"Prigozhin's Farce Is Over And It Is Clear Who Has Won"
Moon of Alabama (June 16, 2023)
The Prigozhin's insurrection farce is over. I had predicted that it would not take long to end:
In twelve or so hours things are likely to have calmed down.
About eight hours after I published the above Prigozhin had given up and left the scene.
Prigozhin had launched his hopeless mutiny after the Defense Ministry had demanded that all his men sign contacts with the Russian army. That would have taken away the autonomy of his Wagner outlet and with it a large chunk of his profits. The run of his troops towards Moscow was a desperate attempt to get Putin's attention and to make him reverse the ministry's plans.
To justify his move Prigozhin had claimed that Russian miliary forces had attacked a Wagner camp and killed a number of its troops. To prove that he published a video that shows some trash in the woods but no dead soldiers. It was an obvious fake.
Putin had already publicly agreed to the ministry's plans and he is not the man who reverses his decisions on a dime, or under pressure. After Putin's Saturday morning TV speech, during which he accused Prigozhin of treason without naming him, it was clear that there was no chance for the mutiny to have any success. Many of Russia's governors and high ranking military soon assured Putin publicly of their loyalty.
As far as is known none of Wagner's military commanders and only a few thousand of its 25,000 troops had joined Prigozhin in his lunatic run. No one in Russia changed sides or supported him. When the Wagner troops entered Rostov on the Don the people who talked with his soldiers were critical of their presence. When Wagner were leaving without further bloodshed the people applauded. To interpret that as support for Prigozhin, as some 'western' analysts did, is false. The people were just happy that the whole stunt was over.
Finally the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, likely on request from Putin, got Prigozhin on the phone, used some very strong words and negotiated a deal. If Prigozhin goes into exile in Belarus he will not be bothered any further. But the Russian prosecutors will not yet close the treason case against him. Should he again make a hassle he will likely end up in jail.
Prigozhin may be allowed to take some of his troops with him to Belarus. But the large majority will come under the command of the Russian military and will be transformed into some special unit. The French foreign legion may be an good example for such a force and its potential use.
In previous years Prigozhin's companies had made large profits by catering to the needs of the Russian military. The contracts they have will likely end and his personal fortune will take a big hit. The good days are over for him.
The Biden administration is claiming that the whole affair has weakened Putin:
QUESTION: But just staying on Vladimir Putin for a minute, do you believe that this is the beginning of the end for Vladimir Putin?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I don’t want to speculate about that. This is, first of all, an internal matter for Russia. What we’ve seen is this, though. We’ve seen this aggression against Ukraine become a strategic failure across the board. Russia is weaker economically, militarily. Its standing around the world has plummeted. It’s managed to get Europeans off of Russian energy. It’s managed to unite and strengthen NATO with new members and a stronger Alliance. It’s managed to alienate from Russia and unite together Ukraine in ways that it’s never been before. This is just an added chapter to a very, very bad book that Putin has written for Russia. But what’s so striking about it is it’s internal. The fact that you have, from within, someone directly questioning Putin’s authority, directly questioning the premises that – upon which he launched this aggression against Ukraine, that in and of itself is something very powerful. It adds cracks. Where those go, when they get there, too soon to say. But it clearly raises new questions that Putin has to deal with.
Some well sponsored 'sources' agree with that position:
Meduza’s sources added that the rebellion weakens Putin’s position: “He was unable to get down to Prigozhin’s level, but he was nowhere to be found after yesterday’s national address. He’s the first in command, and takes control when necessary. He shouldn’t make Lukashenko the public face and allow Russia’s security officials [siloviki] to lead negotiations.”
As does the Washington Post:
On Saturday morning, in the face of Prigozhin’s advance, Putin warned of the “brutal” response to be meted out on what he described as a “rebellion” launched by “traitors.” By the evening, his chief spokesman announced that looming charges against Prigozhin would be dropped and that Wagner fighters who did not participate in the mutiny would be offered contracts by the Russian Defense Ministry.
The climb-down revealed a fragility and instability at the heart of Russian power.
There are also all kind of conspiracy theories. Will Schryer thinks the whole affair was a psychological operation to smoke out potential traitors. Agit Papadakis claims that this was part of some internal conflict:
With the Putin-Prigo deal, the siloviki have gotten rid of three birds with one stone: Prigo is out forever, exiled to Belarus with Lukashenko as his no-nonsense parole officer, the criminal element in Wagner near and dear to Prigo will be shipped off to Africa, and Putin is disgraced forever, having lost the respect of both the Kremlin and the Russian people. He will now be a powerless figurehead like his brain-dead enemy Biden, taking orders instead of giving them.
I disagree with those opinions as I see no sign that Putin came away from it as anything but the winner.
I am joined in that by Larry Johnson who writes:
The West wants to believe that Putin is weak and unpopular — I would note that not a single respected critic of Putin endorsed Prigozhin’s mutiny and that all political leaders across the breadth of Russia lined up behind Putin when the rest of the world was celebrating (prematurely) the demise of the Russian leader.
Watching Russian talk shows, Gilbert Doctorow has a similar take:
Without any assistance from me, consumers of mainstream Western media know very well the official interpretation that, as always, is being handed down from Washington and is re-posted by our journalists as their own original reporting: how the Prigozhin affair demonstrates the fragility of dictatorships, how it shows the real weakness of the Putin regime, and so forth, and so on.
I will offer here a glimpse into what is now being said in Russian public space. I say ‘a glimpse,’ because the diversity of views inside Russia is almost as vast as the country itself and only our ignorant and bigoted opinion formers in the West miss that point.
The third panelist on the Solovyov show whom I will cite very briefly was Alexander Babakov, deputy chair of the State Duma and a parliamentarian from the United Russia party. His point was that the armed mutiny failed because it was rejected by the regular Army, by the Russian government at all levels and by the people as a whole. In this way, Russia demonstrated to the world its unity in time of war, its readiness to stand up to the Collective West. The lesson for the West was precisely the strength of the country and of its Commander in Chief.
Is anyone listening in Washington?
The former Indian ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar agrees:
Blinken has piled up a consistent record for being horribly wrong on his assessments on Russia — starting from the deathly blow the ‘sanctions from hell’ were expected to give to the Russian economy; Putin’s hold on power; Russia’s catastrophic defeat in Ukraine; Russian military’s deficiencies; Kiev’s inexorable military victory, and so on.
In this case, he has reason to feel embittered particularly because of the spectacular unity of the Russian state, political elite, media, regional and federal bureaucracy, and the military and security establishment in rallying behind Putin. Arguably, Putin’s political stature is now unchallengeable and unassailable in Russia and the Americans have to live with that reality long after Joe Biden’s departure from the scene.
Today Prigozhin again tried to justify his 'march for justice' as he calls it and again repeats the evidence free claim of the attack on his group. He also claims that his operation demonstrated the problems in the Russian military and the quality of Wagner.
But in fact there was at no moment any danger for Russia. The Russian airforce could have destroyed the Wagner convoys on their way to Moscow at a few minutes notice. His troops in Rostov-on-Don were surrounded by the Chechen troops of Ramzan Kadyrov who had rushed to the city and were prepared to fight Wagner down.
I don't think that there is a chance that Prigozhin will ever have a come back. He is finished and he has only himself to blame for it.