Vladimir Putin has spent his entire life building and amassing power. Since he succeeded Boris Yeltsin in 2001, he has created an increasingly powerful control architecture and the image of a strongman Russia needs. Beyond speculation about his innate ability to avoid risks, in 48 hours, Wagner’s rebellion destroyed the foundation of his work and tarnished his image.
Putin is mired in complicity and corruption, which he has set up to buy loyalty by dividing the economy and the national budget among his oligarchs, bureaucrats and propagandists. Prigoskin, through Wagner but also through gastronomic contracts and his method of communication warfare, was part of the same project. But unlike other beneficiaries, he has his own political claims and is encouraged to openly rebel against the leader to reinforce them.
Putin decided on the military, sparking a conflict between Wagner and the Defense Ministry. Prigozhin ordered the emporium to be dismantled, mercenaries to sign contracts with the military, Wagner’s cyber troll headquarters in St. Petersburg to be closed, and he instructed his ambassadors to stop supporting a network of contractors operating in Africa and Syria. By admitting to paying $1 billion to the group, he blamed himself and the Russian government for the atrocities committed by the mercenaries, but it was a necessary step to demonstrate his leadership over those who created it and suggest they return to the fold. Original.
However, Wagner survives as an institution. Its survival calls into question Putin’s rigid construction. Dozens of arrests of dissidents and suspicious deaths inside and outside of Russia have backed up that reputation. But Wagner’s boss remains unscathed despite his rather shy face with Putin. That impunity did not end with a Kinzel missile attack on the rebel headquarters in Rostov, or with a radioactive solution or an attack by Russian military forces on some of the outnumbered rebels. The web of compromise linking Prigogine to Putin may have saved his life.
The presence and persistence of an unpredictable level of internal opposition has adversely affected Putin’s image. Although hundreds of meters a day, Ukraine is liberating territories and the Russian army is retreating. No matter what happens tomorrow, Putin’s invasion is taking small daily setbacks when it needs it most, as Russian dissidents march south from Ukraine and Prigozhin’s opposition today melts away the myth of his effectiveness as a leader.
Wagner complicitly and sympathetically went along with the riots, which were documented on the networks with scenes of affection from Rostov residents closest to the frontline. Only Putin for now can be doubted Surovikhin, the butcher of Aleppo, was instrumental in the defeat of Kherson and did not appear after the mutiny.
The same documents that revealed Churovok’s treachery also brought another disturbing version of Putin, namely that his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Chief of Staff, Valery Gerasimov, fed him false information about the war’s progress. Based on them, the Russian leader would make military and political decisions that would have deepened his mistakes.
This avoidance of reality, combined with Putin’s desperate distrust of his entourage, would make the FSB board more willing to take control of internal affairs and present itself as a force within power capable of influencing the conflict between Wagner and the generals. It also affects Putin, as he shifts another power after the coup to a group with its own vested interests within the Russian court.
The scene shows how the controversies have diluted Putin’s all-encompassing power, and the image of a strongman has partially dissolved into spheres of power. These do not necessarily reflect popular support, which remains high after the riots. The Levada Center is investigating They reflect the fact that the average citizen continues to support Putin. This support is particularly strong among the over-50s and among young people and women, who have had close or frequent contact with war.
So losing the 2024 elections is not a problem for Putin. Russia’s political system is not built solely on electoral majorities. It is defined by the ability of a leader to establish himself in power, which depends on the support of the elite who control the political springs, which is determined by the management of economic and military factors. Gorbachev and Yeltsin could testify to this.
Chess master Garry Kasparov He made it clear From his deep knowledge of Russian power: “Whatever happens now, it is already clear that Putin cannot control all factions or deal with infighting peacefully, or at least nonviolently, in the way he used to.”
Other analysts in the West share Kasparov’s diagnosis. With each Ukrainian advance, intra-party conflicts in Russia will grow, and accusations about the outcome of the war will undermine Putin’s authority and increase the number of factions vying for power for its survival. The end of the war, according to this hypothesis, could be brought about by an internal Russian collapse caused by Ukrainian forces. There is no Russian victory in sight, as its successful military campaign depends on its ability to withstand external adversaries and an unprecedented military, economic and diplomatic blockade.
Kiev’s strategy, backed by the West, is to drill into Russia on the front, pursuing a strategy of disintegration to deepen its internal contradictions and lead to a serious crisis in power that further dilutes Putin’s power. In that sense, the military value of its legions is less important to its military capability than to its ability to contribute to political change deep in the rear of its adversary, which remains and is determined by the core of Russia’s power.
That is why, despite the claims of some military experts about the pace of the offensive launched a month ago, Kyiv is not risking all its new war capital. Save resources and expect a desperate response from Putin.
The excessive military attention Bakhmut receives has the logic of seeking a breakthrough where Wagner had retreated after the fall of Mariupol, the only Russian victory in a year. Showing the consequences of the dispute between the leader and his cook is a definite message to Russian society. And, no doubt, after Putin moved Wagner from the place of heroes to the mire of villains, Russia’s 149 million people could understand the most basic discourse.
Does this mean that Prigogine and Kiev coordinated their efforts as suggested? Leaked documents From the Pentagon? There are no other indications than documents of dubious authenticity. Often there are coincidences of political motives. Both know that Putin’s power stands in the way of their goals. The means of degrading it take different paths to reach the same goal.
Putin started this war in 2014, and it is easy to end the conflict by weakening him or leaving power, from a position of weakness to negotiate with the current leader of the Kremlin or his successor. The demand of Russia’s internal departments was unhappy as a result of the war for Russia and its businesses. The mission to remove Moscow from the threat base is met with one of two scenarios: a weakened Putin and Russia in military decline, or a succession in perpetual crisis due to internal strife.
In the military and strategic sphere, Russia is in a corner. The idea of a nuclear strike as a desperate measure could lead to direct conflict with NATO. If the Russian president cannot get his units to stop Wagner during the uprising, it is reasonable to doubt that Putin has military support in a desperate situation in Ukraine. Nuclear weapon.
For the West, there is no more profitable business than sustaining support for Ukraine, because with Putin in power it is impossible to negotiate a solution to the war, to incorporate Ukraine into its sphere and begin to restore investment. Refilling each lost tank or spent shell helps you get closer to your objectives. Now you have to do it. This urgency to help Kyiv shows the urgency of the plan to avoid a long and expensive battle for their budgets.
It doesn’t matter how many people each side has died in the current Ukrainian offensive. Within a month of starting, Russia had already lost 25,000 men on the front. They were Wagner’s men who deserted their ranks during the mutiny. This is one and a half divisions of soldiers stationed in the Moscow trenches, or 10% of the combat force. Without its offensive power, the Russian command loses effectiveness at the moment when it needs to reinforce itself in battle.
For all his genocidal baggage, Prigozh’s rivalry and Putin’s weakness and constant challenge to his power are living proof. From his new base in Osipovichi, Belarus, Prigozhin again called for rebellion, asking his men not to sign treaties with the Russian government. While the propaganda tries to slip that Russia’s position 200 kilometers from the northern part of Ukraine is a play, the new harangues against the Kremlin discredit all explanations that save it from political degradation.
If Prigozhin tries to build his own ladder to power, he can only achieve it at the expense of his former partner. It is clear that taking down Putin is beyond the reach of Prigozhin and his hidden allies. But if his goal is to present himself as an alternative pole in the future, he has achieved his goal.
Putin can rebuild his power, that’s true. But that ability hinges on the outcome of a battle that has dragged on for a month, and now Wagner has an ace up his sleeve.
After Bakmut and Prigozhin’s mercenaries left, there were no signs of a Russian victory on the horizon. His chef’s infidelity left him exposed and at his weakest since 2001. If that was the goal of Wagner’s boss, he succeeded. ~
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