Russian President Vladimir Putin is approaching the 100-day mark of a war he refuses to name, a man who wants to make a business impression.
As his army entered the Ukrainian city of Siviarodonets this week, Putin was speaking awkwardly on a television program in honor of the parents of an exceptionally large family.
Since the beginning of May, he has met – mostly online – with academics, oil and transportation officials, officials responsible for dealing with forest fires, and at least a dozen Russian regional leaders, many of whom are thousands of miles away from Ukraine.
In addition to several sessions of his Security Council and multiple calls with foreign leaders, he found time to make a video address to players, coaches and spectators of the All-Russian Night Hockey League.
The appearance of a difficult, even tedious routine is consistent with the Kremlin’s description that it is not fighting – just conducting a “special military operation” to bring a troubled neighbor to its feet.
For a man whose military has performed poorly in Ukraine and been beaten from its two largest cities, with thousands of casualties, Putin shows no visible signs of pressure.
In contrast to the 24 February attack race, when he condemned Ukraine and the West in a bitter, angry speech, his speech was restrained. The 69-year-old is calm, focused and fully visible in the data and details.
While acknowledging the impact of Western sanctions, he told the Russians that their economies would become stronger and more self-sufficient, while the West would suffer a boomerang effect due to rising food and fuel prices.
Keep the look up
But as the war draws to a close, Putin faces increasing challenges to maintain his normalcy.
Economically, the situation will get worse as sanctions are tightening and Russia is heading for a recession.
Militarily, Putin’s forces have been advancing slowly in eastern Ukraine, but the United States and its allies are increasing their supply of weapons to Kiev, including the US commitment to an advanced rocket system this week.
Western defense experts say that in the event of an offensive by Russia, Putin may be forced to declare full reserve solidarity in order to bolster its troubled forces.
“It will involve more than a million Russians, and then of course it will be visible to those who do not yet realize that Russia is in a full-blown war,” said Gerhard Mangot, an Austrian academic who met and observed Putin. For many years.
It would be a tough sale to the Russian public, which is largely dependent on the state media loyal to the Kremlin and therefore kept in ignorance about the scale of the Russian disaster and casualties.
Russia is still not in that position, Mangat said, and Putin may find some encouragement from signs of Western fatigue with the war. Ukraine’s most hawkish supporters – the United States, Britain, Poland and the Baltic states – and a group of countries including Italy, France and Germany are pushing for an end to the war.
“Putin is calculating that the longer this war lasts, the more conflict and conflict there will be within the Western camp,” he said.
Meanwhile, peace talks with Ukraine stalled a week ago, and Putin showed no signs of seeking a diplomatic exit. “She still thinks there is a good military solution to the problem,” said Olga Olikar, Crisis Group’s program director for Europe and Central Asia.
Putin reserves the option of claiming victory at any time because his stated objectives – which he calls disarmament and denuclearization of Ukraine – were “always goals that you can declare accomplished because they were never clearly defined and were always somewhat ridiculous.” Said.
The words “war” and “Ukraine” were never uttered during Putin’s 40-minute video encounter with prominent families, including Vadim and Larissa Kadzayev, with their 15 children from Beslan in the North Caucasus region on Wednesday.
He came close to acknowledging the war, citing the plight of the children in Donbass and a pair of “extraordinary situations” there.
Russia had a lot of problems but it always was, he said at the end of the online meeting. “Nothing unusual is actually happening here.”
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)