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Andrei Zubov: Trilateral Conflict Starts In Russia

Andrei Zubov: Trilateral Conflict Starts In Russia
Andrei Zubov
Photo: RFE/RL

The World War I scenario may happen again for Putin.

Western media and intelligence agencies report that Putin may start a new wave of mobilization and conscript about half a million Russians into the army of occupation. Is this scenario real?

Charter97.org asks Russian historian and political scientist Andrei Zubov.

- Of course, it's possible. Moreover, this is completely natural for Putin's logic: he simply has no other option. The only way to continue the war is to outnumber, not out-maneuver. The Russian army doesn't have enough high-quality military equipment or the ability to fight.

For this reason, they win by number of soldiers and deaths. One way or another, this mobilization will happen, whether it is announced or not.

- How will this influence the confidence of Russians in their government, who speculated on an invincible Russian army?

- Everything is already completely undermined; there is no trust in this regard. No one believes the Russian army is invincible any more. This is, by the way, a huge shock. A Russian ordinary citizen has not yet fully realized how shocking it was for the German society during the Reich when the invincible Wehrmacht was defeated. Such a recognition is a matter of the future.

As for the processes in society, I would say that Putin has invented an ingenious know-how. I do not know if it was Putin or not, but it was applied on his behalf. It is mobilization with open borders. If Putin had closed the borders, the most active part of society would have revolutionized the rest of the citizens very quickly. It is clear that the front and the possibility of death unite everyone. Since the most active part of society is allowed to go abroad freely or almost freely, that leaves the socially inactive majority, which also revolutionizes but much slower. Putin has a few months, maybe six months, before these ordinary people, the relatively uneducated, their families, realize that they are being taken to the slaughter for an unknown reason. It will happen for sure, even with open borders. The only question is when it will happen.

You see, there are analogies. Let us assume that the Russian people, also poorly educated, met the First World War with great enthusiasm. By the end of 1916, there were 1.5 million deserters. If one considers that the entire Russian army was about 4.6 million men, then 1.5 million deserters is a huge number-a third of the army. That is, we are gradually approaching it. The revolution of 1917 followed these desertions.

Before World War II, Stalin carried out a terrible repression. He did not let them go abroad, as Putin did, but physically exterminated the entire active part of society. Nevertheless, 6.2 million Soviet people, including 315,000 conscious defectors, surrendered or defected to the enemy during the war. It's a huge figure, quite comparable to the scale of one-third of the active army.

One should say, however, that both World War I and World War II were still associated in people's minds with the fact that the enemy really attacked. The desire to defend themselves was natural in this sense. Today, it is absolutely unclear what is the purpose of this war in general.

I think the processes of disintegration of the army will intensify. Any efforts to intensify mobilization, any conscription of new people on the one hand will temporarily solve some problems on the front, but they will worsen the problems in the rare. These things are interdependent.

- There are quite a few internal conflicts among the Russian command. The confrontation of Shoigu-Gerasimov and Kadyrov-Prigozhin factions stands out. What is the reason for the backroom struggle among the Kremlin elites and what may it result in?

- When the army is fighting a victorious battle, then, as a rule, all the groups competing with one another are more or less united; each trying to achieve greater success. When the army fails, however, the first thing to do is to put the blame on the other.

If you've noticed, Kadyrov and Prigozhin accuse the army of failing; the army hates Kadyrov and Prigozhin. This is certainly the key to a serious conflict in the future.

I think that the line of this conflict is more complicated. It's not bilateral but rather trilateral. The army is on one side, the official structures of the KGB and the SVR on the other, and the pirates of war like Kadyrov and Prigozhin are on the third side.

It is a pending issue who will get the upper hand. But the army will almost certainly take the upper hand. It's the only really powerful force, strong enough in numbers, with a certain group ethic that dates back to pre-revolutionary times. Neither Kadyrov, nor Prigozhin, nor the KGB have anything like that. There are no such opportunities, because the army controls the main weapons.

Therefore, the army is likely to win in this struggle for power and influence in society, but probably without Putin. Putin has tied himself tightly to the KGB. It is unlikely that he will be able to break it.

- You wrote that Russia's political leadership has crossed the line that separates the enemy from the monster. Negotiations are possible with enemies. Only total annihilation is possible in case with monsters. How can the civilized world defeat the monster in the person of the Putin regime?

- First of all, the civilized world is becoming more and more aware that this monster is a monster. I think that the Davos forum and the speeches of its participants clearly show that the desire to negotiate with Putin's regime has practically disappeared. It was not a quick process. As you remember, there was a desire for some negotiations even in early autumn. Now this is no longer the case.

It's already a matter of military strategy how to defeat the monster. The Ramstein coalition will be meeting on Friday. I think they will have some plans. I am not a military man, so I can't comment on strictly military issues. It will certainly be about organizing a military victory. Not about compromise, not about negotiations, but about a military victory of Ukraine over Putin's Russia. This is almost obvious. And what form this will take is still hard to predict.

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