June 8, 2022

Team Putin Dishes on the Moment They Could Win It All

With Vladimir Putin’s bloody war in Ukraine crossing the 100-day mark, the Kremlin seems to be abandoning any pretense of diplomacy. There are several reasons Moscow aborted its initial half-hearted attempts to negotiate with Ukraine, including tangible gains on the battlefront and Western media’s waning attention span. But if Russian state TV is any indication, another reason Putin’s regime is now rejecting the idea of a diplomatic resolution has to do with the approaching midterm elections in the United States.

During the latest broadcast of state TV show Sunday Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, participants discussed the price Russia would ultimately have to pay for its intended conquest of Ukraine. Across various state media outlets, the U.S. midterm elections have been mentioned as a potential saving grace that could halt American support of Ukraine and loosen the screws of sanctions against Russia. During Solovyov’s show, Andrey Sidorov, deputy dean of world politics at Moscow State University, asked: “Are we going to count on their electoral issues? Will anything change if Republicans prevail in November in the United States?”

The host, Vladimir Solovyov, responded enthusiastically. “Yes, yes, a lot will change. They will calmly say, ‘Why do we need to be involved and send so much of our own money?’” Russian state media has been frequently airing statements showing dissent within the Republican party with respect to U.S. support for Ukraine, often featuring clips from Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News, as well as comments made during public hearings and media appearances by former U.S. President Donald Trump, former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Senator Rand Paul, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Congressman Matt Gaetz.

Echoing popular Republican talking points on Ukraine, Solovyov predicted: “Republicans will come and say, why the hell do we need a corrupt, Nazi Ukraine? They will ask: whom are we supporting? Yes, Russia is bad and the sanctions will stay, but why do we need to keep throwing so much money over there? Our schools lack funding, we have plenty of our own problems. Instead of fortifying the border with Mexico, helping our small businesses, we’ve given that money to corrupt Ukraine and no one knows where it went.”

So far, Western appeals for diplomacy seem to have only encouraged Russia to escalate its military offensive, since they’re perceived as a sign of desperation. During Sunday’s broadcast of Solovyov’s show, Sidorov explained: “In my opinion, the talks about negotiations are designed to keep this conflict going. A ceasefire is needed to secure the transition from Soviet-type weapons of the Ukrainian forces—which they’ve already run out of—to Western types of arms. They need time. They need corridors through which to move them. Under no circumstances should we agree to negotiate.”

Solovyov concurred. “We don’t need any kind of negotiations, because time is on our side and the tempo is working in our favor… They’re arming [Ukrainians] with NATO systems… if they get some howitzers from here, some howitzers from over there, who is going to repair them?” he said. “If you train artillery specialists, but then you find out that you need not only ammunition, but spare parts and repairmen, you need power supply, you need to maintain the whole system… it’s a headache… They need years to deal with this and not just a ceasefire.”

It’s like the floodgates have been opened.

On Monday’s The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, the host introduced a clip from an old favorite of Russian state media—Tucker Carlson: “Let me show you how Biden is being kicked around by Tucker Carlson of Fox News.” In the clip, Carlson ridiculed U.S. President Joe Biden for being unable to destroy the Russian economy, “in retaliation for installing Donald Trump as president.” Solovyov compared Carlson’s diatribe to that of the Chinese government officials—a dubious honor for any self-respecting American television host. Aside from the statement about Trump’s election, the rhetoric cited by Solovyov nearly mimicked Carlson’s claims about the booming Russian economy, allegedly thriving despite Western sanctions. While the Russian economy is struggling, Kremlin-funded media re-broadcasts useful agitprop from foreign entities to convince the public that everything is going according to plan.

It’s clear that western media coverage has played a major role in Moscow’s thinking. During Tuesday’s broadcast, Solovyov explained: “We’re moving as fast as we can, based on the realities of the military circumstances and our intent to minimize our casualties. That’s why the mood in the West shifted so drastically. While in recent days they thought it was a done deal, now they want to negotiate and are telling Ukraine to accept the loss of its territories… The mood has certainly changed. This is a long-term war, not in terms of our special operation, but with regard to our war against the West—no doubt about it.”

“I’ll start by talking about who is losing the war, in terms of our confrontation with the West, although the main battles are only starting… just read the Western press, they’re all convinced that they’ve already lost,” Political analyst Dmitry Drobnitsky added. “It’s so surprising, I was amazed by this: there’s real panic… It’s like the floodgates have been opened.”

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