President Vladimir Putin reminded the world on Friday that he presides over a nuclear-armed state while declaring that Russia isn’t planning on involving itself in “large scale conflicts”.
Referring to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, President Putin said that it would be best “not to mess with us”. Actually, the Russian president referred to the separatist fighters as “New Russia” militants and compared their struggle to the Soviet citizen’s heroic resistance in face of the Nazi siege on Leningrad.
President Putin’s statement came a day after U.S President Barack Obama warned Russia about the costs that would arise if its government decides on deepening its involvement in the Ukrainian conflict. Putin’s comments cast the entire Ukrainian conflict as a WWII-like aggression.
President Obama now appealed to Russian public opinion after realizing that, most certainly, he won’t be able to bring Putin to the negotiating table. While the U.S. are trying to appeal to the Russian public, the Kremlin leader is also waging a campaign meant to spark the Russian’s nationalist pride at its lost superpower status.
During a visit to a Kremlin-sponsored youth camp, Putin defiantly thanked the world’s nations for not unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. He then directly reminded the world’s nations that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.
Following Russia’s actions in Ukraine, President Barack Obama announced that new and harsher economic sanctions would befall Russia after NATO released surveillance images proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Russian armored columns have crossed into Ukrainian territory.
The United States are now attempting to increase Russian fears that the March annexation of the Crimea province (which resulted in a significant boost in Putin’s approval ratings) could result in a bloody and lengthy war.
In the meantime, the U.N. has released new death toll reports and as of Wednesday, more than 2,593 lives were lost in the wake of this bloody conflict. The report was written by the Office of the Hich Commissioner for Human Rights and accused the involved parties of having inflicted intolerable hardships on the civilian population. Currently, 36 civilians are being killed daily.
The cost to Russian society is also dear: independent reporters noted that they encountered issues when checking relatives’ reports connected to killed paratroopers who had been secretly buried near Pskov.
Steven Pifer, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, notes that president Putin’s support could be undermined if civilian casualties begin to accumulate. In fact, some polls show that as many as 90% of Russians oppose a war in Ukraine.