In a posting on April 3, I argued that the criticisms and infighting by the ultranationalists in Russia will almost inevitably open up a debate on Ukraine that Putin has never allowed: namely, whether the “SMO” should have been launched in the first place, and whether it should be continued now.
Deescalation and withdrawing from the war is the default position. It is the only sensible thing that Russia can do at this point. (As the saying goes, if you’re in a hole, stop digging.)
That, in fact, is the most likely outcome, but it is likely to happen, not with a bang, but a whimper. Sudden declarations of surrender or military failure, whether explicit or implicit, are not received well by that country’s public, and can have dire consequences. (Think of Germany’s signing of the armistice at the end of WWI, which led to the Treaty of Versailles, which the Germans hated, and we know what happened then.)
More likely, a rational military-political coalition will topple Shoigu and Putin on the grounds that the SMO has been mismanaged. (This is a claim that no one can dispute.) Once in power, that coalition will slowly but irreversibly reverse course, and the public will come to accept it.
This is exactly what ultranationalists like Girkin and Prigozhin fear will happen, as their own public statements have shown.
Hence the significance of the recent news (reported in a UK Defense Intelligence Update on June 1) that a long-time critic in Russia of Putin’s war, Boris Nadezhdin, has claimed, on state-controlled TV yet, that Putin needs to be replaced by someone else who could “rebuild normal relations with Europe.”
That says it all, because rebuilding normal relations with Europe” can only mean: unraveling the invasion; acknowledging that Ukraine will join the EU and NATO; and accepting that the post-Soviet geopolitical space will inevitably move towards Westernization.
It is extraordinary that this opinion has been openly expressed before the Russian public this early.
As UK intelligence noticed, this is big news.