- Vladimir Putin's unprovoked war in Ukraine has upended Russia's international and domestic affairs.
- Reports suggest concerns about the ongoing invasion are growing even within the Kremlin.
- "It's suicidally bad what he's doing to his country" and "its standing in the world," an expert said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is facing increasing animosity both abroad and at home as the second month of his unprovoked war in Ukraine comes to a close.
Amid ongoing strategy failures, mounting military losses, and the dire economic consequences of Western sanctions, Russia's future looks bleak, and it's almost entirely Putin's fault, experts told Insider.
"It's suicidally bad what he's doing to his country, its economy, and its standing in the world," said Robert English, a professor at the University of Southern California who studies Russia, the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe.
The longtime Russian president's decisions on the Ukraine invasion face rising scrutiny as a small but growing number of Kremlin insiders have started to express doubts about the war.
Ten sources with direct knowledge of the conflict conveyed their concerns to Bloomberg this month, saying they regard the invasion as a catastrophic mistake that will set the country back decades. The report described the critics as being spread across senior positions in government and state-run businesses.
While Putin continues to present a confident front — hand-waving the true cost of Western sanctions and dismissing the political consequences of war — some Russian insiders are reportedly losing faith.
According to English, they have good reason to do so. The expert said Putin's foray into Ukraine has already proven more costly for Russia than the Soviet Union's nearly ten-year conflict in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
"The USSR lost around 15,000-plus soldiers in Afghanistan in a decade of fighting... and that was enough to be considered a 'bleeding wound,"' English said. "Putin has lost close to that amount in one month — not one year; much less ten years — but in one month."
"So, his reckoning is coming much more quickly," English added.
Moscow claimed in late March that 1,351 soldiers had been killed and 3,825 others wounded since the invasion began, but the country has provided no official update since. NATO estimates put the likely total closer to 15,000, while Ukraine says it has killed nearly 20,000 Russian soldiers.
But the cost of Putin's war goes beyond the battlefield
Ordinary Russians are beginning to feel the economic pinch of tough Western sanctions. Putin, himself, has acknowledged that sanctions have started to upset the country's energy industry, but publicly claimed that Russia's economy has not been undermined as a result.
The head of Russia's central bank, however, warned that the full impact of sanctions has not yet been felt, and Moscow's mayor said this week 200,000 residents could lose their jobs as Western companies continue to pull out of the country en masse.
"He's set the country back economically," English said. "It's losing all of its important trade ties and its resource customers in the West."
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development estimated last month that Russia's GDP will shrink by 10% this year.
Even as Russia readjusts its military strategy, pulling back from the capital city of Kyiv and focusing attacks on eastern Ukraine as part of its "new phase" of the war, English said the damage to Russia's international and domestic standing has already been done.
"Russia will be a pariah state in the eyes of many people forever, but at least for a decade to come," he said. "Until Putin goes, there'll be no sense of cleansing and starting over."
But experts and Russians alike said Putin is unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon. Bloomberg's sources said Putin sees himself as being on an historic mission — one which he continues to believe has the full Russian public's support.