What’s Going on in Russia? Is Putin Asleep at the Wheel?

August 17th, 2023 4:43 PM

WASHINGTON -- There was a curious report in The Washington Post late last month. I saw it in no other newspaper.

It began thus: “When Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, launched his attempted mutiny on the morning of June 24, Vladimir Putin was paralyzed and unable to act decisively, according to Ukrainian and other security officials in Europe.” Did you get that? President Vladimir Putin was paralyzed and unable to act decisively. Had Vladi taken aboard a little too much vodka? It was still early morning in Moscow!

It gets worse. “The Russian president had been warned by the Russian security services at least two or three days ahead of time that Prigozhin was preparing a possible rebellion, according to intelligence assessments shared with The Washington Post.” Otherwise, little else was done.

Does it get worse? It does, for President Putin. “Putin had time to take the decision to liquidate (the rebellion) and arrest the organizers,” said one of the European security officials, who was interviewed by The Post. “Then when it (the rebellion) began to happen, there was paralysis on all levels. ... There was absolute dismay and confusion. For a long time, they did not know how to react.”

This madcap moment lasted at least 36 hours. Where was Putin? Even worse, where was the president’s cook, Chef Prigozhin? What if Putin got hungry? How about a hamburger? But seriously, where was the president of Russia while all this chaos was taking place? It sounds like no one was in charge. Even worse, it sounds like no one wanted to be charge, not even Chef Prigozhin. If it is true, that no one wanted to lead Russia during this chaotic period, it will go down as the strangest 36 hours in world history. It will be remembered as being the time when Russia went from being a dictatorship governed by Stalin, the man of steel, to being governed by Putin, the man who disappeared for 36 hours and may disappear again. This time for a long time.

Well, at least for now, Putin is back in charge of his increasingly ramshackle country, but a country which seems to be losing its war with Ukraine. Just last week, one of its warships came limping into port at Novorossiysk, Russia, with a gaping hole in its side, the result of its confrontation with a Ukrainian naval drone. How much more can Mother Russia bleed?

Observers are beginning to speak of what type of government Putin has adopted. He is not a communist. Too many oligarchs hover around him, and they all have made too much money. Nor is he a czarist. Again, there are too many enriching themselves from his rule. I believe the most apt term for Putin’s rule is Putin’s Crony System of Government. The large number of mediocre appointees he has brought into public life is typical of his mediocrity. Just look at how mediocre his military has been. As soon as a general or an admiral distinguishes himself in battle, he is fired, or he dies mysteriously in battle.

So back to the piece that provoked my column to begin with. The Washington Post piece reporting how Putin was paralyzed and indecisive from the start. The Post piece reporting how Putin ignored his intelligence people who were attempting to tell him about the impending rebellion. And where did he go for those mysterious 36 hours? Was he hiding? From whom?

Could it be that our Central Intelligence Agency has had enough? Could it be that they have decided to end this intolerable war upon Ukraine? Will our intelligence people reveal the Kremlin as second-rate? Will it help rid the world of Putin and Prigozhin and their convict army? The Russians and the Ukrainians can work things out on their own. And congratulations to The Washington Post. Finally, they got something right. Now, when will the rest of the journalistic community catch up?

Glory to Ukraine!

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson, Inc.