Chai Shai Chaishai with me

Putin attempts to reassert control following the Wagner rebellion.

Wagner commander Yevgeny Prigozhin called off the failed rebellion two days after it began, but Russian President Vladimir Putin remained silent. Many people were anticipating a fiery response from the president after he was confronted with the worst threat to his power in 23 years and nearly saw his country descend into civil war.

Instead, it was his opponent who broke the stillness first. An 11-minute audio statement from Prigozhin was released to his Telegram channel, in which he denied any involvement in a coup and insisted that his actions were only a protest meant to “bring to justice” Russia’s top military command for their “mistakes during the special military operation.”

Putin was extremely cordial when he addressed the nation again on Monday. On Saturday, before he disappeared, he had declared that Prigozhin’s rebellion was “a stab in the back of our country and our people,” and he had vowed to make the rebels “accountable.”

Now Putin has offered contracts to join the Russian ministry of defense’s army and commended the insurgents for making the “right decision” in stopping their march. Furthermore, he stated, “armed rebellion would have been suppressed anyway,” though he did not elaborate.

In contrast to the hour-long tracts the leader is known for delivering, Monday’s speech was brief and left more questions than answers.

Prigozhin’s escape to Belarus begs the question: why? When will the militants be punished for their actions? And how exactly does Putin want to exert his power once again?

Initially pacify, then discipline.

Prigozhin drove 800 miles from the Ukrainian border to Moscow in about 36 hours, during which he captured a regional military command, stormed a major city, and claimed to have shot down a military helicopter.

Putin’s reaction was anticipated by many to be severe and immediate. The “betrayal” of their country, he claimed in his Saturday address, was “treachery” on the part of Wagner.

Dmitri Alperovitch, a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, said, “Putin values loyalty above all else.” You can commit burglary, murder, and other criminal acts while working for him. But if there’s one thing you can’t be, it’s unfaithful.

Given this, it seemed strange that Putin seemed reluctant to punish the militants.

However, European Council on Foreign Relations fellow Kirill Shamiev claims that “demilitarizing, disarming, and demobilizing the Wagner group” will be Putin’s primary priority before giving any potential punishment.

The senior command and regular Wagner mercenaries need to be given some hope and advantages in order to limit their motivations to act, according to Shamiev. This would help keep things peaceful and reduce tensions.

Putin is doing a delicate balancing act at the moment. His initial reaction may have been to act quickly, show that mutiny won’t be tolerated, and appear powerful. But if he rushes things, he could cause another uprising and come across as panicked.

Shamiev warned that showing signs of fear to the elites by a hasty response was a bad idea. Ironically, appearing to be the “strongman” might be a sign of weakness.

Shamiev believes that an example must be made of Prigozhin, but that the timing must be just right. Kyiv’s counteroffensive may have gotten off to a sluggish start, but since the tumult of the past weekend, the cohesiveness and morale of Russia’s forces have come into question.

If Russia’s forces in Ukraine were to fail and the Kremlin had somehow swiftly dispatched Prigozhin, the Wagner chief’s concerns might have been proven right.

If that happened, many could conclude that Prigozhin was indeed correct. They’ve assassinated him because he was right about the military, about how unprepared and uninformed the generals are. According to Shamiev, “it’s not looking good for the Kremlin.”

A calming appearance

That’s why Putin’s sobering approach might end up being the best course of action. On Tuesday, when he congratulated security personnel for their apparent part in putting down the rebellion, he was more present.

You stopped a civil war. You demonstrated clear and coordinated action under fire, you are true to the Russian people and your military oath, and you care about the future of the Motherland. President of Russia Vladimir Putin

According to state-run media outlet RIA Novosti, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) announced on Tuesday that it is abandoning the case against Wagner because “its participants ceased their criminally-motivated actions.”

The president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, broke his silence on Tuesday as well, revealing that Prigozhin had come to his country as part of a “deal” Lukashenko had negotiated to allow him to depart Russia without facing criminal prosecution.

Lukashenko said that he convinced Prigozhin to end the mutiny by warning him that he would be “crushed like a bug” if he continued his push into Moscow. However, Lukashenko said little about Prigozhin’s future beyond disclosing certain facts of the conversations that took place on Saturday.

Insufficient public backing

Being seen is crucial in times of need. After a tumultuous weekend, Putin is attempting to portray himself as in charge now that things have calmed down. However, he has been unable to adopt the tactic of mobilizing political support, which has been successful for other leaders who have faced similar challenges to their authority.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey, responded swiftly and decisively to the 2016 coup attempt. Within days, thousands of people were locked up. He stated openly that he was thinking about bringing back the death penalty. His rage was still very real a year later. “We are going to behead these traitors,” he declared.

Throughout the crisis, Erdogan was constantly in the media spotlight. He was present at the burials of the mutiny victims. He mobilized demonstrators behind him, leading massive pro-government rallies in several cities.

There have been no such sights in Russia. Prigozhin has received all of the public displays of support. People lined the streets as his motorcade left Rostov-on-Don on a Saturday night, cheering like they were eager to catch a sight of their favorite athlete.

Most Russians have become politically apathetic, which is crucial to the Kremlin’s survival. “People need to depoliticize on their own accord so that they don’t take to the streets,” Shamiev added.

Putin can’t expect millions of Russians to come to his support like they did for Erdogan because of this well-honed strategy.

For the time being, he must wait to determine Prigozhin’s punishment.

However, during this pause, skepticism in Russia may increase. Alperovitch argued that if Putin did not imprison or kill him, it would send a message that Putin was weaker than everyone had believed and that people could get away with more.

“There is no longer any doubt about the decline in his influence. If Prigozhin can truly get away with this, with defying state power like this, what can I get away with?” is a question that is likely on the minds of many in the country, including elites, governors, and members of the security services.

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button