Vladimir Putin & Russia January-August 2023-

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Vladimir Putin & Russia 2021-April 2022
The Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)

24 August
New proverb. Keep your friends close, and your enemies
closer to the open skies or windows.
At the Aspen Security Forum in July,
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke of Russia having an “open windows” policy

23-27 August
Wagner chief Prigozhin’s lingering popularity a challenge for Putin
(WaPo) Russians mourning the death of Wagner chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin have set up makeshift memorials in nearly two dozen cities across Russia and occupied Ukraine in recent days, a sign of the commander’s lingering popularity and a potential challenge for President Vladimir Putin amid divisions within the elite and in the military over the conduct of the war.
Putin orders oath of allegiance by Wagnerites
Decree published on Kremlin website obliges anyone working on behalf of the military in Ukraine to swear a formal oath of allegiance
(The Guardian) Putin’s introduction of a mandatory oath for employees of Wagner and other private military contractors was a clear move to bring such groups under tighter state control, reports Reuters.
The decree, published on the Kremlin website, obliges anyone carrying out work on behalf of the military or supporting what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine to swear a formal oath of allegiance to Russia.
Putin has just become even more dangerous
Seizing control of Wagner will give the Russian state the ability to extend its war against the West
Richard Kemp
(Telegraph UK) We don’t yet know how Wagner will be restructured or led in the post-Prigozhin world, but those are second order questions. The most important fact is that the group’s malignant political, military and economic activities will undoubtedly endure. They are far too valuable for Moscow to allow them to wither, given the group’s ability to insert itself in key strategic regions and fuel anti-Western sentiment. To see how effective this has been, just look at the influence they have over the government of Mali.
As commercial contractors, Wagner fighters are able to project Russian military force where its open use would be politically impossible. Economically, too, the group is crucial, generating huge revenues for the Kremlin war chest from gold, diamonds and other minerals, often smuggled out of Africa to evade Western sanctions.
As the war wears on, Moscow will need not only to maintain these activities but also expand them, and getting rid of Prigozhin may have helped to enable that. It removes a man who had become too powerful and allows Putin to secure greater loyalty from African governments that he maintains in power with the help of Russian mercenary services. That Prigozhin, even after the aborted coup, was allowed to meet national leaders and diplomats at last month’s Africa-Russia summit in St Petersburg is a testament how seriously the Kremlin takes this matter.
‘Short-term stronger, long-term weaker’: U.S. and European officials analyze a post-Prigozhin Putin
Ukraine’s allies in the West mostly argue the Russian leader’s future outlook may be dimming.
(Politico) In any case, few doubt that Putin was behind what U.S. officials believe was an assassination attempt. “Our initial assessment is that it is likely Prigozhin was killed,” said one who, like others who spoke for this story, was granted anonymity to discuss a sensitive and classified matter.
There was some speculation online that Prigozhin was not dead at all, and that the crash was staged as a way for him to disappear, but the Russian media apparatus rushed to quash those rumors.
Prigozhin’s lesson for Trump & Co: Don’t trust Putin’s promises
Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy and Macron should all be thinking twice after Prigozhin’s death about pinning hopes on deals with Putin.
(Politico Eu) In public, Putin claims he is ready for peace negotiations, and that the U.S., NATO, and Ukraine are the ones pressing to continue the war. However, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov on August 2 said those negotiations must be on Russian terms. On August 6, he claimed there were no grounds for peace and that Russia wants to keep the five Ukrainian regions it has illegally annexed, even though it does not fully control four of them.
Russia’s elite draws one lesson from downed plane: Cross Putin and die
Russian businessmen said they were more reluctant than ever to raise their voice publicly against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine
Russian plane crash debris points away from accident, experts say
(WaPo) …early intelligence pointed to the possibility of an onboard explosion. They said there is no indication so far that the aircraft was downed by a missile.
Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder said it’s “likely” that Prigozhin was one of those killed. Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to eulogize the mercenary leader on Thursday, but stopped short of confirming his death, calling him a “talented person” who “made serious mistakes.
US intelligence says an intentional explosion brought down Wagner chief Prigozhin’s plane
(AP) One of the U.S. and Western officials who described the initial assessment said it determined that Prigozhin was “very likely” targeted and that the explosion falls in line with Putin’s “long history of trying to silence his critics.”
Several Russian social media channels reported that the bodies were burned or disfigured beyond recognition and would need to be identified by DNA. The reports were picked up by independent Russian media, but The Associated Press was not able to independently confirm them.
Prigozhin supporters claimed on pro-Wagner messaging app channels that the plane was deliberately downed, including suggesting it could have been hit by a missile or targeted by a bomb on board.
Sergei Mironov, the leader of the pro-Kremlin Fair Russia party and former chairman of the upper house of the Russian parliament said on his Telegram channel that Prigozhin had “messed with too many people in Russia, Ukraine and the West.”
“It now seems that at some point, his number of enemies reached a critical point,” Mironov wrote.
Russian authorities have said the cause of the crash is under investigation.

23 August
Putin has strange deep voice in address to BRICS summit
Russian leader tells other leaders about grain deal plans — but not in his own voice.
(Politico) Bizarrely, the version of the video played to the summit in Johannesburg was dubbed by a voice actor who made the Kremlin chief sound like either a Hollywood villain, 1970s soul star Barry White, or a gangster being interviewed for a TV program whose voice had been dubbed to protect his identity.
In the original version of the video message, posted on the Kremlin website, Putin coughed several times as he began to read a prepared text. He said Russia would be prepared to return to the “so-called [grain] deal” if its conditions — previously stated to be hidden sanctions that make it difficult for banks and businesses to conduct food and fertilizer deals — are met.
No reason was given for Putin’s actual voice not being heard, but RIA, the state news agency, said: “Putin addressed the BRICS business council via video link. Not in his own voice.”

8 August
Putin’s world is shrinking
The Russian leader’s no-show at the BRICS summit in South Africa demonstrates the geopolitical impact of the ICC’s arrest warrant.
By Fredrik Wesslau, distinguished policy fellow, the Swedish Institute of International Affairs and a board member of The Reckoning Project.
(Politico Eu) BRICS leaders will be meeting in South Africa for their annual summit later this month. Absent, however, will be Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
After months of insisting he would attend the annual gathering for the member countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, Putin finally decided against traveling, as the South African government couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t be arrested and sent to The Hague.
Putin’s Age of ChaosThe Dangers of Russian Disorder
By Tatiana Stanovaya, Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center; Founder and CEO of the political analysis firm R.Politik
(Foreign Affairs)  … It is becoming increasingly difficult for the Kremlin to sweep unwelcome developments under the carpet. The war has begun to change Russia, and profound internal shifts are likely underway—in Putin’s regime, in the elites’ perception of Putin, and in the public’s attitude toward the war. Indeed, the militarization of Russian life is empowering ultranationalist hard-liners in the elite, eclipsing an old guard of ideologues that the Russian public has begun to view as increasingly out of touch with the realities of the war. The perception of Putin’s weakening has further revealed the regime’s deep flaws: the habitual inclination of the authorities to underestimate domestic political risks, ignore long-term developments in favor of addressing immediate challenges, and refuse responsibility for the growing number of incidents on Russian territory linked to the war.
… The system has started to learn to operate independently of Putin. This development does not yet reflect the solidifying of anti-Putin sentiment or emerging political opposition. It reflects a realization of the inadequacies of the president’s detached managerial style that allowed genuine threats to the regime to go neglected. By completely underestimating Prigozhin’s radicalization and Wagner’s escalating conflict with the military, Putin has come across as an aging leader who is beginning to falter in ways he would never have before. Even the miscalculations that led to the decision to move against Ukraine were not perceived as harshly as the utter loss of control that enabled Prigozhin’s uprising, the largest domestic conflict between state and private armed forces. Putin appears less powerful after conspicuously dropping charges against Prigozhin, not demanding justice for the killings of pilots during the mutiny, and allowing enormous budget expenditures to go to a private military company that eventually dares to attack the state.
Other factions are already moving into the space opened by Putin’s weakness. Putin could become a tool in the hands of new, more dynamic and pragmatic hawks, who are quickly learning how to use the president’s emotions and well-known beliefs to their advantage. The presidential administration has become adept at not simply pandering to Putin but actively limiting what he knows by feeding him flattering reports on the patriotism of the populace, innumerable documents on the decline of the West, and tales of Ukrainians longing for liberation.

6-14 July
Putin says he tried but failed to oust Prigozhin after Wagner mutiny
President tells newspaper he met mercenary chief to negotiate terms for fighters’ continued participation in Ukraine war
(The Guardian) Vladimir Putin has said that he sought and failed to have Yevgeny Prigozhin replaced as the leader of Wagner’s fighters in Ukraine after the mercenary chief rebuffed his proposal during a meeting at the Kremlin this month.
Putin’s version of events, which appeared in an interview with the Kommersant newspaper, was a surprise admission that the Russian president was still negotiating a takeover of the Wagner mercenary group.
Analysts have suggested that last month’s short-lived Wagner rebellion exposed Putin’s weakness and inability to manage the conflicts among the various power players in his regime.
Putin says he offered Wagner mercenaries the option to stay as a single unit
(AP) Russian President Vladimir Putin said he offered the Wagner private military company the option of continuing to serve as a single unit under their same commander after their short-lived rebellion, while some of the mercenaries were shown Friday in Belarus, possibly heralding the group’s relocation there.
Putin’s comments appeared to reflect his efforts to secure the loyalty of Wagner mercenaries, some of the most capable Russian forces in Ukraine, after the group’s brief revolt last month that posed the most serious threat to his 23-year rule.
The fate of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin remains unclear since the June 23-24 armed rebellion and new cracks have appeared in the Russian military as the war grinds through its 17th month and Ukraine presses a counteroffensive against the invading forces.
Kremlin News Stars Unravel in Post-Mutiny Television Fiasco
The chaotic Putin vs. Prigozhin showdown appears to have broken the Russian propaganda machine.
(Daily Beast) In the aftermath of a short-lived mutiny by Yevgeny Prigozhin and his private Wagner Group army, Russian state media has been struggling to control the narrative. The initial outrage about Prigozhin’s treasonous deed going unpunished was replaced by claims there was no armed mutiny.
Now, the propaganda machine is overridden by two contrasting images of the Wagner boss—one as a patriotic hero, and the other as a shadowy criminal.
Putin v Prigozhin: is Wagner too valuable to crush? (podcast)
(The Guardian) When Wagner forces turned their guns against Russian forces it led to panic in Moscow. But after the coup was aborted and its leader accused of treachery, it was business as usual for the group’s lucrative Africa operations. Pjotr Sauer and Jason Burke report
Yevgeny Prigozhin’s march on Moscow caused panic and led Vladimir Putin to go on the airways to condemn the head of Wagner. He decried the ‘treachery’ and vowed to ‘liquidate’ what remained of Wagner – and many assumed Prigozhin himself.
In the days that followed, something more subtle happened. As our correspondent Pjotr Sauer tells Nosheen Iqbal, while Russian state TV has called Prigozhin corrupt and traitorous, it emerged that he had been invited for a face-to-face meeting with the Russian president.
Meanwhile, in Africa, where Wagner has a large and growing presence, Jason Burke reports that the message being sent to regimes that rely on it is a clear one: it’s business as usual.
10 July
Wagner boss Prigozhin, the warlord who railed against the Russian military and led a failed mutiny, has all but disappeared
(Business Insider) Yevgeny Prigozhin has retreated into the shadows since his failed rebellion against Russian military leaders.
He has not been seen in public since July 4, when he was spotted in St. Petersburg.
The Kremlin said Prigozhin and Putin met on June 29, and that Prigozhin pledged his loyalty to the Russian leader.
Mercenary boss returned to Russia to collect money and guns
(WaPo) Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin was in Russia on Thursday, according to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, raising further questions about the murky agreement under which Prigozhin avoided insurgency charges for a failed rebellion that posed a brazen challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority.
on Thursday, Lukashenko said the mercenary boss had been back in his home city of St. Petersburg and may have flown to Moscow on Thursday morning. Lukashenko said a final deal on the move by Prigozhin and his fighters to Belarus was still not settled.
Officials in Moscow appear to be wrestling with the difficult question of how Wagner can be replaced, both in Ukraine and in its operations in Africa, where it has extended Russia’s reach through its security contracts with several governments.
Belarus President Says Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin Is in Russia
(Democracy Now) In Minsk, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said earlier today the head of Russia’s Wagner Group is not in Belarus and is instead in St. Petersburg, Russia. His surprise announcement came after Russian state TV broadcast images of police raids on Yevgeny Prigozhin’s office in St. Petersburg and one of his mansions. Prigozhin has not been seen publicly since June 24.

12 July
When Will Putin Finally Grasp That Russia Has Lost?
That the war is going badly for Russia is seemingly something everyone knows but him
By Jeremy Kinsman
(Open Canada) …countless Russians are uneasy. Recent events also land on a disconsoling background beyond the losing war and loss of democracy; the open secrets of Russia’s increasingly obvious shortcomings on public health, income disparity, population loss, ecological destruction, and frailty in science and education.
Russians increasingly ask: How stable is Russia? How competent can its leader be if such a mutiny by a trusted asset was a surprise? How come Prigozhin seems to be going scot-free? How secure is Russia if drones can reach Moscow? And lastly, when will we become a normal country?

As NATO grows, why some Russian allies are likely backing away
(Global) Russia…has allies who are set to hold their own summit in August.
South Africa has promised the meeting will go ahead – even though it is legally obligated, as a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he arrives.
Putin hasn’t said whether he’ll attend. He’s also denied the ICC’s allegations that he is responsible for deporting Ukrainian children.
His presence at the summit would test Russia’s allies’ allegiance to the Kremlin and international law if South Africa chooses not to follow through on its commitment as a member of the ICC.
“I think that the most likely outcome is that the BRICS summit will go on with four of the five leaders attending in person, but Vladimir Putin will stay home,” [John] Kirton [political scientist at the University of Toronto and the director of the university’s BRICS research group] said.
Putin’s remote attendance would sidestep the legal dilemma surrounding his arrest. Kirton said it also gives Putin a chance to reestablish control at home.
Kyle Matthews, a Canadian Global Affairs Institute fellow who studies international law and human rights, said Putin’s apparent hesitation shows the ICC’s growing strength.
“We’re already seeing (the warrant) having an impact where Putin is wary of traveling,” he told Global News. “And I think that’s key. It puts pressure (on leaders with warrants) that they never know what will happen.”

30 June
What’s Really Going On in Russia? (podcast & transcript)
The Russia scholar Stephen Kotkin discusses how Russia’s war in Ukraine and the recent Wagner mutiny are shattering Putin’s ‘mystique of power.’
(Ezra Klein show) So what was this? Was it a mutiny, a coup attempt? What does it mean for Vladimir Putin and the solidity of his regime? What does it mean for Ukraine?
And I should say here, there is just a lot we still don’t know, a lot we are still learning. The situation is changing — and you’ll hear it in this conversation — even as we went to tape. But to have, I think, any chance of seeing through the fog here, you need a sense of how authoritarian regimes work, and particularly how they work in Russia. And that’s why I wanted Stephen Kotkin to come on the show.

28-29 June
After Failed Mutiny in Russia, U.S. Sanctions Wagner Funders as Fighters Remain in Africa & Syria
(Democracy Now) After the Wagner Group’s aborted mutiny in Russia, the Biden administration has imposed new sanctions on companies accused of profiting from the activities of the Wagner Group in Africa. This comes as Russian military police raided Wagner mercenary bases in Syria. … We speak with political scientist Kimberly Marten, who has been studying the Wagner Group for years and says that despite recent events, Russia’s war in Ukraine and its presence in other countries is unlikely to be affected. “Wagner itself does not exist as an entity,” she says, describing it as a “contracting mechanism” for the Russian military and not truly independent from the government. “It would be really easy for the Kremlin to just put in place some other individual as the titular CEO of all these various companies.”
Russian elite brace for sweeping Kremlin investigation into Wagner rebellion
rumors abounded and paranoia deepened over whether Prigozhin had support from the upper reaches of Russia’s military or security services, and what the probes might reveal about treachery within Putin’s regime.
(WaPo) The Kremlin was in overdrive on Thursday striving to consolidate control and project an image of normalcy as questions swirled about the whereabouts of a top general, and Russia’s elite steeled themselves for a sweeping investigation into last weekend’s mercenary rebellion.
Among those being questioned, according to Russian media and members of the elite, was Gen. Sergei Surovikin, commander of the Russian aerospace forces, who had good relations with Wagner boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin. He reportedly intervened to sort out Prigozhin’s demands for ammunition after complaints that his fighters were poorly supplied.
Kremlin-connected political consultant Sergei Markov said the investigation into the mutiny was far-reaching.
“Everyone who was close to Prigozhin is being investigated,” Markov said. “I am sure that at least several hundred people are being investigated. The aim is to get information about who in reality took part or did not take part, to find out who took part in the betrayal, who took part in some kind of negotiations and should have told the authorities about it.”
Russian General Arrested Following Wagner Mutiny
Russian General Sergei Surovikin has been arrested, The Moscow Times’ Russian service reported Wednesday, citing two sources close to the Defense Ministry who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Defense Ministry has yet to comment on the alleged arrest of Surovikin, who has not been seen in public since Saturday, when Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin launched an armed rebellion against Russia’s military leadership.
… Later on Thursday, the Financial Times, citing three unnamed people familiar with the matter, reported that the general was detained in an alleged “crackdown on pro-war elites.”
Bloomberg and independent investigative outlet IStories followed with similar reports, but said Surovikin had only been questioned by law enforcement officials and then released.
Where are Russia’s top generals? Rumours swirl after mercenary mutiny
Two top Russian generals disappear from public view
Their fate is unclear as Putin seeks to reassert authority
Mercenary boss had demanded defence minister’s removal
Yet Sergei Shoigu has made several appearances this week
Rumours swirl of arrest, imprisonment of one of generals
(Reuters) – Russia’s most senior generals have dropped out of public view following a failed mercenary mutiny aimed at toppling the top brass, amid a drive by President Vladimir Putin to reassert his authority and unconfirmed reports of at least one arrest.
Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s top general, has not appeared in public or on state TV since the aborted mutiny on Saturday when mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin demanded Gerasimov be handed over. He has not been mentioned in a defence ministry press release since June 9 either.

23-27 June
Writing from Tbilisi, Georgia, Paule Robitaille Le tsar est nu cites Shota Kakabadze, analyste à l’Institut géorgien de politique.
« Il est encore tôt pour s’avancer, mais une Russie fragile et faible pousserait nécessairement la Géorgie à s’en distancer et à renouer sans complexe avec l’Ouest, l’Europe et l’OTAN. » C’est un espoir chéri par les Géorgiens.
Mais une Russie instable peut devenir aussi une menace. Elle évoque des flots migratoires, une perte de contrôle du commerce illégal. M. Kakabadze pense au trafic d’armes, entre autres. Cela veut dire aussi le risque d’une petite étincelle qui ferait exploser la poudrière du Caucase du Nord de l’autre côté de la frontière. Elle loge des dizaines de minorités ethniques, dont la Tchétchénie qui a connu deux guerres en 30 ans. Son chef Ramzan Kadyrov, un autre seigneur de guerre sanguinaire et imprévisible, s’est absolument rangé du côté de Poutine samedi.
Une Russie faible et fragile réveillerait aussi le désir géorgien de reprendre l’Ossétie du Sud et l’Abkhazie, lieux de guerres sanglantes, prises par l’ancien empire, qu’on compare ici au Donbass et à la Crimée.
Bref, vue d’ici, une Russie qui s’effriterait ferait renaître les plus beaux espoirs, mais craindre des scénarios sanglants. Un grand jeu à suivre, incontestablement.
Wagner leader Prigozhin in Belarus is bad news for pretty much everybody
By Emily Rauhala, WaPo Brussels bureau chief
(WaPo) It is hard to imagine a worse neighbor. Wagner Group chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin is famously cruel. He commands a battle-hardened force of thousands. And he does not care for rules.
But it looks like the long-suffering people of Belarus will be stuck living with the mercenary boss turned mutineer thanks to a deal granting him safe passage in return for calling off his march on Moscow.
The agreement, brokered by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, seems to have averted a leadership crisis in Russia but may be the start of a new mess if Prigozhin rebuilds in this Russian vassal state.
Thomas L. Friedman: What Happens to Putin Now?
To the question many readers have asked me — “What happens to Putin now?” — it is impossible to predict. I would be careful, though, about writing Putin off so fast.
It’s Putin’s balance of power with the rest of the world where things get complicated, because we in the West have as much to fear from Putin’s weakness as his strength.
… All that said, we should be worried as much by the prospect of Putin’s defeat as by any victory. What if he is toppled? This is not like the last days of the Soviet Union. There is no nice, decent Yeltsin-like or Gorbachev-like figure with the power and standing to immediately take over.
… In the near term, though, if Putin is ousted, we could well end up with someone worse. How would you feel if Prigozhin had been in the Kremlin this morning, commanding Russia’s nuclear arsenal?
You could also get disorder or civil war and the crackup of Russia into warlord/oligarch fiefs. As much as I detest Putin, I detest disorder even more, because when a big state cracks apart, it is very hard to put it back together. The nuclear weapons and criminality that could spill out of a disintegrated Russia would change the world.
This is not a defense of Putin. It is an expression of rage at what he did to his country, making it into a ticking time bomb spread across 11 time zones. Putin has taken the whole world hostage.
If he wins, the Russian people lose. But if he loses and his successor is disorder, the whole world loses.
The Beginning of the End for Putin?
By Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage
Prigozhin’s Rebellion Ended Quickly, but It Spells Trouble for the Kremlin
(Foreign Affairs) Putin abetted the rise of Prigozhin and ignored the warning signs about Wagner, Prigozhin’s out-of-control private military company.
Putin’s hubris and indecisiveness have been the story of the war. They are now the story of domestic Russian politics. Whatever Prigozhin’s motives and intentions may be, his rebellion has exposed an acute vulnerability of Putin’s regime: its contempt for the common man. Putin was too clever to let the war affect Moscow and St. Petersburg or to let it adversely affect the elite populations of these cities. Yet his very cleverness imposed a war of choice on the country’s nonelite populations. They have been dragged into a horrific colonial struggle, and when Moscow has not been reckless with their lives, it has often been callous.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 27
The ongoing Putin-Lukashenko-Prigozhin powerplay is not yet over and will continue to have short-term and long-term consequences that may benefit Ukraine.
(Institute for the Study of War) Prigozhin had built his personal brand on criticizing the Russian military command and bureaucrats for corruption and ties to Western countries, and Putin is likely attempting to shatter Prigozhin’s populist appeal by accusing him of the same sins.
Putin has likely decided that he cannot directly eliminate Prigozhin without making him a martyr at this time. Prigozhin still retains some support within Russian society and the Russian regular forces, and the Kremlin will need to ensure that these groups become disillusioned with Prigozhin to effectively deprive him of his popular support in Russia. …
Lukashenko likely seeks to use the Wagner Group in Belarus to buy maneuvering space to balance against the Kremlin campaign to absorb Belarus via the Union State. Lukashenko described at length how he inserted himself into the Putin-Prigozhin conflict in a way that – if Lukashenko’s account is true – demonstrates that Lukashenko is a politically savvy actor capable of exercising influence within the upper echelons of Russian politics. … Lukashenko likely seeks to closely control any Wagner Group forces that move into Belarus. … Lukashenko may seek to use the Wagner Group in Belarus to reduce the Belarusian military’s accumulated structural dependency on the Russian military for higher operational functions.
Lukashenko claims he persuaded Putin not to kill Wagner boss Prigozhin
(WaPo) Lukashenko, perhaps improbably, played a central role in brokering the deal between Putin and Prigozhin that led to the enraged mercenary boss diverting a column of fighters that were advancing on Moscow with surprisingly little resistance. Putin, in exchange, agreed to drop insurgency charges against Prigozhin and to allow him and Wagner to move to neighboring Belarus, all but a client state of Moscow.
Putin also allowed Prigozhin to leave Russia alive — a point that seemed uncertain until Lukahsenko on Tuesday confirmed that the mercenary chief had arrived by private plane in Belarus.

After Putin speech on deal with mercenaries, Russia confronts divisions
(WaPo) The Kremlin on Tuesday went into overdrive to try to project unity and reassert Putin’s strength while also moving to taint Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the former Putin ally who led the rebellion. But the official explanations for why Prigozhin was allowed to escape without punishment looked unusually thin, highlighting new doubts about Putin’s strength and competence in a crisis.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed Tuesday that Prigozhin had arrived in Belarus, the key condition in his deal with the Kremlin to drop insurgency charges against him and allow Wagner to relocate its operations. Lukashenko said that the mercenary group would be offered an abandoned military base for its use.

The fallout of Russia’s Wagner rebellion
(Brookings) What’s next for the Wagner Group and its leader? How will African leaders assess their relationship with the mercenary group? What are the implications for Ukraine? Brookings Foreign Policy experts provide their thoughts on these questions and many more after this weekend’s tumultuous events in Russia.
Putin is now more dangerous
Aslı Aydıntaşbaş
Much of the media analysis after this weekend’s 23-hour Wagner rebellion is about the weakness of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime. True, personalized autocracies bypass rules and institutions and, as such, are inherently weaker than democracies.
But autocrats are also more dangerous precisely for the same reason — especially when they feel that their survival is at stake.
It is wrong to assume that the Russian military is toothless or that the Prigozhin saga is “the beginning of the end” for Putin. Putin was humiliated and, as Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin argues, the Russian military is corrupt and inefficient — but there is no indication that the regime is unraveling. We do not have a clear sense of what really happened. Was Prigozhin trying to stage a coup, as early reports suggested, or is this simply infighting among warlords in an opaque system?
Most likely the latter.

Jeremy Kinsman: Was Vladimir Putin’s Very Bad Weekend the End of an Era?
(Policy) The Prigozhin mutiny is a massive event. It is the beginning of the end of the Putin regime that is based on maskirovka, a Russian doctrine of deception with the intent of confusing the target.That target has always been the Russian people, to master and channel their broken psychology, to mould them into compliant obedience.
In their dreadful 20th century, Russians rose up and were then squashed down, force-fed with millenarian delusion that transmuted into mass murder of its own citizens by the regime. The effect of that trauma is inter-generational and alive today. Both Mikhail Gorbachev’s optimistic sweetness and Vladimir Putin’s pessimistic brutality have been extreme examples of survivor syndrome.

Anne Applebaum: Putin Is Caught in His Own Trap
After spending years cultivating public apathy, the Russian president found his people indifferent to his fate.
(The Atlantic) …a certain kind of autocrat, of whom Putin is the outstanding example, seeks to convince people… not to participate, not to care, and not to follow politics at all. The propaganda used in Putin’s Russia has been designed in part for this purpose. The constant provision of absurd, conflicting explanations and ridiculous lies—the famous “firehose of falsehoods”— encourages many people to believe that there is no truth at all. The result is widespread cynicism. If you don’t know what’s true, after all, then there isn’t anything you can do about it. Protest is pointless. Engagement is useless.
CBC radio The Current RUSSIA IN CRISIS Transcript
Guest: Anne Applebaum, historian, author and staff writer for The Atlantic.
Susan Ormiston: What was Putin’s tone and his overall message in that speech last night?

Vladimir Putin condemns Wagner armed mutiny in late night TV address
Vladimir Putin and the Russian warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin have both reappeared in public for the first time since the Wagner chief abandoned his armed mutiny on Saturday evening, with the Russian president thanking mercenary fighters and commanders who had stood down to avoid bloodshed.
Russian mercenary chief says he did not intend coup, Putin thanks those who stood down
No clue in audio as to Prigozhin’s whereabouts, circumstances
Putin to keep his promise to let Wagner men go to Belarus
Biden says West had nothing to do with aborted mutiny
Kremlin meeting said to include defence minister
(Reuters) – The boss of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, two days after leading an aborted mutiny, on Monday said he never intended to overthrow the government, while Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked Wagner fighters who stood down.
Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin gave few clues about his own fate, including his whereabouts, or the deal under which he halted a move toward Moscow.
Putin made a televised address on Monday, his first public comments since Saturday when he said the rebellion put Russia’s very existence under threat and that those behind it would be punished.
Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 25, 2023
Russian sources speculated on the specifics of the deal mediated by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko to end the Wagner Group’s June 23-24 armed rebellion, including the possible involvement of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff.
(ISW)…the specifics of the deal are still unclear in the open source beyond speculation and rumor. The fallout of Wagner’s armed rebellion has not yet concluded, and it remains to be seen how the deal will be implemented, if all involved parties will comply fully, how the Kremlin and Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) intend to do with Wagner personnel – and if Wagner fighters will cooperate, regardless of Prigozhin’s wishes.
Belarus deal to take in leader of Russian rebellion puts him in an even more repressive nation
(AP) — Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was notorious for unbridled and profane challenges to authority even before the attempted rebellion that he mounted Saturday. The reported agreement for him to go into exile in Belarus would place him in a country where such behavior is even less acceptable than in his homeland.
Prigozhin on Sunday was uncharacteristically silent as his Wagner private army forces pulled back from Russian cities after a Kremlin announcement that he had agreed to depart for Belarus; it remains unclear whether he’s actually there.
Experts react: What Russia’s Wagner Group rebellion means for Putin, Ukraine, China, and more
By Atlantic Council experts
What a difference a day makes. In the past twenty-four hours, Wagner Group leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin announced a rebellion against Russia, claimed his forces seized the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, and marched his forces toward Moscow. However, after a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, it appears the Kremlin has dropped its charges against the mutinying mercenary leader, with Prigozhin agreeing to withdraw his fighters and leave for Belarus.
How did Prigozhin’s rebellion get as far as it did? And how will its aftermath affect Putin’s hold on power and the war in Ukraine? Read analysis from Atlantic Council experts on what these breakneck developments in Russia mean for the Putin regime, the Ukrainian counteroffensive, and the Moscow-Beijing partnership.
Rebel Russian mercenaries will turn back to avoid bloodshed, leader says
Prigozhin says men will return to base
Belarus says it brokered deal in return for safety of rebels
Wagner forces had taken control of Rostov
(Reuters) – Mutinous Russian mercenary fighters who surged most of the way to Moscow have agreed to turn back to avoid bloodshed, their leader said on Saturday, in a de-escalation of what had become a major challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power.
Belarus president says Prigozhin accepted de-escalation proposal
The office of the Belarus president, Alexander Lukashenko, just announced that Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has accepted a proposal to “stop the movement of armed persons of the Wagner company on the territory of Russia and take further steps to de-escalate tensions”, the president’s office said, with similar reporting in Russian news outlets.
The statement said that Vladimir Putin briefed Lukashenko in the morning [24 June] and, with his approval, Lukashenko held negotiating talks with Prigozhin.
Diane Francis: Beginning of the End for Russia<
Just a week ago, it would have been inconceivable to imagine that a favored Russian’s oligarch’s mercenary army would sudden turn tail and seize Rostov, linchpin hub for Moscow’s war against Ukraine, then march toward the Kremlin. …last week [Evgeny Prigozhin] escalated his attacks by saying the war against Ukraine was completely unjustified. He said Ukraine and NATO were never going to attack Russia but that this was the excuse concocted by Russian elites who wanted the invasion so they could further plunder Ukraine for their own gain. Prigozhin should know. He has made a fortune himself by pillaging and plundering on behalf of Russia and waging war in Ukraine in 2014 and 2022 as well as in Syria, Mali, Libya, and other regions in Africa. Now he wants to bring down the elites to stop a rotten war.
Russia investigates Wagner chief for ‘armed mutiny’ after call for attack on military
FSB opens criminal case after Yevgeny Prigozhin accuses Russia’s military of rocket attack and says ‘evil’ leadership must be stopped
(The Guardian) In a virtual declaration of war against his rivals in the Russian military, Prigozhin said he controlled 25,000 fighters and that together “we are going to figure out why the chaos is happening in the country”.
Russia accuses mercenary chief of armed mutiny after he vows to punish top brass
Prigozhin says army bombed his men, vows ‘justice’
Moscow accuses him of calling for armed mutiny
Wagner chief takes feud with top brass to new level
Prigozhin earlier accused army of deceiving Putin
(Reuters) – Russia accused mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin of armed mutiny on Friday [23 June] after he alleged, without providing evidence, that the military leadership had killed a huge number of his fighters in an air strike and vowed to punish them.

20 June
The Treacherous Path to a Better Russia
(Foreign Affairs) There is good reason to be pessimistic about the prospects of Russia’s changing course under Putin. He has taken his country in a darker, more authoritarian direction, a turn intensified by the invasion of Ukraine. The wrongful detention of The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in March and the sentencing of the opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza to a 25-year prison term in April, for example, are eerily reminiscent of measures from Soviet times. Once leaders grow to rely on repression, they become reluctant to exercise restraint for fear that doing so could suggest weakness and embolden their critics and challengers. If anything, Putin is moving Russia more and more toward totalitarianism as he attempts to mobilize Russian society in support of not just his war on Ukraine but also his antipathy to the West.
If the West’s relations with Russia are unlikely to change while Putin is in power, perhaps things could improve were he to depart. But the track record of political transitions that follow the exits of longtime authoritarian leaders offers little room for optimism. The path to a better Russia is not just narrow—it is treacherous. Authoritarian leaders rarely lose power while still waging a war they initiated. As long as the war continues, Putin’s position is more secure, making positive change less likely. What is more, authoritarian regimes most often survive in the wake of the departure of longtime leaders such as Putin; were Putin to die in office or be removed by insiders, the regime would most likely endure intact. In such a case, the contours of Russian foreign policy would stay largely the same, with the Kremlin locked in a period of protracted confrontation with the West.

14 June
Putin takes to TV
(GZERO) On [13 June], Russia’s President Vladimir Putin fielded questions from 18 carefully selected Russian milbloggers and war correspondents during a televised event. The occasion was interesting for several reasons. Putin took the unusual (for him) step of wading into the increasingly ugly battle of words between Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group private militia, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The Russian president backed Shoigu’s call for all fighters now working for the many militia groups fighting for Russia inside Ukraine to sign contracts that bring them under the direct control of the Defense Ministry. Putin also claimed Russian forces will win the war by outlasting Western support for Ukraine, that Russia can defend its borders against future Ukrainian raids and drone attacks inside Russia, that Russian forces have effectively repelled Ukraine’s counteroffensive, and that no further conscription and mobilization of Russian soldiers will be necessary for the foreseeable future.
The message for ordinary Russians, especially for critics who say Russia isn’t aggressive enough in Ukraine: I’m in charge, and we’re winning, so don’t worry about it.
Is Putin genuinely confident? Or is this an effort to build much-needed unity in a moment of high Russian anxiety as Ukraine’s counteroffensive gathers momentum? The next move from Prigozhin, now on a speaking tour inside Russia, will also be important to watch. The war’s most colorful character looks to be standing on increasingly dangerous ground.

14 June
Belarus starts taking delivery of Russian nuclear weapons
By Lidia Kelly and Andrew Osborn
(Reuters) – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said his country has started taking delivery of Russian tactical nuclear weapons, some of which he said were three times more powerful than the atomic bombs the US dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
The deployment is Moscow’s first move of such warheads – shorter-range less powerful nuclear weapons that could potentially be used on the battlefield – outside Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.
26 May
What Happens if Russia Stashes Nukes in Belarus
And some news about that Kremlin drone strike
By Tom Nichols
(The Atlantic) The dictator of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has signed an agreement with Russia to base Russian nuclear weapons in his country. The strategic impact of such a move is negligible, but a lot can go wrong with this foolish plan.
Russia has taken another step toward nuclearizing its satrapy in neighboring Belarus. This is bad news but not a crisis (yet). … As ever, I worry not about Putin’s deliberate move to start World War III, but about some kind of error or accident when transferring nuclear weapons from one paranoid authoritarian country to another. Putin may well place nuclear weapons close to Ukraine and then claim that NATO is threatening Russia’s nuclear deterrent, thus provoking a crisis he thinks will induce the West to back away from supporting Kyiv. This would be yet another harebrained blunder in a series of poor moves, but Putin, as we know, is not exactly a master strategist. It’s going to be a tense summer.

30 March
Ballooning ‘black’ budget and leaked conversations: Emerging cracks in Putin’s Russia
(DW News) More than a year into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, signs continue to mount that Moscow is struggling under the weight of ballooning military spending. Moscow has consistently put on a brave face when it came to the country’s economic health. But it’s now classified or unlisted a third of the economic data coming out of the country. According to Russian Finance Ministery data unlisted or classified spending has doubled since last year, indicating around a third of the budget is likely connected to the war effort. 31 Billion dollars in total, dwarfing all other publicly listed government expenses. And Moscow’s black budget is ballooning at a time of falling commodity prices, which make up the lion’s share of Russia’s earnings. Western sanctions also continue to bite according to Russia’s president.
At the same time, publicly criticizing Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine can lead to harsh legal consequences. Most people prefer to voice their discontent in private. But one critical conversation between two prominent Russians has surfaced online.

17-20 March
After arrest warrant for Putin, Russia opens case against ICC
Russia’s Investigative Committee says the International Criminal Court has knowingly accused an innocent person of a crime, in another show of defiance against the court.
(Al Jazeera) Russia’s top investigative body has opened a criminal case against the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor and judges who issued an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin on war crimes charges.
The move was announced on Monday by the state Investigative Committee in another gesture of Russian defiance, three days after the ICC accused Putin and his children’s commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova of the war crime of deporting children from Ukraine to Russia.
ICC issues arrest warrant for Putin over war crimes in Ukraine
(WaPo) Judges for the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued on Friday arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and another top Russian official — the court’s first such decision related to the war in Ukraine.
Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, bear individual responsibility for the war crimes of “unlawful deportation” and “unlawful transfer” of children from occupied areas of Ukraine after Russia invaded the country last year, the judges allege.

21 February
Russia plans Belarus ‘absorption’ by 2030 — media reports
(DW) A Russian presidential document was obtained by a group of international journalists from news organizations including Yahoo News and Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung, who believe it to be authentic. It reportedly dates back to the summer of 2021
The document sets out a plan to infiltrate Belarus politically, economically and militarily. Plans are set out on different stages: short-term or until 2022, medium-term or until 2025 and long-term, meaning 2030.
The long-term plan translates into the formation of a common “union state” under Russian leadership.
Both countries are already formally part of a so-called “union state,” as per a 1999 agreement. The agreement sets a legal basis for integration between the two countries.
However, media outlets which obtained the document in question suggest Russia’s plans are more about annexing Belarus by 2030.

19 February
Putin, czar with no empire, needs military victory for his own survival
By Robyn Dixon and Catherine Belton
(WaPo) Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began with hubris and a zeal to reshape the world order. But even as he suffered repeated military defeats — diminishing his stature globally and staining him with allegations of atrocities being committed by his troops — Putin has tightened his authoritarian grip at home, using the war to destroy any opposition and to engineer a closed, paranoid society hostile to liberals, hipsters, LGBTQ people, and, especially, Western-style freedom and democracy.
The Russian president’s squadrons of cheerleaders swear he “simply cannot lose” in Ukraine, thanks to Russia’s vast energy wealth, nuclear weapons and sheer number of soldiers it can throw onto the battlefield. These supporters see Putin rising supreme from Ukraine’s ashes to lead a swaggering nation defined by its repudiation of the West — a bigger, more powerful version of Iran.
But business executives and state officials say Putin’s own position at the top could prove precarious as doubts over his tactics grow among the elite. For many of them, Putin’s gambit has unwound 30 years of progress made since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin’s vision of Russia horrifies many oligarchs and state officials, who confide that the war has been a catastrophic error that has failed in every goal. But they remain paralyzed, fearful and publicly silent.

18 February
Inside the stunning growth of Russia’s Wagner Group
Exclusive U.S. diplomatic cables and internal documents detail the expansion of the paramilitary force and global network led by a top Putin ally.
(Politico) American and European allies are mobilizing to thwart the rapid expansion of the Russian paramilitary group known as Wagner, run by a Putin-affiliated oligarch, as it captures key cities for Moscow in Ukraine and spreads its influence to Africa and other corners of the world.
With tens of thousands of fighters, many of them now battlefield-trained, the Wagner Group’s emergence as a rogue military threat could become a serious global challenge in years to come, U.S. and European officials said. …
The increasing power of Prigozhin in the shrinking inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin…is prompting Western governments to take steps to stave off a threat they calculate could potentially inflict wide-ranging national security and foreign policy consequences in the years to come.
…since Russia began targeting Ukraine, Wagner has recruited thousands of new troops to join its ranks on the battlefield, allowing the group to clinch military victories in the Donbas region, including the city of Soledar.

February 14-15
The Kremlin’s Grand Delusions
What the War in Ukraine Has Revealed About Putin’s Regime
By Fiona Hill and Angela Stent
(Foreign Affairs) Despite a series of blunders, miscalculations, and battlefield reversals that would have surely seen him thrown out of office in most normal countries, President Vladimir Putin is still at the pinnacle of power in Russia. He continues to define the contours of his country’s war against Ukraine. He is micromanaging the invasion even as generals beneath him appear to be in charge of the battlefield. (This deputizing is done to protect him from blowback if something goes badly wrong in the war.) Putin and those immediately around him directly work to mobilize Russians on the home front and manipulate public views of the invasion abroad. He has in some ways succeeded in this information warfare.
The war has revealed the full extent of Putin’s personalized political system. After what is now 23 years at the helm of the Russian state, there are no obvious checks on his power.
Since February 2022, the world has learned that Putin wants to create a new version of the Russian empire based on his Soviet-era preoccupations and his interpretations of history. The launching of the invasion itself has shown that his views of past events can provoke him to cause massive human suffering.
Russia’s new offensive will test the morale of Putin’s mobilized masses
Vladimir Putin is now desperate to demonstrate that his invasion is back on track and has reportedly massed huge reserves for a new push to overwhelm Ukraine’s defenses. However, after a year of catastrophic losses that has left many of Russia’s most prestigious military units seriously depleted, doubts remain over the ability of untested replacement troops to carry out large-scale offensive operations. …
Many mobilized Russians appear to be less than enthusiastic about their new role as the shock troops of Putin’s faltering invasion. Since the first week of February, a growing number of video appeals have been published on social media featuring groups of mobilized soldiers complaining about everything from a lack of basic military equipment to the suicidal orders of their superiors. In one fairly typical video, the wives and mothers of mobilized soldiers from Tatarstan claim their men are being used as “cannon fodder” in Ukraine.
With hundreds of thousands of mobilized Russians expected to take part in Putin’s big offensive, this emerging trend could pose a significant threat to the Kremlin. If current casualty rates are any indication, the coming attack could result in unprecedented loss of life and spark a complete collapse in morale among Russia’s already demoralized mobilized troops. This would make life very difficult for the Russian army in Ukraine, which would find itself confronted by a breakdown in discipline that would severely limit its ability to stage offensive operations. Nor is there any guarantee that the problems would stop there. Russia’s own experience in 1917 is a reminder of the unpredictable consequences that can follow when an army in wartime stops taking orders.

13 February
Man vs. Myth: Is Russia’s Prigozhin a Threat or Asset to Putin?
Tatiana Stanovaya
The Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is visibly transforming into a full-fledged politician with his own views, which are nothing short of revolutionary.
(Carnegie Endowment) As long as Putin is relatively strong and capable of maintaining the balance between various groups of influence, Prigozhin is not dangerous. But the slightest change could prompt Prigozhin to challenge the authorities: perhaps not Putin himself, at first. War makes monsters of men, and their recklessness and desperation can become a challenge to the state if it shows even the slightest sign of weakness.
Prigozhin’s unique chance arose following the annexation of Crimea. The conflicts in both the Donbas and then Syria, plus Russia’s standoff with the West, meant that a market emerged for “gray” geopolitical tactics that unwieldy official institutions would struggle to deliver. Prigozhin started using informal tools of influence—mercenaries and media mechanisms such as troll factories—that were new to Russia and enabled it to operate out of sight and without being held accountable.
Prigozhin had hit the mother lode: if the state was unable to effectively solve certain tasks (or simply did not want to be seen doing so), these quasi-state tools could fill the gap. Putin liked this approach, which is also in demand in the war against Ukraine.

7 February
Moscow’s Original “Special Operation”: Why Russia Is Staying in Syria
Nikita Smagin
Russia has no plans to leave Syria, but is increasingly unwilling to intervene in the country’s domestic affairs, whether militarily or financially.
(Carnegie Endowment) The Russian invasion of Ukraine has completely eclipsed Russia’s other military operation: Syria. It’s not just television coverage that has been diverted from the Middle East to Ukraine, but Russian troops and resources, too.
In recent months, Russia has reduced the number of its troops in Syria, ceded control over territory, and reduced humanitarian aid. That’s not to say, however, that it is leaving the country. Moscow still considers its presence in Syria a valuable asset, and sees its alliance with Damascus as an important bargaining chip in talks with the West.

4 February
Could this man replace Putin? Hear Russian journalist’s answer
Yevgeny Prigozhin, who leads a major mercenary force fighting in Ukraine called the Wagner Group, is rising in power, but could he replace Russian President Vladimir Putin? Russian investigative journalist Mikhail Zygar discusses with CNN anchor Erin Burnett.
The man with his own army (9 November 2022)

24 January
Are we seeing the beginning of the end of Putinism?
By Michael McFaul
(WaPo Opinion) Wartime leaders change generals when they’re losing, not winning. On Jan. 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, was to replace Sergei Surovikin, who was appointed just a few months earlier in October….
This shake-up at the top of the military is not the only sign of Putin’s recognition of failure. He canceled his annual end-of-year news conference, evidently reluctant to take questions even from a mostly loyal and controlled press corps. His solitary and subdued appearance at the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Kremlin on Orthodox Christmas communicated little confidence.
His propagandists sound depressed. Strikingly, one of them, Sergei Markov, summed up the previous year by stating bluntly, “The USA was the main winner of 2022. Especially Biden.” Newspaper reporter Maksim Yusin recently said on a talk show that Russia’s “special military operation” had achieved none of its original goals. Former Putin adviser Sergei Glazyev lamented in public that Russia does not have a clear end objective, a sound ideology or the resources to win the war against the collective West.
… Putin’s societal support is soft and declining. Public opinion polls show he still enjoys popular support. But these polls in Russia have high refusal rates, which should not be surprising in a country where you can go to jail for 15 years for “public dissemination of deliberate false information about the use of Russian Armed Forces.” The minority responding to these polls supports the regime, but the majority who choose not to respond likely do not. And even these highly flawed polls show little enthusiasm and declining support for the war, and a solid majority ready to support Putin if he ends the invasion. Anxiety about the conflict is growing. And the demographics of his support are clear: The older, more rural, less educated and poorer support Putin in greater numbers than the younger, more urban, more educated, wealthier Russians. Putin is losing the future.
Putin’s Last Stand – The Promise and Peril of Russian Defeat
By Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage
(Foreign Affairs January/February 2023) … It…appears that Russia is headed for defeat. Less certain is what form this defeat will take. Three basic scenarios exist, and each one would have different ramifications for policymakers in the West and Ukraine.
The first and least likely scenario is that Russia will agree to its defeat by accepting a negotiated settlement on Ukraine’s terms. That said, a Russian government—under Putin or a successor—could try to retain Crimea and sue for peace elsewhere. To save face domestically, the Kremlin could claim it is preparing for the long game in Ukraine, leaving open the possibility of additional military incursions.
A second scenario for Russian defeat would involve failure amid escalation. The Kremlin would nihilistically seek to prolong the war in Ukraine while launching a campaign of unacknowledged acts of sabotage in countries that support Kyiv and in Ukraine itself. In the worst case, Russia could opt for a nuclear attack on Ukraine. The war would then edge toward a direct military confrontation between NATO and Russia. Russia would transform from a revisionist state into a rogue one, a transition that is already underway, and that would harden the West’s conviction that Russia poses a unique and unacceptable threat.
The final scenario for the war’s end would be defeat through regime collapse, with the decisive battles taking place not in Ukraine but rather in the halls of the Kremlin or in the streets of Moscow. Putin has concentrated power rigidly in his own hands, and his obstinacy in pursuing a losing war has placed his regime on shaky ground. Russians will continue marching behind their inept tsar only to a certain point.

20 January
Don’t Fear Putin’s Demise
Victory for Ukraine, Democracy for Russia
By Garry Kasparov and Mikhail Khodorkovsky
(Foreign Affairs) Pro-democracy Russians who reject the totalitarian Putin regime—a group to which the authors belong—are doing what they can to help Ukraine liberate all occupied territories and restore its territorial integrity in accordance with the internationally recognized borders of 1991. We are also planning for the day after Putin. The Russian Action Committee, a coalition of opposition groups in exile that we co-founded in May 2022, aims to ensure that Ukraine is justly compensated for the damage caused by Putin’s aggression, that all war criminals are held accountable, and that Russia is transformed from a rogue dictatorship into a parliamentary federal republic.

13 January
Wartime Putinism – What the Disaster in Ukraine Has Done to the Kremlin—and to Russia
By Michael Kimmage and Maria Lipman
(Foreign Affairs) Wartime Putinism is a reduced Putinism, and it would be impossible to describe today’s Russia (to Russians) as an ascendant power. It is, rather, an embattled power. This explains the frenzied media campaign to drum up support for the war, which masks the fact that Putin has committed Russia to a long cycle of stagnation. Isolation and sanctions will together contribute to Russia’s economic and technological decline. Nobody can say how long Putin can walk this dispiriting tightrope. Putin’s warpath does not lead from point A to point B but is a circuitous route that leads from point A back to point A. A fine-tuned method for avoiding failure, wartime Putinism has all the hallmarks of a dead end.

8 January
Russia’s Eugenic War
Four policies of racial cleansing
Timothy Snyder
The onset of the war, and then the announcement of mobilization, drove much of the Russian intelligentsia and the middle classes abroad. From Putin’s point of view, this was a necessary “self-cleansing,” in which Russia was “spitting out” traitors (his phrasing) like insects. In the initial invasion force, and then among the mobilized, Russia’s ethnic minorities were over-represented. This too changes the complexion of Russia’s multiethnic population, leaving it more Russian. Third, Russia is now emptying its prisons to send these men to fight and die in Ukraine. This too is explicitly presented as a purification of the Russian population.
These actions all involve the reduction of the population of the Russian Federation. A fourth racial action more than compensates for this. It is the systematic seizure of Ukrainian women and children and their deportation into the vastness of Russia. From the territories occupied by Russia some three million people have been deported, disproportionately young women and children. At least two hundred thousand and as many as 700,000 children have been taken by force to Russia. (For comparison: Nazi Germany deported about 200,000 Polish children for assimilation during the entire Second World War.) The logic is that the women will have to marry Russian men and that the children will grow up as Russians.

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