Discover more from AlternativeInsightSubstack
Postscript to Treason
Aftershocks of the Prigozhin Mutiny
In the conventional press, agendas dominate discussion and most predictions coincide with what the commentator prefers to happen. Assigning positive actions to Russian military and government leaders invite charges of “trolling” and allied with hostile forces. The Russian miscreants can only be described as incompetent and “no goodniks,” never as people who do anything well for others.
Before adding idle opinions to the potpourri of prognostications, the misconceptions that dominate the media need examination. Hopefully, better-constructed thoughts can stir more developed thinking and create a meaningful postscript to treason.
Prevalent comments cite the lack of military response to the Prigozhin mutiny.
Woodrow Wilson Center
“The (Russian) army and the security services have not come up with ways to respond to mutiny.”
The strategy of the Russian army and security forces to combat an obviously disastrous and ‘doomed to fail’ adventure was to let it take its course, make certain nobody got hurt, and prevent the incident from cascading into a civil war. The Russian Military of Defense (MOD) wanted the mercenary army out of Ukraine and then to neutralize it without a struggle. That is what happened, and it happened relatively quickly. Why disparage an organization for its success? Compare the Russian government's response to the Prigozhin mutiny with the Sudan government's response to the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces attacks ─ after ten weeks of civil strife, still no solution to the rebellion in the African nation.
There were no reserves at the central government and the central command. Putin and his group had nothing to defend the vast territory in the west of Russia when an outside or uncontrolled armed force appeared on it….Putin and his group do not have any serious forces to repel an attack involving a large (several thousand people) and well-organized and armed army formation. Such a formation can freely move around the territory of the European part of Russia without encountering serious resistance.
If these statements are true, then why is Ukraine President Zelensky not acting on the information? According to the Woodrow Wilson Center, his forces do not need a counteroffensive; they can make an offensive and capture Moscow within a few hours. Data does not support the statements; the Moscow police force numbers 50,000, and there are a national guard, reserves, security forces, and regular military. “In terms of active-duty personnel, Russia has the world's fifth-largest military force, with 830,900 active soldiers, 200,000 Reserve forces, and 250,000 Paramilitary units.” Don’t forget the air force. Not sure of its accuracy, but the Council of Foreign Relations claimed Russia had about three hundred thousand soldiers, in and around Ukraine, on February 17, 2023. This leaves plenty of fighters to defend the homeland against 8000-plus mercenaries.
The Prigozhin saga showed that Russia’s military and security forces were caught completely unawares when the Wagner Group crossed the border from Ukraine and, without encountering any significant resistance, took control of the streets of Rostov and then headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District, home to its 58th Combined Army, pillaging weapons. Prigozhin and his armed retinue then traveled up the M4 highway toward Moscow, via Voronezh and Lipetsk provinces — an astonishing achievement. The Russian state was rattled.
It is insensible that several thousand fully equipped forces leave the battlefield and “Russia’s military and security forces were caught completely unawares.” They must have made some noise.
Wagner Group had a July 1 deadline to sign new contracts with the government and, after that date, their status as a private army ended. Following usual guidelines, Prigozhin relocated the mercenary army to the nearest military headquarters in Rostov. Despite his rebellious rhetoric, the MOD expected his troops would eventually surrender weapons and disband. Prigozhin troops wandered the streets of Rostov, but there weren’t any reports, other than from Prigozhin himself
, or evidence that Wagner exercised control of the streets of Rostov and the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District and that its troops pillaged weapons. The latter is a new item in the portfolio of dubious reports.
Detouring a portion of his mercenary army to M-4 on a March for Justice may have surprised the Russian government but proved beneficial in subduing the rebellious contingent of soldiers. If the Russian military had to engage Wagner, it did not welcome engaging them in house-to-house fighting in an urban environment. What could be better than to have them nicely aligned along a highway, with no routes of escape?
It’s odd how many observers say the Russian government was in apathy and Politico says it “was rattled.”
…most importantly, whereas the Prigozhin mutiny cannot be justified in any way, the issues which fueled it are real and serious. So, this needs to be treated as a wake-up call and the underlying problems must be acted upon. Otherwise, the Wagner revolt may be a bad omen of things to come.
Nothing profound here. All extraordinary events that surface from ominous conditions are scrutinized and acted upon to assure they are rectified and do not surface again. That’s good practice. Prigozhin’s accusations and complaints that “Russia was losing the war,” and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, the Russian Army chief of the general staff, were guilty of "genocide against their own people,” the murder of tens of thousands of Russian citizens, and the transfer of Russian territories to the enemy," refer to the first year of the war. Russia’s military thrust has changed drastically and attempts to rectify earlier mistakes. The present strategy uses missile power to destroy Ukraine’s infrastructure rather than muscle power to destroy Ukraine’s army. The new strategy intends to lessen the danger to the lives of Russian military personnel. “Underlying problems” have already been acted on.
Biased interpretation of events and telling readers what they want to hear often drive media predictions. Application of the crystal ball to the post-mutiny future of Russia, its military, and its leadership follows a similar pattern. Massaging these predictions smooths out their wrinkles.
Did Russia indicate its military is prepared for future insurrections?
Seems so! As long as Prigozhin’s mercenary army remained in Rostov and did not commit any violent actions, the Russian military had no reason to engage the force — still time to talk. No disturbing insurrection existed until a part of the private army left Rostov and proceeded to move along the M-4 highway to Moscow. Within 11 hours, Prigozhin halted his ‘march of justice,’ and was off to Belarus.
Because the boastful and mercurial Prigozhin surrendered, while supposedly leading a powerful force, it can be assumed he became aware he was about to face a more powerful force and could not win. By surrendering, he lost his valuable military and food distribution contracts with the Russian Defense establishment, which is not something done on a whim. Being able to stop a mutiny by a private, motivated, and well-equipped army, and, in a relatively short time, indicates that the Russian military and public are prepared to combat insurrections. It is doubtful that, unless entire regular army divisions rebel, Russia will again encounter a more aggressive mutiny of this type.
Will the Prigozhin mutiny boost other movements contending against the war?
Probably, but anti-war movements never accomplish anything. In the democratic USA, a large part of the population demonstrated for years against the Vietnam War and the war continued. The war ended when the Nixon administration realized the war was futile ─ the United States could not win. Similar anti-war protests in the Gulf War, Afghan War, and Iraq War did not prevent the wars from starting or influence their termination. The U.S. slugged away for 21 years in Afghanistan and its citizens lost interest in the happening. Can citizens of a more controlled state than democratic America be able to influence their government and halt military adventures?
Will the mutiny influence the course of the war?
With the private army out of operation, the regular Russian army can better coordinate its strategy and motivate its troops. For all its heroism, expertise, and spirit, the other-directed mercenary army had conflicts with the MOD and set itself apart from the regular conscripts. The different pay schedules, different operating methods, different motivations, and different benefits must have created rivalries and jealousies and led to confusing tactics and battle results.
Will the military be weakened?
In balance, the war effort will be weakened and the Russian military will be strengthened. The Wagner Group was considered an effective fighting force and had a record of battlefield accomplishment. These twenty-five thousand, well-trained, and hardened soldiers cannot be replaced. However, no institution can function satisfactorily when torn by competing forces. Russian military has been changed and changed in the way it wanted. Prigozhin offered complaints and did not have any proposals or plans to improve the situation he criticized. His demeanor and experience are not aligned with a wartime leader that anyone is eager to follow. His actions are reduced to an impediment that disturbed the military endeavor and, with its removal, allows for a more unified approach to military strategy.
How will Putin be affected?
Continuing with the rule of always regarding Vladimir Putin from a negative perspective, the media portrayed the Russian president’s strong rhetoric and tolerant attitude toward the mutineers as an indication of a decline in his strongman position. From a positive perspective, Vladimir Putin showed a pragmatic side, that he is willing to compromise his image when it saves Russian lives.
Aside from his pragmatic moment, President Putin’s behavior may have decreased his status with the Russian people and the military establishment. His defiant and repetitive statements — the same words over and over again — did not sound reassuring and some were unnecessary.
Translation from the Russian contained “stopping a civil war” and “preventing bloodshed,” and intimated that large portions of the Russian establishment were prepared to fight one another, and not with words or sticks, but with armed weapons. We only saw one small force of uncoordinated 8000 mercenaries and heard the words of its leader, “This is not a coup, it is a ‘march of justice.’” An insurrection cannot go far in a land as huge as Russia, with a limited number of fighters and conciliatory words from their leader. The mercenaries had no clearly defined objective - 8000 men in search of a mission - and would have been demolished in a short time. No support for the endeavor or emergence of another side prepared to engage in conflict was apparent.
If Putin’s speech, which suggested there was a large contingent of anti-government forces ready to support the mutineers, was accurately translated, then it was unnecessary for him to exaggerate the affair and alarm the Russian people. Isn’t this type of emergency better satisfied by a calm voice that reassures the Russian people that only a group of disgruntled warriors had run amok, seen the error of their ways, and were now asking forgiveness? Civil War? The Russian population must be shaking their heads in bewilderment and asking questions from one another. What has the government not told us? Rumors must be flying. Is this 1917?
Putin’s other grievous mistake was saying that “Those who staged the mutiny and took up arms against their comrades have betrayed Russia and will be brought to account.” He may have been wise in being practical and pardoning the culprits and he did soothe his original harsh attitude by mentioning the valiant efforts of the Wagner group, but he was rash and thoughtless in speaking the words. Usually, a leader in this type of situation acts conciliatory, and, if rebuffed, gets rough. Putin did the opposite.
Media reports of the Wagner Group downing one transport aircraft and six helicopters near Voronezh are murky and not clearly explained, but appear to have substance. Yet, doubts persist.
How can soldiers riding at great speed in covered trucks perceive threatening aircraft and manage to operate tracking equipment? Where is the power to operate the equipment and guide the weapons that target the aircraft? Forbes offers this assessment:
It’s unclear which of Wagner’s air-defense systems engaged the Il-22. The mercenaries rolled into Russia with at least two short-range surface-to-air missile vehicles: a Strela-10 and a Pentsir. The Il-22M with its 39,000-foot maximum altitude can get above both SAM systems, so it’s possible the Wagner crew hit the plane while it was climbing away from its airfield.
Admittedly, I am not a military expert. Googled the Internet (which can make anyone an expert on almost anything) and learned that the maximum speed of the vehicle carrying the Strela -10 missile launcher is 61.5 km/h. Therefore, it could not be traveling by itself and was loaded on a flatbed truck. The Strela -10 is visually aimed and utilizes optical/infrared guidance. As for the Pantsir missile system, it is huge and carried on a truck. Can either of these missile systems be successfully operated from a fast-moving vehicle?
Why would a military that claimed it was only on a ‘march of justice’ become hostile and waste its missiles by shooting down an observation plane that is not capable of shooting at it? Isn’t it likely that government cars were riding alongside the Wagner convoy and already observing and reporting its progression? Can helicopter gunships be used to halt military vehicles on roadways that also contained commercial traffic? No specific details of these engagements have been released, and, maybe, few know what occurred. Could it have been a series of accidents?
My opinion, based on nothing but looking into Putin’s eyes and intuition, is that Putin would rather be elsewhere but has no place to go. Without assured security protection, he cannot escape his enemies. He has decided to spend his life in the government apparatus, delegate whatever he can, and live behind secure walls.
The mutiny, if we can call it that, was so short-lived, it hardly registered with the Russian people. If this was an intended coup, how does it compare with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. capital in damage done and effectiveness of response by military authorities?
The Russian population will continue its daily chores. The military will try to hold on to what it has captured and continue to prevent the Ukraine counteroffensive from gaining an inch. No matter the territory that Ukraine regains, Russian missiles will still pound the civil structure and Ukraine will continue to suffer. Russia can lose only what it illegally won.
Will the grim and mustached Aleksandr Lukashenko enter the stage and broker a peace agreement between the two nations? If they are not receptive, will he get his special forces, headed by Major General Yevgeny Prigozhin, to convince both of them to sign an agreement?