AugustMan (Malaysia)


Vladimir Putin has mobilised reserves of 300,000 troops, and we fear what it means for an entire generation of Russians



THE RUSSIAN INVASION OF UKRAINE has dragged on for seven months (at the time of writing), marked by an abhorrent Russian disinforma­tion campaign, tragic civilian deaths, and woeful Russian military losses in both personnel and equipment.

We saw massive protests in Moscow against the war. We saw clips of dead-eyed, elderly Russian couples who were gi ed cars as a token for a fallen son’s service. We remember it more for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s courage and heroism rather than Vladimir Putin’s tactical nous.

The Ukrainian counteroff­ensive, suppo ed by training, equipment and aid from the internatio­nal community, has been decisive. As of late September, they had beaten back the Russian charge to within 50 km of the Russian border, even reclaiming strategic regions such as Kharkiv.

Did this deter Putin? Not in the slightest. On 26 September, Russia mobilised its reserves of 300,000 troops. The images that accompanie­d the news suggest that those are very generous definition­s of the terms “reserves” and “troops”. Some of the men repo ing for duty were po ly and balding, their eyes glazed over as their future and agency are whi led away by woebegone administra­tors at military recruitmen­t centres.

They’re not ready to fight a war, let alone one that’s protracted, a war in which the majority of the internatio­nal community are staking for you to lose, and in which your loved ones back home are fed false informatio­n about what’s truly happening at the ba lefront.

The economic outlook is bleak. The internatio­nal sanctions against Russia have brought about recession. Russia’s economy is expo -dependent, and trade with the larger global community can only resume if the war stops, and restitutio­n is paid. The war has also pushed Europe away from Russian oil, towards alternativ­e solutions. In this climate, there is unlikely to be a move back to fossil fuels. The mobilisati­on, combined with the thousands who have fled Russia to avoid dra , will affect economic productivi­ty at a time when it is especially essential to get goods and services to a nation that cannot rely on much help from without.

And it’s not just in terms of their livelihood­s. Russia’s misinforma­tion campaign will also deepen divides within Russia when the war is over, and the truth of the army’s pe ormance, the extent of their losses, and the reality of global politics come into the light. Many will want to do away with some of the less savoury aspects of Russia’s political arsenal, such as imprisonme­nt, assassinat­ion and the use of the Internet and Dark Web to sabotage internatio­nal institutio­ns, the very things that give Russian leadership its veneer of strength and might.

The Russia that emerges a er the detritus of this war has se led is unlikely to have the resources, infrastruc­ture or stability to become a superpower again – not that Russia was ever good at being one. The Putin Generation, as this generation of adult Russians is so unfo unately called, will find themselves in a depleted, chaotic Russia. But where there is chaos, there is also oppo unity. The oppo unity will be there for the Russian economy to evolve – away from rampant militarism, away from oligarchy, away from polluting fossil fuels, into something that reintegrat­es it into the internatio­nal community. Perhaps, this idealist writes, something that makes NATO unnecessar­y.

When our editor visited the San Marco Regiment in Italy for a bootcamp by Panerai (p. 14), he learnt the true meaning of the adage, “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times”.

Russia, led by a “strong” man (or at least, that’s what the topless photoshoot­s on horseback seem to suggest) in Putin, is sinking deeper and deeper into the mire of what will be best described as hard times.

Our hope is that these hard times create a new generation of strong men. God knows Russia needs some good times.

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