Illustrative photo – A view of the Moscow hall with the assembled lawmakers, to whom Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a State of the Union address on February 21, 2023.
Brno – According to political scientists, the year of war in Ukraine changed Russia, which found itself in international isolation, but also the Czech Republic, whose main political representatives condemned the aggression and managed to wean the country surprisingly quickly from dependence on Russian gas supplies. The war is probably not over yet and people should not expect a quick or unequivocal result, it was said today at a debate of political scientists at the Faculty of Social Studies of Masaryk University in Brno.
“I am afraid that we are not yet in the final phase. The conflict still has the potential for further development,” said political scientist Miroslav Mareš. For more reliable estimates, there is a lack of information about the exact situation in Russia, but also about the military condition of Ukraine. Mareš would not be surprised if the war reached the stage of a frozen conflict with a vaguely negotiated truce.
Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24 last year. However, the plan to quickly overthrow the Kyiv government did not work, and the Ukrainians were already able to push the Russians out of part of the occupied territories, also thanks to material and financial aid from the European Union, the United States and other NATO countries. The West showed more than Russia expected, says Mareš. According to Mareš, if Russia succeeded in Ukraine, it would not stop there. Next in line could be Moldova or the Baltics.
Jan Holzer, an expert on the Russian political system and the post-Soviet space, pointed out how the declared goals of military actions in Ukraine and the internal atmosphere in Russia have changed over the past year. What began as a special operation, which, according to official statements, should not have involved ordinary Russians, resulted in the mobilization of soldiers and public opinion. The new enemy is no longer the alleged banders in Ukraine, but the “collective West” as Russia's supposed age-old counterpart.
According to Holzer, Russia is visibly closing in. It is not just the result of pressure from the international community. “Russia has kind of accepted it, they're trying to make a virtue out of it,” Holzer said.
According to Mareš, the Russians are indeed surprised by the reaction of the West, but at the same time they hope that they will manage to find weak points in Western unity and “break” some states. According to him, they have, for example, some support from the Hungarian government. Russia is closely monitoring the situation in Slovakia, for example. “They see that another weak link may appear there after the elections, they see strong allies there. In other countries, including the Czech Republic, the allies disappointed them by being weak,” said Mareš.
Czech reaction to the war and the support of Ukraine as the attacked party is assessed by Mareš as correct in principle. Even during its presidency in the EU, according to Mareš, the Czech Republic got rid of the reputation of a “troublemaker” and improved its position in the international field. “The interim policy towards Ukraine is one of the star hours of Czech politics, although there are also some smears,” said Mareš.
According to political scientists, internal developments in Russia are somewhat shrouded in fog, it is difficult to verify information there now and dates. However, it seems that a nationalist rather than a liberal opposition is becoming active. Anti-war demonstrations from last February or March have been suppressed, many people have been intimidated by the ruling forces in Russia, many have gone abroad.
Holzer has long been skeptical of democratization tendencies and the possibility of a pro-Western opposition taking power in Russia. According to him, just look at the history of Russia. “Why should any Russian democracy ever come into being? Feel free to keep dreaming, but then don't be surprised,” he said.