The Mahablog

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The Mahablog

Putin’s Deal: How Long Will It Last?

David Ignatius has a pretty good analysis of what went down in Russia yesterday. No paywall.

President Vladimir Putin looked into the abyss Saturday and blinked. After vowing revenge for what he called an “armed mutiny,” he settled for a compromise.

The speed with which Putin backed down suggests that his sense of vulnerability might be higher even than analysts believed. Putin might have saved his regime Saturday, but this day will be remembered as part of the unraveling of Russia as a great power — which will be Putin’s true legacy.

Putin’s deal with renegade militia leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin is likely to be a momentary truce, at best. The bombastic rebel will head for Belarus, in a deal brokered by his pal President Alexander Lukashenko, in exchange for Putin dropping charges against him and his mutinous soldiers, according to Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov.

This was a real coup, until it wasn’t. For much of Saturday, Prigozhin was marching units of his 25,000-man Wagner militia toward the gates of Moscow, rolling through Russia’s Ukrainian command headquarters at Rostov-on-Don and north to Voronezh. Sources tell me the Russian FSB put up roadblocks along the way, to little effect. Putin called up the National Guard to defend Moscow.

There are conflicting accounts of how much fighting there may have been between regulars and mercenaries. We don’t know for a while, probably.

Putin had only bad choices, and he knew it. Chechen forces commanded by Ramzan Kadyrov would have been the vanguard of his attack on Wagner in Rostov; that would have been a savage mess. Putincouldn’t be sure whether regular army units would obey his orders. He was walking into a situation he couldn’t control. Putin doesn’t do that — with the exception of his insane miscalculation invading Ukraine.

What’s notable about this mad 24 hours is that Putin managed to defuse the crisis without any big military confrontation. He has been humbled by a headstrong crony, to be sure, but he’s still in control. It was a close shave, not a decapitation.

Ignatius goes on to say that the Biden Administration was talking to half the planet yesterday, especially Ukraine, telling everybody to back off and not get involved in the drama in Russia. Don’t intervene; don’t try to take advantage. You’ll make things worse. 

Now, if you want to get scared to death, try to imagine if something like yesterday had gone down while Trump was in the White House. See Fred Kaplan at Slate, When Trump Promises to End the Ukraine War, Here’s What He Really Means.

In other news, Diana Falzone of Rolling Stone reports that the Smartmatic has subpoenaed several current and former employees of Newsmax as part of their defamation suit against Newsmax.