Report: Kremlin "insiders" fear war will take a catastrophic toll on Russia

Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

You want the “glass half full” or the “glass half empty” take on this scoop?

Let’s do both. Glass half full: Bloomberg says it spoke to no fewer than 10 people with “direct knowledge of the situation” inside the Kremlin. If 10 different sources are willing to tell western reporters there are doubts about the wisdom of the war, we can only guess how many Russian officials quietly share that opinion but are too afraid to speak up. Dozens? Hundreds? A clear majority of the Russian political establishment?


If you’re clinging to hope that a coup will oust Putin and end the war, this story is a glimmer.

But only a glimmer. That’s the glass half empty: Bloomberg’s sources say they see no prospect of his hold on power being challenged and no reason to believe he’s looking for an exit from Ukraine. They’re not even sure that he won’t resort to nukes if things go sideways on the battlefield.

In sum, Putin’s deputies appear to share western assessments that the war is an egregious mistake. And it doesn’t matter a lick since there’s not a thing anyone can do about it.

Still, more and more top insiders have come to believe that Putin’s commitment to continue the invasion will doom Russia to years of isolation and heightened tension that will leave its economy crippled, its security compromised and its global influence gutted. A few business tycoons have made veiled statements questioning the Kremlin’s strategy, but many powerful players are too fearful of the widening crackdown on dissent to voice their concerns in public…

Senior officials have tried to explain to the president that the economic impact of the sanctions will be devastating, erasing the two decades of growth and higher living standards that Putin had delivered during his rule, according to people familiar with the situation.

Putin brushed off the warnings, saying that while Russia would pay a huge cost, the West had left him no alternative but to wage war, the people said. Publicly, Putin says the “economic Blitzkrieg” has failed and the economy will adapt…

In the weeks since the invasion started, Putin’s circle of advisers and contacts has narrowed even further from the limited group of hardliners he’d regularly consulted before, according to two people. The decision to invade was made by Putin and just a handful of hawks including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, General Staff chief Valery Gerasimov, and Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, these people said.


Moscow likes to throw around the word “Nazi” when describing Ukraine but Zelensky’s not the one hunkered down with a shrinking coterie of yes-men, gradually losing touch with reality as his war of choice goes badly.

Allegedly some lower-ranking officials have asked to be shifted out of policy roles because they quietly oppose the war. Higher-ranking ones have had no choice but to stay put, grin, and bear it. Why would they believe the “special military operation” is a mistake? Jim Geraghty ticks through the list of the reasons — “that it is costing the Russian military thousands of lives, that it is wrecking the Russian economy and will impoverish millions, it is unifying and strengthening NATO and may well expand the alliance, it is pouring gasoline on the fire of Ukrainian nationalism, it is turning Volodymyr Zelensky into a legend, and is making Russians look like ill-informed, incompetent brutes on the world stage.” Look at it this way: Is this the sort of motto a country embraces when its war is going well?

How about this? Something you’d expect to see from a government that’s performing up to expectations on the battlefield?


The latest development to fall under the heading of “wrecking the Russian economy” is Germany’s foreign minister announcing today that her nation is on track to eliminate Russian oil imports by the end of the year and that it intends to eliminate natural gas imports afterward. With its main export all but banned in Europe and its army exposed as overrated, a depopulating Russia will sink into what it was probably always destined to become in time, a Chinese client state with nukes.

What a price to pay for territorial gains that seem likely to be limited to the Donbas and the cinder that used to be known as Mariupol even in a best-case scenario for Russia. And taking the Donbas is no sure thing: Biden seems to be going all-in on arming Ukraine for this new phase of the war, preparing to announce another $800 million shipment of weapons as part of the supply of “howitzers, antiaircraft systems, anti-ship missiles, armed drones, armored trucks, personnel carriers and even tanks” that western allies are sending to Ukraine. “[F]or Washington at least, concerns about supplying arms that Russia might consider ‘escalatory’ have ebbed — as has the initial worry that Ukraine will use longer-range weapons, like jet fighters, to attack Moscow itself and set off a bigger war,” the Times reports.

Maybe the White House should take those fears of escalation more seriously, though. Walter Russell Mead has a smart piece today arguing that this war is existential for Russia’s leadership, at least psychologically:


Under the Romanovs, the communists and Mr. Putin, Russian political thought has been shaped by three beliefs: that Russia is different, that the difference is transcendentally important, and that it gives Russia a unique role in world history. Defeat in Ukraine would radically undermine confidence in these ideas, plunging Russia into an identity crisis with unpredictable political consequences…

Ukraine is the heart of the matter. With Ukraine under its thumb, Moscow sees itself as the greatest power in Europe. Without Ukraine, the dream that Russia can recapture the Soviet Union’s status as a superpower will die a bitter death…

Mr. Putin and those around him know that in Ukraine they aren’t fighting only for an adjustment of frontiers. They are fighting for their world, and it may be psychologically impossible for them to accept defeat until every measure, however ruthless, and every weapon, however heinous, has been brought into play.

See why Bloomberg’s Kremlin sources are so pessimistic that they can reason with Putin? The Pentagon reportedly hasn’t seen any signs yet that Moscow is moving towards using nukes but “US officials are more concerned about the threat of Russia using them than at any time since the Cold War.”

I’ll leave you with this. We’re all nuclear hostages to these brainwashed lunatics.


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David Strom 1:20 PM | July 18, 2024