Coup Chaos Amplifies Vulnerability of Putin’s Authority
A weakened Putin regime is very dangerous, especially given an unstable military chain of command controlling an enormous nuclear arsenal.
“But the safety of the people of America against dangers from foreign force depends not only on their forbearing to give just causes of war to other nations, but also on their placing and continuing themselves in such a situation as not to invite hostility or insult; for it need not be observed that there are pretended as well as just causes of war.” —John Jay (1787)
It is notable, as we approach the anniversary of our nation’s Revolutionary War to secure American Liberty from tyrannical rule, that last weekend there was a “coup attempt” against the Russian tyrant.
For sure, this power play had nothing to do with securing freedom for the Russian people and everything to do with one thug rattling sabers with another thug.
After news broke that Wagner Group mercenary strongman Yevgeny Prigozhin captured the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and set his sights on Moscow, I was asked by an American military advisor in Ukraine how I thought it would play out. I responded: “We support the enemy of my enemy because in that moment he is my friend, but I suspect Prigozhin’s effort to rally mass defections of senior Russian military officers from his equally corrupt longtime friend Vladimir Putin, and his estimation of the popular support that would follow, is as flawed as his Ukrainian operations.”
The latter were flawed because Putin’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov have long opposed Wagner Group mercenaries, undermining their military success. Shoigu and Gerasimov have been on Prigozhin’s hit list since his earlier plan to capture them was foiled by Putin’s Federal Security Service. That in itself paints a very disturbing picture of the discord between and among Putin’s corrupt military commanders.
Now there is intel speculation that Gen. Sergei Surovikin, Putin’s former top Russian commander in Ukraine, assisted Prigozhin. That may be more strategic fog to cause Putin heartburn. No question an operation of this size was full of leaks, and both Surovikin and Gerasimov have been arrested. More Putin purges are coming and the fallout for Vlady will further eroded his tyrannical authority.
As you now know, Prigozhin’s operation stood down almost as fast as it stood up.
Prigozhin claims his objective was to prevent Shoigu and Gerasimov from assimilating his forces into the Russian army — which would end Prigozhin’s lucrative mercenary contracts and his theft of spoils. But his abrupt retreat when 200 kilometers from Moscow raises a lot of questions.
In the coming weeks we will know if there was any “coup” contrivance between Putin and Prigozhin to test the loyalty of those in Putin’s military and political chains of command. I suspect Prigozhin, now given refuge in Belarus, got played. If he does not fall victim to some deadly Russian chemical toxin, as was the case with Putin’s last political opponent, Alexei Navalny, then we will know there was some contrivance.
Regardless, today Putin is in a weaker position in Ukraine than he was last Friday, and he must now assimilate Prigozhin’s estimated 22,000 mercenaries who were doing his dirtiest work. However, significant fissures in Putin’s political leadership have been exposed.
Monday, Putin delivered a public address assuring his supporters he was not still in hiding and extolling Russia’s “unity and patriotism,” but his claims of why he cut a deal with the coup conspirators were unconvincing.
Make no mistake: A weakened Putin regime is very dangerous, especially given the fact he has an unstable military chain of command controlling an enormous nuclear arsenal, which he has threatened to use. (That accounts for why the government has stockpiled $290 million in anti-radiation drugs.)
Notably, Putin has just deployed tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus. And there are now concerns about sabotage of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant which has been occupied by Russians since March. Russian troops stationed at the plant have begun to evacuate the area.
(For background on the climate in Russia ahead of Prigozhin’s coup attempt, Yale University history professor Timothy Snyder provided a summary of 10 key points well worth reading for any strategist.)
So, how now to resolve the “Putin problem”?
Last May, I noted that “Russia is struggling to replace bullets, bombs, hardware losses, and its manpower forces in Ukraine.” Putin overplayed his hand, and the dwindling support of the Russian people was shadowing the contracting American support for Joe Biden.
At the time, indicative of Putin’s waning support from his highest-level advisors, Boris Bondarev had just become the highest-profile diplomat in Putin’s tyrannical regime to resign over his disastrous and deadly invasion of Ukraine three months earlier.
Bondarev protested: “For 20 years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24 of this year. The aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine, and in fact against the entire Western world, is not only a crime against the Ukrainian people, but also, perhaps, the most serious crime against the people of Russia, with a bold letter Z crossing out all hopes and prospects for a prosperous free society in our country.”
He added: “Those who conceived this war want only one thing — to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian Navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity. … Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have already died just for this.”
He was correct in that assessment then, and that is precisely where things stand now.
Biden’s inept “leading from behind” provision of $42 billion in “security assistance” to Ukraine since the Russian invasion 18 months ago has been an anemic and bumbling knockoff of Ronald Reagan’s successful strategy to beat Russia into submission by draining its military, government, and market capital, and by extension the political capital of the man who was then the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union: Mikhail Gorbachev. The U.S. total appropriation of about $120 billion has barely moved the needle.
(Notably, this week the Biden DoD claimed that $42 billion assessment was overvalued by a $6.2 billion DoD “accounting error.”)
As for Prigozhin’s coup attempt, Biden once again avoided any appearance of supporting “regime change” by assuring our allies “that we were not involved, that we had nothing to do with it.” I doubt Biden’s claim of no involvement, because the coup failed, and every foreign policy hand Biden has played has failed.
Recall the assessment of Obama’s former SecDef and CIA director, Robert Gates, who declared that Biden has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue” over the course of his career, noting also Biden’s opposition to “every one of Ronald Reagan’s military programs to contest the Soviet Union.”
Biden is still hoping for a Putin retreat before the 2024 presidential election so he can have a victory-lap photo op with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. And the “coup” certainly blew bombshell reports of the Biden family crime syndicate off the front pages.
I outlined the best hope for Russian withdrawal a year ago: “No question the quickest way to end Putin’s ambitions is regime change. … The tidiest way to terminate Putin’s murderous Ukraine invasion — and his tyrannical dictatorship in Russia — is for a member of his security or military detail to put a bullet in his head. The more war- and sanction-related civil unrest that emerges in Russia’s major cities, the more likely a proud and heroic individual may impose that ‘regime change’ — and qualify for a ‘Hero of Russia’ medal.”
Finally, let me reiterate this fact: It can’t be stated strongly or often enough that every drop of Ukrainian bloodshed is the direct result of Biden’s abject ineptitude. The most dangerous domestic threat to U.S. national security has been and remains Joe Biden. Anyone who believes that Russian dictator and former KGB thug Vladimir Putin would invade Ukraine if Donald Trump had a second term as president is pathologically delusional. Even some of Trump’s national security critics have conceded this point.
Thus, by extension, every drop of Ukrainian bloodshed, the murder of civilian men, women, and children, is the direct result of those who voted for Joe Biden. The same can be said of the reign of terror now besieging Afghan men, women, and children after Biden’s deadly surrender and retreat. May the hellish nightmares of these victims of tyranny fuel the nightmares of Biden’s sycophantic supporters.
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