Andrey Makarychev: “Russia underestimated the Ukrainian resistance”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is getting more complicated as the days go by and Putin’s anger is causing great human and material losses in the country. According to the UN, more than 1,500 civilians have lost their lives in this war and more than 5 million will leave the country in the coming weeks. Andrei Makarychev, A political analyst specializing in Russia, he participated this Saturday in Barcelona in a meeting organized by CIDOB, of which he is a senior associate researcher, on the new era of Europe.

What do you think led Putin to start this war?

I think it was a combination of different factors, but the sum of something that has been brewing for years, such as the growth of NATO and more current threats. Even so, it does not have a rational explanation, this war will be remembered in history as the most irrational in recent times. Even inside Russia, Putin’s threats were not seen as anything more than a show of muscle. At best, he was expected to conduct military exercises leading to the annexation of Donetsk and Luhansk, but not what is happening.

Are people finding out what’s going on despite the censorship?

Anyone who wants to know what is happening has ways to do it, you can search for information on independent websites. The problem is that in Russia, half the population lives in the comfort bubble of supporting Putin. They are comfortable hearing only one side of the story. There are also those who do not dare to investigate further. It is normal. Right now even calling it “war” or showing support for Ukraine can carry sentences of between 15 and 20 years in prison.

Is fear then what prevents you from becoming aware?

It is one of the factors, but the attachment to the Government and its version is a reality. They don’t want to know more. In Russia they have always been fine, the government takes care of it, they have a relatively good standard of living, and the West is always the bad guy.

Will sanctions be enough pressure to end this war?

There is a big debate about it. It is clear that sanctions are essential because otherwise we would be giving Putin a free pass, but they will not work immediately. They will weaken the regime and make the Russian market suffer in the long run when sectors are badly affected. There will also be a lack of supplies from the West on which many Russian industries depend, and frozen fortunes abroad will cause people in power to lose money.

They seemed untouchable, do you think that now that the oligarchs suffer the consequences they will withdraw their support for Putin?

On the one hand, we must understand that this circle, this oligarchy, is something that is born from the Government. That is to say, they are people with a lot of assets but who are aware that this money is not entirely theirs because it comes from the Government. They are not families that have built an empire. And there is the mentality that as it is given, it can be lost. But on the other hand, we must bear in mind that it is a moment in which a “coup d’état” could take place. to call it something. Right now if someone stopped Putin it would be applauded even by the West. But it is only a hypothesis.

Do you think Putin expected the resistance he encountered in Ukraine?

If we look at the indirect evidence, it is clear that it is not. They sent their soldiers with food reserves for three or four days, as the Ukrainians have been able to verify when they have been arresting them. And they’re running out of fuel. That shows that they did not expect to be so many days. It was a miscalculation for underestimating the capabilities of the Ukrainian military response because the annexation of Crimea took place with little resistance. A mistake that Ukrainians will never forgive themselves for.

What would happen in the hypothetical case that Putin won the war?

We should expect strong internal resistance. This is another of Putin’s miscalculations in this war, he did not take into account the determination of the leaders of him. He thought that Zelensky was an exactor and that both he and his strong men would leave as soon as the war broke out. Instead, a president capable of mobilizing his country and becoming a leader for his people has been found.

What about the neighboring countries. They are in danger?

Belarus is the only country actually involved in the war, the rest are being careful not to give Russia reason to intervene. Putin would need too much force to extend his fight to the west.

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And Belarus, how much more of an ally country does it have than the next victim?

It would be very easy for Putin to invade and subdue Belarus, Lukashenko is politically weak and it would not be difficult for Putin to depose him. But Putin is somehow more interested in having an allied country that can vote or oppose certain decisions with him beyond annexing it as such. It is already a country subject to his will in practice, but that does not mean that at some point he will change his mind.

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