Deployment of air defence on rooftops in Moscow is an important signal.
In the eleventh month of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin authorities suddenly decided to demonstrate their own security. In particular, the Pantsir-S1 air defence system appeared on the roofs of buildings of several Russian departments.
In an interview with Glavred, political scientist and sociologist, director of the Ukrainian Barometer Sociological Service, Viktor Nebozhenko, explained why the Russians are deploying these systems, whether Russia is preparing strikes against “decision-making centers” in Ukraine, and whether Ukraine’s strikes against the Russian Federation can force the Russians to take to the streets.
– In Russia, they began to massively install air defence systems on the roofs of government buildings. Why do the Russians do it so straightly?
– The same reason with these installations does not allow Russia to defeat Ukraine. The consciousness of any Russian general, official or employee is arranged in such a way that a person is not scolded, jailed or held accountable. Like, it's better to play it safe and do something. First, it is a characteristic feature of both the Russian mass consciousness and the consciousness of the elites. If tomorrow some Ukrainian drone falls on the outskirts of Moscow, then the Russian generals will have something to report. That is, they are thus trying to ensure security in case the Ukrainians manage to break through the defences around Moscow.
Let me remind you that in 1987, the German amateur aviator Mathias Rust came through the entire air defence of the Soviet Union and landed near Red Square. Since then, the generals, and indeed all the Russian military, have an inferiority complex: even now, they say that, God forbid, some Ukrainian plane breaks through the way Rust did. Of course, nothing happened to Red Square then, but the generals suffered greatly. Because then the heads of about 25 generals and a marshal of the Soviet Union rolled. The current generals do not care what happens - they are afraid of responsibility in the Russian Federation. The Russian generals now also report to Putin the same with the USSR. It looks like that: we've conducted mobilization and sent soldiers to Ukraine and then the soldiers died. Now they are taking "convicts", they were sent to Bakhmut and Soledar. They also died there. But they report that they completed the task.
Secondly, it is necessary to militarize Moscow. This is a much more difficult task. The fact is that Moscow is the only metropolis in the Russian Federation, and it is likely that coups, murders and chases will take place there. When Russia begins to boil, it will all start in Moscow, not in St. Petersburg or Grozny. This is how Russian history works – everything happens in the capital.
Now the Russians cannot bring tanks and weapons to Moscow and have it on Putin's side, so this time they began to act differently: they say that there are Ukrainians all around, so we need to strengthen our military presence in Moscow. After all, panic will begin in the capital without explanations, and Muscovites will start asking questions.
– That is, the Russians are not preparing for any attacks?
– No, they insure themselves against internal riots, demonstrations, military coups. Against fighting between the Chechens and the National Guard on the streets. The Kremlin understands that all this can begin at any moment.
The whole world has enough Ukrainian victories but lacks conflicts within the Russian leadership. This leadership understands that such conflicts will surely flood the streets of Moscow. So they have air defence systems. That is, this is also done in order to psychologically accustom Muscovites to the presence of the military. One step to martial law left. Russia can declare war at any time. They just can't do it any other way. They need some reason (and there is none). This means that they need to create an event in order to accustom the people within six months to the armoured personnel carriers and armed patrols on the streets of Moscow.
– Considering that Russia put the Pantsyrs on the buildings of the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, can it, for its part, decide to strike at the Ukrainian “decision-making centers”?
– The Russians have long tried to do this, but did not succeed. Do you think they will not want to fire missiles at the Verkhovna Rada or the Office of the President?! Of course, they do. Remember, missiles exploded near Shevchenko Park in Kyiv. And it was just an attempt to hit the city center, it was done on purpose. It is very important for the Russians to show the world community the ruins of the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers. Therefore, if at least one Ukrainian drone breaks into Moscow, it is best that it hit the Kremlin towers or the Mausoleum. That is, to deal symbolic damage with this blow. Like the Crimean bridge, the bridge is operational, but Russia's invulnerability is symbolically debunked.
– With this in mind, I would like to clarify. If, as you said, at least one breaks into Moscow, what will be Russia's reaction? It is clear that there will be a lot of noise on their part, but will there be real actions?
– None, except for another attempt at mass shelling of the largest Ukrainian cities. Russia can no longer do anything else - it can no longer use nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles. Russia, on the other hand, is fighting “with NATO and the USA,” so bombing some Hatsapitivka is not the same as striking at Washington or Berlin. After all, the West is no longer afraid of their nuclear attack, and therefore the Kremlin cannot achieve its goal.
In fact, no matter what events take place at the front, the hottest topic of 2023 will be the missile and drone duel. Russia will try to deal damage to Ukraine, and Ukraine to Russia, but we have more opportunities for this. Russia, unlike Ukraine, does not feel real damage, but it reacts to symbolic blows. It's so easy: the Crimean bridge, the Moskva cruiser, the bombing of the Kremlin by Ukrainian drones, and so on. It is these things that hurt all Russians, from the deep lands to the first person of the state. It will not be a revenge duel, Ukraine must strike on the places of great significance and importance for Russia.
The important point is that Ukraine has a strategy. We will strike in such a way as to constantly "humiliate" Russia and its army in the perception of the world community. It will be right.
– How can such painful blows to Russia's image affect the Putin regime?
– This will have a strong effect. Political science knows two types of social contract. The first is when the authorities say to the population: "You don't meddle in politics, and we will ensure your well-being." Putin has been doing it for twenty years, but now he violated this contract with the mobilization, and not the war and not the "Special Military Operation". The same contract was violated by the Soviet authorities in 1990, as a result of which people "got involved in politics".
Russia had been following the second type of social contract in Soviet times: "We are creating security for you, you do not interfere in politics in turn." So, if at least one Ukrainian missile reaches Moscow, this will mean that Putin cannot fulfill the contract on the security of the middle class and the elite. That is why Putin has been talking about the Crimean Bridge for four months because it is a symbol of the seizure of state property from one country and its transfer to another. After all, Donbas is not so important to Putin, he needs Crimea first of all.
For the same reason, by the way, air defence is being installed in Valdai, because if Ukrainian weapons touch one of Putin's residences, then Russia will immediately begin to say that Putin is hiding. Both the simple people and the elite will come to the conclusion that they are also in danger.
That is why it is so important for Ukraine to hit something symbolic and painful for the Russian military consciousness.
– Then, accordingly, is there an option to talk about regime change in Russia?
– No. But we hit millions of people on their heads with this, so that they start thinking a little differently. This is also important. Because after the strikes on Russia, the Russians will not have such a causal relationship. We must understand that some kind of internal coup will take place there first. Therefore, we must get rid of the idea that the people of the Russian Federation will rise up and go against Putin: all this will happen exclusively surgically, artificially inside the structure. Killing your own tsar is not a Russian tradition. The Russians didn't kill Stalin, Khrushchev, or even Nicholas II. Indeed, in the case of the Romanovs, the people have nothing to do with it. But there was no enthusiasm to overthrow the tsar, and the Soviet power was not strengthened by this. The people were indifferent to the tsar, but those who took power into their own hands understood perfectly well that they needed to strengthen their power.
The same will happen with Putin, he will be removed loudly, but the Russian people will not drink champagne and chant.
Just as it was with Ceausescu, whose execution was made public so that his followers would understand that any fighting appeared to be pointless.
Therefore, if something happens to Putin, no one in the Russian Federation will speak either in his defence or against him. Moreover, Putin himself cannot ask the Russians for protection, because then he would also violate the social security contract. And the West, by the way, also understands this well, therefore it does not demand the collapse of Russia, but only a change in the regime of power within it. And in this sense, our tasks differ.