Kremlin spokesmen interpret signals of Western hesitancy in financing its Ukrainian ally as weakness. Putin's people used indications that the West was pressuring Ukraine to consider negotiations to formalize its partition as a green light for further action. Why not take even more, they ask?
... On state television, both experts and lawmakers emphasized that Russia is not interested in negotiations and simply cannot allow Ukraine to continue to exist sovereignly. Convinced that Europe has emptied its arsenals to help Ukraine and is therefore vulnerable, Kremlin talking heads have argued that other European countries should be wiped off the map as well.
On Wednesday, during the morning show Full Contact, Russia's leading propagandist, state TV host Vladimir Solovyov, asked: "Should the Ukrainian nation continue to exist? My answer is that in its current state it should not. No! A nation whose ideology poses a danger to us, cannot exist beside us."
He added: "I am convinced that we have entered a period of colossal geopolitical changes. Many random entities, incapable of their own statehood, may not survive this era. By this I mean the Baltic States and the whole of Europe. I do not think that European borders in their current configuration will exist any longer long. I see no reason why they should."
...Referring to the morality or humanity of the Kremlin is pointless. Putin's Russia is not limited by lofty ideals, but only by its possibilities. Discussions by the West about the possibility of leaving Ukraine and forcing it into a peace deal with Russia are encouraging Moscow to expand its offensive by military or non-military means.
Those who hope to appease her are making a grave mistake; if they give in to the regime, it will only demand more.
With more than 300,000 Russian servicemen dead and wounded in Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine, you might think his propagandists would exhibit some humility when discussing the utility of war as a policy tool. You’d be wrong.
Instead, the Kremlin’s mouthpieces have interpreted signals of Western hesitation in the funding of their Ukrainian ally as a weakness. Putin’s people have seized on hints that the West is pressing Ukraine to consider negotiations to formalize its division as a green light to go much further. Why not grab even more, they ask?
And if these sound like the typical statements of over-heated spokespeople, bear in mind that they broadly accord with Russia’s December 2021 demands that the US effectively abandon NATO’s newer members, like the Baltic states and Poland. It is also worth remembering that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was likewise discussed and openly plotted for years on state-run media, after which it actually happened.
Appearing on the Own Truth show on NTV last Friday, writer Dmitry Lekuh said that Poland is “the next candidate to be thrown under Russian tanks.” He asserted that “dividing Poland between Russia and Germany is our national pastime.”
Lekuh bemoaned the fact that Germany is “no longer the same,” a reference to Nazi Germany’s alliance with the Soviet Union in 1939 in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. As so often with Kremlin propagandists, the logic was blurry — Russia pining for its Nazi German allies hardly accords with its stated pretext for aggression against Ukraine; that it was clearing the country of supposed Nazis.
Appearing on state television, pundits and lawmakers alike insisted that Russia is not interested in negotiations and simply cannot allow Ukraine’s sovereign existence to continue. Convinced that Europe had emptied its arsenals to help Ukraine, and were thus vulnerable, the Kremlin’s talking heads asserted that other European countries should also be removed from the map.
During his morning show Full Contact on Wednesday, Russia’s leading propagandist, the state TV host Vladimir Solovyov, asked: “Should the Ukrainian nation continue to exist? My response is, in its current state, it should not. No! A nation whose ideology poses a danger to us cannot exist next to us.”
He added, “I believe we have entered a period of colossal geopolitical change. Many accidental formations, incapable of their own statehood, may not survive this era. By that, I mean the Baltic states and all of Europe. I don’t think that the European borders in their current configuration will continue to exist much longer. I don’t see any reason why they would.”
Moscow mouthpieces do not limit themselves to the redrawing of European maps. Another favored theme has been the need to punish Russian exiles and so-called enemies of the state through assassination.
And as with their ruminations on future wars, their demands often become real. On November 28, Ukraine’s intelligence service reported that a number of people, including SBU head Kyrylo Budanov’s wife, Marianna Budanova, had been hospitalized due to suspected heavy metals poisoning.
This is an old and familiar path for Russia. As far back as the 1930s and 1940s, Stalin’s henchmen led by the legendary spymaster Pavel Sudoplatov, plotted and carried out assassinations of individuals including Leon Trotsky. In more recent years, Russian assassins have used radioactive and nerve agents in the UK and in Russia itself.
It is a campaign that has been warmly embraced. The idea has been promulgated in the state media since at least 2022, with one pundit suggesting that the US needed “hundreds” of coffins draped in the Stars and Stripes as a wake-up call. Guests on Solovyov’s show advocated either kidnapping Russia’s enemies in Ukraine or killing them on the spot. State Duma Deputy Andrey Gurulyov articulated the fate that should befall Russia’s enemies: “As Iosif Vissarionovich [Stalin] said, “No man, no problem. Enemies of the Motherland have to be destroyed.”
In February, appearing on The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Institute of the Middle East, asserted: “If Europe is a garden, parasites in the garden should be exterminated.” Making sure that the metaphor wasn’t lost on the viewers, Solovyov quickly added, “I think this is the anniversary of Mercader,” a reference to Ramon Mercader, the NKVD agent who used an ice pick to assassinate Trotsky in Mexico City in 1940.
Professor Alexander Kamkin, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, echoed Satanovsky and stressed, “Parasites in the garden can be chemically exterminated or you can use a good hoe or an ice pick and destroy them selectively.”
In May 2023, the head of RT Margarita Simonyan openly called for the assassination of the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, again invoking Sudoplatov’s name.
So it’s hardly surprising that the fate of Marianna Budanova prompted lukewarm denials, accompanied by sly smirks and knowing glances.
State TV show 60 Minutes invited none other than the notorious State Duma Deputy Andrey Lugovoy — identified by a British judge as one of Alexander Litvinenko’s 2006 assassins in London — to discuss Budanova’s poisoning. Lugovoy was all smiles, right along with the hosts Olga Skabeeva and Evgeny Popov, who smirkingly and half-heartedly denied that Russia would resort to such “old-fashioned” methods as poisoning, and insisting instead that it would take out Budanov and others using some unnamed “high-tech” means.
The bottom line is that none of Putin’s propagandists are talking for the sake of talking. These figures articulate the ideas contemplated by the regime they serve, with whom they socialize, and from whom they take orders.
Appealing to the morality or humanity of the Kremlin is an exercise in futility. Putin’s Russia is not constrained by high ideals but only by its capabilities. Western discussions about the possibility of abandoning Ukraine and forcing it into a peace deal with Russia encourage Moscow to expand its offensive, by military or non-military means.
Those who hope to appease it are making a profound mistake; give ground to the regime, and it will only demand more.