ANALYSIS: Westerners Ponder Putin’s Power After Mutiny Attempt

In the aftermath of the Wagner mutiny attempt in Russia, there is a prevalent belief in the West that Putin’s control over the country has significantly waned. Analysts have cautioned Western policymakers to brace themselves for the potential chaos and risks that could arise in a post-Putin Russia. The short-lived mutiny orchestrated in Russia over the weekend of June 24 by Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner private military group, has exposed Putin’s weakened grip on Russia. On June 28, U.S. President Joe Biden expressed his belief that the attempted mutiny weakened Putin’s power. However, when questioned by reporters at the White House, Biden acknowledged that it is “hard to tell” to what extent Putin’s power has eroded. Tobias Ellwood, Chairman of the UK House of Commons Defense Committee, conveyed to The Express on June 26 that he considers this situation a “dangerous game-changer” for Putin, and in his view, Putin’s days are now numbered. According to Mr. Ellwood, ” When a Russian leader has to contain a coup by offering the coup leader a place in exile rather than defeating him directly then you know power is draining from the Kremlin.” Josep Borrell, the E.U.’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, also sounded a warning on June 26 during the E.U. Foreign Ministers’ Summit, emphasizing the danger of instability in Russia following the Wagner incident. This instability is not only weakening Russia’s military power but also affecting its political system. Mr. Borrell’s viewpoint garnered support from the foreign ministers of Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg who were present at the Luxembourg meeting. Former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss also addressed the implosion of Russia during a parliamentary exchange on the same day, stating, “We, and our allies, including Ukrainians, Poles, and the Baltic states—need to make sure that we have a plan in case of the implosion of Russia.” Russia Faces the Prospect of Fragmentation On March 20, the Montaigne Institute, a French think tank, released a report analyzing the potential consequences of a military failure for Putin’s top-down power system, which has been in place for the past two decades. The report highlights the possibility of severe disruptions to Russia’s political landscape. Furthermore, the country’s economic situation could become increasingly challenging, while the risk of large-scale conflicts between military forces, intelligence agencies, the National Guard, and paramilitary organizations looms large. According to the report, Russia consists of 89 federal subjects, including 21 non-Slavic autonomous republics. It emphasizes that not all Russian citizens (Rossiiskii) are ethnically Russians (Russkii), and the proportion of ethnic Russians (currently 80%) is declining. If the central government loses control, the first regions likely to consider secession from the federation would be the border areas that have suffered the heaviest casualties in this war and the impoverished regions where the Russian ethnic population has dwindled. Other prosperous regions with a history of nationalist aspirations, particularly the two republics in the Volga River region—Tatarstan and Bashkortostan—may also harbor concerns. The report suggests that Russia is a country characterized by geographical, economic, social, and regional fragmentation, with a few developed cities, small administrative units, and vast impoverished and disconnected hinterlands. Consequently, any fragmentation it experiences could result in chaos, long-lasting effects, conflict-ridden, and a potential escalation of violence. This situation could lead to federal entities completely breaking away while others merge to form new federations. Nuclear Weapons Risks in Russia In a June 26 op-ed published in Foreign Policy, it states that Washington needs to be prepared for the potential chaos in Russia, with the most challenging aspect being coordinating international responses to safeguard Russia’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. The article underscores that Russia possesses the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons globally, along with a sizable number of bioweapon projects. The unauthorized acquisition of these weapons would pose a catastrophic risk. To address this, the article suggests investing in improving detection capabilities at border crossings throughout the region. Additionally, the United States should be ready to negotiate practical agreements with Russian power brokers who may gain access to these weapons, depending on the circumstances. However, the report released last March by France’s Montaigne Institute argues that the nuclear weapons risk stemming from Russian fragmentation might not be as severe as during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. During that event, Russia deployed nearly 7,000 weapons outside the country. Presently, apart from naval bases, Russia’s nuclear capabilities are mostly situated in the central and southern parts of the federation and along

ANALYSIS: Westerners Ponder Putin’s Power After Mutiny Attempt

In the aftermath of the Wagner mutiny attempt in Russia, there is a prevalent belief in the West that Putin’s control over the country has significantly waned. Analysts have cautioned Western policymakers to brace themselves for the potential chaos and risks that could arise in a post-Putin Russia.

The short-lived mutiny orchestrated in Russia over the weekend of June 24 by Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner private military group, has exposed Putin’s weakened grip on Russia. On June 28, U.S. President Joe Biden expressed his belief that the attempted mutiny weakened Putin’s power. However, when questioned by reporters at the White House, Biden acknowledged that it is “hard to tell” to what extent Putin’s power has eroded.

Tobias Ellwood, Chairman of the UK House of Commons Defense Committee, conveyed to The Express on June 26 that he considers this situation a “dangerous game-changer” for Putin, and in his view, Putin’s days are now numbered. According to Mr. Ellwood, ” When a Russian leader has to contain a coup by offering the coup leader a place in exile rather than defeating him directly then you know power is draining from the Kremlin.”

Josep Borrell, the E.U.’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, also sounded a warning on June 26 during the E.U. Foreign Ministers’ Summit, emphasizing the danger of instability in Russia following the Wagner incident. This instability is not only weakening Russia’s military power but also affecting its political system. Mr. Borrell’s viewpoint garnered support from the foreign ministers of Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg who were present at the Luxembourg meeting.

Former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss also addressed the implosion of Russia during a parliamentary exchange on the same day, stating, “We, and our allies, including Ukrainians, Poles, and the Baltic states—need to make sure that we have a plan in case of the implosion of Russia.”

Russia Faces the Prospect of Fragmentation

On March 20, the Montaigne Institute, a French think tank, released a report analyzing the potential consequences of a military failure for Putin’s top-down power system, which has been in place for the past two decades. The report highlights the possibility of severe disruptions to Russia’s political landscape. Furthermore, the country’s economic situation could become increasingly challenging, while the risk of large-scale conflicts between military forces, intelligence agencies, the National Guard, and paramilitary organizations looms large.

According to the report, Russia consists of 89 federal subjects, including 21 non-Slavic autonomous republics. It emphasizes that not all Russian citizens (Rossiiskii) are ethnically Russians (Russkii), and the proportion of ethnic Russians (currently 80%) is declining. If the central government loses control, the first regions likely to consider secession from the federation would be the border areas that have suffered the heaviest casualties in this war and the impoverished regions where the Russian ethnic population has dwindled. Other prosperous regions with a history of nationalist aspirations, particularly the two republics in the Volga River region—Tatarstan and Bashkortostan—may also harbor concerns.

The report suggests that Russia is a country characterized by geographical, economic, social, and regional fragmentation, with a few developed cities, small administrative units, and vast impoverished and disconnected hinterlands. Consequently, any fragmentation it experiences could result in chaos, long-lasting effects, conflict-ridden, and a potential escalation of violence. This situation could lead to federal entities completely breaking away while others merge to form new federations.

Nuclear Weapons Risks in Russia

In a June 26 op-ed published in Foreign Policy, it states that Washington needs to be prepared for the potential chaos in Russia, with the most challenging aspect being coordinating international responses to safeguard Russia’s stockpile of nuclear weapons.

The article underscores that Russia possesses the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons globally, along with a sizable number of bioweapon projects. The unauthorized acquisition of these weapons would pose a catastrophic risk. To address this, the article suggests investing in improving detection capabilities at border crossings throughout the region. Additionally, the United States should be ready to negotiate practical agreements with Russian power brokers who may gain access to these weapons, depending on the circumstances.

However, the report released last March by France’s Montaigne Institute argues that the nuclear weapons risk stemming from Russian fragmentation might not be as severe as during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. During that event, Russia deployed nearly 7,000 weapons outside the country. Presently, apart from naval bases, Russia’s nuclear capabilities are mostly situated in the central and southern parts of the federation and along major transportation routes strictly controlled by the central government (although proximity to the border poses risks in case of significant destruction).

Dealing With Post-Putin Russia

Regarding post-Putin Russia, Janusz Bugajski, a senior researcher at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, suggests an effective approach for the West is to explicitly express their willingness to cooperate with Russia regardless of the political outcome after Putin steps down. This approach would involve officially supporting diversity, democracy, federalism, civil rights, and the autonomy of various republics and regions. It would also involve assuring Russian citizens that they will not face global isolation.

On July 1, Li Yuanhua, a former associate professor at the Capital Normal University, conveyed to The Epoch Times that Russia’s current actions are manifestations of its failure to eradicate the remnants of communism completely. By portraying the West as an imaginary enemy, Russia is positioning itself against the free world and universal values, thereby consolidating its geopolitical position. Viewing Russian issues through the lens of universal values and the need to eradicate communist residue would contribute to global peace and stability.

Mr. Li also mentioned that the disintegration of Russia could accelerate the downfall of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He noted that since Russia instigated the war in Ukraine, multiple Western countries have collectively sought to contain Russia, diverting attention from countering the CCP. The CCP covertly supports Russia, desiring Russia to continue its confrontation with Western society or serve as a diversion from the West’s focus on China.

Mr. Li emphasized that if Russia, acting as a barrier, collapses, the free world could concentrate more resources on encircling the CCP. This scenario is concerning to the CCP as calls for justice could accelerate its disintegration, leading to its complete collapse.