The war in Ukraine will have a lasting impact on the political landscape of both Russia and Ukraine, regardless of its ultimate outcome. Independent Russian publication Agents Media suggests that the ongoing conflict will shape the country’s future decision-makers.
Throughout history, wars have been a breeding ground for future political leaders: from victorious commanders like Napoleon and Dwight D. Eisenhower, to foot soldiers who run for elected office on the strength of their battlefield heroics. Early accounts of the intermingling of politics and war date back to ancient Rome, where military service was a prerequisite for entering political life.
The same dynamic is sure to occur after the war in Ukraine. Independent Russian news site Agents Media reports that Moscow is already grooming prospective Russian politicians among those currently fighting in Ukraine, offering evidence of aspiring politicians who are laying the foundation of their careers at the front line.
With Russian regional elections set for September, parties are already banking on candidates who have fought in the war. Some politicians have even volunteered to go to the front, to showcase their patriotism and enhance their candidacies.
“I agree with the notion that a new elite is crystallizing in the new territories,” First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov said in a June 13 interview with Russian corporate media RBC, referring to Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia last year. Belousov emphasized the importance of making decisions based on real-life experience, instead of living in a "virtual" world.
“There, they face very real situations. I see guys going there and back; I see them transforming before my eyes,” he said.
"These people have proved themselves to be patriots, so if any of them want to pursue a political career, then more power to them," a source from United Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s ruling party, told Vedomosti.
A source close to the Duma explained that some parties like United Russia are staking their election campaigns on people coming from the combat zone. More than 100 people nominated in United Russia's May primaries had taken part in the war in Ukraine. The Kremlin trusts officials who have gained experience working in the "new territories," according to Russian media outlet Kommersant.
A ceremony introducing acting Governor Vladislav Kuznetsov to the government and parliament of the Chukotka Autonomous Area.
"It's no coincidence that some lawmakers went to the new territories as volunteers,” another source close to the Duma told Vedomosti, explaining that once they have participated in the war, they may enter the election campaign with veteran status.
For example, United Russia’s candidate for the Khakassia region during the September regional elections will be Sergei Sokol, who volunteered to fight in Ukraine in fall 2022.
The crucible of conflict has the power to shape the future direction of both nations.
In addition, Russian President Vladimir Putin has already promoted officials from the occupied regions. In March, he nominated First Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Kuznetsov of the so-called Luhansk People's Republic and Vitaly Khotsenko, head of the administration of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, to the positions of the governor of the Chukotka and the Omsk region respectively.
While the result of the war remains uncertain, yet it has already had a profound impact on Russia and Ukraine. The crucible of conflict has the power to shape the future direction of both nations. Back home, those who have risked their lives on the front lines may be valued for their experiences and proven commitment to their countries, and could have the potential to assume leadership roles
Ukraine's society has already displayed strong unity during its defense, with many fighters who witnessed the realities of the front line recognized as committed patriots and heroes. The military could harbor Ukraine's leaders of tomorrow, who will be determined to rebuild Ukraine in a shape and form that ensures the sacrifices made were not in vain.