Nearly eight weeks into the Russian invasion, a small but growing number of senior Kremlin insiders are questioning Putin’s decision to go to war in Ukraine. They fear that the invasion is a “catastrophic mistake” that will shake the country for years to come. Bloomberg News was able to speak to ten insiders about their concerns. They did so anonymously, fearing reprisals.
Support for the war remains strong among a large part of the Russian elite. Publicly and privately, they embrace the Kremlin’s narrative that conflict with the West is inevitable and that the Russian economy will adjust to sweeping sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.
However, more and more insiders are convinced that the ongoing war will condemn Russia to years of isolation and heightened tensions that will bring the economy to a standstill, threaten security and collapse global influence. They fear the invasion would be a “catastrophic mistake”.
A few big businessmen have covered up questioning the Kremlin’s strategy, but many powerful players are afraid to express their concerns publicly.
Senior officials – according to those familiar with the situation – have tried to explain to the president that the economic impact of the sanctions will be so devastating that two decades of growth and high living standards will be wiped out.
But insiders said Putin ignored the warnings, saying that while Russia would pay a heavy price, the West left him no choice but to go to war. The president remains convinced that the people are behind him, and the Russians are willing to endure years of sacrifice for the sake of his vision of national greatness.
Putin is increasingly counting on a shrinking circle of hardliners. He is also determined to keep fighting. Those in the know believe that the Russian president will not surrender and will not risk losing power for the time being.
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