Three weeks ago, living in a Potemkin Village of our own, we awoke with a shock to the political system. Putin was being challenged by his lap dog Yevgeny Prigozhin who heads Putin’s extra military, Wagner. Last year, I wrote twice about Putin’s world-dominating aims. History may have caught up with him in the form of an unlikely foe who possesses the one quality most world leaders don’t have—Prigozhin does not fear death. In this way, he may be like Putin. But Putin has obtained everything he wants, while Prigozhin hasn’t.
That makes him a very dangerous adversary. He is a dead man if he fails, even if it does not happen immediately. And so is his inner circle of officers/co-conspirators. The culture of Mercenaries is largely unfamiliar to most Americans. Wagner operates on three continents doing basic military work and sometimes the kind of Wetwork that we don’t like to talk about but happens all the time in other less civilized countries.
Political Control Persona:
Putin has cultivated a persona of control, especially in the international community and particularly against his numerous public enemies like Alexi Navalny, a political rival, currently in prison in Russia and the victim of a near poisoning widely believed by many to have been ordered by Putin. American political types and intelligence sources appear to have been caught flat-footed. I don’t understand this.
Why? Putin is an existential threat to his own citizens, especially the Oligarchs and political class that owe their existence to Putin’s continued reign. It can’t be emphasized enough that Putin is a Dictator, as much as Xi, recently called such by President Biden. Putin faces rising international pressure from the West to end the war in Ukraine on terms favorable to the forces of freedom. Cast aside all the rhetoric you’ve heard about China’s ‘no limits’ partnership with Russia by witnessing China’s complete lack of munitions delivery to Russia to read the actual tea leaves. Russia has financial help from China and India by purchasing crude oil at below-market rates, among others; that much is true. Still, the kind of help they need is arms, ammunition, and manpower, with only Iran and North Korea willing to take Russia’s money so far for the overt purchase of arms and ammunition.
Nuclear Armageddon With Russians:
The issue on everyone’s mind is the nuclear wild card, which Putin waves around regularly with his move last month to deliver tactical nukes to Belurus. The point that should be on everyone’s mind is what are the checks and balances on Putin himself? Students of Russian history know that the assassination of Russian leaders and party functionaries and sometimes their disappearance is more common than you can imagine. Russia has lost ten generals in their ill-conceived war in Ukraine; at least two generals are either ‘missing’ or ‘resting.’ Most of us have children; everyone wants a future, and virtually no one wants a madman to commit nuclear Armageddon. As I have written in the past, close calls in the former Soviet Union have been averted more than once by someone in the kill chain, stopping the process. Call it a miracle or, as I do, an act of self-preservation, but Russians love their families as much (or maybe even more) than we do. Remember, Russia is a land of Poets.
A Dangerous Combination of Enemies:
Putin has many enemies. Who’s to say that Putin’s time in office might be shorter than he anticipates? We can hope for a more Western-looking successor who does not believe in his vision of a God-inspired new Russian Empire but instead seeks a different Russia with new traditions of freedom and democracy for his people. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?
This is possible but can’t be taken for granted. An ex-KGB operative, Putin sees the world as open to plunder and manipulation. He sees Biden as weak and ineffective. This is a dangerous combination when nuclear weapons and wars are part of the equation. The possibility of miscalculation is ever present for all parties. However, the West has no choice but to resist Putin’s territorial ambitions. That’s something everyday Americans likely don’t understand well enough and find it impossible to weigh the risk vs. reward inherent in standing up to tyrants.
The next few days or weeks will tell the story. My opinion is Putin beat back Prigozhin, or we’ll see a new leader appear in Russia eventually. Putin is a chess player and will make moves that don’t at first appear to be logical, but wait, and we’ll see. Largely, we are along for the ride in any case. We should quickly recognize new leadership if it appears and try to bring Russia into the fold of free nations. Not doing so risks giving Putin more time to regroup and retain his leadership. As long as he is in power or alive, Putin remains an existential threat to the free world. This is the hard reality of the situation.
A Silent Observer – China:
One more thing. China will watch what happens and how all sides react with keen interest. We have no idea how firm Xi’s grip on power is either. Popular conclusions are frequently wrong; witness what is happening now in Russia with broad discord that would be unheard of only a month or two ago. Everpresent and on the current trajectory, we will be fighting China within 15-25 years, perhaps much sooner if Taiwan is the trigger. China seeks domination, not coexistence. Adventurism is curbed when leaders start to realize how mortal they are and how fleeting power can be. What is happening in Russia could help defuse a future situation in China.
And What of our Potemkin Village title?
We all watch with more than transitory interest as history is made right before our eyes. Putin has cultivated a carefully curated version of Russia that is largely untrue. Like a dam bursting, we saw the legend of the 10-foot-tall Russian soldier crumble before our eyes as Ukraine slaughtered two hundred thousand Russians, dead or wounded in a short period of time. Leadership, which commences from the top, has been found not just wanting but largely a fantasy. None of us saw this coming. Putin is surrounded by his “yes” men. His insiders tell him that he is brilliant, a historical figure on the verge of a new world order. None of that is true. The Russian people, shielded from much of the war news, are slowly coming to understand that they live in a Potemkin Village of their own.
In that situation, all bets are off as the dam breaks with the forces of billions of gallons of water behind it. Pray that peace finds its way out of this mess. We can do nothing other than maintain our resolve and not send conflicting signals.
God Bless America!
Allan J. Feifer—Patriot
Author, Businessman, and Thinker. Read more about Allan, his background, and his ideas to create a better tomorrow at www.1plus1equals2.com