Sergei Guriev is provost and professor of economics at Sciences Po, Paris.
Faces of War

Russia’s Three-Front War: in Ukraine, at Home, and Against the West

While focusing on Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine, the West must not neglect support of Putin’s opponents, both in Russia and elsewhere.

Since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the Russian regime has conducted a war on three fronts. In addition to the hot war on Ukrainian soil, Vladimir Putin has engaged in a war against Russian civil society, closing all remaining independent media and drastically tightening repression. Russia has also intensified its hybrid war against the West, spreading disinformation, supporting anti-Ukrainian politicians, and interfering in the elections of democratic countries. The goal of these efforts in Western capitals is to undermine the unity of the West and weaken the West’s resolve to support Ukraine and to sanction Russia.

„The long-term peaceful future ... can only be achieved if Russia is a democratic country. “

Sergei Guriev

The first front certainly matters the most. This is a hot war that must be won on the battlefield. Ukraine should receive all military support that it is asking for. But the other two fronts are also important. The war is not popular in Russia. Repressing anti-war activists requires resources that could otherwise be deployed in Ukraine.

Rosgvardia, Russia’s internal riot police, employs almost 400,000 men, double the size of the 2022 invasion army. Putin has a hard time finding soldiers to send to Ukraine but knows that he cannot afford to reduce the size of his repression machine.

This is why the Russian opposition is an important ally of Ukraine and Europe. If not for the threat of domestic protest against the war, Putin could have redirected all these hundreds of thousands of armed men to Ukraine.

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