A Bad Christmas: Russia Is Locked In A War It Cannot Win

Barry Gander
8 min readNov 18
The Russian AI chatbot “Kandinsky” caused outrage in the Kremlin by generating nude images of Putin — in jail.

Russia is a patient on a hospital bed under a death-watch.

Russia is collapsing, just like the USSR in 1991: there were signs of stress if you knew where to look, and then suddenly the whole state imploded.

A year ago a short balding dictator known for selling cheap gas and retro military weapons declared war on Ukraine. It was going to be such a walk-over that his generals packed their parade uniforms for the ceremony in Kiev.

Many of them would be buried in those togs.

And at least 350,000 of their soldiers are dead or wounded, with another 100,000 suffering mental health problems. A million people — the best and brightest — left the country.

But another critical strain has hit Russian society, and it conditions the course of the rest of the war. Today half of Russians (47-million people) who have loans have stopped paying them back…the total debt is $31-billion.

According to the Federal Bailiffs Service (FSPP), between January and September 2023, the number of citizens defaulting on bank loans increased by 22% to 21.1 million.

The total amount of debt that needs to be recovered rose by $2 billion over a year earlier.

The number of debtors was scattered fairly evenly among rural and urban centres, with regions such as Bashkortostan and Krasnodar Krai contributing along with Moscow.

(I would not want to imagine what it would be like to be kicked out of my apartment and have to live in a Lada.)

The reason they are not repaying their debt is very simple: they have no money. You can’t pluck a naked chicken.

The economy has slowed partly because men who are recruited by force have to leave business and job positions empty — positions they were trained to fill.

It’s also hard to recover money from dead people. Or from people who can’t leave the country to find work elsewhere.

About 3.4 million Russian citizens — roughly 5% of the total population — are now banned from traveling abroad due to unpaid debts. They are on a “no fly” list. That’s 1.1 million more people than the 2.3 million who last year authorities prevented from…

Barry Gander

A Canadian from Connecticut: 2 strikes against me! I'm a top writer, looking for the Meaning under the headlines. Follow me on Mastodon @Barry