Was it desperation that prompted Vladimir Putin to walk out on the stage as the main attraction at a rally to pump up the Russian people? The state-run media estimated a crowd of 200,000 gathered to attend the event at Luzhniki Stadium – though some reports claim the stadium only holds 81,000, suggesting a somewhat smaller audience. Meanwhile, according to a UN count, the Kremlin strongman’s murderous troops marauding through Ukraine have left 6.4 million Ukrainians as refugees.
Furthermore, Putin’s popularity has taken a hit in the area where he least wants to be seen in a bad light – the larger foreign policy arena. As a result, the Kremlin’s leader is being portrayed as a truly bad actor on the global stage. Consequently, critics have panned Putin’s policy of absorbing Ukraine back into a resurrected Rodina.
Historically unwilling to be even wishy-washy on condemning bad behavior, the UN came out “deploring Russia’s aggression” against Ukraine. At the beginning of March, the General Assembly passed a resolution demanding, “Russia immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.” By a vote of 141 to five with 35 abstentions, the UN General Assembly approved the measure. The five countries voting in support of Russia were, of course, Russia, and Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, and Syria: no surprises. What must have caused some disappointment was the abstention by China. Even President Putin’s new BFF Xi Jinping, did not instruct Beijing’s representative to stand firmly by the Kremlin.
“I join Member States in expressing concern about reports of attacks on civilian facilities such as residences, schools and hospitals, and of civilian casualties, including women, older persons, persons with disabilities, and children,” Assembly President Abdulla Shahid stated following the vote. What makes this action by the UN unusual is it culminated a “rare special emergency session” where representatives of country after country rose to stand behind the podium to state their collective disapproval of the Russian-instigated Ukraine crisis.
Not in any way cowed by the world’s dim view of the attack his neighbor, Putin has not backed down, threatening his own citizens who dared to criticize him. “Thousands of people have been detained in Russia for protesting the current war…Some have been investigated for spreading so-called fake news about the army on social media – a crime now punishable by 15 years in prison,” James Fite said, reporting for Liberty Nation. Attacking your public, calling them “scum” and “traitors,” is what desperate despots do when they feel their power slipping away at home.
In a Milosevic-like, Serbia for Serbs, ethnic cleansing screed, Putin said, “The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors…I am convinced that such a natural and necessary self-purification of society will only strengthen our country, our solidarity, cohesion, and readiness to respond to any challenges.” After such an attack on his people, it’s not surprising Putin’s likeability index is waning, and paranoia appears to be taking its place. In lashing out, the Russian dictator may know something not immediately apparent. Putin may see his days numbered.
“Some even say that his end is both inevitable and near,” observed a recent article in The Hill. “Not everyone agrees with this prognosis, of course, but the mood definitely has swung against Putin. The argument in favor of Putin’s end generally rests on his genocidal war against Ukraine.”
It’s not a good bet to count Putin out, but the fact such predictions are gaining traction should cause Russia’s leader some concern. The world sees the carnage, despair, destruction, and misery Russia has visited on Ukraine. Moscow’s military is bogged down and many reports state that it is killing innocent civilians indiscriminately. Be it nationalism or a desire to reconstitute the Soviet Union or whatever is driving the man, he has garnered the hatred of people worldwide. So, his apparent desperation may be justified.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
~ Read more from Dave Patterson.