We Ukrainians can rejoice in this, but it is also dangerous. In a vertically collectivist society, regicide (removal of the boss) is not only a mortal sin, it is never received positively by the group, even if successful. In other words, the perpetrators of any attempted coup in the Kremlin will not be heroes under any circumstances and they know it.
Secondly, a vozhd experiencing pozor understands intuitively that unless a major successful and very public undertaking can be achieved, his days in power are numbered. The collective will destroy him for not self-ostracizing and thereby shaming the whole group (nation).
So Putin has no choice but to escalate. Now the question: does he go for the nuclear option? And if he does, will we find that the command structure of Russia’s nuclear forces to be as rotten as that of its ground forces?
In 2013–14 a major overhaul of America’s nuclear forces was undertaken after discovery of problems with morale in the silos. Because use of the nuclear option had become such a remote possibility, officers thought of service in these forces as the epitomy of a dead-end career. When discovered, this was fixed in the US.
There is no reason to believe that analogous morale problems don’t plague Russia’s nuclear forces. And given the massive corruption that plagues the Russian army there is reasonable confidence that the morale and command problems have not been not fixed.
So, Russia is a paper tiger led by a failed leader who has shamed himself in an unprecedented way. To avoid pozor he must maintain his bluff.
Putin is a terrorist who is holding the world hostage.
Western leaders are deathly afraid to get their forces directly involved in the war in Ukraine, despite repeated pleas for air support, because Putin threatens them with nukes. Sadly, at the moment he is successful. The world is afraid of him. Score a win for the terrorist.
Again, Putin is a terrorist. He is threatening the use of nukes because the West is afraid of them. And as long as you are afraid, the terrorist wins.
Eventually however, someone will call the bluff. And then pozor will be total, including also all the western leaders who fell for it.
In the meantime, Ukraine fights. And wins.
* Thoughts from Kyiv is a series of flash essays by Mychailo Wynnyckyj from February 2022