The president of Russia, is constrained to making fictitious historical denials about Ukraine’s existence as a sovereign nation and assurances that the “special military operation” is proceeding as intended. Others, therefore, try to advance persuasive war discourses.
Battle for existence between Russia and the hostile West
One of Putin’s closest lieutenants and the longtime secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, has created the most extensive story. The existential conflict between Russia and the hostile West is depicted by Patrushev in a broad geopolitical context.
He embellishes this story with bizarre details like the “radioactive cloud” that is allegedly moving to Europe from Ukraine, where it is claimed that a depleted uranium weapons storage facility was destroyed.
As evidenced by his presiding over the gathering of national security advisers and heads of special services from 101 governments (by the Russian count), Patrushev’s venomous anti-Americanism has gained some momentum in the Global South. The highlight of this show was Sergei Naryshkin‘s address, who is the chief of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. In it, he counseled the “Anglo-Saxons” to rekindle their friendship with the devil.
Dmitry Medvedev, who was demoted from prime minister to deputy chairman of the Security Council, is another eager contributor to this bombastic narrative. Medvedev thought it appropriate to use the occasion of his visit to Vietnam last week to threaten the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine, an escalation that Putin has preferred not to mention despite repeated warnings from China.
Imaginary victories as military achievements
The discourse fostered by Russia’s top military brass appears dull and purposefully false in comparison to these audacious geopolitical fantasies, including regular reports that all missile strike targets have been hit and assertions that numerous HIMARS missiles have been intercepted and their batteries destroyed.
The attempts by the Russian mainstream media to portray the seizure of a few more buildings in the completely destroyed Bakhmut as a significant tactical victory ring false despite the ongoing attempts.
The official account of the swift destruction of the Ukrainian military incursion into the Belgorod region differed from the fact that there were no border defenses at all, and the video of Colonel-General Aleksandr Lapin directing an assault on the units of the heavily armed “terrorists” was anything but motivating.
The Russian command is stuck on the worn-out claim that US laboratories are working on biological weapons in Ukraine, even though it is unable to allay public concerns about the impending Ukrainian onslaught.
The complete lack of information on Russian casualties—investigative journalists have discovered the names of 24,000 dead soldiers, which does not even come close to half of the predicted total bill—is the most horrifying of all official denials of the costs of the unwinnable war.
Private military companies against armed forces
This deceptive secrecy contrasts with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group, who boasts that his troops suffered 20,000 casualties in the struggle for Bakhmut, half of them were allegedly recruited criminals.
Prigozhin is attempting to establish himself as the proprietor of a certain war narrative that is both harsh in its portrayal of the grim realities of the conflict and selectively honest in its admission of Russian failures (Republic.ru, May 25). He targets Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov in his harsh criticism of the military bureaucracy’s incompetence, and he demands that they be replaced with Generals Mikhail Mizintsev and Sergei Surovikin, who were fired from their positions as deputy defense minister in late April 2023.
Prigozhin has also taken a swipe at the deceitful elites who only pretend to support the “special military operation” while sabotaging its execution. The most notable member of this group is Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who visited China last week and duly disapproved of Western sanctions but abstained from commenting on the length or conclusion of the war in favor of bilateral economic relations.
No patriotic feedback from the nation
Nothing approximating a “patriotic mobilization” is happening in the bewildered society as the conflict spreads deeper into Russia, with the Kremlin coming under drone attack, and front-line regions like Belgorod and Bryansk bracing for more incursions. Due to his inability to put forth a rational plan for ending the war and the fact that his justification for beginning it has not gotten any more compelling, Putin’s claims to be maintaining a tight grip on the rudder are losing more and more credibility.
The Kremlin’s desire for an endless extension of the autocratic regime may fit with the strategic plan for a “long war,” but it ignores the clamorous milieu’s demands for a “victory” and runs afoul of the unspoken but widespread preference for stopping the disaster from worsening.
As its impending onslaught is poised to penetrate both the defensive lies and denials and the trench lines, Ukraine is truly the decisive voice in the cacophony of false discourses and somber silence in Russia.