How Does Russia Remain in the Game?
The Wagner Group is comprised of about 50,000 soldiers. While I was in the French Alps in late June, my phone blew up with breaking news alerts about an armed rebellion in Russia led by Yevgeny Prigozhin (we know what happened to him…). When he left his battle station along with some 20,000 mercenaries after months of criticism directed towards the Kremlin, he attempted to storm the capital.
Around the globe, people that are only superficially familiar with the innerworkings of Russia said that Putin was finished and it was the beginning of a revolution…
They were wrong. This isn’t the first time Putin was portrayed as finished and his reign said to be over. In fact, there is rarely a year that goes by that I don’t see the New York Times or another so-called respectable publication get 99% of its analysis wrong when calling for the end of the Putin era.
Putin isn’t going anywhere despite what Biden has called the most ferocious sanctions in human history.
In his effort to weaken Russia’s quest to achieve access to the open waters via the Crimean Peninsula, Washington has driven Putin’s approval rating to 82%, the second highest in the world.
As for the Wagner Group, which has fought the most brutal battle in Europe in ages (Bakhmut), they were able to gain control of two large Russian cities before Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, brokered truce and offered Prigozhin exile.
My point is that the West has no clue how Putin’s internal strength is managed. His regime has quieted protestors, locked up his political opposition, and it still controls close to 20% of what was Ukraine up until recently.
When Biden rallied Congress about the effectiveness of sanctions, he promised Russia would suffer a 50% crash in GDP and they would no longer pose a threat, but reality is a bitch…
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Russia’s economy only actually declined by a couple of percentage points. On the other hand, Ukraine has been terminated in terms of its economy, and it’s hard to see how the country will ever recover.
It’s true that Putin is now an outsider in many of the world’s most crucial Western institutions, but he’s proving to others that even that is not a death sentence if your economy has a backup plan.
The war over Ukraine is at a stalemate, and it looks like NATO made a number of crucial tactical and strategic errors that are now being revealed.
One thing that is clear is that with a country as important as Russia, if you attempt to destroy it, you quickly learn that you’re hurting yourself and your allies as well without it. Even worse, you’re creating new enemies as well.
I’ll explain more about why historians and Russian experts made a number of false assumptions this time around, but I think that my key takeaway for today is that if you’ve been hearing that Russia is on the brink of collapse, you’ve been misled.
It certainly isn’t, but I can also say that it’s not contending in any imperial race either.
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