BELGRADE – SERBIA

500+ participants / 80+ speakers / 20+ panels
BSC2023

11-13 OCTOBER / HOTEL HYATT

Lasting Peace for Ukraine is Only Possible When the Authoritarian Regime in Russia Ceases to Exist

October 27, 2022 by BSC
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This panel shed light on the attitudes of Russian society and elites towards the war against Ukraine to better understand the extent of support for the regime, Putin himself, and the war. A key question the panel addressed was how Russian society has responded to the last few months of full-scale war, including the consequences this war and sanctions have had on daily life in Russia. Panelists also discussed prospects for a possible regime change in Russia and what impact this could have on both Ukrainian and global security.  

Andrei Illarionov, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Security Policy, astutely noted that the war against Ukraine must be understood as an imperialist one:  

“This is not only an imperial war against Ukraine, but it is part of a larger imperial war that includes aggressions against Georgia, Moldova and other countries and also against freedom generally”, stated Illarionov.  

He highlighted some factors that could determine the possible duration of the Russian aggression: the supply of military equipment, the extent of mobilization, and military expenditure. A Ukrainian victory would require a serious stepping up of military aid by its partners to balance out clear disadvantages in both funding and firepower. 

The panel’s moderator, Natasha Yefimova-Trilling from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, delved deeper into the exploration of factors within Russia that enable the continuation of conflict. Independent analyst Alexandra Prokopenko emphasized the importance of the role of elites, which she has researched. Prokopenko pointed out that Russian technocrats can be divided into two camps: one that supports the war, and one that is rather unenthusiastic. In connection with Russian society at-large, “recent polls show 60% of Russians would support a new attack on Kyiv, but more than 75% would support the end of the war.” This reflects that Russian society does not have an explicit stance on the war, but generally supports the government line. 

Maksim Samorukov, fellow at the Carnegie Europe, agreed on this point and highlighted that many Russians follow an instinct to support their own country, an attitude that results from Soviet heritage. He added that recent public opinion polls show that up to 80% of Russians still support the war, but noted that they are not enthusiastic about it. He stressed the differences between younger and older generations and then continued: “Russian propaganda is strictly aimed at older generations; younger Russians are less supportive of the war”.   

Finally, the panelists discussed possible prospects for change within Russian society. They largely agreed that lasting peace for Ukraine is only possible when the authoritarian regime in Russia ceases to exist. They also highlighted that regime change is unlikely at this moment. The more likely option is a successor to Putin that might be less obsessed with Ukraine and pursue a more collective leadership. Such a leader, however, will nonetheless stand for the continuation of authoritarianism in Russia.