Not long ago, my favorite propagandist Dima Vorobiev expressed the view that Putin’s best exit strategy from the war in Ukraine would be for some enemy of the state to depose him. This would give Putin cover to “save the country” and exit Ukraine without also exiting this mortal coil, as any kind of outright defeat would unquestionably sign his own death warrant.
Hard to be a meme when you’re dead
Right now, it’s hard to say anything concrete about Prigozhin and Wagner’s actions. Many of his previous statements can be regarded as theatrical, and his actions have yet to seriously compromise Russia’s military. The lines in Zaporhizhia are still as strongly manned as ever, and the ongoing fighting in Southern Ukraine continues to be difficult.
If this is an outright coup, it’s not the coup that Western observers have hoped for — from the beginning, one of Prigozhin’s main criticisms of Putin and his commanders has been that they haven’t done enough to defeat Ukraine as he’s demanded more men and materiel for the war. However, he’s also begun to make statements attacking the justifications and pretexts for the war. Which Prigozhin is the real one?
If Prigozhin’s actions are sincere and he has things his way, it’s not impossible that it would lead to another wave of mobilization and other escalations of the war that he’s demanded for some time. It’s hard to imagine he would eagerly return to the 2014 borders as Zelensky and his supporters demand.
But it must be said, a clean coup of any sort is an extremely unlikely outcome. Even if all went off without a hitch, the domestic Russian political situation probably couldn’t bear it. Putin has declined to expand Russian mobilization not because he wants to keep things fair, but because there are good reasons to refrain from such action.
There’s very little to say for certain, except that almost every interpretation and prediction of what happens next is favorable to Ukraine. The question is, for the most part, only a matter of exactly how favorably things unfold.
Will Wagner end up removed from the Russian order of battle, or will Prigozhin merely end up being more powerful among the members of the Moscow circus? Is this a last-gasp effort based on Prigozhin knowing something we don’t? There are too many interpretations to count and it’s unclear which is correct, if any.
But the question was originally about the consequences his actions hold for Ukraine’s offensive operations. Until the consequences become clear, Ukraine probably shouldn’t do anything hasty in hopes of capitalizing on an opportunity that does not yet exist.
Keeping most of the new assault brigades in reserve, remaining flexible, and holding their cards close to their chest seems like the way to go. Furthermore, it appears to be what’s currently being done. If this turns into a real revolt, then Ukraine’s golden opportunity is weeks, not hours away.
NOTE: Prigozhin has called off the advance, reportedly for fear of “spilling Russian blood.” He also claimed that there was no conflict, no one died or was injured in his march to Moscow, and that Wagner will return to its bases in and near Ukraine. Prigozhin may be going into exile in Belarus.
In short, this whole episode only becomes more confusing. Continuing to watch and see what consequences Prigozhin suffers, if any, as well as the spin put on these events by Russian media to mitigate any morale consequences to the public and soldiers might help to uncover what the point of this whole episode was.
For now, and potentially until years after the end of the war, all we have is conjecture.
Culled from Quora; by Robert Hansen