That's an important lesson or perspictive I hadn't noticed in the chaotic events of the last few days. When faced with a force that he couldn't reliably overpower that risked his hold on power Putin cut an embarrassing deal. Definitely worth taking note of.

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Jun 25, 2023·edited Jun 25, 2023

People (e.g., Sergey Radchenko) are saying the same thing about Prigozhin: that he saw that he didn't have a chance to win against the army, national guard, and whoever else Putin sent to squash the mutiny. This is all so baffling...

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One interesting take away is that Wagner forces crossed the border and the guards surrendered. Then passed thru another check point with no opposition.

Then Wagner was able to enter Rostov-on-Don and capture the military headquarters which is in the center of the city, again with little to no opposition. The city is also a logistics hub for units operating in Ukraine. Begging the question why didn't the Russian Army attempt to stop the advance at the city's outskirts?

Possible answers, the garrison was ordered not to engage. The garrison refused to obey. The command did not want collateral damage, i.e. the death of Russian civilians.

Whatever the reason, the response from Putin was weak and could provoke others to attempt a similar operation. It is doubtful that this will play well in Beijing. A successful coup means a change in leadership. Obviously if that happens Beijing would want a regime friendly to the PRC. How far will Beijing go to either keep Putin in power or obtain a regime that remains in the CCP's sphere of influence?

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What are your thoughts on Prigozhin going to Belarus? If he were to recruit and train another mercenary force down there, it would seem a good geographic location to attack Kiev. All the Putin, Prigozhin, Lukashenko melodrama has left my crystal ball a little muddy, but I’m not seeing the amount of daylight between these men that I would expect to see after this weekend.

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Jun 25, 2023·edited Jun 25, 2023

This strange episode has shown the underlying weakness of the Putin regime. If Prigozhin had been more cold and calculating, his mutiny might well have succeeded. Instead, he rashly ordered his troops out of Ukraine and into Russia, and was not ready for success when it unexpectedly came. His Wagner troops took Rostov and Voronezh with almost no resistance, and were driving to within 125 miles of Moscow after only one day. Prigozhin was faced with the question, what next? He most likely had not thought that far ahead.

Putin, meanwhile, behaving with typical cowardice, reportedly decamped from Moscow for points unknown (I'm guessing Valdai). The citizens of Moscow did not rise up in support of their leader. Instead, they waited nervously for the arrival of a gang of sledgehammer-wielding ex-cons, wondering what to do. VIP jets were taking off from Moscow airports, most likely bound for Dubai or other safe havens.

Then the roof fell in. Kadyrov units began advancing on Rostov. Prigozhin's men came under attack on the road to Moscow, and shot down six Russian helicopters and an IL-22 airborne command-center plane, killing 13 airmen. Things were getting serious. Prigozhin probably realized at that point that a 25,000-man army would not be sufficient to hold Rostov and advance on Moscow, even if his objective was just to reach the Russian MoD and throw Gerasimov and Shoigu out the nearest window (they would have been long gone anyway).

So, he came to a deal with Putin, the details of which are still unclear, and folded his hand. In so doing, he unwisely placed himself at the mercy of his enemies. After all, Putin is not well-known for keeping to his agreements. Just the reverse, in fact.

The only check on Putin's impulse to feed Prigozhin to the fishes may be his realization of just how shaky his regime is. In contrast to the quiet desperation in Moscow, the citizens of Rostov actually cheered the Wagnerovtsi when they left town, and jeered the police and other government officials who showed up in their wake. Everyone supports Putin in the polls, but not in real life.

A curious sort of reverse confirmation of Putin's parlous position also came from propagandist Yuriy Kiselev, who on his Sunday night TV show said that the resolution to the Wagner mutiny demonstrated that Russia is a united nation (if that's his definition of united, I'm wondering what he thinks a disunited Russia would look like). Kiselev also dug up an old clip of Putin saying that he is able to forgive many things, but not "betrayal." You can believe Kiselev was lying as usual when he made the first statement. The second statement -- well, he's probably telling the truth, much to Prigozhin's chagrin. https://twitter.com/francis_scarr/status/1672984185596772352

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“he swerved” not “we” (please delete this after correcting)

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Yes, let’s hope so that Putin will not escalate....

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McFaul writes, "For American and other NATO leaders, the policy implications are also clear — provide better and more weapons and better and more sanctions as fast as possible."

For American and other NATO leaders, the policy implication are clear. Get off their ass, stop dicking around with half measures, and do what has to be done. Get on with it.

The allies keep saying they will do whatever it takes to protect Ukraine. What it takes is NATO membership for Ukraine.

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McFaul writes, "But when faced with the difficult decision of trying to stop Wagner mercenaries with major force, he backed down."

Putin didn't escalate because he didn't have to. It would have made no sense at all to bomb his own forces when he could resolve the issue on the phone in a single day. He didn't back down, he solved the immediate problem in an efficient manner. He'll deal with the rebels later.

McFaul writes, "Putin is more likely to negotiate and end his war if he is losing on the battlefield, not when there is a stalemate."

Why do we have to negotiate with Putin? Why not decide the issue unilaterally by methods of our own choice?

1) Secure free Ukraine now by making it a NATO member. 80% victory for us, 80% defeat for Putin. Now. Today. Not maybe someday down the road.

2) Shift our focus to doubling down on sanctions, with the first goal being that the West buys NOTHING from Russia. Continue to exert carrot and stick pressure on other countries to do the same. Patiently bankrupt Russia to an ever greater degree, and when they've had enough, trade the sanctions for the occupied part of Ukraine.

If Russia wanted a war with NATO we'd already be having that war. The Ukrainians have proven to the world, and to Putin, that Russia is no match for NATO. So if we don't attack the Russians occupying eastern Ukraine, there's no reason for a Russia/NATO direct confrontation.

The bottom line is, the war goes on until Ukraine is a member of NATO. If we wait until all the fighting is over to make Ukraine a member of NATO, then Ukraine will never be a NATO member, because the fighting won't be over until Ukraine is a member of NATO. Even if Ukraine evicts all Russian forces, Putin can rebuild and invade again.

If we let the war drag on, Putin will succeed at wearing down the commitment of Western publics. If this summer offensive isn't truly decisive, the public is going to start calling this yet another one of the forever wars. That clock is ticking...

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If Prigozhin could be talked out of a rebellion in a single day, he obviously was never that big of a threat.

The total victory the Ukrainians justly seek would pose an existential threat to Putin's regime, and thus his life. I don't see how Putin even has the option of accepting a total Ukrainian victory. Putin can't just say, "Oh well, I guess we lost, and I wasted tens of thousands of Russian lives for nothing, so let's move on to the next agenda item." And let us not forget, if Russia were ejected from Ukraine, they could simply rebuild their forces and invade again.

The most likely outcome seems to be that the war drags on in some version of stalemate, while occupied Ukraine is further demolished, and free Ukraine remains under constant threat. If true, then the support of Western populations, and thus politicians, is likely to steadily dwindle. America's been involved in too many "endless wars" in recent decades, and patience for them is running thin.

It seems to me that we could have an 80% victory, peace, and an end to the killing and destruction right now if we were willing to adjust our strategy.

1) The Ukrainians disengage the Russians.

2) Ukraine is immediately given NATO membership, and NATO troops, weapons and money flood in to Ukraine. Major victory for Ukraine, major loss for Putin.

3) NATO declares they will not attack Russian troops in the occupied areas, but will ruthlessly demolish to the last man any Russian units who try to enter free Ukraine.

4) Efforts to disconnect Russia from the global economy are greatly strengthened, and become the new battle front. Sooner or later some Russian government is going to want to escape those sanctions, and the price tag for that would be Russia's exit from occupied Ukraine.

Ukraine is never going to be safe until it's part of NATO. The Ukrainians have proven themselves to be freedom loving people who are very impressive fighters. It's time to bring them in to NATO so they can be safe. They've ##$#@ earned it.

We can have peace now, and total victory down the line, if we're willing to commit to Ukraine fully, and play the long game. Peace now. Not maybe someday after Ukraine is destroyed by years of war.

There's no need to negotiate with Putin. We can accomplish this with unilateral action. We just need NATO to get off it's ass and make up it's mind.

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The implications are very far from clear. Prigozhin is a sort of national hero in Russia (of a weird kind) supported by a fair number of Putin's electorate, especially after Bakhmut. Negotiating with Prigozhin does not really undermine Putin. Just the opposite, it is easy to put a spin that Putin, Lukashenko and Prigozhin demonstrated governmental wisdom in a crisis situation. Zelensky and his government is a different story.

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