What Is Going On In Russia?

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Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “When you strike a king you must kill him.” But what if the “king” being struck at in Russia’s weird weekend mutiny wasn’t actually Russian strongman Vladimir Putin?

Yevgeny Prgozhin, the former “Putin’s chef” and Wagner Group mercenary leader, led what appeared to be a coup during 24 hours of tension on Friday and Saturday. His mercenary force of professionals, thugs, and convicts took over Rostov-on Don and the Southern Military District Headquarters with little resistance. The second column of Wagner troops came as close as Hitler’s army did to Moscow in the winter of 1941 before it was called off.

Prigozhin demanded the removal of Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, and other senior members of an “oligarchic group” who had misled Putin and the Russian nation regarding the war. Prigozhin did not call for Putin’s removal but instead focused on the military leaders. It would be more accurate to refer to the events as a mutiny than a coup.

“All these bastards ought to be sent to the front barefoot with just a submachine gun,” Prigozhin said of Russia’s military leadership last October.

ISW said that Prigozhin “may have wildly miscalculated” when the mutiny began. Shoigu, Putin, and the Wagner Group will all be integrated into Russia’s army. Prigozhin is facing what appears to be an exile in Belarus.

You never know.

I am not a stranger to the rivalry that exists between Prigozhin, and Putin. In November, when Prigozhin formed “parallel structures” in the Belgorod oblast and Kursk oblasts, I noted that “it appears that there is a growing force privately-held ground forces headed by a person with his own agenda,” and suggested to Putin that he “sleep tightly.”

Eight months later, armored columns moved on Moscow even if it was only for a short time.

Prigozhin, who had been withdrawn from Ukraine’s front line, was ordered by Putin to integrate Wagner units into the Russian army earlier this month. He resisted the order. Putin saw him and Wagner as a threat to Moscow, and integration was his solution to neutralize that threat.

Maybe Prigozhin’s abortive mutiny wasn’t such a bad mistake, but rather a desperate gamble to save Wagner and himself.

In the early morning hours of Monday, military analyst Rob Lee, one of the best in the business noted that “it’s still unclear what the terms of the actual agreement that Prigozhin has reached with the Kremlin are.”

We do know that Putin himself called it “treason” (mutiny) and promised “harsh measures” to suppress it. It is not necessary to study Russian history in depth to understand that treason results in death. Prigozhin’s survival makes Putin look weak. To be fair, Prigozhin will need a food sampler and avoid multi-story buildings as long as he wants to live.

For months, Moscow has been trying to eliminate Prigozhin Wagner. Now, even after an embarrassing mutiny, Prigozhin survives. What if Prigozhin was the king who was struck but still lived?

At this point, we barely know what we don’t know. But maybe the biggest mystery of all is why Prigozhin stood down just when it looked like he was on the verge of success. We can only conjecture but, out of all the wild ass guesses I’ve seen on the news and online, this one is certainly the most interesting:

Is Yevgeny Prgozhin, a former Kremlin chef who ended up with his own private army now a nuclear force? This is such an absurd idea that I can’t even entertain it.

Stay tuned…