Or maybe Putin managed to reassure the mafia bozos in the course of feverish negotiations that he could after all still play the role of Don and that he would provide them with the necessary balance. For how long? Probably until the "families" communicate and put forward an agreed candidate. It is likely, therefore, that the change of power will take place peacefully and "democratically" simply because Putin may not take part in next year's presidential election due to health reasons. He may retire to his dacha, where he would probably die peacefully in the following few months as his successor consolidated his power. After all, there is no mafia job for a retired Don.
Another key lies on the Ukrainian front. It is no coincidence that virtually all Western comments after the hot weekend in Russia focused on one essential: the West must continue and even increase military aid to Ukraine. The pressure on Russia must not be reduced. The non-radical British think tank Chatham House released a lengthy report this week entitled "How to end Russia's war in Ukraine." In it, a group of authors cracks down on the theses of "realists", mercilessly criticizing sentences such as "every war ends at the negotiating table", "Russian security fears must be acknowledged", "Russian defeat is more dangerous than Russian victory", and Moscow’s defeat will destabilize Russia internally."
It is the war that destabilizes Russia. It was supposed to be a quick victory ending with the annexation of the failed state to the "Mother" but it turned into a fight to the death. Tens of thousands of Russians have died. Soon it will be necessary to mobilize tens of thousands more. At the same time, Russia’s economy is shifting closer and closer to warfare. This means that in a matter of a few months, millions of ordinary citizens of the Federation may face shortages of supplies. In addition, there is complete ideological chaos in the country. Former patriots are turning out to be traitors, yet instead of being punished, they are declared patriots again a day later. On the other hand, radicals like Igor Girkin are claiming that Putin must be removed from the Kremlin and nobody punishes them either. State propaganda does not keep up with the developments and gets lost in more and more new concepts. Truly there is chaos.
In addition, the military themselves are increasingly dissatisfied with the war. These are not special operations in third world countries, easy and conducted with a large technological advantage. This is a fight against a strong, determined and well-equipped opponent. A fight they are gradually losing. Prigozhin's open criticism of the war also had its overtones. He denied the war’s sense, but above all he called it "war" many times, something that in Russia is not allowed. You can go to prison just for that. Russia is tired of war.
First, Putin hoped that he would defeat Ukraine quickly, and then that the prolonged conflict would definitely weaken the West and allow for the capture of an isolated state. However, it seems that the stick that Putin seemed to hold in his hands has rotted. In fact, the only way for him to end the war on his terms (and save his power) is using nuclear weapons. However, Russian society strongly opposes this. In a recent poll by the Levada Center, over 80% of those questioned said that these weapons should not be used in Ukraine "regardless of the circumstances." China is also opposed. Finally, members of the Russian establishment object. Sergei Karaganov's statement that Russia should use nuclear weapons to "break the will" of the West met with polemics from other political scientists. Would members of the Mafia's administrative-military "families" be happy with such a prospect? It is doubtful because these people do not care about the Great Russian ideology. At most they treat it as a tool. They do not care about "breaking the will of the West" either. They only care about their own interests and power.
Putin's and Ukraine's definitions of victory differ so fundamentally that there is no way to reconcile them. Perhaps in the fall, when the Ukrainian counter-offensive does not bring much in the way of results, the West may want to put pressure on Kiev to freeze the conflict, as indicated by a number of American comments earlier this year. Putin will then have the opportunity to present this as a kind of success. Perhaps the Russian president is still counting on it and will want to survive until autumn. Only time is short and the material at his disposal is falling apart in his hands. And the West, i.e. the U.S., is showing greater determination than was evident just a few months ago.
The most important key: time
Time is the key factor. Ukraine needs to get as much land as possible before the autumn rains. Putin must do something about the war, achieve some or any success, otherwise his power will fall apart, and the only real ally (I do not count Belarus) will eventually leave him. Mafia families in Russia must come to terms before next year's presidential election to determine who will take over the Don's position. There are many indications that the next six months will be decisive for Russia.
TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists
–Translated by Agnieszka Rakoczy