Russia’s increasingly dictatorial and Soviet-nostalgic political leadership sees the invasion of Ukraine not only as a necessity when it comes to prevailing in the conflict with the West, but also as a chance to break free from Western influences.

Vladimir Putin is acting as a referee in the elite’s hidden competition, which has been transformed into open rivalry in the context of the war. The competition over who is the most loyal to Putin’s war policy radicalizes the political discourse throughout.

The Kremlin’s key challenge is to maintain the balance between citizens’ political apathy and the mobilization of society required in times of war. Civic passivity is central to the regime’s security, while justifying the continuation of the poorly progressing war requires an increasing militarization of society.

The Russian public’s approval of the war has gradually diminished, and efforts to mobilize society in revenge for perceived losses have not changed the trend. Hence, Russia’s poor military success is thus far the fastest way to vitiate the legitimacy of Putin’s war regime.

Senior Research Fellow