Putin’s (and Russia’s) Naked Weakness

Virtually everyone in Russia now knows Putin is an incompetent loser driving Russia into a ditch

(Russian/Русский переводЕсли вы состоите в российской армии и хотите сдаться Украине, звоните по этим номерам: +38 066 580 34 98 или +38 093 119 29 84инструкции по сдаче здесь)

By Brian E. Frydenborg (Twitter @bfry1981, Threads @bfchugginalongLinkedInFacebook, Substack with exclusive informal content) June 28, 2023; see related May 31, 2023, article Recent Raids and Drone Strikes in Russia Show How Screwed Russia and Putin Really Are; because of YOU, Real Context News surpassed one million content views on January 1, 2023but I still need your help, please keep sharing my work and consider also donating! Real Context News produces commissioned content for clients upon request at its discretion. Also, Brian is running for U.S. Senate for Maryland and you can learn about his campaign here.

Alex Plitsas/@alexplitsas/Twitter

SILVER SPRING—Just days ago, Russians and the world watched as Russian rebels supported by Ukraine repeatedly attacked and held territory for days in parts of Russia near the Ukraine border as Ukraine’s counteroffensive was just warming up.  Then, Russians and the world watched as Ukraine sent a series of drones to strike Moscow and its suburbs.  After that, Russians and the world watched as the de facto extension of the Russian Army—the Wagner Group, led by warlord, Mueller-indictee, and Putin protégé Yevgeny Prigozhin—took two major Russian cities on the road to Moscow, going from Ukraine to less than 125 miles south of Moscow’s outskirts in one twenty-four hour period.  And while that last bit kept unfolding, Ukraine retook Krasnohorivka, its first liberation of a village that Russia has occupied since all the way back in 2014.

All this within the rough span of a month.  Dare we guess at what new lows Russia will reach in the coming months?

I noted at the time of the rebel raids and wave of drone strikes against Moscow from about a month ago that this was just first of serious infighting of Russians between Russians spilling out into open conflict inside Russia, that given the obvious dynamics, more and more Russians were going to turn on Putin and his regime for his disastrous management of this war rather than die pointlessly in losing battles that keep getting worse and worse for Russia.

And I expect even more dramatic escalation of this nature after this most serious round of Russians fighting Russians that we saw this weekend, and that Prigozhin’s Wagner fighters were the next big escalation along this vector did not surprise me at all.  And it won’t surprise me at all when it happens again, whether it’s again Prigozhin’s Wagner or its remnants, the Russian Volunteer Corps (R.D.K.) and the Free Russia Legion (also translated as the Freedom of Russia Legion or Liberty of Russia Legion), members of the regular Russian military, or some other Russian faction or partisan group yet to really make its mark.  Already there are Russians (including a sizable contingent of Chechens eager to take the fight from inside Ukraine into Russia) and Belarusians fighting for Ukraine, among other foreign volunteers inspired by Ukraine’s cause.

You sure don’t need The New York Times to know that Prigozhin’s rebellion had and still has serious support in Russia and the Russian military and at serious levels: crowds in Rostov greeted Prigozhin and his Wagnerites as liberators, and even worse was the fact that vast majority of Russian security forces and leaders—military or otherwise—in the areas of the Southern and Western Military Districts where he carried out his revolt, from Rostov and Voronezh and further on the road to Moscow, didn’t lift a finger to stop him all the way up until he was just some 125 miles from Moscow, and then, humiliatingly, it was the buffoonish leader of another, far weaker country—President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus—who apparently brokered a peaceful (for now) resolution.

There is no way Prigozhin did what he did and met as little resistance as he did without key support from key Russians along his path.  Whether or not it is true that Gen. Sergei Surovikin—head of the Russian Air Force and the Russian Space Force in a command combined as the Russian Aerospace Forces and the top general for Ukraine for a few months before he was relieved of that duty (and previously the “Butcher of Syria” and destroyer of Aleppo)—is now under arrest for suspicion of supporting Prigozhin’s revolt after unnamed U.S. officials told The New York Times they thought he supported Prigozhin’s insurrection (it would be hilarious if the U.S. was lying just to cast doubt so as lead to something just like his arrest), the landscape of top Russian security force leaders is now a paranoid trustless nightmare that will cripple the Russian military’s efforts in Ukraine, which were already crippled before this happened by dynamics long in place that have been leading to this coup clown show since early in the war, which I noted at great length at the time.  Every tank and troop going to protect Putin and his regime inside Russia is one less able to contribute to Russia’s pathetic war effort in Ukraine, a point I made about a month ago.  Except now the pendulum will swing even more to distracting from the actual war inside Ukraine to favor Putin’s war against his internal enemies.  Both seem destined to be losing fights, desperate ploys by a man who has gambled and now must throw in his watch and clothes and car keys into the pot, having lost all his chips already.

What was the response for Russia in Ukraine to Prigozhin’s mutiny?  Feckless, impotent missile strikes and drone strikes only good for killing civilians and not even many of those, with few missiles or drones getting through Ukrainian air defenses as usual; Russia literally often spends millions per casualty inflicted, even as Russia’s own Wagner shot down at least seven Russian aircraft inside Russia

Any other general hating Putin’s conduct of the war and thinking of rebelling can now see what a modest-sized force of troops can get close to doing and that, at least in the short-term, he and his men can walk away with their lives even if they fail. That short time before an assassination or imprisonment that may come later has, throughout history, been more than enough time to try again and succeed. Get a few generals together with like minds and many more men than Prigozhin, and, in spite of high risks, the sky is the limit as far as potential rewards, which is why people throughout history have often taken huge risks to undertake coups.

We are seeing a devolution of Russia and while it’s wildly premature to talk about the entirety of the Russian Federation breaking up into its constituent parts of ethnic minorities versus ethnic Russians, there’s a lot that can still go wrong short of that.  After all, there are great forces in motion—the laws of war and human nature along with history itself—and Russia is truly reaping what it sows.

There is no “improvement” for Russia in this conflict after this.  There is no way morale increases in the Russian military or that military start to perform better overall for any sustained period of time.  There is every reason to expect the same steady degradation we have seen for most of the war at this point, even if the bleeding stops here and there.

Personally?  I can’t wait for the next Russian rebellion to yet again put the look of fear into Putin’s eyes in a nationally televised address, for all his countrymen to see.  Russians are, after all, famously thick, so in this case, repetition is key, and unlike all the reboots in Hollywood coming out these days, these reboots can be counted on to get better and better.

See Brian’s related May 31, 2023, article Recent Raids and Drone Strikes in Russia Show How Screwed Russia and Putin Really Are

Brian’s Ukraine analysis has been praised by: Mykhailo Podolyak, a top advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; the Ukraine Territorial Defense Forces; Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, U.S. Army (Ret.), former commanding general, U.S. Army Europe; Scott Shane, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist formerly of The New York Times Baltimore Sun (and featured in HBO’s The Wire, playing himself); Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), one of the only Republicans to stand up to Trump and member of the January 6th Committee; and Orwell Prize-winning journalist Jenni Russell, among others. See all of Brian’s coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine here.

© 2023 Brian E. Frydenborg all rights reserved, permission required for republication, attributed quotations welcome

Also see Brian’s eBook, A Song of Gas and Politics: How Ukraine Is at the Center of Trump-Russia, or, Ukrainegate: A “New” Phase in the Trump-Russia Saga Made from Recycled Materials, available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook (preview here).

eBook cover

If you appreciate Brian’s unique content, you can support him and his work by donating here; because of YOU, Real Context News surpassed one million content views on January 1, 2023. Real Context News produces commissioned content for clients upon request at its discretion.

Feel free to share and repost this article on LinkedInFacebook, Threads, and Twitter. If you think your site or another would be a good place for this or would like to have Brian generate content for you, your site, or your organization, please do not hesitate to reach out to him!