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Did Putin finally break?

Vladimir Putin has been relatively absent from the world stage, and Russia’s failing war in Ukraine isn’t the only indication of Putin’s downfall.

On November 14, 2022, it was reported that the Kremlin is considering cancelling Putin’s annual press conference. This comes as big news considering other recent developments regarding the Russian state, specifically a military withdrawal from Kherson and Putin’s absence from the G20 summit.

Additionally, Putin’s annual press conference tends to be an event that gathers a lot of attention, not just from Russians. Much like America’s State of the Union address, Putin’s annual press conferences tend to be dramatic events that highlight perceived victories, concerns, or future goals for the state. It is an opportunity to make grand statements and reinvigorate the nation.

That may not be on the table this year.

To highlight the significance of the event, last year Putin notoriously used his speech to condemn NATO as imperialist, stating that “NATO must halt its further expansion to the East, primarily into Ukraine. The West is putting Ukraine into the center of global security with its efforts.” Mind you, this came at a time of massive troop build-ups on the Ukrainian border (with the aid of Belarus I might add). Only a short time after, in February of 2022, did Putin finally invade Ukraine.

So, for Putin to cancel his annual speech is quite a shocking surprise, and perhaps one indicative of a crisis at Russia’s highest level. I think two things could be at play here, either exclusive of one another or paired.

Putin was always a mystery to the West — almost charming — and foreign policy writers loved to write about his past, his policy, and his unpredictability. Why? Because behind the mystery of intentions laid a Cold War-esque interpretation of what Russia was capable of.

Red Square parades were the best example of this “Russian Might” but Ukraine has shown that perhaps that perception was inflated (at least when we look at it excluding nuclear weapons).

SIDENOTE: If you don’t believe in the media infatuation with Putin’s mystique, then look at this cover.

2. Putin may be unwell

For months now, the media have been reporting the possibility that Putin was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and only recently, other reports have suggested he may also be receiving cancer treatment.

Putin has been less visible since the first signs of defeat in Ukraine, and to skip out on G20, and potentially the annual press conference, is a sign that he may remain more reclusive indefinitely.

I think whatever conclusions are to be made, the Russian state is in a desperate position, having failed to meet its targets in Ukraine and being unexpectedly crippled by economic sanctions because of it; I simply do not think Putin has anything to say to Russians — or the world — that would remain convincing.

UPDATE: November 25, 2022

A clip from a CSTO meeting suggests Putin — along with his Belarussian proxy, Lukashenko — does not have the total control we are made to believe.

The video is certainly interesting, and radical conclusions can be quickly made. Best to take it with a grain of salt.

If you enjoyed this piece, consider following The Countermeasure here on Medium or on Twitter (@thecmeasure).

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