“Any concession would strengthen the president, and then the worst could not be ruled out,” said Abbas Gallyamov, who wrote the Russian president’s speeches. If, on the other hand, Europe resists, “after the winter the Tsar could be replaced”. Italian populists and Eurosceptics “important pawns for the Kremlin”.
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“Winter is coming”: the motto of the Stark family in the TV series “Game of Thrones” has for some time become the pay-off of Vladimir Putin’s Russian propaganda. It is repeated in the posts of the Moscow embassies in the West and in advertising films produced by the Foreign Ministry (Mid). It is a cynical reminder of the gas blackmail with which the Kremlin tries to check Europe. Well, if you want to avoid the total war between the “white walkers” and “Westeros”, that is, between the “white shadows” of the north – which by the way are really ugly types in the television series – and the “Western Continent” , it is better to resist blackmail. Word of one the Kremlin knows him well: Abbas Gallyamov was among the Russian president’s speechwriters. For three years she wrote his speeches about him. “If Europe demonstrates weakness and makes concessions in exchange for energy supplies, Putin will strengthen and remain in command. And the conflict in Ukraine will risk turning into World War III, ”Gallyamov told Fanpage.it. “If, on the other hand, Europe resists the blackmail of gas, the Kremlin leader after the winter will be weaker, and he could be replaced”. We reached Abbas Gallyamov by phone in Tel Aviv, where he emigrated in 2020 due to his dissent from the regime currently in power at home.
The route of Putin’s armed forces to Izyum caused discontent among the elites, the Russian media reported, citing sources close to power. While the advisers of dozens of districts of the big cities, peons of politics in close contact with the common people, are demanding the impeachment of the president. Are the criticisms of the war in Ukraine weakening him? Is there a possibility of a people-backed palace uprising?
The withdrawal to Ukraine is not necessarily the harbinger of a revolt against Putin, but it is certainly a step in that direction. It is a bad blow to the image of constant winner that the president has built. And it’s a bad blow to his legitimacy. But Putin is still powerfully rooted in the political system created around him. So I don’t think this isolated episode will be immediately followed by a revolt, a coup.
Putin has lost strength and legitimacy, he said. Can he find them?
If he manages to stabilize the situation on the battlefield, if the Ukrainian forces do not continue their offensive, then this will be an excellent argument to be used to pacify both the elites and the public. Above all, the president is trying to convince everyone that Europe will remain frozen this winter, without Russian gas and oil. And that he will finally have to yield to his will, stopping the sending of arms and all support to Ukraine.
So the Kremlin is betting everything on winter?
I think we managed to convince the elite and the population to wait until after the winter. And this feeling of traditional obedience, which is surely weakening but still present, could cause you to agree to wait. It is certainly the best thing, from the point of view of the men of the Kremlin. Because they don’t know exactly what to do. This is not the time to move the waters inside the palace.
But if Europe, albeit cold, resisted the blackmail of gas, the winter would end up undermining Putin’s legitimacy – according to his reasoning.
And in this case, anything could happen inside the Kremlin. I don’t think there would be a real revolt. But the people around Putin could convince him to step aside to make way for a successor. So it will be the successor who will have to deal with the existing problems. But that won’t happen until next March. They will wait. At least for the winter. Hoping that the gas and oil weapon will make Russia and its current regime stronger.
So it will be important to see what the European Union decides on Russian gas and oil this winter. It is one of the main reasons for the election campaign in Italy.
Italy from this point of view is very important for Putin. Because in European countries the Italian public opinion is the one that sympathizes most with him and least with Ukraine. So he hopes that the populist and Eurosceptic parties that may already be part of the next ruling coalition will take a further boost when winter comes and people are cold. Leading to energy measures capable of serving the Kremlin’s interests.CopyAMP code.
What are the leaders of Russian politics wondering right now, after the defeat on the battlefield? Whether to make a mass mobilization? Unleashing a world war? Using nuclear weapons?
They wonder what to do to stop the Ukrainian offensive. And they certainly question the advisability of a mass mobilization. But it’s a pretty risky option. It is not at all clear how many new soldiers it can provide. Rather, it could cause street protests. Because people don’t want to go to war even now that volunteers are paid a lot of money, for the parameters of Russian salaries (according to the BBC, volunteers are also offered 4,000 euros a month plus allowances and bonuses – ed). And why should one go to the front even for free? Especially now, when it is obvious that the possibility of being killed or becoming disabled is very realistic. War is becoming less and less popular. There are very few who would agree to go and die. The whole Kremlin narrative about “denazification” and demilitarization of Ukraine is more or less compelling when the war is being won and they can see the hits on television sitting on the couch. But when you have to get up and go to fight, you need much more solid arguments. Mass mobilization is indeed an impractical alternative for the Kremlin.
And is widening the conflict into a world war a concrete alternative, if winter strengthens Russia? The regime’s narrative has been preparing for such an eventuality for months. In the talk shows of state TV it is repeated every day that in fact the Third World War has already begun. And Russia’s nuclear power and its destructive capacity are continually evoked.
Nothing can be ruled out when it comes to Putin. The enlargement of the war to NATO countries, the world war, is a possibility, should the regime recover its strength. And the use of nuclear warheads is also a possibility, as long as the regime feels strong.
Would they really do that?
Prudence would probably prevail. People who have to decide have families. They don’t want to sacrifice themselves and their families in a nuclear catastrophe. Above all, when you are weak – as Putin is compared to a few years ago – your direct subordinates do not necessarily obey you. And if they don’t, it could result in a coup that causes you to lose power. Only if Putin felt strong would the hypothesis risk coming true.
Is the rhetoric of nuclear war directed more at the internal audience or the external audience?
It is aimed at the Ukrainian, European and American audiences. And so far the blackmail has failed. For the internal audience, on the other hand, we now need facts. Propaganda is no longer enough. You can no longer just summon threats against what it knows going on in reality as your defenses are attacked and destroyed. The nuclear threat becomes completely inadequate. Words don’t work anymore. The internal audience must be shown that Ukrainian tanks are indeed stopped. In any way. This is also why the situation is increasingly dangerous.
You were among Vladimir Putin’s “spin doctors” from 2007 to 2010. You have had close contact with him. What type were you in those years and how much did you change?
He was a completely rational and functional person. A good top manager, who delegated responsibilities to his collaborators, he knew what questions to ask and listened attentively to the answers. He showed a total fit for his role. I never expected it to become what it has become.