For a hot minute, Wagner's Prigozhin was a hero for Western regime change enthusiasts
Western figures who have long dreamed of Russian regime change saw an open window with the Wagner mutiny, and apparently saw a prime opportunity to toss their credibility out of it.
They couldn’t stop grafting their disaster porn fantasies onto the events, even as facts and reality started distancing themselves from all the wishful thinking. Who cares that Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin himself had said that his beef was with Russian military leadership – Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, about whom he previously complained for insufficient ammunition and support. Or that his armed march towards Moscow was for “justice” for his men who he said had done the heavy lifting in the grueling months-long battle of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut), leading to an eventual Russian victory. So what if Prigozhin explicitly denied that he was mounting a coup, and hadn’t at all evoked Russian President Vladimir Putin as his target? This whole drama, viewed from here in Moscow, where people continued to go about their daily lives as usual, just seemed like a tiff between siblings, one of whom was hell-bent on getting Daddy Putin’s attention by tossing his toys out of the pram – at Rostov-on-Don and Moscow.
Putin ended up striking a deal to send the tantrum boy to Belarus, where the Russian President said his Wagner comrades could join him. This conveniently places them all closer to Kiev than they ever were to Moscow on their march – and right as the Russian tactical nukes are set to arrive, too.
However, regime change proponents don’t seem too interested in these facts or analysis. Instead, they can’t stop dreaming of chaos, since they used Prigozhin to project their anti-Putin fantasies – like he’s Pamela Anderson and they’re teenage boys in the 90s. And let’s just say that some of their musings are…out there.
“Do we worry about Russia falling into the arms of China? Is there going to be disintegration? Will it go full on fascist? Will we have a long period of confusion and chaos? Will they use their nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip to try and get things?” asked the Center for European Policy Analysis’ Edward Lucas on BBC radio. Woah, slow your roll there. The babushkas who feed the pigeons at the local park are busy making plans for lunch tomorrow and haven’t yet received your memo that perhaps they should be considering adopting the fascist ideology against which their country has actively fought in its biggest historical battles. As for Russia “falling into the arms of China” – they’re just buddies, and aren’t really into that kind of thing. Maybe it’s time for a cold shower?
Lucas didn’t stop there either. In the wake of Putin’s non-demise, the expert has since doubled down, looking right past Putin to a “post-Putin junta” with “a weak central government battling powerful criminal warlords.” In reality, the same kind of regional figures, separatist minorities, and corporate heavyweights he evokes constantly wrestle for power in every country that has any resources or power worth arguing about. He could just as easily be talking about France, or the US. So why do few such experts ever do so, despite the fact that life in inflation-hit Western Europe right now is far more taxing than life in Moscow? And I say that as someone who pings back and forth between both.
“Putin faces historic threat to absolute grip on power in Russia,” read a Bloomberg headline. You’d think they’d see these events as proof that the Russian President delegates and trusts his subordinates in respect of the Russian constitution. And as proponents of democracy, which as we know can sometimes be a bit messy, why aren’t they celebrating this event as proof of Putin’s exercise of it rather than lament that the authoritarianism, which have long and clearly erroneously attributed to him, risks eroding?
“Russia cannot function without a strong hand at the wheel, and this president's hand has been fatally weakened,” according to the Financial Times. Oh, so now Russia needs authoritarianism – which Putin is suddenly unable to provide despite the many years of Western critics accusing him of being too heavy-handed? Which is it? Pick a lane.
Gideon Rachman said in the Financial Times that embarrassment would do Putin in. “Even if the Russian leader prevails in the immediate battle against Wagner, it is hard to believe that Putin can ultimately survive this kind of humiliation,” he wrote, making it sound like the Wagner march resulted in Putin getting a wedgie in front of the entire school.
“Putin’s regime survives, for the moment,” according to the Journal de Montréal, citing the Kremlin’s desire to give an “impression of normalcy.” Apparently, Putin can’t even competently defuse a crisis without being accused of faking it. Yeah, it would have been so much better if he had just let things spin out of control, like they did in Washington on January 6th, 2021, during the breach of Congress amid the Capitol Hill riots. Because that‘s how real normalcy is conveyed to the world – lest you be accused of hiding chaos. But at least walking back Putin’s imminent demise is better than clinging to the notion and running with it, as others insisted on doing, oblivious to the actual facts on the ground.
US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who never met a US regime change effort that he didn’t like, mused on Twitter during the unrest: “As internal strife and chaos occurs inside of Russia, may the outcome eventually be: The Russian people freed from corrupt, autocratic war criminal dictators like Putin.” Does this self-styled proponent of democracy care at all about the fact that the Russian people democratically elected the leader he wants to see deposed? While literally cheering for what amounts to a terrorist act – the unlawful ousting of an elected president – Graham implied, without any hint of irony, that those who did the deed he was praying for would then be dismissed as terrorists and unworthy of serving. Putin should be “replaced not by a terrorist organization like the Wagner Group, but true Russian patriots who want to establish freedom and integrate Russia to the world,” he said. “Our hope is freedom for the long suffering people of Russia,” added the Senator.
Does it ever occur to these folks that their cheerleading or projecting of Russia’s Putin-free future typically involve scenarios which, first and foremost, represent flagrant violations of Russian citizens’ democratic will? Somehow that minor detail always seems to escape their analysis.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.