Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged commentators to be careful when criticizing Russian aggression (“military operation” in Moscow Newspeak) in Ukraine. The authorities of the Russian Federation do not support calls for general mobilization, and the Russian Ministry of Defense previously called the military defeat in the Kharkiv region “regrouping“. Why doesn’t the Kremlin admit the obvious?
The war in Ukraine and the language of the Kremlin
Since the beginning of the war against Ukraine, the Russian official language has been lying. Can just the tongue lie? Yes, of course, and this has been repeatedly proven by experts, it is enough to open the book “The Language of the Third Reich” by Klemperer to be convinced of this. At the same time, we also know from specialists that not only do we use language to convey our thoughts, but it also changes our perception of reality.
This is well understood by the Russian authorities. Therefore, starting on February 24 full-scale war with Ukraine they banned the word “war” itself. In the beginning, there was a “special military operation”, and those who said otherwise are still being fined or even imprisoned. Now propagandists have come up with CBO altogether. Nothing deprives a word of meaning like abbreviations.
The Kremlin explained the defeat of the Russian occupying army near Kyiv and the forced retreat as a “gesture of good will” and actions “according to plan.” Well, now the flight of the Russian army from the Kharkov region has become a “regrouping” and soon they will probably start jailing for using the word “retreat”.
The military superiority of Ukraine is explained by the fact that allegedly only “black mercenaries” are fighting on the opposite side of the front. Apparently, losing to them, as they joke on the net, is not as offensive for Russian propagandists as it is for Ukrainians.
The Kremlin had enough self-confidence to start this war, but now it more adequately assesses its capabilities. Since war has no rationale in terms of benefits for Russia (except for Vladimir Putin’s desire to destroy Ukraine, of course), it’s more convenient not to enter into discussions at all and hide the very fact of the war behind euphemisms, abbreviations and outright lies.
War party and presidential rating
After the Kharkov flight of the Russian troops, many staunch supporters of the war with Ukraine to the bitter end began to demand mobilization in the Russian Federation: both economic and political, and, of course, military. There may not be so many of them in Russia, but they are very vocal. And “mainstream” speakers like the leader of the Communist Party began to join them Gennady Zyuganov.
However, through the mouth of Peskov, the Kremlin pulled them back. “The topic of general mobilization is not being discussed in the Kremlin,” the presidential spokesman said. And he advised the presumptuous propagandists of violence not to run ahead of the president and not to comment on the war within the framework of the law, that is, not to try to tear off the Kremlin’s veil of lies and tell the Russians that a real war is going on, in which, as many radicals said these days, the country will either win, or die.
Do not forget that Putin’s interests are wider than the war with Ukraine. His main goal is still to hold power in Russia. It hasn’t changed since 1999, and it still exists today. And general mobilization, which is not supported by the absolute majority of the population, is a serious threat to this goal.
Putin certainly would like the Russians to support the mobilization. But so far society has not been able to “persuade”. And it means that it is possible that the most vociferous propagandists will have to “break” the president, who decided that they can criticize him for indecision and demand something from him. No one in Russia is allowed to work to lower the presidential rating: neither liberals nor militarists.
Repression against radicals?
There is a serious internal contradiction. Since the shelling of Crimea, criticism of the Kremlin from the side of conditional patriots has been growing. Putin, in fact, is now sitting lower and lower on the twine: the war does not strengthen, but weakens his power inside Russia. And he will have to solve this problem in the coming months.
The most familiar way for the Russian government is internal repression. If necessary, then against the patriots. Professional conformists, who are in power and in propaganda, will only support this. They themselves are afraid of radicals.
Another option is a gradual drift towards negotiations with Ukraine. They could start in November at the G20 summit, as the Kremlin is explicitly hinting at. But for this, Putin would have to give up the occupied territories, and this will cause a new wave of criticism from supporters of the “dismantling of Ukraine.”
In fact, any decision will worsen the position of the Russian president. Therefore, most likely, he will not decide anything yet. In the coming weeks, new miracles of verbal balancing act await us: “regroupings”, “gestures of good will” and outright lies. After all, judging by the past behavior of the Russian authorities, they will again try not to solve the problem, but to hide it.
Author: Ivan Preobrazhensky, candidate of political sciences, expert on Central and Eastern Europe, columnist for a number of media. Writer of a weekly column for DW. Ivan Preobrazhensky on Facebook: Ivan Preobrazhensky
The comment expresses the personal opinion of the author. It may not coincide with the opinion of the Russian editors and Deutsche Welle in general.