This article was written on the 28th of February 2022, a couple of days after Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" in Ukraine and "recognition" of the Luhansk and Donetsk "republics". It was originally published on Substack to reach a wider audience. When I heard the news, I was in Russia and could witness the shock and dismay of people at the unfolding events. I could also witness the opposite reaction of another half of the population. This article is my attempt to predict what's going to happen from that perspective.
I thought that as I am in Russia at the moment, maybe some people will be interested to know what is going on here — and how the pressure that is being mounted right now is affecting the situation.
First of all, Putin doesn’t care about the sanctions. He is not thinking economically. For him, it’s an ideological thing. In fact, the more isolated Russia gets, the better for him and the military clique around: the oligarchs will lose control, so now he can take all decisions on a purely ideological, not economic basis. He is after legacy now. In Russia, not abroad.
His support will not diminish either, because 60% of the Russians who support him, don’t have any savings and don’t use any currency. Russia has its own payment system, so all the infrastructure still works.
The sanctions will only hit them later, after a few months, when the prices permanently rise, but by that time they’ll simply blame it on the US and Europe, not Putin. They will also believe that it’s for the right cause. Russian people love to suffer for heroic narratives. They lack their grandiose past, so it will only be a good opportunity to bring this martyr narrative back.
When the consequences of the sanctions finally hit them, those people will just become more aggressive and desperate. You will get North Korea times 10.
All the keyboard warriors who have been campaigning hard for the SWIFT off should probably know that the only effect was that people like myself and my girlfriend spent the last 3 days trying to find a way to get what’s left of our money out of the banks. Along with the thousands of other people whose savings have been cut by 30-50%. Mind you, this was the replacement of the pension for many, which is officially €200 a month in Russia.
It also sowed panic and made a lot of poor and desperate people poorer and more desperate. I guess if you’re a proponent of accelerationism, you could say mission accomplished.
Also, the general mood - among my circle of friends - is that of despair, fear, and sadness. We do not support what is happening, and now we have to find a way to flee Russia while all the airspace is closed.
Many people have relatives and friends in Ukraine and feel pain watching the news but also complete impotence to change anything.
The rest of the population is just watching different news feeds than you. It’s all the same things and narratives but in reverse. Also shot on phones, also bombs falling on peaceful people and children, also people thinking they are fighting for a noble cause.
The content is not as viral because it’s disseminated via distrusted propaganda channels and also because it does not manage to reach the same level of moral authority as the other side. But if you’re curious, you can check @rt on Instagram, the Russian Ntv channel, or the telegram channels like RtrDonetsk or neoficialniybezsonov
I’m not presenting them as a source of truth, it’s just for you to see what the people who support the other side are watching and reading.
I empathize with what people in Ukraine are going through right now. They have to hide in bomb shelters in fear for their lives every day. This is really bad.
At the same time, I’m also witnessing the other part, the informational warfare, And it’s interesting to observe the concrete effects of it on your system. The mind is clouded with stress and inability to change anything, Fueled by incessant newsfeeds that you have to read to know whether you will be drafted into the military or if you will be allowed to leave the country tomorrow.
You feel the panic and sadness of the people around you. You plan what to do in case of a nuclear war.
Finally, if you’re interested in the roots of the situation, I really advise you to check out the alternative narrative. They also have some points, which, of course, do not justify the actions taken, but show how an escalating situation can go out of hand really quickly.
And what we have now is a continuation of this escalation. So if you’re taking a part in it, disseminating the information through social media, maybe try to ask yourself where do you want this to go?
Do you want to put a country of 145 million people, with a highly ideological population and the second biggest nuclear arsenal on its knees and isolate it from the rest of the world?
Do you think it will make it easier to vote somebody else into office? Voting doesn’t really work in Russia. Behind the iron curtain, it will work even less.
Or are you campaigning to make those people who already live on the verge of poverty suffer even more so that they would have to take drastic measures? If this is the strategy, how are you sure that the drastic direction it’s going to go to is the one that you desire? And also, how would you feel if you were in the epicenter of this?
PS some people asked me if I see any solution. I think in this situation negotiation is the only way. From the very beginning, there was no intent to negotiate by default — just waiting to see what happens and escalating the situation with threats and paranoid / dismissive remarks. It’s time to accept the situation as it is and to deal with it. I also think that posting and reposting the content and calling upon tougher measures will backfire. You will just get another North Korea in Europe, but this time with the rockets that can actually fly and population the size of 3 European countries who will hate Europe.