An eventful weekend for sure in Russia.
So, it seems like Prigozhin's attempted coup has failed. Belarus’ President Lukashenko has negotiated some face-saving exit for Prigozhin to exile in Minsk.
Hard to see Prigozhin surviving. He must now worry about eventually getting a Novichok dessert. Or, of falling out of a window.
Some broader conclusions:
First, I think events this weekend have underscored how bad the war in Ukraine is going for Russia.
It's been a disaster on all counts: military, human, economic, diplomatic/prestige and political.
As I have long argued, Russia has no path to victory in Ukraine, the longer it goes on the worse it gets for Russia. Indeed, the longer it goes on, with all the negative consequences, the more the risk of backdraft to Russia itself and risks of political upheaval at home in Russia. This is what we saw this weekend.
Second, Putin might have survived - just about. But he is now fatally weakened. His credibility is at a low point.
Imagine it's not clear whether Putin had enough military support to defend Moscow against the Wagner assault - note reports of him fleeing to St Petersburg. And the ultimate ignominy, of Putin being bailed out by his arch nemesis, President Lukashenko of Belarus. What a fall from grace by Putin.
Putin is now damaged goods, his vulnerabilities exposed. It’s a lower bar now for others within the regime to move against him. One (many) can hope.
Third, and linked to the above two points, I just don’t see how Russia, and Putin can sustain the war in Ukraine. Surely the temptation would be now for Putin to bring the troops home to defend against potential future political moves against him.
And, even if Putin does not willingly decide to withdraw from Ukraine, the risk now is that with the Ukrainian offensive ever gaining momentum and ground that Russian forces in Ukraine will question why they are fighting and surrender or retreat.
Russian forces in Ukraine are now terribly exposed and their position will only get weaker as Ukraine gets ever better Western equipment, including F16s.
Fourth, events over the weekend have probably provided Putin with scapegoats - Prigozhin the traitor and incompetents like Shoigu and Gerrasimov so eloquently exposed by Prigozhin.
He can blame these characters as explaining Russia’s downfall in Ukraine.
Fifth, I think Russia’s allies abroad - China and the Global South - will finally realize that Putin is a liability or at least his war in Ukraine is. They will worry about the potential consequences of a catastrophic defeat for Russia in Ukraine and advise Putin that if he has any chance of retaining power in Russia, and keeping the Russian Federation whole, he has to withdraw and take any peace he can get.
Sixth, and on the prospect of the collapse of Russia into many new states, as resulted from the collapse of the USSR in 1991, I think we saw this weekend that this is not such a remote chance. But I would argue that such an eventuality is not a terrible prospect - the collapse of the USSR led to the creation of fourteen new and well-functioning new states. The Russian Federation, however, the fifteenth, has proven to be the weak link. Putin started the war in Ukraine as part of a greater Russia strategy but the irony likely will be the result will be a lesser Russia outcome.
Events over the weekend should hopefully have hastened the game for Russia in Ukraine, producing a Russian withdrawal and Ukrainian victory.
Reprinted from Timothy Ash’s blog @tashecon blog. See the original here.
The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.
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