Could Ukraine War Produce Another Gorbachev to Replace Putin?

The mighty Russian military's recent string of losses to the much smaller Ukrainian forces are bringing back memories of the humiliating Russian defeat at the hands of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The Communist Party leaders who presided over the disgraceful Soviet exit were soon ousted from power and replaced by Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev's attempts to reform the Soviet system resulted in its complete collapse. The Soviet Union then ceased to exist by 1991. Could something similar happen to the Russian Federation now? 

Mikhail Gorbachev (Left) with Vladimir Putin


Some people in Ukraine and elsewhere in the West do believe that Ukraine will be another Afghanistan for the Russians. For example, Pakistani-Ukrainian billionaire Mohammad Zahoor believes “Ukraine is going to be the next Afghanistan for Russia". Talking with Arab News, he said: “This is time, actually, for us not to keep quiet. We have to take sides". Zahoor told Arab News that the Russian invasion of Ukraine may have consequences for Russia similar to the fallout from the Soviet-Afghan war from 1979 to 1989, which drastically weakened Russia's military and economy. “Ukraine is going to be the next Afghanistan for Russia,” he said. “I don’t know how many years they are going to be in Ukraine, but once they are out, they will be broken into pieces".

While the possibility of Russia's defeat to Ukraine followed by President Vladimir Putin's ouster can not be completely ruled out, the chances of such an outcome appear remote at the moment. Putin still has a lot of options. He has not yet used the full strength of the Russian military. He can bomb Ukraine into stone age, much like what the Soviets and the Americans did to Afghanistan. The nuclear-armed Russian military remains far more powerful than the Ukrainian military, even one backed by vast amounts of western money, technology and armaments. Putin will almost certainly escalate the war in Ukraine to achieve his objective of annexation of the eastern parts of the country into the Russian Federation. Putin also enjoys the support of as many as 70% of Russians, according to surveys conducted as recently as June, 2022. Besides, the vast majority of Russians have disdain for Gorbachev who was very popular in the West. The Russians would reject anyone who's even remotely similar to Gorbachev. 

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