Putin: weaker and more dangerous?

The war in Ukraine is entering a new phase. More and more states in the West are supplying the Ukrainian army with heavy weapons. Russia is not only threatening to cut off gas supplies but also indicating it is prepared to resort to nuclear weapons. Europe's press is concerned and wonders how dangerous the cornered president can get.

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Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Stand up to the fear-mongering

There is a considerable gap between Russia's rhetoric and its real strength, the Wiener Zeitung points out:

“Ukraine controls the airspace over Transnistria and there are few troops stationed there, which makes it just as unlikely that Transnistria will become the starting point for a major attack on Moldova or western Ukraine as a nuclear strike on the capital of a Nato country. ... Rather, Putin is using his oldest and probably most effective weapon: the game of fear. ... But that weapon can only really cut when it is seen as being sharp. If the game of fear is exposed and countered - as the Nordic and Baltic states have just done - it quickly loses its impact.”

O Jornal Económico (PT) /

Human lives have little value for him

The unfortunate fact is that Russia is truly unpredictable, Jornal Económico counters:

“Russia has already proved in this war that it remains faithful to the traditions established in other conflicts: namely an almost total disregard for human life, be it Ukrainian civilians or its own soldiers, as the unfortunate souls sent to dig trenches in the contaminated area around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor can testify. This disregard for human life makes Russia an extremely resilient and dangerous adversary. For that reason military experts no longer regard the possibility of Putin using weapons of mass destruction as a merely theoretical hypothesis.”

Novaya Gazeta Europe (RU) /

A war for political survival

Now that the atrocities in Bucha and elsewhere have become known the only option left to those responsible is redouble their efforts, the exiled Novaya Gazeta Europe believes:

“The Russian army will no longer voluntarily vacate occupied territories because it won't want more exhumations . ... With his attack on Ukraine Putin has exposed his guilt for all to see. He and his accomplices must know that. That is why the war with Ukraine has turned into a war for the survival of Putin's system. Putin believes: 'The victor will always be the judge.' If he wants to escape responsibility for the war of aggression and the crimes committed, this logic leaves him no choice but to emerge victorious, or at least undefeated, at any cost.”

The Economist (GB) /

Temptation to use nuclear weapons is growing

The Economist sees a nuclear attack as unlikely but not out of the question:

“A weaker Russian army could be an even more brutal one. For those around the world facing Russian aggression, that is a terrible prospect. Ultimately, weakness may lead Russia to the last arena where it is still indisputably a superpower: chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. From the start of this war, Mr Putin and his government have repeatedly brandished the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Mr Putin is rational, in that he wants his regime to survive, so the chances of their use probably remain slim. But as Russia's armed forces run out of conventional options, the temptation to escalate will surely grow.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Weakness will cause loyalty to wane

The president's loyal entourage could turn its back on him faster than one might expect, Neatkarīgā suspects:

“Nothing undermines Putin's power more than failure in Ukraine. The weaker Putin's power, the more likely it is that Putin's order to use nuclear weapons would be ignored. Putin's power is based only on so-called leader charisma. As long as everything is going his way, the entire vertical power hierarchy is ready to go with him to the end. But as soon as a failure occurs, the same people change their attitude. ... At the moment Putin's entire entourage is transmitting the same schizophrenic nightmare as all Russian TV channels. But outside TV, Putin's position is getting weaker and weaker.”

Delfi (LT) /

Kremlin remains a black box

Delfi speculates on whether Putin could be removed from someone within his own ranks:

“The less than successful war in Ukraine has shaken the foundations of Putin's power. Rumour has it that the search for culprits is intensifying in the Kremlin. ... When everyone is tense because any individual could be picked out and blamed for the bad luck in Ukraine, the generals could develop a desire to get rid of Putin. Then all the blame could be pinned on the former dictator. ... According to this logic, Putler's removal would not be a big surprise. On the other hand, this is only a potential scenario. The Kremlin itself is a black box, and we don't know who makes the decisions there, how or under what circumstances.”

Gordonua.com (UA) /

How nice things would be without Putin

A great many people would be happy if the Russian president simply disappeared, writes publicist and former Duma deputy Alexander Nevsorov on Gordonua.com:

“The civilised world is still waiting with understandable impatience and hope for Putin to suffer a tragic end. The optimal scenario, of course, is a sudden - boom! - and Vladimir is no more. The person who commits this wonderful act will of course be dragged across the continents on an endless tour, declared a global hero. Carpets of white roses will be spread before him. And presidents will patiently line up to take a selfie with the saviour of humanity. ... No Vova [Putin] - no war, no death, no problems. No burning cities, no children torn apart by Putin's bombings.”

Postimees (EE) /

Strength based on mindset

Psychology professor Airi Värnik stresses the importance of positive thinking for Russia's adversaries in Postimees:

“You have to be very careful when portraying evil. Evil takes the initiative, overwhelms, evil is contagious. ... Evil must not be glorified, admired or feared. The war between Ukraine and Russia is also a war of spiritual strength. The spirit of the Ukrainians is enviably strong, both in the battle zones and among refugees, as far as we can observe. We who believe that we are the audience in this war but worry about ourselves, Ukraine and Europe, should avoid black scenarios and keep up the mantra 'Ukraine will succeed, Ukraine will win' in our souls.”