As pressure mounts on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to press ahead with the Ukrainian offensive, Russian President Vladimir Putin is also coming under increasing pressure. Military analyst and ex-military Sean Bell told “Sky News‘ that the Russian President’s power and authority would wane as cracks became visible in the foundations of his rule.
According to Bell, Putin is also increasingly perceived in Russia as a problem that Russia must solve. The Russian elite, whose support Putin needs, would increasingly feel the effects of Western sanctions.
The Russian economy continues to shrink
Despite robust oil and gas revenues, the Russian economy is shrinking as more than a million able-bodied Russian men have fled the country to avoid conscription, Bell said. According to Bell, even the pro-Putin news in the media could not avert this problem.
Putin’s confidence in his own armed forces also appears to be waning. Russia’s limited military success in Ukraine was largely achieved by the Wagner militias, but Putin could no longer trust them. That lack of confidence, combined with the need to strengthen his internal security, would put further pressure on Putin’s limited military resources, Bell told Sky News.
Time is running in Ukraine’s favour
At the start of the war, Putin assumed that time was on Russia’s side and that Western unity and determination would wane over time, Bell analyses. Today, however, time seems to be going in Ukraine’s favour, as Russia continues to lose ground. “Putin probably needs to find a way out of the conflict without losing face in order to consolidate his waning power,” Bell said.
In addition, there were reports in Moscow about Putin’s growing domestic political problems, especially after the failed coup attempt by Wagner boss Prigozhin. Bell says Putin’s indictment by the International Criminal Court could have long-term implications for Russia’s post-conflict recovery. In addition, the question of whether Prigozhin acted alone or whether his actions were a barometer of widespread discontent is also of great importance.
Putin’s days as Russian President may be numbered
Bell goes on to say that Putin would only proactively call for a ceasefire from a position of weakness. However, if the international community were to force him to negotiate, he could seize the opportunity to end the war in Ukraine while acknowledging gains. According to Bell, through negotiations he could eventually keep Crimea and parts of the Donbass, cede the land bridge and thus declare victory for his “special military operation” – at least to the home audience.
But even without negotiations, Putin’s days as Russian president could be numbered. Its unfounded and illegal invasion of Ukraine has tarnished Russia’s credibility, damaged its economy and exposed the precarious state of its military capabilities.
“Putin has probably already lost this war”
Against this background, it is more important than ever for the West to keep up the international pressure on the Putin regime and continue supporting Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invaders, Bell explains. The lack of progress on the battlefield in Ukraine may be worrying from a Western perspective, but Ukraine’s strategic victory in this conflict does not necessarily have to be based on military successes, according to the military analyst: “Putin has probably already lost this war and sees his future increasingly unsustainable.”