Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, delivered a sermon marking Orthodox Epiphany in Moscow this week. He spoke to those who wish “to defeat Russia,” using the occasion to deliver a threat to the West: “We pray that the Lord admonish those madmen and help them to understand that any desire to destroy Russia will mean the end of the world.”
Russia’s top propagandists, from former President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev to state TV host Vladimir Solovyov, have been spreading the same not-so subtle nuclear threat far and wide—and yet, Putin’s mouthpieces are now worried that the “boy who cried wolf” routine is no longer being taken seriously by their target audience in the West. The dilemma manifested during a live broadcast of The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov. After the lineup of talking heads took turns reiterating that Russia’s defeat would mean the end of the world, their agitprop was suddenly deflated by Yevgeny Satanovsky, President of the Institute of the Middle East.
“First of all, our main enemy is certainly the United States. What does the U.S. react to? They react to two things: the threat of physical annihilation and the liquidation of a certain number of military personnel. What we know based on wars in Vietnam and Korea is that several tens of thousands of annihilated American servicemen will cause the public opinion in the U.S. to be severely strained. I will repeat: not several thousand, like in Afghanistan or Iraq, but a certain number of tens of thousands. Who will liquidate them, where they will be liquidated and in what way is completely irrelevant, but this is one of the objectives if we want to influence the American leadership. We have absolutely nothing to lose.”
Head of RT Margarita Simonyan described the mood in the country: “In every home, in every kitchen and living room, in every courtyard all conversations are only about what will happen next, how it will all end… I don’t see any possible course of events except for the following: first of all, they will not stop. I’m not talking about Ukraine or Zelensky [She is talking about the West]… They will keep raising the stakes to the point that it will cause us pain. Safety of the territory of the Russian Federation will be at issue, not just the newly added territories. I don’t doubt that they will do all that they can so that we have to be concerned about the safety of Moscow, or at least seriously thinking about it… This will certainly happen!”
Simonyan concluded: “This can only end with an immediate threat that is voiced and presented, a threat of a nuclear confrontation.” She argued that the failure of the West to acquiesce to the list of demands presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December of 2021 led to the invasion of Ukraine. Simonyan said that after Putin’s ultimatum was made public, she told her friends: “Guys, there will be a big war, for sure. By the end of winter, something very big will happen!”
She claimed that this time, the refusal of the West to back out of its support of Ukraine would lead to even bigger consequences: “It’s true that no one will win in a nuclear war, but who needs the world if Russia isn’t in it? It was voiced out loud, it was said by Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin!” The head of RT concluded: “I don’t see any other outcome… It will be a wrecking ball! It will be all-in! It will be like two planes, flying head-on into one another. Someone will have to back down and something tells me that it won’t be us.”
Andrey Kartapolov, the head of the Russian State Duma Defense Committee, followed up Simonyan’s diatribe by boasting of the Motherland’s nuclear might and absurdly claiming that Russia defeated the West in World War II, causing NATO to be “afraid of WWIII.” Resorting to grotesque threats, Kartapolov addressed the West with a line from an old Soviet movie: “Don’t worry, it won’t hurt when we cut your throat. We’ll slice just once and you’re in heaven… Our victory will take place wherever the Russian soldier will stop—and wherever he stops, from there he will never leave.”
Not everyone in the studio went along with the notion that only bringing the planet to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe would solve Russia’s quagmire in Ukraine. Political scientist Sergey Mikheyev took exception to Simonyan’s scenario of a head-to-head confrontation, arguing that the art of diplomacy should not be reduced to that deplorable state. He argued for asymmetric measures to achieve Russia’s goals. Solovyov chimed in to soften the blow, telling Mikheyev: “Sergey Alexandrovich, we’re just irresponsible journalists. We can afford to do that.” Mikheyev retorted under his breath: “We aren’t even journalists.”
Americanist Dmitry Drobnitsky likewise derided Simonyan’s idea of a “head-to-head” confrontation accompanied by nuclear threats, arguing that this strategy would repulse Russia’s current sympathizers like India or China.
Even Satanovsky dismissed the simplistic thinking behind Simonyan’s narrative, telling her: “If the stakes are that we’ll stop existing, we can’t limit ourselves by thinking they’ve read what the president said and believed it—no, Margarita, they don’t believe it.” He argued that his idea of killing thousands of U.S. troops to avoid destroying all of America was much more doable. Not one pundit in the studio argued against Satanovsky’s macabre proposal. Drobnitsky had only one exception: “In our country, we embraced one American we wouldn’t want to kill: that would be Tucker Carlson.”