By Paul Goble
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Prigozhin mutiny is that it showed that Vladimir Putin wasn’t able to mobilize much against it, Konstantin Sonin says; and as a result, it inflicted a serious blow to the reputations of Putin himself, the Russian military, and the special services, “above all the Federal Protection Service and the FSB.”
The Russian scholar now at the University of Chicago points out that the Russian military surrendered Rostov and the headquarters of the Southern Military District to Prigozhin “without a fight” and the security agencies showed that while they are good at arresting intellectuals, they aren’t much good at protecting the state from real threats(novayagazeta.eu/articles/2023/06/27/u-nas-otmena).
But the one who suffered most from this mutiny was Putin because “neither in Rostov, nor in Voronezh, nor in Moscow did anyone come out to protest this challenge to his power” and the politicians who might have been expected to rally to his side with public declarations at least kept silent for some hours.
That “pause,” Sonin continues, “clearly indicates that the Russian political elite is prepared for the replacement of the leader.” More than that, it shows that they “are prepared for such a change to take place by force.” Prigozhin did not launch his campaign against Putin but Putin has been hit and hit hard.
Putin may or may not remove Shoygu and oust the generals Prigozhin wanted fired; but “what Putin cannot do is ‘mobilize the country’” and force his officials to stop skimming off money from government contracts because those arrangements are in fact “the essence of the Putin regime.
“Demanding Putin change the way the country is run and the way the war is wages is the same as demanding that he resign,” Sonin says. “If Prigozhin wanted more from Putin than just the resignations of Shoigu and Gerasimov, there was no way he could get that.” And thus what the mutiny shows is the degradation of the Putin regime and another step toward its end.