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How Putin enabled the Wagner revolt Prigozhin was right about Russia's military failures

Wagner mercenaries in Rostov-on-Don (Stringer/AFP via Getty Images)

Wagner mercenaries in Rostov-on-Don (Stringer/AFP via Getty Images)


June 24, 2023   4 mins

Why do Russia’s wars always start with disaster? The answer is straightforward: because the autocrats who rule Russia — be they Tsars (with the exception of Napoleon’s nemesis Alexander I), Joseph Stalin or Vladimir Putin — appoint obedient toadies sadly lacking in military talent to command their forces.

And none is more out-of-his-depth than Sergei Shoigu, Putin’s minister of defence. Shoigu studied engineering and skipped military service altogether. Nonetheless, he was rapidly promoted all the way to full general and then minister of defence by Putin because of his uncritical loyalty, which was further guaranteed by his obscure Tuvan origins that gave him no Muscovite power base to threaten the Kremlin (his birthplace is much closer to Beijing than to Moscow).

As for Putin’s chief of staff, Valery Gerasimov, his incompetence is of a very modern sort, indeed postmodern. Just like some telegenic US generals with PhDs but no actual hands-on combat experience, Gerasimov preached “post-kinetic” warfare, in which cyber war, “information war” or “hybrid war” replaced old-fashioned infantry, armour and artillery combat .

It was Gerasimov who cooked up the brilliant plan that so convinced Putin — as well as the CIA, the US director of national intelligence and their fashionably post-kinetic military advisors — that the air-landed seizure of the Antonov field on the first night of the war would open the door to Kyiv. Absent post-kinetic delusions, the overhead photography alone should have sufficed to tell US intelligence that the Russians would fail: they were invading Europe’s largest country with an army of less than 140,000 troops, as opposed to the 800,000 who invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, a country one-fifth the size of Ukraine and with one-quarter of the population. And, of course, as perfect yes-men, Shoigu and Gerasimov never told Putin that, if he wanted to invade Ukraine, he first had to declare war and mobilise the Russian army.

Even so, what happened next came as a great surprise. The failure of Gerasimov’s dazzling plan and the ignominious retreat from the edges of Kyiv and Kharkiv should have been followed by the usual Russian remedy but nothing happened. In 1941, when the German army easily defeated the Red Army to swiftly conquer Ukraine and start its march to Moscow, Stalin’s favourite toady Marshal Grigory Kulik was dismissed and eventually shot. Others were shot right away, and were replaced by officers previously set aside because they were not yes-men. Some were rescued from prison to take up command at the front. (Konstantin Rokossovsky, who had been arrested, badly tortured and locked up as a traitor, was patched up and given an entire army to lead; he would finish the war a victorious marshal.)

This is what Yevgeny Prigozhin expected from Putin: the swift dismissal of Shoigu and Gerasimov and their replacement by officers old-fashioned enough to have “kinetic” skills, and who would focus on building up effective infantry, armour and artillery units to capture Kyiv and conquer Ukraine. Instead, with Gerasimov and Shoigu inexplicably still in charge, the Russians continued to rely on “information warfare” to demoralise the Ukrainians into surrender, with non-stop propaganda and terror air attacks against random buildings in Kyiv and most other cities.

Not only did this “non-precision” bombing fail to hurt morale — it never does — but it was also hugely wasteful. As Russia’s rockets and ground-to-ground missiles started to run out, they turned to expensive air-to-ground missiles meant for high-value targets, such as air-base installations or at least battle tanks. But their warheads were too small to make much of an impression in built-up cities.

This is when Prigozhin, with his mercenaries, started his own land-combat campaign, contracted as always by the Russian government, this time to fight in Ukraine rather than in Libya or Mali or ex-French Congo. But, a few months later, he very soon found himself competing for manpower with contract units that were raised by the Russian army itself. These official units offered good pay to ex-servicemen and therefore competed with Wagner — but without its cadre of experienced mercenaries, they achieved very little.

All of which was frustrating for Prigozhin, who started to voice his complaints increasingly loudly, eventually asking why Shoigu and Gerasimov were still in-command when they should have been shot for incompetence, or at least kicked out of their jobs. Inexplicably — not only to him — Putin failed to take advantage of his dictatorial power to get rid of the pair of failures.

It was then that Shoigu and Gerasimov hit back by denying artillery shells and small-arms ammunition to Wagner, even when it was Wagner that was doing all the fighting in Bakhmut. Ultimately, it was a struggle between a very talented maverick — Prigozhin had started as a caterer — and the dull bureaucrat Shoigu and too-clever-by-half Gerasimov.

Stalin greatly valued such competition; even at the very end in 1945, he made Marshals Georgy Zhukov and Ivan Konev race one another to reach the centre of Berlin with their separate armies. But Putin is no Stalin. He is still, after everything, the bureaucrat he has always been. He would never have dreamed of promoting the talented Prigozhin to run his war, in the way that Lincoln promoted the hard-drinking Grant.

In the coming days, Prigozhin will be captured or killed. Any trial would compound Putin’s colossal embarrassment. The reason he must fail is that, in Russia, he falls into a specific category: like Yemelyan Pugachev, who rebelled against Catherine the Great in 1773, Prigozhin has no power base in Moscow, let alone in the military and security establishment he has so savagely ridiculed.

Yet there is also a lesson in this for Putin: if he does not fire Shoigu and Gerasimov and start anew with leaders plucked from the smart younger officers who have emerged in recent fighting, he will have to abandon the war that has become Russia’s misfortune.


Professor Edward Luttwak is a strategist and historian known for his works on grand strategy, geoeconomics, military history, and international relations.

ELuttwak

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Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

It’s great to have Luttwak on the Unherd team of writers. One doesn’t necessarily have to agree with every aspect of his analyses but they always come from an informed and concise position, which at least appears to be balanced.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

It’s great to have Luttwak on the Unherd team of writers. One doesn’t necessarily have to agree with every aspect of his analyses but they always come from an informed and concise position, which at least appears to be balanced.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

This reads like real-time realpolitik for the general or lightly-informed reader, such as me when it comes to Russian or military history (among other gaps in my reading). Way back in 1968 John le CarrĂ©, approvingly, said Mr. Luttwak was “like Machiavelli”. Much appreciated, with a grain of salt.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

He did, and incredibly, that was over half a century ago.
Unlike many analysts, Luttwak has been involved both on the front line and in the war rooms where policy decisions are being made. That gives him an advantage that mere commentators can barely imagine.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Agreed. Truly a inside player.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Nonsense, he’s a first class bluffer, nothing more nothing less.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Do tell more. Are you disputing his time spent in the Israeli army, or his involvement with senior US foreign policy-makers? It’d be interesting to hear about such bluffing, and why he’s still taken seriously if that’s the case.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I was unimpressed by his ‘Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire’, when it was published in 1976.

I know he volunteered for the IDF in the ‘Six Day War’ but what EXACTLY did he get up to?

He seems to have spent sometime, intermittently as one of a plethora of ‘special advisors’ that infest both the Pentagon and the White House, but how really relevant is that today?

However the bottom line is that he is a journalist, an interesting one I’ll grant you, and certainly an asset for UnHerd, but he does have ‘form’ for making some fairly odd, if belligerent predictions.

I think the description of him as like “like Machiavelli “ is very apposite. He has certainly had an interesting life.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Fair enough. I think that probably still places him in a better place than many “mere” journalists whose experience of the decision-making around armed conflicts consists of either propaganda or the interests of whichever outlet they serve.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Fair enough. I think that probably still places him in a better place than many “mere” journalists whose experience of the decision-making around armed conflicts consists of either propaganda or the interests of whichever outlet they serve.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I was unimpressed by his ‘Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire’, when it was published in 1976.

I know he volunteered for the IDF in the ‘Six Day War’ but what EXACTLY did he get up to?

He seems to have spent sometime, intermittently as one of a plethora of ‘special advisors’ that infest both the Pentagon and the White House, but how really relevant is that today?

However the bottom line is that he is a journalist, an interesting one I’ll grant you, and certainly an asset for UnHerd, but he does have ‘form’ for making some fairly odd, if belligerent predictions.

I think the description of him as like “like Machiavelli “ is very apposite. He has certainly had an interesting life.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Do tell more. Are you disputing his time spent in the Israeli army, or his involvement with senior US foreign policy-makers? It’d be interesting to hear about such bluffing, and why he’s still taken seriously if that’s the case.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Agreed. Truly a inside player.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Nonsense, he’s a first class bluffer, nothing more nothing less.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

He did, and incredibly, that was over half a century ago.
Unlike many analysts, Luttwak has been involved both on the front line and in the war rooms where policy decisions are being made. That gives him an advantage that mere commentators can barely imagine.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

This reads like real-time realpolitik for the general or lightly-informed reader, such as me when it comes to Russian or military history (among other gaps in my reading). Way back in 1968 John le CarrĂ©, approvingly, said Mr. Luttwak was “like Machiavelli”. Much appreciated, with a grain of salt.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
V Z
V Z
1 year ago

I think there are important conclusions that have to made and perhaps are not:
1. Putin may not be in full control to completely use his discretion. It is obvious there are various clans fighting with each other, and one of them is so called central apparatus of the Russian Ministry of Defense.
2. It seems like there are simply nobody to replace Shoigu and Gerasimov with. Other generals had been tried without much of a success.
3. It is clear that Russian generals learned from their failures. However overall state of affairs in Russia, including profound corruption, is not supportive of any military breakthroughs from the Russian side.
4. What happened was indeed very dangerous for Putin because the regime lost its monopoly on use of force. That ease with which Prigozhin was able to move around getting close to Moscow with practically almost no resistance must be very scary for Kremlin.
5. Putin will not forget and will not forgive.

Last edited 1 year ago by V Z
V Z
V Z
1 year ago

I think there are important conclusions that have to made and perhaps are not:
1. Putin may not be in full control to completely use his discretion. It is obvious there are various clans fighting with each other, and one of them is so called central apparatus of the Russian Ministry of Defense.
2. It seems like there are simply nobody to replace Shoigu and Gerasimov with. Other generals had been tried without much of a success.
3. It is clear that Russian generals learned from their failures. However overall state of affairs in Russia, including profound corruption, is not supportive of any military breakthroughs from the Russian side.
4. What happened was indeed very dangerous for Putin because the regime lost its monopoly on use of force. That ease with which Prigozhin was able to move around getting close to Moscow with practically almost no resistance must be very scary for Kremlin.
5. Putin will not forget and will not forgive.

Last edited 1 year ago by V Z
John Dellingby
John Dellingby
1 year ago

Interesting analysis. I knew that most Russian wars ended up starting badly but this was a whole other level of incompetence from the get-go. It’s strange that Putin hasn’t at least sacked those responsible, as I’m sure most of us thought him ruthless with a low tolerance for failure. We shall just have to see how this pans out in the coming weeks.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

“…most Russian wars ended up starting badly..” – ended up starting? grammar? syntax?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Correct!

Changing the subject, the other day I noticed quite a few O’Mahony’s were buried in the ruined Franciscan (Observant) Friary Church at Kilcrea, Co Cork. Any of our lot by any chance?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Correct!

Changing the subject, the other day I noticed quite a few O’Mahony’s were buried in the ruined Franciscan (Observant) Friary Church at Kilcrea, Co Cork. Any of our lot by any chance?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

“…most Russian wars ended up starting badly..” – ended up starting? grammar? syntax?

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
1 year ago

Interesting analysis. I knew that most Russian wars ended up starting badly but this was a whole other level of incompetence from the get-go. It’s strange that Putin hasn’t at least sacked those responsible, as I’m sure most of us thought him ruthless with a low tolerance for failure. We shall just have to see how this pans out in the coming weeks.

Lisa I
Lisa I
1 year ago

Not bad for a former hotdog seller..

The crowds cheering Wagner in Rostov was mind-blowing. I think the appropriate slang is ‘Russians be crazy’

Last edited 1 year ago by Lisa I
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Lisa I

Adolf did better it must be said,

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Lisa I

Adolf did better it must be said,

Lisa I
Lisa I
1 year ago

Not bad for a former hotdog seller..

The crowds cheering Wagner in Rostov was mind-blowing. I think the appropriate slang is ‘Russians be crazy’

Last edited 1 year ago by Lisa I
N T
N T
1 year ago

It does seem surreal that Prigozhin stopped, when he appeared to be rolling, unopposed. Surely he knows that in the next year he will die under mysterious circumstances, preferably, for Vladdy, via polonium.

Rex Hinkler
Rex Hinkler
1 year ago
Reply to  N T

The diminutive or nickname for Vladimir is Vova and then Vovka.

Rex Hinkler
Rex Hinkler
1 year ago
Reply to  N T

The diminutive or nickname for Vladimir is Vova and then Vovka.

N T
N T
1 year ago

It does seem surreal that Prigozhin stopped, when he appeared to be rolling, unopposed. Surely he knows that in the next year he will die under mysterious circumstances, preferably, for Vladdy, via polonium.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 year ago

Everyone should get along and be friends.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Naive, isn’t it. But maybe someone can explain to Rodney King and Elvis Costello “what’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding”.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Naive, isn’t it. But maybe someone can explain to Rodney King and Elvis Costello “what’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding”.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 year ago

Everyone should get along and be friends.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
1 year ago

Whilst all of this makes sense is sense prevailing in Russia?  Prigozhin appears to enjoy fighting and organising and not much else. Is this yet another show of defiance and irritation at Russia’s military command in a pattern that appears to be to provoke Putin to improve his military, not to replace Putin?
What does the lack of military engagement by either side tell us? There is a mismatch between Putin’s televised response and the response on the highway to Moscow appearing to be made haphazardly by civil rather than military officials.
Prigozhin is like a scorpion, he will engage in another fight, he cannot help it. Is he an opportunist or does Putin say where and when? If Lukashenko hosts Prigozhin and 25,000 Wagner troops and hardware, could he be in for a surprise? Belarus may not then be the best place for Russia to have sent the nuclear weapons Lukashenko talks so much about. Or, though I am generally against conspiracy theories, does this all look as though it is staged, does Putin want Prigozhin to have them? How else could Putin disown the use of such weapons in Ukraine to take revenge for being frustrated in creating greater Russia?

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
1 year ago

Whilst all of this makes sense is sense prevailing in Russia?  Prigozhin appears to enjoy fighting and organising and not much else. Is this yet another show of defiance and irritation at Russia’s military command in a pattern that appears to be to provoke Putin to improve his military, not to replace Putin?
What does the lack of military engagement by either side tell us? There is a mismatch between Putin’s televised response and the response on the highway to Moscow appearing to be made haphazardly by civil rather than military officials.
Prigozhin is like a scorpion, he will engage in another fight, he cannot help it. Is he an opportunist or does Putin say where and when? If Lukashenko hosts Prigozhin and 25,000 Wagner troops and hardware, could he be in for a surprise? Belarus may not then be the best place for Russia to have sent the nuclear weapons Lukashenko talks so much about. Or, though I am generally against conspiracy theories, does this all look as though it is staged, does Putin want Prigozhin to have them? How else could Putin disown the use of such weapons in Ukraine to take revenge for being frustrated in creating greater Russia?

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

Has Putin in fact neutralised the criticism by effectively directing Wagner to Belarus where they are potentially poised to open up a new front in the rear of the Ukrainian forces bogged down slowly advancing in the South? At the very least Ukraine must ensure there is a force available to oppose such a threat.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

Has Putin in fact neutralised the criticism by effectively directing Wagner to Belarus where they are potentially poised to open up a new front in the rear of the Ukrainian forces bogged down slowly advancing in the South? At the very least Ukraine must ensure there is a force available to oppose such a threat.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

I must say I thought it possible that the whole episode was a ruse? ie to get Prigozhin into Belarus, his 25,000 troops to follow quietly for s new assault on Kyev.. a bit far fetched perhaps?

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

It’s heavy weapons that would make the difference, which Vagner currently lacks.
Just as it took weeks to get the Russians who eventually attacked Kyiv to get in position, it would take the same amount of time to equip Vagner.
And they aren’t even trained to fight combined arms actions.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

While everyone is being pedantic, is it too much to ask that you check the spelling of one of the main topics and most used term of the article? “Wagner”! As in Richard, we know how to pronounce and spell that don’t we?

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

While everyone is being pedantic, is it too much to ask that you check the spelling of one of the main topics and most used term of the article? “Wagner”! As in Richard, we know how to pronounce and spell that don’t we?

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
rick stubbs
rick stubbs
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of FT.com T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email licensing@ft.com to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found here
https://www.ft.com/content/2cbc1abf-f818-4c5c-aed8-3256a1d775a2#comments-anchor

My personal troll Fav is Wagner, through a cleverly staged Putin ruse, has been magically beamed up north of Kiev in Belarus and will presently sack the city thus ending the special op. Also, why are so many military aged civilian men loitering around Rostov in the pics??

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

It’s heavy weapons that would make the difference, which Vagner currently lacks.
Just as it took weeks to get the Russians who eventually attacked Kyiv to get in position, it would take the same amount of time to equip Vagner.
And they aren’t even trained to fight combined arms actions.

rick stubbs
rick stubbs
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of FT.com T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email licensing@ft.com to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found here
https://www.ft.com/content/2cbc1abf-f818-4c5c-aed8-3256a1d775a2#comments-anchor

My personal troll Fav is Wagner, through a cleverly staged Putin ruse, has been magically beamed up north of Kiev in Belarus and will presently sack the city thus ending the special op. Also, why are so many military aged civilian men loitering around Rostov in the pics??

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

I must say I thought it possible that the whole episode was a ruse? ie to get Prigozhin into Belarus, his 25,000 troops to follow quietly for s new assault on Kyev.. a bit far fetched perhaps?

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
1 year ago

And so ends the latest in history’s long line of marches on Moscow. The snow must fall particularly heavily at this time of year. This was the first such column to have been designed to suit social media and 24-hour rolling news. 24 hours ago, the Wagner Group was a rabble of Nazis who had been crushed by the Ukrainian Army, even though it was not and it had not. Two hours ago, it was a body of brave patriots that was capable of crushing the Russian Army, even though it was neither. But what is it now?

What of Alexander Lukashenko, who had taken flight, except that he had not, like the precarious puppet that he was, except that he was not? And what if Vladimir Putin now wanted Russia to have the Wagner Group’s territory and interests in much of the world, especially Africa, as well as in Ukraine? One thing is for certain. We must stay out of this. Where necessary, we must be able to work with whoever had won. Therefore, we must not get on the wrong side of anyone who might. Yet that is not the position of the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, or anyone who comes with any of them.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Spot on.
Most of those belligerent ‘deck chair warriors’ whom you mention have seen NO active service whatsoever, bar ‘gomorrahrising’ their wives, concubines or catamites.
In short they are a national disgrace, and should be purged accordingly.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Spot on.
Most of those belligerent ‘deck chair warriors’ whom you mention have seen NO active service whatsoever, bar ‘gomorrahrising’ their wives, concubines or catamites.
In short they are a national disgrace, and should be purged accordingly.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
1 year ago

And so ends the latest in history’s long line of marches on Moscow. The snow must fall particularly heavily at this time of year. This was the first such column to have been designed to suit social media and 24-hour rolling news. 24 hours ago, the Wagner Group was a rabble of Nazis who had been crushed by the Ukrainian Army, even though it was not and it had not. Two hours ago, it was a body of brave patriots that was capable of crushing the Russian Army, even though it was neither. But what is it now?

What of Alexander Lukashenko, who had taken flight, except that he had not, like the precarious puppet that he was, except that he was not? And what if Vladimir Putin now wanted Russia to have the Wagner Group’s territory and interests in much of the world, especially Africa, as well as in Ukraine? One thing is for certain. We must stay out of this. Where necessary, we must be able to work with whoever had won. Therefore, we must not get on the wrong side of anyone who might. Yet that is not the position of the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, or anyone who comes with any of them.

Sayantani Gupta Jafa
Sayantani Gupta Jafa
1 year ago

Isn’t this similar to the coup against De Gaulle in the early 60s? And suspicious is also the constant reporting of a coup against Putin by Western MSM. There is something fishy and curious about the raves and rants of YV in tandem with the Ukraine counter offensive..

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

Always look for a conspiracy, when dealing with complex military operations.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

Always look for a conspiracy, when dealing with complex military operations.

Sayantani Gupta Jafa
Sayantani Gupta Jafa
1 year ago

Isn’t this similar to the coup against De Gaulle in the early 60s? And suspicious is also the constant reporting of a coup against Putin by Western MSM. There is something fishy and curious about the raves and rants of YV in tandem with the Ukraine counter offensive..

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

The real problem, as Luttwak alludes to it, is that Putin’s main goal is always to balance off various factions to stay in power. That’s why he keeps mediocrities like Shoigu and Gerasimov in charge. Incompetents are no threat.
Indeed, a victorious general is Putin’s worst nightmare. He began this war planning that Ukraine would roll over and play dead. When it didn’t, he had no idea what to do, simply sending his largely incompetent army to fail in pointless counterattacks, while expending his best weapons to deprive little old ladies in Kyiv of their sleep.
Most important, in view of the warm welcome the Southern Military District HQ and Rostov citizens gave Prigozhin, Putin has much to worry about. The army and the population no longer trust him. Everybody knows he is incompetent, and still worse, knows he will continue to keep military incompetents in power because they are no threat to him.
Very soon we will see just how accurate his toadies were when they claimed: “without Putin, there is no Russia.”

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

The real problem, as Luttwak alludes to it, is that Putin’s main goal is always to balance off various factions to stay in power. That’s why he keeps mediocrities like Shoigu and Gerasimov in charge. Incompetents are no threat.
Indeed, a victorious general is Putin’s worst nightmare. He began this war planning that Ukraine would roll over and play dead. When it didn’t, he had no idea what to do, simply sending his largely incompetent army to fail in pointless counterattacks, while expending his best weapons to deprive little old ladies in Kyiv of their sleep.
Most important, in view of the warm welcome the Southern Military District HQ and Rostov citizens gave Prigozhin, Putin has much to worry about. The army and the population no longer trust him. Everybody knows he is incompetent, and still worse, knows he will continue to keep military incompetents in power because they are no threat to him.
Very soon we will see just how accurate his toadies were when they claimed: “without Putin, there is no Russia.”

Arjun D
Arjun D
1 year ago

Brilliant article. One of Unherd’s best.

Last edited 1 year ago by Arjun D
Arjun D
Arjun D
1 year ago

Brilliant article. One of Unherd’s best.

Last edited 1 year ago by Arjun D
martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

Update to 1984:
“Imagine the future as Vickie Nuland cramming Putin’s face into a pile of dog dookie till the end of time…”
Surely, an image too horrible to contemplate!

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

Update to 1984:
“Imagine the future as Vickie Nuland cramming Putin’s face into a pile of dog dookie till the end of time…”
Surely, an image too horrible to contemplate!

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
1 year ago

24 hours ago, the mere existence of the Wagner Group was screeched as the proof that the Russians, and by extension all critics of Boris Johnson’s war in Ukraine, were “the real Nazis”, and that we had pretty much made up Svoboda, Pravy Sektor, the National Corps, C14, the Azov Battalion, the Aidar Battalion, the Donbas Battalion, the Dnipro-1 Battalion, the Dnipro-2 Battalion, and the Kraken Regiment.

What a difference a day makes. Suddenly, Yevgeny Prigozhin is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He’s not, you know. He is really, reallyreally not. Rather, he has changed sides, as belligerents in any war often do, to ally instead with the Freedom of Russia Legion and with the Russian Volunteer Corps, as well as with all of the above. He has done so only for the money, of course; that is what mercenaries do and are. But if the Wagner Group were not Nazis, albeit for pay, yesterday, then they certainly are today. And you love them for it.

Instead of being on neither or no side due to having little interest while nevertheless needing, to some extent, to have to deal with whoever won, the British Government loves them for it. The Labour Party, and therefore also the SDLP, love them for it. The Liberal Democrats, and therefore also the Alliance Party, love them for it. The SNP, and therefore also Plaid Cymru, love them it. The Greens, who are the King’s Party in every way, and who are already hardline hawks in government in Germany, love them for it. The DUP, the National Conservatives, and the Boris Johnson Fan Club that is the Conservative Democratic Organisation, love them for it. The Socialist Campaign Group loves them for it. Sinn FĂ©in loves them for it.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Lindsay
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Sat-Nav error.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Sat-Nav error.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
David Lindsay
David Lindsay
1 year ago

24 hours ago, the mere existence of the Wagner Group was screeched as the proof that the Russians, and by extension all critics of Boris Johnson’s war in Ukraine, were “the real Nazis”, and that we had pretty much made up Svoboda, Pravy Sektor, the National Corps, C14, the Azov Battalion, the Aidar Battalion, the Donbas Battalion, the Dnipro-1 Battalion, the Dnipro-2 Battalion, and the Kraken Regiment.

What a difference a day makes. Suddenly, Yevgeny Prigozhin is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He’s not, you know. He is really, reallyreally not. Rather, he has changed sides, as belligerents in any war often do, to ally instead with the Freedom of Russia Legion and with the Russian Volunteer Corps, as well as with all of the above. He has done so only for the money, of course; that is what mercenaries do and are. But if the Wagner Group were not Nazis, albeit for pay, yesterday, then they certainly are today. And you love them for it.

Instead of being on neither or no side due to having little interest while nevertheless needing, to some extent, to have to deal with whoever won, the British Government loves them for it. The Labour Party, and therefore also the SDLP, love them for it. The Liberal Democrats, and therefore also the Alliance Party, love them for it. The SNP, and therefore also Plaid Cymru, love them it. The Greens, who are the King’s Party in every way, and who are already hardline hawks in government in Germany, love them for it. The DUP, the National Conservatives, and the Boris Johnson Fan Club that is the Conservative Democratic Organisation, love them for it. The Socialist Campaign Group loves them for it. Sinn FĂ©in loves them for it.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Lindsay
Mikis Hasson
Mikis Hasson
1 year ago

How wrong can one be? Less than half a day and the author’s prediction is discredited. What a hurry to pass the herd message!

Stuart McCullough
Stuart McCullough
1 year ago
Reply to  Mikis Hasson

I’m not sure which prediction has been discredited. The full consequences of Progozhin’s actions have yet to play out.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Mikis Hasson

Which prediction is discredited? Do tell us.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It looks as if our discussion about the veracity of L has enraged the Censor!

So let me speak plainly. L was a neo-con even before that absurd word was invented.
Before we used to call such people “hawks”, and their undeniable influence on US foreign policy has been pernicious to say the very least. It will undoubtedly ‘end in tears’, although irritatingly I shall probably not see it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It looks as if our discussion about the veracity of L has enraged the Censor!

So let me speak plainly. L was a neo-con even before that absurd word was invented.
Before we used to call such people “hawks”, and their undeniable influence on US foreign policy has been pernicious to say the very least. It will undoubtedly ‘end in tears’, although irritatingly I shall probably not see it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Stuart McCullough
Stuart McCullough
1 year ago
Reply to  Mikis Hasson

I’m not sure which prediction has been discredited. The full consequences of Progozhin’s actions have yet to play out.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Mikis Hasson

Which prediction is discredited? Do tell us.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Mikis Hasson
Mikis Hasson
1 year ago

How wrong can one be? Less than half a day and the author’s prediction is discredited. What a hurry to pass the herd message!