Meanwhile, In The Rest Of The Russian Empire…
Putin must be worrying about losing what little empire he has built.
Earlier, I argued that the rapid erosion of Russia’s military situation in Ukraine was increasing the stakes for Putin, leading to greater likelihood of awful escalation, beyond just the mass murder and terrorizing of Ukrainian civilians. Putin’s dream of a reconstituted Russian empire is at grave risk. So, too, is the fragment of that empire that exists today. Fears of losing that empire further raises the risk of escalation, since he has to demonstrate to Belarus, Georgia, and some chronically irredentist parts of Russia that the threat of Russian violence against them hasn’t gone away. With fewer soldiers, tanks, and planes by the day to make that threat, where does that lead Putin?
Here’s something that certainly must make him worry: Georgia’s interest in becoming part of the EU:
In a surprise U-turn, the government of Georgia has applied for EU membership just days after declaring it would not accelerate its application, as fears grow among the Georgian public that the Russian invasion might not stop with Ukraine.
And today, the prime minister of Georgia made a public show of welcoming the new head of the NATO liaison office in Georgia.
Russia effectively annexed parts of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in its brutal 2008 war. It has expected memories of that brutality to keep Georgia timid and neutral. That strategy clearly failed, and that bad news came on March 3rd.
How are things in Belarus? Putin’s fellow corrupt autocrat, Alexander Lukashenko, may soon commit Belarussian forces to the war in the Ukraine. Lukashenko has already made Belarus part of the war, allowing Russian forces to stage their invasion from Belarussian territory, and supporting the war effort in other ways. But what happens when Belarussian soldiers cross the border, and when they start getting killed?
And things aren’t exactly quiet in Chechnya either. While the recent unrest in Grozny isn’t related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it does show that the regime is at least a little nervous about opposition within the country — enough to threaten an investigative journalist and organize a mass protest against an anti-torture activist.
It’s impossible to say at this point whether there’s a real chance of a color revolution in Belarus, or anti-government violence in Chechnya, or something else that would reduce his mini-empire. But certainly that risk must be on Putin’s mind, as he sees his chief instrument of terror and control continue to grow weaker by the day.