Observers are quick to detect signs of growing domestic discontent with Putin’s war against Ukraine. But Russian society and business continue to support the war effort.
Western analysis of the course of the war in Ukraine often deludes itself with wishful thinking. Events such as the lack of military progress and occasional protests within Russia, or rumors of internal strife within Putin’s inner circle, are quickly and easily interpreted as signs of impending doom for Putin and the Russian offensive. This perception is contradicted by how Russian society supports the war effort almost entirely.
The Kremlin continues to channel outrage and frustration about the course of the war towards maintaining popular support and the backing of industry. At the same time, any opposition to the regime has been rendered ineffective, lacking both, intellectual and innovative approaches. Failing the moral and societal relevance, making for slim chances that the Kremlin regime can be toppled from that direction.
War Society, War Economy
The initial course of the war exposed several problems not only with the military effort on the battlefield but mainly with the machinery behind it. The culmination of years of corruption, inactivity, ossification, and lack of initiative of the state apparatus, both at the federal level and in the regions, made it impossible to provide effective support for the military operation.
The first partial mobilization in September 2022 proved a bad test of the mobilization system of the Russian Federation, as a huge number of shortcomings, facts of corruption and criminal negligence were revealed in the units and command structures of the Ministry of Defense.
Also revealed were serious deficiencies in the training of personnel and training processes of the Russian Armed Forces. In addition to problems with equipping personnel with the necessary equipment, several instances of blatant incompetence among officers responsible for logistics, supply and training of reserves were revealed.
However, Russian society’s anger at this was quickly turned away from those who are arguably responsible – Putin’s government. In fact, the Kremlin channeled social anger about the state’s ineffectiveness by transferring the rhetoric about it through its ecosystem of controlled media, journalists, and bloggers.
Laying the blame with incompetent and unpatriotic officials in the defence ministry, the Kremlin’s mouthpieces set the stage for the presidency to save the day by taking the situation in hand.
Putin himself has moved to provide avenues for complaint and critique, and recently said that “emotional criticism” (within the framework of the current legislation) should be listened to.
By his order, the president created a parliamentary coordinating working group, which included deputies and senators, representatives of the Ministry of Defense, leaders of public organizations, and war correspondents. The goal is to identify and solve systemic problems.