Russia will be a 'pariah state in the eyes of many people forever' and there'll be no 'starting over' while Putin is still in charge, expert says

Russia will be a 'pariah state in the eyes of many people forever' and there'll be no 'starting over' while Putin is still in charge, expert says
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur Region, Russia, on April 12, 2022.Sputnik/Evgeny Biyatov/Kremlin via Reuters
  • President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine has upended Russia's international and domestic affairs.
  • Reports suggest concerns about the invasion are growing even within the Kremlin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is facing increasing animosity both abroad and at home as his war in Ukraine approaches two full months.

Experts cite strategy failures, mounting military losses, and the dire economic consequences of Western sanctions — all blamed almost entirely on Putin — as evidence painting a bleak picture of Russia's future.

"It's suicidally bad what he's doing to his country, its economy, and its standing in the world," said Robert English, a professor at the University of Southern California who studies Russia, the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe.

The longtime Russian leader's decisions on the Ukraine invasion face rising scrutiny as a small but growing number of Kremlin insiders have started to express doubts about the war.

Ten sources with direct knowledge of the conflict conveyed their concerns to Bloomberg this month, saying they regarded the invasion as a catastrophic mistake that'd set the country back decades. The report described the critics as spread across senior positions in government and state-run businesses.


While Putin continues to present a confident front — hand-waving the true cost of Western sanctions and dismissing the political consequences of war — some Russia insiders are said to be losing faith.

English says they have good reason to do so. He said Putin's foray into Ukraine had already proved more costly for Russia than the Soviet Union's nearly 10-year war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

"The USSR lost around 15,000-plus soldiers in Afghanistan in a decade of fighting," English said. "And that was enough to be considered a 'bleeding wound,"' he added. "Putin has lost close to that amount in one month — not one year, much less 10 years — but in one month."

"So, his reckoning is coming much more quickly," English added.

Moscow acknowledged in late March — its most recent update — that 1,351 of its troops had been killed and 3,825 others wounded in the invasion. NATO estimates put the likely death toll closer to 15,000, while Ukraine says it has killed nearly 20,000 Russian troops.


But the cost of Putin's war goes beyond the battlefield

Ordinary Russians are beginning to feel the economic pinch of tough Western sanctions. Putin has conceded that sanctions have started to upset the country's energy industry but has publicly maintained that Russia's economy has not been undermined as a result.

The head of Russia's central bank, however, warned that the full impact of sanctions had not yet been felt, and Moscow's mayor said this week that 200,000 residents could lose their jobs with Western companies pulling out of the country en masse.

"He's set the country back economically," English said. "It's losing all of its important trade ties and its resource customers in the West."

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development estimated last month that Russia's gross domestic product — a popular measure of the size of an ecomony — would shrink by 10% this year.

Even as Russia readjusts its military strategy, pulling back from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and focusing attacks on eastern Ukraine as part of its "new phase" of the war, English said the damage to Russia's international and domestic standing had already been done.


"Russia will be a pariah state in the eyes of many people forever — but at least for a decade to come," he said. "Until Putin goes, there'll be no sense of cleansing and starting over."

But experts and insiders have also said Putin is unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon. Bloomberg's sources said Putin viewed himself as being on a historic mission — one he is said to believe has the Russian public's support.