Wishful thinking from the Washington Post, or the inevitable course of becoming the world’s villains? Western sanctions may not have deterred Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine, but they may have begun to undermine his standing at home. The isolation and deprivation of Russians have hammered morale, even if Putin’s fascist regime keeps them from talking too openly about it:
Russian hardships may be trivial by contrast, but the deadening gloom of a long war worries the Kremlin, according to analysts, because of the challenge of dragging the population along as sanctions bite, businesses retrench, prices continue to surge, and it dawns on people that life may never go back to the way it was. …
The conflict, however, is taking a toll on Russians like Marina, 57, a language teacher, whose friends are so weary of the war, they avoid the topic. She succeeded in changing the minds of a few friends and relatives who supported the war. “But in general, it seems everyone is sick and tired of the war or special operation. People have their own problems and the main problem is survival, especially with the rising prices.”
Marina acknowledged that few Russians are opposed to the war and most are finding a way to “get by somehow.” But she added: “This ‘somehow’ is becoming boring. Most people got tired of it. I want to travel. Others want to be able to plan. We want to get back to our ordinary lives.”
The Putin-regime propaganda still has an enormous impact, Robyn Dixon reports, but it’s tough to tell how much real impact it has, as opposed to pressure to keep quiet. Thus far open dissent is still rare, and people still buy into Putin’s claims to be defending Russia against an encroaching West. However, conversations where people enthusiastically supported that position have dried up as the impact of global isolation and calumny become clearer. Many Russians of means like travel to the West, including the US, but now can no longer leave their country — even if they can afford to do so.
Meanwhile, Dixon notes, a sense of depression has arisen over the long-term implications of Putin’s war. Decades of foreign investment and engagement in Russia have disappeared practically overnight, and it’s beginning to dawn on Russians that those may not return for a generation or more. The canary in this proverbial coal mine is, ironically, the canary-colored arches that disappeared in the last few weeks:
“Now I feel as if there’s no future and it’s very depressing.” She ached when McDonalds’ golden arches were removed not for any love of the burgers or fries, but for the idea it represented.
“I’m really upset about McDonald’s, and I really mean it. McDonald’s has always been a symbol of freedom for me. I remember when the first McDonald’s opened in Moscow,” she said recalling the queues in 1990s months before the Soviet Union collapsed. “It felt like the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The isolation has even granted a glimpse to ordinary Russians of how the rest of the world sees Russia:
Viktor thought war would rage about two months. “Now it will take years, and it’s a disaster. It’s not only losing lives. In the years to come we will be living in poverty and we will be hated again like the fascists in Germany in World War II — like we are the new fascists.”
It’s not just “like,” tovarich. Your government is engaging in a genocidal attempt to wipe out Ukrainian identity, complete with ethnic cleansing and child abductions. In fact, Putin’s government openly brags about the latter:
One of my bigger Ls was when I thought that the claims of child kidnappings were vastly exaggerated Ukrainian propaganda, and then Russia just tweeted out they were real like it was no big deal pic.twitter.com/n7vUiK29AY
— Nikolaj🍦🧦🇺🇦 (@nikicaga) June 3, 2022
The dawning realization on Russian streets is that they are indeed now the “baddies,” and they’re not going to lose that status for at least a generation after Ukraine. And just wait until NATO expands into Finland as a direct result of Russian fascist genocide in Ukraine. Does Putin think that point will get missed for very long?
By the way, it’s not just ordinary Russians that are getting isolated. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov just discovered that NATO and the EU have blocked his diplomatic flights into Europe:
Serbia and Russia confirmed Monday that a planned visit by Russia’s foreign minister to the Balkan country will not take place, with Moscow accusing the West of preventing the trip by blocking the envoy’s plane flight.
The announcement followed reports that Serbia’s neighbors — Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro — had refused to allow Sergey Lavrov’s plane to fly through their airspace to reach Serbia.
“An unthinkable thing has happened,” Lavrov said during an online news conference Monday. “A sovereign state has been deprived of its right to conduct foreign policies. The international activities of Serbia on the Russian track have been blocked.”
That’s what happens when a sovereign state invades another sovereign state, Mr. Lavrov. And this is especially laughable:
The Russian foreign minister said the West has trampled on the principle of a free choice of foreign policy partners.
“From the Western viewpoint, Serbia mustn’t have any choice, any freedom in choosing its partners,” he said. “The West clearly shows that it would use any base means to apply pressure.”
Why did Russia claim it needed to invade Ukraine? They said that they could not allow Ukraine to align itself with NATO or the EU — precisely the same act of a sovereign state choosing its partners. Lavrov and Putin had no problem “trampling” on that principle in February, along with trampling over millions of Ukrainians along the way. Russians had better prepare themselves for decades of isolation as long as these fascists remain in power.