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Two years after the start of the war: Does Putin style himself as an “unpredictable, strong man”?

2024-02-24T19:42:12.293Z

Highlights: Two years after the start of the war: Does Putin style himself as an “unpredictable, strong man”?. US President Biden recently made a conjecture and called him a “crazy bastard”. But what image does the Kremlin leader himself pursue? Moscow – The Ukraine war has been going on for two years. Apparently the tide is turning for Russia: a lack of ammunition and a decline in support from the West are weakening Ukraine. Most recently, Moscow achieved a symbolic victory by taking Avdiivka.



As of: February 24, 2024, 8:31 p.m

By: Bettina Menzel

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A speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin is broadcast on a video screen in Moscow (picture from February 23, 2024).

© Imago/Vadim Savitsky/Itar-Tass

Nobody can look inside Putin's head.

However, US President Biden recently made a conjecture and called him a “crazy bastard”.

But what image does the Kremlin leader himself pursue?

Moscow – The Ukraine war has been going on for two years.

Apparently the tide is turning for Russia: a lack of ammunition and a decline in support from the West are weakening Ukraine.

Most recently, Moscow achieved a symbolic victory by taking Avdiivka - just in time for the upcoming presidential elections in March.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly styling himself as the unpredictable ruler that he is perceived as in the West.

Putin's image of strength tarnished by the Wagner uprising and Navalny's death?

It takes a lot to be publicly labeled a “crazy bastard” by a U.S. president well-versed in diplomacy.

That's what happened at a campaign rally this week, when Joe Biden literally called the Russian president a "crazy son of a bitch."

After two years of war, Putin has fully embraced the “image of an unpredictable strongman” who is ready to escalate his conflict with the West, commented Anton Troianovski, editorial director of the Moscow bureau of the New York Times, in an article on the incident Friday.

It is not the first time that Putin has been described as a so-called “strongman” by the US media.

Literally translated, this means a strong man or a muscle man, but the term is often used to describe a dictator.

But the Russian president has been accused of weakness on several occasions in the past.

After the death of the Russian opposition's hope, Alexei Navalny, became known, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that this "only underscored the weakness and rot at the heart of the system that Putin built." For other political observers, the Wagner mutiny was Group made a U-turn: Until then, Putin had still enjoyed the image of a clever, manipulative, strong man who skillfully hedged his chances,

Foreign Policy

analyzed .

With regard to the Wagner uprising, Putin promised retaliation for this “knife in the back.” But in order to bring the mutiny under control, he broke his word by letting the rebels go unpunished.

This angered many Russians,

Foreign Policy

said in June.

“Putin has been weakened forever by this affair,” said former US ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, commenting on the mutiny on

CNN

.

Does mutiny still have an impact?

“I haven’t seen Putin so confident in a long time”

But the mutiny seems to have long been forgotten, Prigozhin is dead and the war in Ukraine has recently developed more and more in Russia's favor.

During a speech last December, the Kremlin chief acted accordingly and also railed against NATO.

“I haven't seen Putin as self-confident and as full of strength as he was in this press conference for a long time,” analyzed former NATO general Erhard Bühler in his podcast “What to do, General?”.

This behavior is also having an impact in Russia, Bühler continued.

Military expert Sönke Neitzel added that Putin was apparently sure that time was working for him.

Neitzel also alluded to the laborious and hesitant arms deliveries from the West.

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Russia weakened domestically: labor shortage and war fatigue

At least Russia's domestic political weakness provides cause for cautious optimism: the economy is suffering from a labor shortage, the population is shrinking and, according to Western estimates, around 350,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured so far.

The Russian population is now probably familiar with the word war weariness.

This was recently expressed by protesting women and mothers who called on Moscow to bring their husbands and sons home from the war.

Likewise, the thousands of people who stood in lines for hours in the cold to give their signature to the opposition and war opponent Boris Nadezhdin.

This is an opportunity for many people to express “their dissatisfaction” “without having to be afraid of being arrested [...],” said 19-year-old student Ivan Semyonov to the 

AFP

news agency .

According to his opponent Nadezhdin, Putin's power is weaker than it seems at first glance.

The security, stability and increased prosperity that were long Putin's selling point after the chaos of the 1990s are all fading, the opposition leader said, according to the

New York Times

, adding: "This regime is historically doomed to fail."

Elections in Russia: Opposition members call for “Lunchtime against Putin” action

But people who are said to be dead live longer, it is said.

Nadezhdin was not allowed to vote, Putin's re-election is certain.

"The elections - and Vladimir Putin's high result in these elections - are intended to legitimize Putin's policies and the 'special military operation' through elections," said Kremlin loyalist Konstantin Remchukov in a telephone interview with the

New York Times

.

If Putin received 70 or 80 percent of the vote, that would mean approval of this policy, said Remchukov.

Although the Kremlin boss has the economy, the media and the electoral system under his control, there is a crucial weak point: Putin's legitimacy, Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky recently commented in a

Bild

guest article.

The solution: The West must show toughness and not recognize the presidency or only recognize it belatedly, demanded the opposition.

He called on the people of Russia to take part in the “Noon Against Putin” protest on March 17th.

Source: merkur

All news articles on 2024-02-24

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