Putin’s Stalinist Crackdown: Repression and Militarization in Russia’s Failing State!

Related posts

The spectacle of Vladimir Putin’s sham reelection played out over three days this past weekend in Russia, from March 15–17, 2024. The Russian strongman orchestrated a farcical display aimed at legitimizing his fifth presidential term, but few outside observers were fooled by the charade. In truth, Putin’s grip on power has never appeared more tenuous as his disastrous war of aggression in Ukraine drags on with no end in sight. While Putin declared victory with a purported 87.8% of the vote on 76% turnout, the entire electoral process was a carefully choreographed affair with a predetermined outcome. Putin’s genuine political opponents have been systematically eliminated – killed, jailed or driven into exile. The supposed competition on the ballot posed no real challenge, with none bothering to criticize Putin or actively campaign. Only Boris Nadejdin, a former ally of the slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, made a symbolic protest vote on the last day to highlight the illegitimacy of it all.

Putin’s real aim with this faux election was to project an image of overwhelming domestic support and stamp out any hint of opposition as he prepares to double down on his failing military adventure in Ukraine. Fresh off a rambling state of the nation address filled with angry threats against the West, Putin is poised to further militarize Russian society and economy to sustain his imperial ambitions of absorbing Ukraine and menacing NATO’s borders. A new phase of Stalinist-style repression, regimentation and requisitions looms. The parallels to the Soviet era are inescapable. Just as in the darkest days under Stalin, merely harboring a thought that deviates from the regime’s line may soon become punishable in Putin’s Russia. The coming crackdown seeks to present a picture of a society fully aligned behind Putin and his war, despite growing hardship and the gnawing realization that the “special military operation” in Ukraine has gone horribly wrong.

In reality, Putin’s calamitous decision to invade Ukraine has rent the very foundations of his personalist dictatorship and shattered the unspoken social contract that formed the basis of his rule. Russians accepted constraints on political freedoms in exchange for a measure of stability and an improved standard of living buoyed by oil and gas revenues. That bargain has spectacularly unraveled. Putin can no longer credibly guarantee his citizens’ basic security and well-being. The war he initiated has brought hardship and fear to nearly every Russian doorstep. Casualties mount by the tens of thousands as hapless conscripts are thrown into an unwinnable meat grinder, armed often with little more than rusty rifles. At the same time, Ukraine’s valiant armed forces, bolstered by Western military aid, have fought the Russian invaders to a virtual stalemate, while increasingly striking back at targets inside Russia itself.

Over the past week alone, amid Putin’s tightly scripted electoral theatrics, a spate of Ukrainian attacks hit Russian territory, including ammunition depots, fuel facilities, railways and military bases in the Bryansk, Belgorod and Kursk regions near the Ukrainian border. Russian anti-Putin partisans operating under the banners of the Russian Volunteer Corps and Freedom for Russia Legion even temporarily seized villages inside Russia, sending locals scrambling for safety. These brazen incursions represent a stunning reversal from the war’s early days when Russian armor lunged towards Kyiv. Ukraine has not only fought off and turned back the invaders, it is now increasingly taking the fight to Putin on his own turf. This success is a testament to the courage and tenacity of Ukraine’s fighting forces and citizenry who have united to defend their country’s freedom and independence against a ruthless neo-imperialist onslaught.

But Ukraine’s victories also powerfully demonstrate the righteousness of its cause and the moral imperative for the democratic world to continue supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes. Putin’s monstrous war, waged under false pretenses, has been an unmitigated disaster for Russia in every sense – militarily, economically, diplomatically and societally. Instead of being cowed, Ukrainians from all walks of life have risen to the existential challenge thrust upon them and are prevailing against the odds. Not only has Putin catastrophically underestimated Ukrainian resolve, he has severely overestimated the competence and capabilities of his own armed forces. Riven by corruption, demoralized and degraded by massive losses, Russia’s military has been exposed as a hollow Potemkin force, incapable of achieving Putin’s vainglorious objective of subjugating Ukraine.

At the same time, unprecedented international sanctions have battered Russia’s economy while a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of educated elites has accelerated a debilitating brain drain that will haunt Russia for decades. Diplomatically, Russia has turned itself into an international pariah, condemned by an overwhelming majority of countries at the United Nations as a flagrant violator of the UN Charter and international law. Putin may still wield near absolute power within Russia for now, brutally suppressing any hint of dissent. But beneath the surface, anger and resentment are growing among the silent majority forced to pay in blood and rubles for a pointless, unwinnable war of choice. As the mothers of soldiers killed in action confront officials demanding answers and anti-war activists defy draconian censorship laws, cracks in Putin’s totalitarian edifice are beginning to show. Ominously for Putin, even some military bloggers and pro-war nationalists are voicing bitter criticisms about the regime’s conduct of the war.

Russia still has the capacity to wreak immense death and destruction, but Putin’s dream of resurrecting a tsarist empire has already turned to dust on the bloody battlefields of Ukraine. As Putin’s disastrous miscalculation becomes ever more evident, the West must stand firm in its vital support for Ukraine while preparing for the turbulent collapse and uncertain aftermath of Putinism in Russia. Ukraine is fighting not just for its own national survival but for the universal ideals of freedom, human rights and the inviolability of international borders. In an era of resurgent authoritarianism, the outcome of this pivotal conflict will resound far beyond Ukraine, shaping the path of democracy around the world for decades to come. By empowering Ukraine to decisively defeat Russia’s predatory assault, the democratic world can deal a devastating blow to a malign revanchist regime and vindicate the promise of a rules-based international order built on cooperation between free nations.

The stakes could not be higher, which is why the cause of Ukrainian victory must remain the unwavering and bipartisan priority of the United States, the United Kingdom and our democratic allies until the job is done. We must expedite and expand military aid, tighten sanctions, and reinforce NATO while Ukraine does the hard fighting. In the end, Putin’s criminal folly in Ukraine will be his undoing. Our task is to hasten that day of reckoning. If you believe Ukraine deserves our full support in its heroic resistance against Putin’s barbaric aggression, let us know your thoughts in the comments below and share this article widely. By amplifying Ukraine’s courageous stand, we can all play our part in turning the tide.

Share this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts