by Bondarev, the dissident
Boris Bondarev, the first and only Russian diplomat who rebelled against the regime
by condemning the war in Ukraine,
who now lives in hiding.
Putin’s Russia is not going back, he says;
it wants more military victories and can only be stopped on the battlefield
The situation had been worsening for a number of years, yet it was on February 24 that I realised that to stay any longer would be to betray myself. It would be against my principles. Russian public service now is filled with people who always say “yes” to their boss, whatever he says or does. They do not have their own opinion or do not show it. I don’t know what is worse. And since the war started, I witnessed so many shows of “loyalty” by my colleagues that it became really disgusting. You have to communicate, work and chat with people who discuss how they would nuke Washington, DC and all. And when I told them that the US would likely retaliate, my colleagues said “no, they will not. They will shit their pants and beg us for peace”. You can either go mad just like these guys or quit to preserve some mental sanity.
The situation today is different. The economy is going down. The people are becoming poorer; their prospects are fading. Putin’s support in society is not as solid and overwhelming as it used to be. Younger generations are not as fond of him. So now, to hold onto power, Putin has to destroy all who can resist. That’s why thousands of Russians are leaving their own country. They are the best of Russia – young, educated, professional, creative people. Without them, Putin can easily stay in power because he relies on most poor and ignorant social groups who are made so by his own policy and brainwashed by his own propaganda
Putin is going to isolate Russia from the world, and that will make it even poorer and more underdeveloped. The war makes it even easier for him. That’s why I say that this war against Ukraine is a crime against the Russian future. And I didn’t even mention that our relations with Ukraine, one of our closest neighbours, have been absolutely lost for decades and generations. That is also a tragedy.
Russia is going through a very humiliating time – one man makes decisions for the entire 140 million-strong country. And there’s no one there to say no to him. A few who can are either dead, jailed or exiled. So today my country cannot choose anything. Now it is very clear that the regime has evolved into a true fascist one. As such, it will become increasingly repressive inside the country and warmongering and aggressive outside. All we can do is hope that the situation will change. Of course, I would love to see Russia build a new, modern, free society where anyone has rights, and those rights are effectively protected. Very humble dream, don’t you think?
So, Putin needs victories to sell them to his supporters and his inner circle. One relatively small victory in the Donbas will not suffice because he initially promised to conquer the whole of Ukraine. He will need more and more “victories”. They may be Kyiv and all of Ukraine; then he may annex Belarus, then it may be Moldova or even the Baltic States. He can only sell military victories. Nothing else.
The war will not end while Putin is in power. So the only way to stop the war is to defeat Putin on the battlefield. Only a military defeat, a major one that cannot be concealed from the Russian public, will deliver a blow which will likely finish the dictator off. People will not like to see a loser in power. That’s the law of a pack of wolves, and that’s how Putin rules the country. I don’t exaggerate – it’s a mafia state as it is.
Russia may seem very strong, but it is weaker than it looks. It is not the USSR in any way. It is not a superpower. It only maintains great power status because of its enormous nuclear arsenal inherited from the USSR. Its economy is shrinking. Putin has the resources to wage war for some time but not for years. So the West must stay united and firm and shouldn’t try to trade its own security and Ukraine’s territories for some imaginary “peace,” which will soon turn into another bloody war.
The aggressor cannot be stopped by prayers and persuasions. He will understand only strength and resolve to fight him. So, in short, to support Ukraine means to continue the war. But if Ukraine falls, the war will not end. There will be new victims.