The World Today for June 20, 2023


End Game


Commemorated on June 12, Russia Day celebrates the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic’s declaration of independence in 1990. Festivities in Moscow this year lacked much patriotic fervor, however. “For me, it’s a holiday of bureaucracy,” an anonymous Muscovite told the Moscow Times. “I never thought it was a day that brings people together.”

The Ukrainian army’s success in the war that Russian President Vladimir Putin started in February last year might also have cast a pall over the national event.

As Euronews reported, the much anticipated Ukrainian spring counteroffensive was making slow headway. Russian officials claimed they were mauling the oncoming Ukrainian forces and their Western-supplied tanks and equipment, though the West was expected to send more.

Russian officials also announced they would hold local elections in Ukrainian regions now occupied by Russian forces, Reuters added, in a likely bid to demonstrate that Putin would not even acknowledge the risk of failure and the prospect of retreating from the regions.

Putin’s stance might be courageous. Or it might signal that he has no other options. Western sanctions and war expenditures have sapped the Russian economy. Russian Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina recently worried that private enterprise was becoming impossible in the country as resources dried up.

Signs of desperation are appearing. Putin recently announced that he would impose a windfall tax on companies that would extract $3.6 billion from the country’s biggest oligarchs.The Financial Times quoted an unnamed Kremlin official’s completely unbelievable explanation of the tax, made without irony. “One senior cabinet official claimed the idea for the levy had come from the companies themselves, who realized they had made ‘gigantic’ profits during the period that needed to be properly taxed,” the newspaper wrote.

Many Russian elites are becoming sick and tired of stalemate and losses on the battlefield and bad economic conditions at home, Bloomberg News reported. The most optimistic among them believe that Ukraine might someday resemble Russian-occupied South Ossetia in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, or Transnistria in Moldova, another former Soviet republic where Russia maintains a military presence.

In these so-called “frozen conflicts,” Russian forces and Moscow-supported enclaves cultivate Russian influence and control in neighboring foreign regions, destabilize the local national governments, and prevent the expansion of Western influence.

Despite Putin’s faults and the failings of the Russian military, he has remained in power in Russia since 2000, the Atlantic Council wrote. He is a survivor.

Still, everyone’s time comes to an end sometime.

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