Monday 26 June 2023

Hot and tasty: Prigozhin's Cup-a-Not-a-Coup

Prigozhin's up-a-coup soup package with T-72 sticking out of cup
Prigozhin's Chicken Noodle flavoured Instant Cup-A-Coup!

Is Putin done?

I doubt it. 

Then again, I was not expecting Putin's caterer to occupy Rostov and send an army of convicted murderers and rapists on a "March for Justice" to Moscow. 

Putin fled in his private jet as a few Russian army units joined in the march. Prigozhin took control of a TV station to broadcast that the war was being fought under false pretenses (deja vu, America!) and that Ukraine had actually never persecuted Russians and wasn't run by Jewish Nazis. 

I couldn't make this stuff up, it's so bonkers.

And then, after shooting down some Russian attack helicopters, the caterer suddenly dropped everything and set off for exile in Minsk, thanks to a deal worked out by Lame-duck-Lukashenko of Belarus. 

As OMC and Navalny might say, how bizarre!

'Priggy' has always been a loose cannon, but to bite the hand that fed him so directly was a major surprise. 

Why'd he do it?

Serious miscalculation.

Last week, Putin made clear he was going to roll Wagner into the MoD org. This would strip Prigozhin of all his power, and possibly expose him to existential danger at the hands of Shoigu, who hates his guts. So Priggy Prigozhin preempted them all, caught the FSB flat footed, and the road to Moscow open. Wagner troops willingly followed their hard nosed boss: they weren't keen on being integrated with the regular Russian army, which (naturally) has worse food (Prigozhin was a former chef and caterer, after all). 

Everyone else rallied around President Putin, and Prigozhin's 'March for Justice' stunt was denounced as full fledged treason. That seems to be when when Warlord Prigozhin started to look for an off ramp. Too little, too late.

So now what? The private army is going to be split up among regular Russian army units so they can never again act against Warlord-President Putin.

That removes the biggest threat to his regime. At least that I am aware of. Shoigu and Gerasimov may be disliked by the rank and file, but they are Putin loyalists. No threat there.

Putin does come out of this bizarre affair with egg on his face. His reputation as a machiavellian plotter who is always ahead of his opponents is tarnished, and it will take time for him to reestablish his cold blooded utter ruthlessness cred. 

I think he'll succeed in doing so, and I wouldn't want to be in Prigozhin's shoes right now. I'd hire someone taste test his afternoon tea, if you know what I mean. Stay away from Russian windows.

Overall, I think we all got off easy. 

Priggy would be the worse option to have in control of Russia's nuclear arsenal. Both of these warlords are dangerous men, but Priggy's more volatile and unpredictable. 

I'd rather see a stable, democratic liberal regime in Moscow, but that's not gonna happen. Russia is still an empire, which means that if the security forces let up, several regions will try and secede. 

Stay tuned for the next episode of Russian Political Roulette...

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