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A lost horrifying generation of veterans are coming home.
The horrific scenes coming out of Bucha, Irpen and other Ukrainian cities (see EDM, April 13) “not only make [Russian President Vladimir] Putin a war criminal,” Russian economist Vladislav Inozemtsev says, but “show ‘the quality’ of the Russian army.” The soldiers who serve in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are so undisciplined and prone to criminal actions that they will pose a serious threat to the country itself once hundreds of thousands of war veterans return home, Inozemtsev argues. The behavior of the Russian military is not that surprising in one sense, the expert writes. After all, it was sent to fight by an organized criminal group, the Putin regime; and “if one such group steals, why should the other not specialize in murders?” (Kasparov.ru, April 5).
But in thinking about the future, it should be obvious, he continues, that the several tens of thousands of Russian ruling elites will simply flee if and when Russia is defeated, whereas the much larger number of angry, traumatized, and physically and psychologically damaged veterans of the Ukrainian war will not. And the latter’s presence will bleed back into broader Russian society in horrific ways. Consequently, “even if Putin meets his next birthday in The Hague or does not live that long—and the chances of both these scenarios are growing today with unimaginable speed—the rapists, murderers and marauders will be returning to society and will significantly change its nature,” Inozemtsev says. The veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya were not as dangerous for Russia society: not only were there fewer of them and they came back gradually but also social norms at that point were better and exercised a greater influence on the behavior of veterans, he continues (Kasparov.ru, April 5).
Inozemtsev notes that Russian military commanders in Ukraine are either turning a blind eye to, encouraging, or even ordering the troops under their command to commit mass murder and atrocities. And this means “that even after the departure of Putin, the country will have to deal with the criminalization of society that he sponsored over several decades.” In comparison, he asserts, “the ‘accursed’ 1990s, will appear a model of gentlemanly behavior and decency” (Kasparov.ru, April 5).
A major reason for that fear is that ever more Russians are arming themselves. Even prior to February 24, 2022, when Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine, some observers suggested there were as many as 25 million guns in private hands in the Russian Federation. Wars almost inevitably lead to a bleeding back into society not only of people accustomed to violence but of weapons that allow them to engage in such acts (see Monitor, July 21, 1995 and August 22, 1995). And in response to that threat, ever more Russians have been buying up guns and ammunition since February, fearful that international sanctions will limit their access to such defenses or raise prices enough to put weapons out of their reach, even if returning veterans-turned-criminals wield them freely (RBC, March 23).
The Russian government is now mulling new and more restrictive laws on gun control.
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