“Why do there have to be men like that, men who enjoy another man's dying?” ― Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels
The seas where we are afloat are unchartered. The waves, the abilities of the ship, the outcomes of the storms are not.
This week, we wanted to discuss Modi's visit but something equally, probably more, significant unraveled in Russia. One needs to get one's head around the various events that happened and their aftermath.
We have pieced together the events, the statements and the different narratives out there.
In the last two days, crowd-journalism further entrenched itself as the "go-to source" trumping the mainstream media. This was best worded by Mario Nawfal, the guy who was leading the charge on Twitter.
What you will read today is one component of a very complex web of geopolitical battles that are being unleashed. Modi's visit will be analyzed in that context soon (most probably a mid-week post)
Read this and share your thoughts please.
Reading the "tea leaves"?
On January 11, 2023 in a surprise move, Vladimir Putin made a quick change. He appointed the Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov as the overall commander of the Ukrainian operations, while demoting General Sergey Surovikin. General Sir Richard Shirreff who served as the deputy supreme allied commander Europe between 2011 and 2014 had met Gerasimov many times and had called him "the sort of Russian general out of Soviet central casting."
So, Putin was basically cutting back on the famed and ruthless Wagner PMC, a mercenary private military company, that Russia has been using for long.
On June 23rd, Mario Nawfal shared a tweet with the information that a military coup was underway in Russia as the Wagner PMC group under Yevgeny Prigozhin was moving ahead and had accused Putin of bombing his military sites.
It has been stated by many in different places that Prigozhin's claim of the attack on his military sites is fake (along with the video Prigozhin purports to be of that attack).
Let us stop here and share something important. The mercenaries. Read this detailed post on the world of mercenary "for profit armies". Wagner Group is a Russian mercenary group which fights as a proxy for the Russian establishment. Or so it did.
Back to the Wagner Group.
On January 26th, 2023, the US Treasury targeted the Wagner Group with expanded sanctions.
“As sanctions and export controls on Russia from our international coalition continue to bite, the Kremlin is desperately searching for arms and support – including through the brutal Wagner Group – to continue its unjust war against Ukraine,” said Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen. “Today’s expanded sanctions on Wagner, as well as new sanctions on their associates and other companies enabling the Russian military complex, will further impede Putin’s ability to arm and equip his war machine.” (Source: "Treasury Sanctions Russian Proxy Wagner Group as a Transnational Criminal Organization" / US Treasury)
So think through this -
- January 11th, Putin replaces Sergey Surovikin with Valery Gerasimov signifying (as Newsweek reiterated) a return to the trust in conventional Russian military as opposed to the Wagner mercenaries.
- January 26th, US puts sanctions on Wagner and its operatives (obviously!) knowing that they were being relegated in favor of Russian military which can be controlled and trusted
Earlier this month, Prigozhin was already cocking a snook at Putin and the Russian forces. The writing, as they was on the wall. If you were Putin, would you be waiting for something to happen?
So the questions are:
(1) Were the sanctions on US a "cover" to do a deal with Prigozhin and Wagner group to turn on Putin in a coup? (2) More importantly, did Putin preempt such an eventuality (so the replacement) because of some indications he had received?
Just think of it.
A mercenary force with 25,000 force was moving towards Moscow to take on the might of the Russian military in an attempted coup!
Either this guy Yevgeny Prigozhin is a lunatic masochist or someone brilliant with a deeper plan that wasn't obvious.
Just for context, Prigozhin started selling hotdogs in 1991, after many years in prison due to stealing. Within a decade, he had opened one of the finest restaurant in Saint Petersburg, where in 2001 he hosted Vladimir Putin, French president Jacques Chirac and US President George W Bush in 2002 (Source: New York Times)!
He came to be known as Putin's Chef.
From there, he rose to not just be close to Putin but also founding the Wagner group and had strong connections in the Ministry of Defense and the the GRU (a very influential military intelligence service within the Russian setup).
So, Prigozhin, despite his antics on videos, is a very smart man.
So then why the suicidal attack?
There are only two explanations:
Either he has a deal with the US. Or he has a deal with Putin.
The rationale for deal with the US is obvious. But the deal with Putin could have been very possible also.
Why Deal with Putin?: Create a false flag operation which will provide justification to Putin to send in stronger reinforcements into Ukraine and also probably to start a larger war.
So, was it real?
Well, Putin was very clear in his quick broadcast saying that he considered the Wagner action to be a “treason” and “mutiny” and a “stab in the back” and his establishment was doing everything to repel it back.
Although the White House said that they were "monitoring the situation", but the officials quoted by the CNN (media house aligned with the current Democratic establishment in power in the US) called Prigozhin's actions as "real". They were "more than just rhetoric".
This alludes to the first explanation of Prigozhin's masochist plan being more plausible.
So was Prigozhin turned by the Western intelligence agencies?
Scott Ritter, a former United States Marine Corps intelligence officer, believes that Prigozhin may have been turned by the combination of SBU (Ukrainian intelligence), MI6 and the CIA.
Given the above line of analysis, Ritter's argument looks plausible and logical.
Judge Napolitano talks to Ritter in this video on the set of events.
With the hand of MI6 and CIA somewhat "established," let us move to the sequence of events.
How compromised media is and how it keeps dishing just ideological narratives was obvious in this situation.
As opposed to going to normal media outlets and be given misinformation, most of those who really wanted to understand what was happening went to one source - Mario Nawfal's Twitter spaces. Elon Musk himself promoted it. Heck, it went on for almost 24 hours continuously! Click below to listen
Here are some interesting bits of information from this recording.
- Some GRU units were laundering military equipment to Wagner, which will need a probe.
- Russian prosecutor general announced charges of insurrection against Prigozhin.
- MOD was taken over by special operations forces - led by Major General Valerie Fustikov (??) (within MOD). No one knows what he is planning and wants to do now.
- Military equipment within Moscow and this operation is being called Operation Fortress
- Russian National Guard has been deployed in Moscow. They were established by Putin a decade ago. And they report directly to Putin. Most importantly, they do not report to the Ministry of Defense. Apart from this convoys of military trucks have been seen in Moscow.
- Interestingly, Prigozhin asked the RNG to switch sides or suffer his wrath.
- Per one report, drones were reported over the Ukrainian region. Also that Cruise missiles headed to Ukraine.
As the situation was unfolding, Mario and others on Twitter were sharing the latest happenings. Here is one of the initial tweets.
Most intriguing thing was when Prigozhin was asking for Gerasimov. The guy who replaced Sergey Surovikin, Prigozhin's buddy. Huh?! Payback time?
Then things got even more interesting!
Surovikin issued a video for Wagner to stop the action. If one looks at the video closely, it seems very clear from Surovkin's body language that he is being held hostage and being forced to give this message by someone. We know who it could be, but the fear on his face is unmistakable.
After hours of drama, the whole situation dissipated as quickly as it had escalated. It was the Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko who negotiated a deal with Prigozhin. Wagner forces were to move back and Prigozhin will go to Belarus.
This deal was very important for Putin and Prigozhin both.
Existential Crisis for Russia
With deep inroads that Prigozhin has within the Russian MOD and the sympathy he and his group enjoys in the minds of many in the Russian forces as well as normal public, any strong action would have resulted in a Civil War.
Belarus President Lukachenko in many ways today saved Russia from imploding on itself.
For at least that, Putin should always be thankful to Lukachenko.
The way it finally ended was:
- No criminal charges on Prigozhin: Which frankly does not matter because FSB can have him assassinated
- All the Wagner fighters are now part of Russian military and under their command
- Massive changes in the leadership of Russia's Ministry of Defense.
However, that does not take away from the fact that the combo of CIA, MI6 and SBU (Ukraine) have bared massive fissures within the Russian leadership in:
- Ministry of Defense
- Russian Military
These elements are compromised and can break the Russian state and security machinery from within.
FSB will, in all probability, working to smoke out these people, groups and sympathizers.
And, in that, we will have a very dangerous situation.
Failure of Prigozhin to "go all the way" has not just brought out the extent, depth and intent of those who wanted Putin out - internally and externally - but his ability to anticipate things even when this crisis was escalating while taking quick action does not augur well for his detractors (internal and external).
If Scott Ritter is correct and MI6/CIA were behind this as is the logical explanation, then we have a very different problem on our hand. More on that later for let us understand how two different groups view the next steps to be.
Yesterday, there was another Twitter handle that was active and standing up with his argument - @KimDotcom
Quite obviously, KimDotCom was not on the same page as Mario Nawfal. The "Mario camp" felt that Putin is weaker and this will force him into a deal on Ukraine. The "KimDotCom camp" thinks otherwise.
What do we think at Drishtikone?
If this coup was the only thing "in town", one could have said "let's wait and watch" on what could be next. But the needle had moved alarmingly just a few hours before this Wagner offensive.
On June 20, 2023, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that "Moscow had information that Ukraine was planning to strike Russian-controlled Crimea with longer-range U.S. and British missiles and warned Russia would retaliate if that happened."
Gilbert Doctorow unpacks this threat on "The Free Republic" site.
The statement by Shoigu leaves little doubt that we are entering the final phase of the Ukraine war as a war limited to the geography of Ukraine, and are possibly heading into a wider war with unforeseeable consequences both for Europeans and (finally) for Americans. The ball is in the court of Washington and London. (Source: "End game in the Ukraine war approaches with lightning speed")
For more insights, you can also read the Substack posts by Mark Wauck, a retired FBI agent.
The focus on Putin being "weak or not" is a misplaced one as a result of this coup.
If a substantial part of Russia's security apparatus and organization has to be exterminated by his National Guards and the FSB, it will surely weaken Putin substantially.
The question to really ponder is - how mad is Putin?
Here are the stakes.
This has now become an existential war for Putin. His response in the short term will include existential options as well! The diplomatic options are now fully and completely off the table.
And, let us not get into the mindset that he is a "dictator" versus a "democratic West" - for that is completely misleading. The Western military and intelligence mindset is no different from that of a dictator. They make examples of those who do not toe their line and ensure their own version of the world remains as the only option.
In that battle of world versions, CIA and MI6 raised this battle to an existential war. And could not take it to its logical end.
Weak or strong, Putin will have only one option left. Make this existential for those he now knows are after him and Russia.
Make no mistake - Russians are no angels. They are as ruthless as they come. They have been known to use PFM-1 mines - also known as Butterfly Bombs - in Afghanistan and Ukraine, that would maim and kill kids!
I have always believed that in a war three things are very important:
- Hatred for the other
- Intensity of the Hatred
- Ammunition to action the Hatred
In these the "Intensity of the Hatred" is often missed by everyone. It is this factor that can propel people for thousands of years to hate and lay in wait to kill their ideological opponent. Middle East is a great example of that. When religion has been intertwined in your DNA and that religion cannot be lived without the extermination of the "other" because you have access to the "only god, his messenger, his prophet etc" - then the hatred is extremely deep seated - part of the DNA.
Intensity of Putin's hatred has been notched up to "existential" level now.
So yes, Putin is weak. But that is a situation which can be remedied. What cannot be missed sight of is that he not only has the WMDs (unlike Saddam), he has the means as well as technology and now - because of this foolish plan - an overwhelming reason to use them.
For, when you are conventionally weak you go for the "game-changing" outcomes. Washington and London have given Putin and Sergei Shoigu enough reason to "widen the war theater" such that they even announced it unambiguously.
If they do actually "widen the war theater", it will not be using conventional arms or means.
This is the greatest risk going forward.
Video Corner: Who created the Khalistani monster?
We have written about this in a two-part series. Please do read both of these posts.
What is sad and alarming is that Khalistan terror movement was the brainchild of Nixon and Kissinger along with Pakistani dictator Yahya Khan.
For Indira Gandhi to tap into that controversy for her own electoral survival lays out her greatest folly. After her loss in 1977, she planned to shut out her political rivals by establishing Bhindranwale so she would definitely win the 1985 elections.
Well, the Congress won the 1985 elections. But not because Indira Gandhi vanquished the Khalistanis. Because the Khalistanis gunned down Indira Gandhi.
GBS Sidhu, a top R&AW (Indian intelligence) officer shares the details of the whole conspiracy. We referred to his book in our articles above.