Will Putin be able to “sell” the loss of the peninsula to the Russians?
Ukrainian special operations forces said that as a result of the attack on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, 34 Russian officers were killed, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Viktor Sokolov. Another 105 occupiers were wounded.
The website Charter97.org asked political scientist, associate professor at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv Petro Oleshchuk how such operations of the Ukrainian Armed Forces affect the occupation army and the Russians:
— A very significant point here is that Russia diligently denies any defeats, any such actions directed against them. We remember how recently there was an attack in Sevastopol on a Russian submarine and a large landing ship. Then video materials appeared, on the basis of which experts established that, most likely, if the submarine is restored, it will require a very large investment of funds, resources and time. But at the same time, Russia says that no, they will fix everything in the near future and everything will be fine.
They still have not commented on the attack on the headquarters. As far as I remember, officially they have one person considered missing — and that’s it, they don’t comment further. This is very reminiscent of the situation with the Moskva cruiser, then, too, everything seemed to be hushed up. In the end they admitted something, but somehow reluctantly and vaguely; there were no statistics on losses either.
In Russia they understand that this is a very serious psychological blow, so they are trying to somehow hide it and the like. I think that they will continue to hide this whole story and will try to somehow cover up the situation with information.
The Russians haven’t lost a fleet commander, if I’m not mistaken, since Port Arthur, the Russo-Japanese War.
Of course, this is, to put it mildly, a little painful, especially after they lost the flagship of their fleet.
— What political consequences will the loss of the Crimea have for the Putin regime? Is this a complete collapse of Kremlin mythology? Or can the loss of the peninsula be somehow “sold” to the population?
— I think they can “sell” it. They themselves built a mythology around the peninsula, which was directed not only inward, but also outward. By and large, there is nothing special for Russia and for Putin in the Crimea. It makes sense to control it only as a springboard for constant attacks on Ukraine, to attack with missiles, and to block Ukrainian exports. In this regard, it makes sense to hold the Crimea.
In the opposite sense, it has become an absolutely subsidized region, a subsidized hole. As a military base, yes, there is interest. As a non-military base, there is no interest there. And the importance of the Crimea as a military base decreases with each missile landing on the peninsula.
In this regard, Russia, of course, knows how to psychologically work with the West, with the civilized world. They were able to impose on them the thesis that the Crimea has some special significance for Putin, so they need to leave the peninsula to him, otherwise he will be very offended and use nuclear weapons. They sense such psychological moments very subtly and use them, although even from a formal point of view, the Russians included not only the Crimea in their Constitution, but also the Donetsk, Luhansk, and even Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. Moreover, they never captured Zaporizhzhia.
It would seem that there are already grounds, but no one really talks about any “sacredness” of the Zaporizhzhia or Kherson region, although they included both of them in the Constitution.
Therefore, in fact, I would not overestimate any special sacredness of the Crimea, because it was a kind of major victory for Putin. He has already set his sights on annexing all of Ukraine. But the preservation of the Crimea can hardly be “sold” to their chauvinists as a replacement for the fact that they did not conquer Ukraine.
Therefore, I would not particularly focus on this, especially since, under the guise of war, they completed the transformation of their regime. If the regime before the start of the full-scale invasion could still be conditionally called hybrid to a certain extent, now it is a very tough autocracy. Many people call the Russian regime totalitarian, this is incorrect, because a totalitarian regime is built on ideology. They don’t have any ideology, it’s just a tough, authoritarian, personalistic regime. And as practice has shown, it can “tighten the screws” almost endlessly.
I don’t see any reason that if the Russians, say, lose the Crimea, they won’t be able to explain it. They will be able to: “The whole West went at us, these damned Ukronazis have destroyed everything there, there is nothing to defend there.” This, by the way, is the same scheme that was used in Robotyne, a village in the Zaporizhzhia region: “We didn’t retreat from there, everything was just destroyed there, we have nothing to defend in that village.” I think if the Russians really faced the threat of losing power in the Crimea, then they could thoroughly blow up something there themselves and show it on camera in order to blame Ukraine and NATO, while justifying their flight. And everything would be fine, there would be no protests there.
Since the entire liberal Russian opposition is either in prison or has fled, they are now purging the so-called patriotic opposition — Prigozhin was killed, Strelkov is in prison, many others are also behind bars. In fact, the Kremlin has cleared out the entire opposition field. I don’t see Ukrainian troops entering the Crimea and Putin’s regime immediately falling. Nothing of the kind, he will feel great, the Crimea will not have any special role for the existence of Putin’s regime.
But they continue to play this role, primarily for the West, so that it supplies Ukraine with fewer weapons, so that there are delays. They play on this fear that supposedly the entry of Ukrainian troops into Crimea will mean some kind of nuclear armageddon. The Russians use this purely for military purposes, to continue hostilities, that is, for purely military purposes, not political ones. I think they have already prepared a diagram of how to explain this, folders and temniks have already been drawn up.
— In the West, many believe that “the Crimea is a red line for the Kremlin,” and in response to deoccupation there may be a “nuclear response.” Is it so?
— If, for example, Ukrainian troops expel Russian troops from the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, then the results of the war can no longer be “sold” as some kind of victory. Now they can say: “With great effort, we expanded the zone of control, secured a land corridor to the Crimea, we won.” If they roll back not even to the borders of Ukraine of1991, but to the demarcation line of 2022, then it will still be impossible to present this as a victory.
I honestly don't understand what the exact difference is here.
It’s just that the West continues to live in the paradigm that Putin imposed on them in 2014, that he supposedly wants to seize the Crimea, that will be enough for him, he doesn’t need anything else. But for him, this is all exclusively an instrument of creeping aggression against Ukraine. He imposed this scheme in order to somehow ensure the absorption of Ukraine, but in stages.
Putin lived well as the ruler of Russia for many years without the Crimea, and was absolutely not worried about this. He was not at all bothered by the fact that the peninsula was not part of Russia. So it's all just manipulation. I am 99% sure that for Putin there is no particular difference between the entry of Ukrainian troops into Melitopol, Berdyansk or Dzhankoy.
If Putin really wanted to start a nuclear war, nothing stops him from doing it now. But for some reason he doesn’t want to do this. There are probably certain grounds and reasons for this. Even Elon Musk shows how this whole paradigm influences consciousness in the West.