Russia is remoted, sanctioned and struggling militarily in Ukraine. 2022 was a really dangerous for the nation and President Vladimir Putin.
SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:
For greater than a decade, Russian President Vladimir Putin has held court docket in an annual press convention close to the tip of the yr however not this yr. The Kremlin canceled these plans in what many noticed as Putin making an attempt to keep away from inconvenient questions concerning the warfare in Ukraine and what many observers suppose has formed as much as be a foul yr for the Russian chief, his nation and its financial system. Becoming a member of us from Moscow is NPR’s Charles Maynes. Hello, Charles.
CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: Hello there.
MCCAMMON: So let’s begin with this concept that together with the mere reality of the devastation attributable to Russia’s warfare in opposition to Ukraine, it is simply been a foul yr politically and strategically for Vladimir Putin. Why?
MAYNES: Properly, simply suppose the place issues began. You realize, within the first days after Putin introduced he was sending Russian troops into Ukraine, he was supremely assured. This is a speech on February 25 by which he referred to as on the Ukrainian military to flip sides.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Talking Russian).
MAYNES: “Take energy into your individual palms,” Putin informed them. Do not sacrifice the lives of your households and buddies to defend what he referred to as drug addicts and Nazis in Kyiv who had taken the nation hostage. You realize, and on the one hand, Putin continues to mission a way of confidence in his army. Every part goes in response to plan has actually change into his go-to response to any questions on Ukraine. And but these preliminary assurances of an amazing victory are clearly now a tougher promote. All you need to do is have a look at the calendar.
MCCAMMON: Proper. So we’re 10 months in, and Ukraine’s military not solely didn’t give up, they’ve reclaimed a lot of the territory that was seized by Russia. So what does the army image appear like from the place you sit in Moscow?
MAYNES: Properly, not nice. Russian forces clearly didn’t take the capital, Kyiv, additionally Ukraine’s second metropolis, Kharkiv. They’ve suffered symbolic losses, just like the sinking of the Moskva flagship cruiser in April within the Black Sea. Russia was additionally compelled to withdraw on Ukraine’s north and south, together with components of those 4 Ukrainian territories Russia illegally annexed following sham referendums. The Kremlin has at all times defined away all of those setbacks. The Moskva, they are saying, sank as a result of a hearth on board, not a missile strike, as most imagine. These troop withdrawals, they are saying, are tactical or non permanent. And, after all, Russia’s additionally reverted to this winter barrage of missile strikes on important infrastructure to try to freeze Ukraine into submission, though it hasn’t labored. So backside line, it has been 10 months of combating, and militarily, Russia would not have lots to indicate for it.
MCCAMMON: In retaliation for Russia’s invasion, the West has launched wave after wave of sanctions on Russia, after all. What’s been the affect on the Russian financial system?
MAYNES: Properly, you understand, sanctions in opposition to an financial system the dimensions of Russia’s have been actually unprecedented. Nobody actually knew how it will have an effect on Russia or the remainder of the worldwide financial system.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Talking Russian).
MAYNES: So that is truly tape at a Moscow financial institution as folks, together with me, tried to get cash out after the native forex, the ruble, tanked in March. President Biden on the time famously stated sanctions had diminished the ruble to rubble. However you understand what? The ruble got here again, admittedly by way of worth controls. And Russia appeared to climate the sanctions storm higher than many anticipated, largely due to its oil and gasoline exports. And Putin took a victory lap.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PUTIN: (Talking Russian).
MAYNES: “The financial blitzkrieg in opposition to Russia has failed,” stated Putin on this speech in June as he claimed sanctions had completed extra hurt to those that issued them within the West than to Russia. Now, only a fast reality verify – it is true Europe particularly has struggled with excessive power costs as Russia has turned off the faucet on most gasoline exports to the EU. However, you understand, as we sit right here in December, Russia’s financial system finally shrunk by 2 1/2% this yr, removed from the collapse many have been predicting but in addition not precisely one thing to have a good time.
MCCAMMON: However I believe the query is, for the way lengthy? I imply, can the Russian financial system proceed to climate this for the long run?
MAYNES: Properly, that is simply it. You realize, the elemental issues from sanctions hold intensifying. Western penalties on Russian oil and gasoline are beginning to take maintain. The ruble is once more sliding. In the meantime, Russian corporations cannot get imported Western components, and that is put a stranglehold on key industries, says Natalia Zubarevich, a number one specialist on Russia’s regional financial system.
NATALIA ZUBAREVICH: (Talking Russian).
MAYNES: “Russia is a rustic closely tied to globalization,” she notes. “And the extra complicated the manufacturing in query, the extra closely it depends on imported components.” So Zubarevich warns, quickly, entire sectors of the financial system may go darkish for the best of causes – Russia merely cannot produce the completed product.
MCCAMMON: And far of the nation’s labor power has left. A whole bunch of hundreds of Russians have fled the nation because the begin of the warfare. How has that affected issues there?
MAYNES: Properly, there’ve been a number of waves of Russians, younger males particularly, leaving the nation; first in February with the outbreak of the battle after which once more in September, when Putin referred to as up a further 300,000 troops in a public mobilization drive. And with that exodus, Russia actually misplaced a technology of younger and proficient folks. It is no accident that some nations which have absorbed these folks – locations like Armenia, Georgia – they’re seeing their economies develop, at the same time as there’s sometimes uneasy attitudes in the direction of the Russian presence.
MCCAMMON: Charles, how fashionable is the warfare with odd Russians? I imply, do we’ve got an excellent sense of that?
MAYNES: Properly, there’s a number of debate right here on that entrance. Authorities polls present some 70- or 80% of the inhabitants help Putin’s strikes. However skeptics query the legitimacy of these numbers; you understand, folks like Alexey Minyaylo. He is an opposition politician who says these opinion polls are weaponized to create what he calls illusions of majorities.
ALEXEY MINYAYLO: They see polls. They are saying, oh, that is 80% for the warfare. All proper. So then the query, do you imagine Putin’s propaganda?
MCCAMMON: But when the Russian folks, by and huge, have been actually in opposition to this warfare, would not they let or not it’s identified? I imply, Russian troopers are additionally dying. Many Russian households have shut ties to Ukrainians.
MAYNES: Yeah, it is true, though I do not suppose we are able to low cost the position of concern. You realize, draconian legal guidelines handed after February have finally banned any public dialogue of the management or the army. We have seen practically 20,000 arrests of Russians who protested the federal government’s actions, with some going through years in jail. Additionally the media – you understand, practically each unbiased Russian media outlet closed or fled overseas after the federal government criminalized reporting on the warfare. So state propaganda and the conspiracies they push actually dominate the mediascape now.
MCCAMMON: So, Charles, you’ve got painted this very grim image right here of a pacesetter and, in some ways, a rustic that is offended and struggling. So what occurs subsequent? The place do issues go from right here?
MAYNES: You realize, effectively, oddly sufficient, each the Kremlin and its critics agree that 2023 is shaping as much as be a defining yr. President Putin talks a couple of realignment of the world order as Russia’s now engaged on this existential battle with the West. And Putin’s critics, for very totally different causes, agree. They are saying Putin has so badly miscalculated in Ukraine that we’re witnessing the start of the tip of the Putin period. However that is one thing folks have stated for years. And no matter occurs, I believe a number of Russians know the state has instruments in place to crush dissent. So conversations are shifting to non-public areas. You realize, like in Soviet occasions, it is within the kitchen across the desk the place that basic query – the place is Russia headed? – is now most hotly debated.
MCCAMMON: NPR’s Charles Maynes in Moscow. Thanks a lot, Charles.
Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Go to our web site phrases of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for additional data.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This textual content will not be in its last kind and could also be up to date or revised sooner or later. Accuracy and availability could range. The authoritative document of NPR’s programming is the audio document.
Leave a Reply