Things are taking a very dark turn in Russia this week, which may be hard to imagine since it wasn’t exactly all flowers and rainbows to begin with. From the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has sought to repress any dissent or protests and filter the public’s access to any non-approved “news” about the war. But those measures haven’t been entirely successful, with forbidden coverage of Russia’s war atrocities leaking out through various online channels. This week, in a moment reminiscent of the early rise of the Nazis, Putin delivered a speech that should send chills running down people’s spines. He declared that any Russians not supporting the war in Ukraine needed to be purged from the communal system. He spoke chillingly of the need for a “necessary and natural self-cleaning of society,” describing any who dissent as “bastards and traitors.” Yesterday we learned of the possibility of Putin gassing the Ukrainians. Today we should be wondering if he’s considering gassing his own countrymen. (Military.com)
“The collective West is attempting to splinter our society,” Putin said in a video address shared on Twitter. “Speculating on military losses, on socio-economic effects of sanctions, in order to provoke a people’s rebellion in Russia.”
“But any people, the Russian people especially, are able to distinguish true patriots from bastards and traitors, and will ‘spit them out,’” he said of those who do not back the Kremlin.
“I am certain that this necessary and natural self-cleaning of society will only strengthen our country, our solidarity, togetherness, and our readiness to answer any calls to action,” Putin said.
Ominous words from Putin about a “natural and necessary cleansing of the nation” to “spit out like flies” all representatives of a fifth column and “traitors” who do not back the Kremlin line. No wonder thousands are leaving the country in fear. pic.twitter.com/66LGpo12p3
— Matthew Luxmoore (@mjluxmoore) March 16, 2022
From there, Putin went on to call out his own oligarchs and the elites of Russian society. He made reference to “those with villas in Miami or the French Riviera” and “who cannot live without foie gras and mussels or so-called gender-based rights” as long as they are “mentally” with Russia. But he sent a clear warning to those who “mentally live elsewhere and not here with us.”
It’s becoming clear that at least in Vladimir Putin’s mind (or what’s left of it, anyway) there are no longer any other policies or issues in his nation besides the Ukrainian invasion. It will be officially viewed as the test of patriotism and loyalty. You either stand fully behind the war or you are an enemy of the people in your own nation. That has been leading thousands of Russians to flee to neighboring countries in fear of the anticipated repression they might face.
You have to wonder how long Putin can hold his government together and maintain his hold on power. One major problem is the iron grip that he holds on state-controlled media. Too many Russians are fed a steady diet of propaganda and lies, leading many to profess their loyalty to Putin and their support of the war. Alternately, many Russians are no doubt bothered by these turns of events but are too frightened to say anything in public.
The situation in Russia seriously looks as if it should be about to implode, particularly as the economic pain from the mountain of international sanctions trickles down to the people on the streets. But that doesn’t mean that any sort of revolution is brewing, or at least not yet. What seems to be very clear is that Vladimir Putin is a man who has stepped over the boundary between cunning and madness. And he’s still sitting on one hell of a stockpile of nuclear weapons. It may still be possible to avoid a massive escalation of the war, but the world seriously needs to be ready to respond to a worst-case scenario.