Report: Kremlin begins to consider life after Putin

Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Don’t get too excited. There are no rumblings of a coup afoot here, just wishful thinking among apparatchiks dismayed at seeing their country’s military and economic power go down the tubes due to the vanity of a sick old man. Putin’s too secure in his power to assassinate or depose.


But if the siloviki can’t live their dream of getting rid of him, they can pine for the day when cancer does their job for them.

That’s what’s happening in Moscow, per the Russian news site Meduza. The Daily Beast translates:

“It’s not about them wanting to prepare a plot and overthrow Putin right now. But there is an understanding, or a desire, that in the fairly foreseeable future he will not run the country,” one source was quoted saying.

“There are probably almost no [members of the elite] who are satisfied with Putin. [The business community] and many members of the government are unhappy that the president started the war without thinking about the scale of sanctions—it’s impossible to live with such sanctions,” another source close to the Kremlin told Meduza.

“The problems [in Russia due to the war] are already evident, and in the middle of the summer they will just come pouring down from all directions: transportation, medicine, even agriculture. Nobody thought about such a scale [of impacts],” another source said.

Time has begun to weigh on all parties to this conflict, starting with the tsar himself. Ukraine’s intelligence chief reiterated yesterday that he has reason to believe Putin has “several serious illnesses, one of which is cancer,” but that he probably has a few years of life left. Maybe that’s true. Or maybe the prognosis is more dire but being very closely held by Putin’s inner circle, for obvious reasons.


Time is weighing on the Russian military too. Experts raised an eyebrow yesterday at reports that Russia has begun to rush T-62 tanks to the battlefield. The T-62 is an antiquated model, designed in the 1950s and modernized in the early 1980s. They haven’t been to war in roughly 15 years, replaced by superior Russian models like the T-80 and T-90. If Moscow is dusting off the T-62 in storage, it means their armored losses are probably as dire as the Ukrainians have claimed. The Soviets reportedly lost a bit more than 300 T-62s during the 10 years of the Afghanistan war; Ukraine estimates that Russia has already lost more than 1,200 modern tanks in three months in their country, a testament to the deadliness of the Javelin and British NLAW systems that have been supplied to Kiev.

Normally Russia would simply make more T-80s and T-90s to replace the units that have been lost but western sanctions have reportedly crippled their ability to do that. The fact that they’re scraping the barrel for T-62s already with months of combat likely still to come means they’re at risk of running out of tanks eventually.


It gets worse. Russian military spending tends to go into the pockets of corrupt officials, not to the military itself. Which means many of the tanks currently in storage and theoretically available for battle aren’t available at all.

By the end of the year, the Russian army may be a pure artillery force, unable to advance anywhere. Tick tock.


Time is beginning to weigh on the Ukrainians too, though. They have the will to keep fighting — check out this graph — but whether their western patrons share that will is another matter. A new AP poll out today finds Americans beginning to sour on pumping foreign aid into Ukraine as inflation gobbles up more of their own income.

Now 45% of U.S. adults say the nation’s bigger priority should be sanctioning Russia as effectively as possible, while slightly more — 51% — say it should be limiting damage to the U.S. economy.

In April, those figures were exactly reversed. In March, shortly after Russia attacked Ukraine, a clear majority — 55% — said the bigger priority should be sanctioning Russia as effectively as possible…

[T]here’s muted support for sending funds directly to Ukraine. Forty-four percent of Americans say they favor sending funds, while 32% are opposed and 23% are neither in favor nor opposed.

Strong majorities continue to support sending weapons to the Ukrainians, which is good news. But if Biden is planning another financial aid package, the deadline may be January 3 of next year. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the lame-duck Democratic Congress pass something this winter before the anti-anti-Putin caucus in the new GOP majority takes power and tries to choke off assistance to Kiev.


All in all, Russia and Ukraine are in a race. Can the Russians gain something meaningful on the ground before breaking down militarily? Can the Ukrainians push them back before their financial lifeline from the west is cut off?

Here’s a retired U.S. colonel examining the state of play last night for CNN. If the Russians succeed in severing the rail lines around Dnipro, Ukrainian troops in the east will have a major supply problem.

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