So much for "don’t mention the war!" Russian president Vladimir Putin has called the conflict in Ukraine a war for the first time on Thursday. Cockburn is quite flummoxed — this is the same Putin who has made an industry out of locking people up who refused to call the war a “special military operation”.

On December 22, while addressing the situation in Ukraine, Putin said, “Our goal is not to spin the flywheel of military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war.”

The irony alone of this statement is too much to handle. The...

So much for “don’t mention the war!” Russian president Vladimir Putin has called the conflict in Ukraine a war for the first time on Thursday. Cockburn is quite flummoxed — this is the same Putin who has made an industry out of locking people up who refused to call the war a “special military operation”.

On December 22, while addressing the situation in Ukraine, Putin said, “Our goal is not to spin the flywheel of military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war.”

The irony alone of this statement is too much to handle. The man who invaded his neighbor and disregarded the laws of war is now saying he does not want to “spin the flywheel of military conflict”?

Shortly after the war began, in the face of resistance from the Russian populace, Moscow implemented a swath of new laws making it illegal to criticize or undermine the “special military operation”, which included a ban on referring to the operation as a war. Media organizations that defied the law were forced to cease operations; any opposition that still existed in Russia virtually disappeared.

Curiously, those laws were not repealed as of December 22, which Cockburn reckons is a good illustration of Putin’s position in Russia: he is above the law — or, you might say he is the law. An anti-Kremlin politician from Saint Petersburg (though he is now, understandably, in self-imposed exile) “sent a request to the authorities to charge Putin with spreading fakes about the army.” Exile or no exile, Cockburn must say that this guy has some guts — Putin’s enemies have a tendency not to last very long.

If the Russian dictator intentionally mentioned the forbidden word, then it might indicate his growing desperation. The war in Ukraine has seen setback after setback for the Kremlin, and the new year will bring a host of new challenges, from ammunition and manpower shortages to renewed Ukrainian offensives. Putin has been trying to get the Russian populace into a patriotic fervor, but has failed to entice enough recruits to the military. Maybe calling a spade a spade and referring to the conflict as a war will change that, but you can count Cockburn as skeptical.