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July 13, 2023

Warning: Putin’s Military Meltdown Looms Large

The fracturing continuity in Russia’s military command is, for the West, both a threat and opportunity.

As the MSM chattering class of foreign policy pundits banter about the merits of bringing Ukraine into NATO sooner rather than later, let me say clearly that the “sooner” talk is mindless. It exposes just how dullard these media dupes are regarding the implications of taking on a member in the middle of a hot war with Russia. As our Thomas Gallatin noted succinctly, “Allowing Ukraine into the alliance would immediately and rightly be viewed as a declaration of war against Russia.”

That being said, despite the ineptitude of our current commander-in-chief, Joe Biden, who is on tour in Europe this week to remind everyone just how inept he is, I do not fall into the “isolationist” camp with some conservatives regarding Ukraine. I believe that our support for Volodymyr Zelensky, in what amounts to a proxy war with Russia, is and remains the correct strategic move.

Moreover, that strategic support and Vladimir Putin’s declining public support for his Ukraine invasion are producing some shocking results — for Putin.

The recent short-lived revolt by Putin’s mercenary thug Yevgeny Prigozhin revealed some very serious command and control problems in the Russian military. Those problems could expedite an end to Russia’s aggression with Ukraine, or Putin could escalate in an effort to assert his command and control.

So, what indications of Putin’s command problems have emerged this week?

Shortly after the Prigozhin revolt, more than a dozen senior military officers were detained by Putin’s FSB (formerly the KGB). Most were either fired or suspended from duty. One of those officers who was later released said, “The detentions are about cleaning the ranks of those who it is believed can’t be trusted anymore.”

His former top commander in Ukraine, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, known as “General Armageddon” for his ruthless tactics, disappeared after the revolt. Andrei Kartapolov, the powerful head of the Russian congressional Duma’s defense committee, declared, “He is unavailable right now,” adding, “He’s taking a rest.” Surovikin was considered to be a Prigozhin ally and is undoubtedly resting in some gulag.

Putin’s minster of defense, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, who also disappeared after the Prigozhin insurrection when it is believed he and Gen. Surovikin were arrested, has now resurfaced in a video, ostensibly getting a report from Gen. Surovikin’s deputy, Col. Gen. Viktor Afzalov.

The video was clearly propaganda to assert there is still continuity in Putin’s military command. However, the whereabouts of Gerasimov and Surovikin are still unknown.

Then, the former commander of Russia’s 58th Combined Arms Army, Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov, posted a video on an open social media platform, noting that Putin fired him after his recent warning that the Ukraine warfront was a disaster, and declared Russian leaders don’t care about their military rank and file. He added, Putin is “decapitating the army in its hardest and most difficult moment.”

And worse for Putin in Ukraine, Lt. Gen. Oleg Tsokov was killed in an airstrike on the Russian-occupied city of Berdiansk. He becomes one of Putin’s highest-level officers killed in Ukraine. And maybe indicative of rising subversive measures in Russia, submarine commander Capt. Stanislav was assassinated in Krasnodar. Rzhitsky was involved in directing missile attacks against Ukraine.

A year ago, I noted that “Russia is struggling to replace bullets, bombs, hardware losses, and its manpower forces in Ukraine.” And it is clear now that Putin overplayed his hand with his invasion of Ukraine. That invasion was his legacy effort to re-annex Ukraine, but the result is his diminished military command authority.

The fracturing continuity in Russia’s military command is, for the West, both a threat and opportunity.

The threat is that a weakened Putin regime is very dangerous, especially given the instability in his military chain of command. He controls an enormous nuclear arsenal, which he has threatened to use, and he has just deployed tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus.

I noted before: “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.”

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