growing in Russia, but Draconian laws against any protest, even in social media, have been passed by Russian Duma.
Will Putin press the nuclear button if new Western precision anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons will drive the Russian army away from Ukraine – which is also possible? Unlikely. He is not an Iranian fanatic.
What awaits us most likely is the end of the Putin Empire through a quiet internal coup-d’etat. Dissatisfaction with Putin has already begun to grow within the Kremlin elite. His inner circle preferred to support the Putin regime with money, passing laws in Duma (Parliament), disseminating propaganda, and to quietly carve up state budgets among themselves, buying castles in Switzerland, and sending their children to study in the US and the UK. Now the Russian elite is being deprived of much of their capital and property, as well as all the sweet perks of the West. Russia has become a pariah. That was not their deal with Putin.
The Russian elites are already looking for a way to quietly negotiate with Putin – so that he leaves by himself. Possibly by declaring some illness. This could happen in the coming weeks.
All the war crimes will be attributed to Putin. He will quietly retire and hide in a Russian castle-dacha. The new Russia will not be truly democratic, it has never been – the successor will be a young technocrat from the Kremlin elite, most likely from the group of Dmitry Medvedev, still loyal to the ruling KGB “Corporation” (see my previous OpEd), which will rule Russia much more softly and quietly. The West will gradually lift sanctions on Russia as it will cease to threaten its neighbors… if the United States will be wise enough to perhaps offer Russia the opportunity to join or somehow be involved in NATO, instead of putting its bases in Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia and risk the emergence of a new Putin.
With President Biden in the White House, the chances of that are slim, because he could have stopped this war from happening and did nothing. Hopefully the next administration will indeed put American interests first: both short term and long term.
Dr Dmitry Radyshevsky is a Moscow-born Harvard-educated Israeli-American theologian, political analyst and writer. Author of “Universal Zionism” and “The New Maccabees”. He’s the founder of Jerusalem Summit – a think-tank dedicated to uniting the free world around Jerusalem and developing a joint strategy against the twin dangers: “Man without God” of Post-Liberalism and “God without man” of totalitarian states’ Statism and Islamism.