Putin’s War to Increase the Number of Ethnic Russians in Russia Backfires

Putin’s War to Increase the Number of Ethnic Russians in Russia Backfires. By Jim Dunnigan.

When Putin became the Russian leader in 1999, there were 117 million ethnic Russians who formed 80 percent of the population. The other 20 percent were various “less reliable” minorities. That included Ukrainians. By 2020 there were 109 million ethnic Russians and 24 percent of the population was non-Russian. …

Currently Russia is forcibly moving over a million Ukrainians to Russia. About ten percent of these forced migrants are children that are to be raised by Russian families as Russians. That might work with the younger children, but those ten or older have been resisting this forced change. Adults want no part of becoming Russian and that is why many were moved to remote (from Ukraine) parts of Russia.

The Russians who have left since 1999 are largely better educated, more affluent and looking for a place to settle for good. In 2022 half a million of these Russians fled to Europe or Central Asian states that were once part of the Soviet Union. …

Putin was conscripting migrants from Central Asia as well as those in Russia as temporary workers. These non-Russians were angry at being forced into the army and many went back to Central Asia when they saw what was happening. Few of these older “mobilized” men made good soldiers and those sent to Ukraine were often untrained and poorly equipped. Their usefulness in combat was dismal.

The Russians who fled are starting businesses and the Central Asian governments appreciate this. Some may return if Putin is replaced by someone who is less lethal to young Russians and the economy. The Russian expatriates have cash and skills that are quickly put to work improving the local economy. This was in sharp contrast to the 1990s, when many Russians living in these former parts of the Soviet Union found themselves under pressure to leave. Now a new generation with no memory of the Soviet Union welcomes these affluent and talented foreigners. …

The invasion has unified Ukrainians as Ukrainians in ways that no one, Russian or Ukrainian, ever expected. Despite what Putin said, most Russians considered the fighting in Ukraine a foreign war against a very adept and motivated people.

Putin blamed it all on the West, especially the NATO alliance. Ukrainians were not eager to join NATO until the 2014 attack, now they are an unofficial NATO member and expect to formalize that when their NATO-supported war is over.

Between 2014 and 2021 NATO provided considerable assistance to transform Ukraine’s Soviet-era military into a force that thought and fought like NATO troops did. This meant better training and leadership as well as more flexible tactics. This played a major role in the unexpectedly rapid defeat of the Russian invaders and the superior performance of the Ukrainians on the offensive.

Because of heavy losses and the poor quality of replacement troops, the Russians find themselves, nine months later, outnumbered by better trained, armed and led Ukrainian forces that also have a lot of combat experience. This is why Putin has resorted to attacks on Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure (electricity, water and transportation). To do that Russia had to buy cruise missiles from Iran and artillery ammo from North Korea because Russian production was crippled by sanctions.

Despite government censorship and control over mass media, Russians still find out about what is happening in Ukraine. The government suppressed public protests with mass arrests and jail sentences. That led to clandestine attacks (usually fire bombs) 0n military mobilization officers and lots of anti-war and anti-Putin graffiti. Other Russians simply left Russia. That exodus was so massive and sustained that it defeated Putin’s campaign to make Russia more Russian.

Wrong tactics for this century.