Something is Off in Putin’s Inner Circle

Photo by Uzunov Rostislav on

A few days ago, an article in the NYT spoke of the Wagner group claiming that it had taken over the town of Soledar in the Donbas area, only to be quickly contradicted by Russia’s defense ministry and Ukraine’s military.
The head of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has also criticized the Russian military for their management of the invasion.
So how come the Wagner group, a force of mercenary soldiers, which recruits prisoners to do the fighting, and whose chief and creator is reported to be a convicted criminal, has risen to such prominence in military affairs? (Before this he was in the restaurant business)
This is not new. The Wagner group has been active in Africa and in Syria supporting dictators.
Mind you, with the right approach, convicted criminals do turn their lives around and become contributors to society, and maybe Prigozhin is a standout talent, but to go from prison to becoming a close associate of Putin and then being entrusted with leading military actions in Africa and Syria and now in Ukraine, arouses a measure of interest.
Does Putin trust his own military, or is he more comfortable with Prigozhin?
Is he afraid that a career military commander may distinguish himself on the battlefield and grow to become a rival?
Russia’s failures in combat have been mounting and this is likely accentuating divisions in the armed forces.
Has Putin, deliberately, kept his military weak?
Did he believe it would be easier instead to control a former convict and his mercenaries?
In recent years there had been much talk of Putin modernizing his military, but it appears the changes were not substantive enough. Was he afraid of giving too much power to an institution that could overthrow him?
The war is not over and turnarounds are possible but, so far, Russia’s military’s performance in Ukraine has left them with a black mark for all the world to see. With their pride wounded, will they choose to stage a coup against Putin?
How is it that Putin thought that a mercenary group, even if 10 times its current size, could hold up against a trained and committed Ukrainian force fighting for their land?
There is no way that such group could win.
Present developments keep pointing to grave structural flaws in Russia’s management of the war, another reason why it is critical that the West continue its support of Ukraine’s fighters.
It is also important to find out which way does the Russian military lean politically.
Could it be that, as an educated group, it may be leaning more toward a democratic form of government and toward building stronger links with Europe?
Maybe the Russian military does not share the ultranationalist sentiments of some of Putin’s staunch supporters and, because of it, Putin has preferred to keep them relatively weak.
Otherwise, why not send Russian soldiers to Africa in place of the Wagner group? Wouldn’t that give them precious battlefield experience?
Something is off in Putin’s inner circle.
Maybe his dominance and control are not all that tight.
I am sure China is closely following these developments and acting on them to increase their influence.
There may even be a pro China faction and a pro Western faction in the Russian armed forces, both tugging with each other.
Educated, self respecting military officers are likely questioning the conduct of the war, Putin’s meddling and the loss of prestige their institution has suffered.
Is that institution now questioning their role in Russian society?
Is Putin’s savagery in Ukraine not something worth standing up to?
Are they not demeaned enough as Putin carries on unopposed in Russia?
Have they become lambs for the great Vladimir, future czar or king of their land?
Will the Russian military now forget what they are capable of, as when they beat back Hitler and changed the course of WWII, and instead bow as they wait for instructions from the head of the Wagner group?
The world is watching.

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