It would not be an understatement to say that Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s attempted disruption was a significant political gift to Russia’s adversaries.
As the events of June 24 unfolded rapidly and quite unexpectedly, they came to be either downplayed or greatly exaggerated.
How they were perceived depended on one’s view of the Russian-NATO regimes’ standoff over the war in Ukraine.
There is, however, another perspective beyond the narrative framed by western and Russian propaganda machines.
More information about how specifically the events unfolded will continue to emerge in the coming days.
Discussing the logistical details of the now failed disruptive attempt would miss the real point.
It is, therefore, important to know what did and did not happen in the larger political sense.
Let us remember that all politics is local.
Thus, the roots of the failed disruption are first and foremost local and they are tied to personalities rather than grand political schemes and strategies.
Those who understand Russia’s political culture and societal mentality along with its history properly quickly realized that these events are more tied to local interests rather than over-analyzed global issues.
This is also the opinion of some of the opponents of Vladimir Putin’s government, such as Prof. Leonid Gozman.
However, it should also be noted that in Russia there are some reputable experts like Maxim Shevchenko who hold the view that the June 24 events were primarily an internal clash among the ruling elite.
The real causes are quite banal and have more to do with the persona of Prigozhin.
The Wagner chief has a long history of criminal activity and gangsterism in the former Soviet Union dating back to 1981.
He spent nine years in prison and probably would have ended in prison again had he not been released when the Soviet Union was collapsing amid a breakdown in law and order.
Prigozhin is a product of the 1990s wild-west kind of socio-political landscape of Russia.
The relationships that Putin cultivated in that era not only formed the basis of his worldview but also how he operates on the internal front in Russian politics.
Prigozhin-type characters were often utilized by Russia’s unravelling state security system in the 1990s.
It wanted to have some form of organized chaos in a totally chaotic situation that had engulfed the country with the break-up of the Soviet Union.
It seems by bringing people like Prigozhin into the state system, Putin consciously or unconsciously inherited this methodology of politicking from the early 1990s.
Prigozhin is not a statesman; nor is he related to Putin’s inner circle of trusted intelligence services officials.
He is an outsider who got tied up with the regime primarily for business purposes.
One of Prigozhin’s business ventures had to do with supplying food and cleaning services to Russia’s Defense Ministry facilities.
In 2018, Russia’s Defense Ministry eliminated many of Prigozhin’s business contracts which seem to have created bad relations with the elite in the ministry that later spilled into the open.
The Russian media has substantial material on Prigozhin’s business rivalries with Defence Minister Sergie Shoigo.
Thus, the two had bad relations for many years and grew much worse when the Wagner group got involved in Syria.
They went completely down the drain during the war in Ukraine.
Let us, therefore, look at what did not happen.
There was no attempted overthrow of Putin’s government as the western narrative frames it.
Prigozhin himself made it clear that his aim was to pressure the government to remove Shoigo and Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff and deputy defence minister.
It was also not an attempt by a non-state actor to propel himself into power.
It was implicitly understood that Wagner was a clandestine arm of the Russian state to provide Moscow plausible deniability in its foreign policy actions.
No non-state actor can purchase tanks, artillery and engage in military operations in multiple locations without state backing.
Can anyone believe that the US mercenary group Black Water was acting independently during America’s war on Iraq without coordinating with Washington?
One would have to be a complete political dunce to believe this.
This is akin to Trump supporters storming Capitol Hill and creating an image problem for the US political system.
Wagner’s move did something similar, but with a Russian twist.
On January 6, 2021, the outgoing US president partly lost control of his gung-ho activist constituency.
Similarly, Putin lost control over his diehard nationalist “activists.”
With this background in mind, let us ask: What is unlikely to happen?
From the very beginning even astute western detractors of Putin realized that Prigozhin will not be able to topple Putin.
Michael O'Hanlon, an expert at the Brookings Institution told the British regime’s media outlet, the BBC that “the idea that Prigozhin could somehow engender a broad-based mass revolt against Putin is really a fairly tale.”
It should be borne in mind that Russia has lived through a similar situation twice.
The first is known globally, which took place in October 1993 and ended up with tanks in the streets of Moscow.
The second is less known, as it was more regional, but many initial observers assumed that it spelled the end of Russia in the Caucasus.
In May 1998, Nadyr Khachilayev, a member of the Russian parliament from Dagestan, with his supporters and Chechen pro-independence fighters took over most government institutions in Dagestan.
Due to Chechnya’s de-facto independence in 1998 and the spirit of separatism dominating the Caucasus, many pundits assumed that this is a natural secession of the entire North Caucasus from Russia, and that North Caucasus will never again be under Moscow’s total control.
The events of May 1998 ended in a very similar manner as Prigozhin’s march.
Khachilayev clan’s grievances, like those of Prigozhin, were more personal than geopolitical or ideological.
A few years later, the Khachilayev clan was eliminated from Russia’s political landscape.
Similar fate almost certainly awaits Prigozhin, something even anti-Putin analysts point out.
Prigozhin’s actions brought memories of the politically chaotic 1990s, something the Russian society and many socio-political groupings want to avoid at all cost.
Thus, while foreign pundits assume that the recent events mean the beginning of the end of Putin’s rule, quite the opposite may happen.
The events may have once again confirmed to many Russians that the alternative to Putin is chaos and a Russia resembling the 1990s.
A period many Russians view as one of collective humiliation.
While it is unlikely that Putin will be toppled soon, what the western propaganda seems to miss is that even if he is removed, Russia’s war in Ukraine will continue.
It has become existential for Russian state system and its geopolitical survivability.
When Barack Obama became president under the “anti-war” pretense, the US not only stuck out with its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also expanded its military aggression to other parts of West Asia – Why?
The reason is that America’s imperial interests made it incumbent upon its state system to continue what was started to maintain its hegemonic status.
The same applies to Russia today.