The humiliating defeats of Russia’s Armed Forces in Ukraine are prompting the Kremlin’s mouthpieces to propose increasingly violent tactics. Lobbying for a “scorched earth” policy on state television, Russian pundits and expert guests have been openly comparing the Ukrainian battleground to Chechnya, Syria, and even the infamous Beslan school massacre, where Russian special forces killed many hostages along with their terrorist captors.
Appearing on Wednesday’s broadcast of the state TV show 60 Minutes, military expert Igor Korotchenko said: “This is a new reality, which is why we should be acting quickly, harshly and uncompromisingly. First of all, we need to scale up our strikes against critical infrastructure in such a way that one region after the next, one district after another, Ukraine is plunged into darkness... By December, 20 million residents of Ukraine should flee to the West, to the European Union. This is our goal and the task we should accomplish.”
Korotchenko proposed: “Perhaps we should openly declare: ‘Leave. Zelensky is turning this territory into a real hell. No one knows what will happen here next. Twenty million, go to Europe.’ After that, we sink region after region into darkness. This is our enemy nation, the modern Third Reich, and we should act accordingly.”
Similar proposals permeated Russian airwaves, with experts arguing that the rules of the civilized world prohibiting war crimes are merely recommendations, compliance with which is optional. On Monday, appearing on The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, Andrey Sidorov, deputy dean of world politics at the Moscow State University, explained why those international conventions are irrelevant: “The rules of war, according to international conventions, are of an advisory nature: not to strike [certain objects], if possible. But it’s no longer possible.”
Appearing on the show The Meeting Place on Monday, Bogdan Bezpalko, member of the Council for Interethnic Relations under the President of the Russian Federation, argued: “As far as what needs to be done, as I previously said, we need to strike the infrastructure—which can’t be separated into military and civilian. If all of Ukraine is plunged into cold and darkness, if they have no fuel, reserve armies won’t help them and no one will be able to deliver equipment or ammunition... These strikes should go on for two, three, five or six months in a row, leaving not one gas station intact.”
Konstantin Zatulin, deputy chairman of the committee of the State Duma for the CIS, said on 60 Minutes: “This military operation—or this war—is entering another phase... The idea that we could achieve a victory with little blood or one massive strike is now in the past... Last week, there was a widespread message—everywhere, except for our television— that this is no time to celebrate, while we’re experiencing difficulties and failures at the battlefront, while we’re retreating... We are pondering what they will do. We need to overcome that... because victory is our only option.”
Host Olga Skabeeva cautioned: “Don’t scare our people prematurely, as I understand you’re talking about the possibility of mobilization.” Even the most gung-ho propagandists admit that the Russian society would be deeply unsettled at the thought of total military mobilization, and that the country’s economy is not currently equipped for such a step. The only alternative proposed by the state TV’s talking heads is inflicting utter devastation upon Ukraine.
Professor Alexei Fenenko, leading research fellow at the Institute of International Security Studies, attempted to lay the blame for Russia’s increasing brutality upon the United States. With images of the city of Mosul in ruins playing on the screen, Fenenko claimed: “After February 24, they waited for us to do this to key cities in Ukraine. Then they would have said, ‘Yes, those guys are strong.’” Without a hint of self-awareness, Skabeeva noted that the bodies of the dead were left on the streets of Mosul, to decay in plain sight. Fenenko noted that this gesture was meant as a message to other enemies.
Neither Skabeeva nor Fenenko made any mention of the horrific scenes in Ukraine that unfolded in recent months, when the retreating Russian troops left multiple corpses of Ukrainian civilians on the streets of Bucha, and scores of massacred civilians in other towns and cities.
Fenenko argued that in order to be respected by the United States, Russia has to reduce much of Ukraine to rubble. He said that America respects only those who can inflict devastating damage upon their adversaries: “Either you can do this to your enemies, or else you’re a nobody. If you can’t do it, you’re a coward and a loser.”