Putin Appears to Be Scrambling to Satisfy Critics Before New Year

The war in Ukraine is hitting grim milestones that Russian President Vladimir Putin probably never expected when it began earlier this year. Russia is on the brink of losing 100,000 soldiers as the war has now passed its 300th day.

Putin appeared to make an attempt Wednesday to satisfy some of his pro-war critics. This happened while Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was in Washington, D.C., rubbing elbows with America’s top politicians and giving a televised speech to Congress.

The think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) released its daily analysis of the war, stating that Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu acknowledged their country’s shortcomings in the 10 months of war. The two headlined the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) Collegium in Moscow, where the war in Ukraine was the paramount discussion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during an expanded meeting of the Russian Defence Ministry Board at the National Defence Control Centre in Moscow, on December 21, 2022.
Photo by SERGEY FADEICHEV/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

The ISW report states that Putin was not just laying out parameters for Russia in the ongoing war, but also appeasing the pro-war factions in his own country.

“Putin has intensified efforts to make peace with the critical pro-war nationalist community,” ISW reported. “Russian failures to achieve Putin’s stated goals jeopardize Kremlin efforts to regain control over the domestic narrative and to set conditions for the second year of the war.”

The war began February 24 this year after more than a month of Russia mobilizing along the Ukraine border and conducting military drills with Belarus shortly before the invasion of Ukraine.

The war will enter its 302nd day on Thursday and Russia will likely lose its 100,000th soldier that day, according to losses reports from Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense. Russia hasn’t publicly stated their losses in the war, which includes the death of its personnel.

Russia overall has averaged about 320 deaths per day since the war began but that number, according to Ukraine, has generally been above 500 per day over the last few months.

It’s been close to a year since Russia began positioning troops along Ukraine’s northern and western borders in late January while it also conducted military with neighboring Belarus. Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24 this year and there have been heavy casualties on both sides.

Russia has flirted with the idea of using nuclear capabilities in the war while its ally, Belarus, said last week that it was conducting drills with Russia as if they were a “single army” together.

“Russian nuclear rhetoric is most likely an attempt to appease domestic audiences and intimidate Western audiences and not an indicator of preparation to use nuclear weapons,” ISW stated in its report.

Putin and Shoigu tried assuring the consortium in Moscow that Russia has learned from mistakes in the war of aggression.

“Russia, however, is unlikely to efficiently address the fundamental flaws of its military structure—certainly not in any short period of time—and that failure will likely revitalize criticism,” ISW said. “Putin will also need to continue to deflect blame from himself for failing to deliver on such promises onto the Russian MoD without destroying the credibility of the MoD and the uniformed military in the eyes of the Russian population.”

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