Russia ‘takes off the gloves’

Gilbert Doctorow

In my last essay, I devoted considerable attention to commentary by the host of the leading political talk show on Russia’s state television Friday night with respect to the country’s obvious military setback in the Kharkov front, which still had not yet reached its culmination in the evacuation of the strategic town of Izyum and the withdrawal from a vast territory in the neighborhood measuring 3,000 square kilometers. As I noted, Vladimir Solovyov was likely speaking on behalf of the Kremlin when he said Russia was now fighting NATO, not just Ukraine, and it was time to escalate to all out war.

The notion that these talk shows have relevance to conduct of the war was disputed by a few readers in comments posted on my website. They remarked that ‘talk is cheap,’ and that such shows in no way influence what the President of the country does. That in itself is a challenge to my long-standing characterization of such shows: I have said in the past that they reflect the thinking of Russian social elites who set limits on what the Kremlin can or cannot do without running unacceptable political risks.

Under present conditions of war censorship, I believe the producers of the best of these shows strictly control who says what about the war, assigning roles before they go on air, so as not to cross red lines by giving unwanted advice to the Commander-in-Chief and reserving for the host and select panelists ideas coming from Putin and his closest advisers. To those readers who might object that such shows were always stage managed, I say ‘no’ on the basis of my own experience going back to 2016 as a guest panelist on the talk shows of all the state and private Russian channels, including once on the Solovyov show: these live shows were uncensored; you could take the question given you and run with it in any direction without fear of being cut off the air. But that was then…


Categories: Geopolitics

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