Author Topic: Russian and Chinese Leaders (Putin, Xi, Oligarchs, etc) other countries too  (Read 31916 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Hu Jintao
« Reply #100 on: October 24, 2022, 12:01:21 PM »
October 24, 2022
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Hu Jintao
By: George Friedman
An extraordinary thing happened in China at the final meeting of the party congress over the weekend. Hu Jintao, the previous president of China, was sitting next to President Xi Jinping when two men approached from the rear. Hu rose and appeared increasingly surprised and then alarmed. A few others sitting at the lead table also appeared openly surprised, while most seemed unconcerned or were blank-faced out of discipline. Hu was escorted behind Xi, who appeared as if nothing significant was happening. It seemed to me that Xi did finally glance at him, I think with a look of contempt, but that is likely not the case, as the point of this drama seemed to be that dismissing Hu was routine. Although videos of Hu’s departure could be viewed around the world, they did not appear in China. The Chinese now have said, however, that Hu was not feeling well.

This is not the way party congresses have typically been covered in China. In the past, they were a carefully framed portrayal of the absolute unity of the Chinese Communist Party. Every public element was controlled, with no spontaneity permitted, let alone drama of this sort.

Hu may have had to go to the bathroom and needed help, or it may have been some other prosaic event. But I doubt that would require a national blackout. It is always difficult to interpret actions involving individuals. My view of the world is that individuals are defined by the world, not the other way around. So let me take a shot at seeing how China created the television drama we all saw.

The economic crisis of the past two years had to have created political divisions. After Mao, China was defined by consistent and massive growth. There was an expectation in China, shared by much of the world, that the Chinese economic miracle would continue for a long time, making China a great power.

A second problem was the South China Sea and the inability of the Chinese military to break out of America’s effective blockade. There was much talk in China and elsewhere about the surging power of China’s military and particularly its navy, but there were no actions taken that demonstrated that power. The alliance with Russia proved another serious misjudgment.

Xi came to power at the height of the Chinese growth surge. He also came to power on what appeared to be the dawning of Chinese military power. In all of this, he was attempting to surpass his predecessor, Hu Jintao. Hu had built the economy and the military and had made China into an economic presence. Xi was going to make China an economic, military and global force. It didn’t happen. During Xi’s most recent term, all of these hopes seemed to shatter.

Hu was a symbol of what China was going to become. Xi is the symbol of what China did not become. Hu, as a former successful leader of China, hovered over him, and every time Hu spoke, Xi felt the tremors. I don’t know what went on in the Chinese Politburo. Hu may have criticized Xi, as a president who succeeded when success was easy. Xi may have rejected what was said, claiming that success had become more difficult to achieve and that Hu, in his place, would do very poorly indeed. Or perhaps no words had to be exchanged, because Xi understood that he was being measured against Hu. Perhaps Hu was organizing a coup or allowing himself to become the coup’s symbol, and Xi felt he had to contain him with a very public act so that the country knew where power lay. And more important, maybe Xi wanted to frighten any enemies from acting, by showing them what could happen.

It’s hard to understand precisely what happened, but it’s easy to understand what brought us to this place. This is politics, and failure, no matter how good the excuse, is unforgiving. Xi chose to act where success would redeem him. Of course, it is possible that a battle is now raging in secret over Xi’s action. He acted, it seems, without the senior staff being told. If so, they may fear for themselves next and move on Xi. But then Xi may have anticipated this. And so the murky world of Chinese politics has yielded us a coup against a retired president. It was the act of a worried man. He will be worried until the next act.

G M

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Re: Hu Jintao
« Reply #101 on: October 24, 2022, 02:02:27 PM »
October 24, 2022
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Hu Jintao
By: George Friedman
An extraordinary thing happened in China at the final meeting of the party congress over the weekend. Hu Jintao, the previous president of China, was sitting next to President Xi Jinping when two men approached from the rear. Hu rose and appeared increasingly surprised and then alarmed. A few others sitting at the lead table also appeared openly surprised, while most seemed unconcerned or were blank-faced out of discipline. Hu was escorted behind Xi, who appeared as if nothing significant was happening. It seemed to me that Xi did finally glance at him, I think with a look of contempt, but that is likely not the case, as the point of this drama seemed to be that dismissing Hu was routine. Although videos of Hu’s departure could be viewed around the world, they did not appear in China. The Chinese now have said, however, that Hu was not feeling well.

This is not the way party congresses have typically been covered in China. In the past, they were a carefully framed portrayal of the absolute unity of the Chinese Communist Party. Every public element was controlled, with no spontaneity permitted, let alone drama of this sort.

Hu may have had to go to the bathroom and needed help, or it may have been some other prosaic event. But I doubt that would require a national blackout. It is always difficult to interpret actions involving individuals. My view of the world is that individuals are defined by the world, not the other way around. So let me take a shot at seeing how China created the television drama we all saw.

The economic crisis of the past two years had to have created political divisions. After Mao, China was defined by consistent and massive growth. There was an expectation in China, shared by much of the world, that the Chinese economic miracle would continue for a long time, making China a great power.

A second problem was the South China Sea and the inability of the Chinese military to break out of America’s effective blockade. There was much talk in China and elsewhere about the surging power of China’s military and particularly its navy, but there were no actions taken that demonstrated that power. The alliance with Russia proved another serious misjudgment.

Xi came to power at the height of the Chinese growth surge. He also came to power on what appeared to be the dawning of Chinese military power. In all of this, he was attempting to surpass his predecessor, Hu Jintao. Hu had built the economy and the military and had made China into an economic presence. Xi was going to make China an economic, military and global force. It didn’t happen. During Xi’s most recent term, all of these hopes seemed to shatter.

Hu was a symbol of what China was going to become. Xi is the symbol of what China did not become. Hu, as a former successful leader of China, hovered over him, and every time Hu spoke, Xi felt the tremors. I don’t know what went on in the Chinese Politburo. Hu may have criticized Xi, as a president who succeeded when success was easy. Xi may have rejected what was said, claiming that success had become more difficult to achieve and that Hu, in his place, would do very poorly indeed. Or perhaps no words had to be exchanged, because Xi understood that he was being measured against Hu. Perhaps Hu was organizing a coup or allowing himself to become the coup’s symbol, and Xi felt he had to contain him with a very public act so that the country knew where power lay. And more important, maybe Xi wanted to frighten any enemies from acting, by showing them what could happen.

It’s hard to understand precisely what happened, but it’s easy to understand what brought us to this place. This is politics, and failure, no matter how good the excuse, is unforgiving. Xi chose to act where success would redeem him. Of course, it is possible that a battle is now raging in secret over Xi’s action. He acted, it seems, without the senior staff being told. If so, they may fear for themselves next and move on Xi. But then Xi may have anticipated this. And so the murky world of Chinese politics has yielded us a coup against a retired president. It was the act of a worried man. He will be worried until the next act.





ccp

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Re: Russian and Chinese Leaders (Putin, Xi, Oligarchs, etc)
« Reply #102 on: October 24, 2022, 02:11:27 PM »
yup, agree 

full Mao!

Hu Jintao = Liu Shaoqi  (?)

reminds me of this man - who dared speak out agains Mao - and in public ->

remember what happened to him:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liu_Shaoqi






DougMacG

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Re: Belarus Leader
« Reply #108 on: November 29, 2022, 08:04:46 AM »
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/11/27/belarus-vladimir-makei-death/?utm_campaign=wp_post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most&carta-url=https%3A%2F%2Fs2.washingtonpost.com%2Fcar-ln-tr%2F386dfc8%2F6383988b3564ae5f7527d409%2F61cdf026ae7e8a4ac205b2b3%2F18%2F68%2F6383988b3564ae5f7527d409&wp_cu=10fdb05edea8f32c1b02f6dfec609335%7CD462DD329F9C56B3E0530100007F597F


https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11480553/Sombre-looking-Belarus-dictator-Lukashenko-bids-farewell-assassinated-foreign-minister.html

A sombre Alexander Lukashenko bade farewell at the open-topped coffin of his long-serving foreign minister today as speculation continues to churn over whether the diplomat may have been assassinated. The Belarusian president has reportedly ordered toxicology tests after Vladimir Makei died suddenly at the weekend.  ...  Makei's funeral was held in Minsk this morning amid as yet unverified claims the veteran diplomat and former spy, 64, was killed in a Moscow sting operation due to his clandestine contacts with the West concerning the war in Ukraine and efforts to prevent Belarus being incorporated into Russia by Vladimir Putin
« Last Edit: November 29, 2022, 08:07:23 AM by DougMacG »


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Crafty_Dog

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Letter to the WSJ
« Reply #112 on: January 16, 2023, 07:58:27 AM »
Are We Willing to See Russia as It Really Is?
The idealization of Yeltsin and then Putin did the world no good.
Jan. 16, 2023 10:17 am ET


In his letter “Russia Was Never Predestined for Putinism” (Jan. 12), responding to my op-ed “Putin Wants Ukraine Back in the U.S.S.R.” (Dec. 30), Leon Aron argues that history is filled with “zigzags and hairpin turns” and the Russian invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin represented a radical break with the policies of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. There is no sign that this is true.

Yeltsin’s corruption needed terror to protect it and all evidence shows that Yeltsin and Mr. Putin were linked by common crimes. In September 1999, four Russian apartment buildings were blown up in the middle of the night and more than 300 people were killed. The bombings were blamed on Chechens and used to justify a new invasion of Chechnya. Mr. Putin, the newly appointed prime minister, was put in charge of the war. His rating soared and he was elected president.

For 23 years, I had no doubt that the bombings were carried out by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in cooperation with members of Yeltsin’s entourage. But I was uncertain of the guilt of Yeltsin himself. Documents recently released by the Clinton Presidential Library, however, show that Yeltsin actively aided the operation to make Mr. Putin president. In a telephone call on Sept. 8, 1999, he informed President Bill Clinton that Mr. Putin would be the next president. “I am sure you will have good relations with him,” Yeltsin said. Mr. Putin’s rating at the time was 2%. On the next day, the first Moscow apartment building was blown up in the middle of the night.

The idealization of Yeltsin and Mr. Putin did the world no good. The war on Ukraine could have been prevented if the U.S. had seen Russia as it is. But Russia does not reveal her secrets willingly, and none are so blind as those who will not see.

David Satter


Crafty_Dog

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Medvedev vs. Kishida
« Reply #114 on: January 17, 2023, 01:28:51 PM »
Jan 14 (Reuters) - Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Saturday of shameful subservience to the United States and suggested he should ritually disembowel himself.



Crafty_Dog

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Crafty_Dog

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G M

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« Last Edit: June 27, 2023, 06:49:58 AM by G M »

Crafty_Dog

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George Friedman: Where does Russia Stand Now?
« Reply #120 on: June 26, 2023, 04:42:00 PM »
June 26, 2023
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Where Does Russia Stand Now?
By: George Friedman
There has been a great deal of talk that the Wagner Group's attempted insurrection over the weekend may have weakened Russian President Vladimir Putin. If Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin is to be believed, the uprising was months in the making, a result of the conventional military deliberately withholding supplies and, more recently, of a direct Russian missile attack on his troops. This may explain why his march seemed to be directed more at the Russian General Staff than at Putin himself. Whatever the case, the affair was over in a day; either it failed or it was meant to be little more than a gesture. Knowing what happened in this incident will take a long time to sort out.

What we must think through now, though, is to what extent the Prigozhin debacle will destabilize the Russian government, weaken Putin or affect the war in Ukraine. Putin’s status is at the center of it all. If this was indeed a coup attempt, it never seriously threatened the Kremlin. Prigozhin’s issues with elements of the central government were well known. Why, then, would Putin be weakened by a putsch from a known malcontent that went nowhere? And what does being weakened even mean? Does it mean that department heads, and particularly the General Staff, would disregard his orders? Does it mean he no longer has a job?

In a political sense, weakened might mean that Putin would no longer be able to make executive decisions or eliminate bureaucrats and generals. This would be a serious development. Russia is at war, and it needs an effective command structure. If Putin were weakened, then the command structure would break down, which would also mean there would be no supreme commander. In that scenario, it is unlikely Putin would be weakened; he would be replaced. The question is who would replace him? Prigozhin might have been angling for the job, but he ultimately capitulated to a different Putin puppet, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Someone unknown to me might emerge, of course, but short of an heir apparent I don’t know what it means for Putin to be weakened. And even if I did, I don’t know why a coup attempt broken in less than a day should weaken him.

The more serious question concerns what the Wagner Group was doing on the battlefield in the first place. Private military contracting is common enough, but Wagner’s role in Russia was fairly unique in that it took on responsibilities usually reserved more for conventional forces than for paramilitary groups, charged as it was with executing some of the war’s most important battles. As its role evolved, Prigozhin began to pursue his own strategy outside the chain of command of the military, sometimes openly ridiculing his rivals, who would cut off his supplies in kind. Two armies thus tried – and have so far failed – to fight a common enemy.

Putin is responsible for the whole affair. He and his cadre thought Russia would quickly and decisively defeat Ukraine. Almost immediately, with the failure of his tank assault, the Russian attack was bogged down. Russia hadn’t lost the war, but neither had it won, so he supplemented the army with Wagner. In other words, Putin vastly misunderstood Ukraine’s army and his own, and instead of disengaging he threw Wagner into the fray. This strange solution created chaos. From the chaos came the insurrection.

In that sense, putting down a coup attempt isn’t the admission of failure that many seem to believe. The failure was creating the situation in which Wagner had to be hired in the first place. The issue now will be the degree to which Moscow is able to review its war plans and locate the massive errors. Putin has avoided having his war plans reviewed. Will a review now happen out of one of the few successes Putin has had?

Some believe the whole incident was a conspiracy. If that were the case, the planning would have to include the president of Belarus, the Russian General staff, members of Putin’s staff and so on, as well as a portion of the Wagner Group. No professional conspiracy would ever be executed with so many people aware of what was going on. I wonder how many details Lukashenko might have asked for at some point. Putin, an ex-KGB agent, would know the implausibility of the conspirator’s methods. No professional would try a conspiracy with so many people involved.



DougMacG

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Putin, Walter Russell Mead, WSJ
« Reply #123 on: June 27, 2023, 05:43:06 AM »
WSJ excerpt, subscribe WSJ.com
It’s Too Early to Count Putin Out
The Wagner rebellion made him look weak, but brutal leaders have survived worse.
Walter Russell Mead
June 27, 2023

Review and Outlook: Putin survives in power, but Prigozhin’s revolt reveals the Ukraine war’s failure. Images: AFP/Getty Images/Zuma Press
Winston Churchill reportedly said that Kremlin political intrigues are like “a bulldog fight under a rug,” and that the only way outsiders know who won is when the bones of the loser fly out.

As of press time, both dogs were still growling. The Kremlin says that rebellious Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin is still under criminal investigation. Mr. Prigozhin, who by Monday afternoon hadn’t taken up the proffered sanctuary in Belarus, kept issuing statements.

At some point the situation will resolve. Mr. Prigozhin could step too close to an open window. His nemesis, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, might decide to spend more time with his family. Or Vladimir Putin might demand an end to the infighting and force a staged reconciliation between the rivals.

Meanwhile, many Western commentators are crowing over what looks like a major setback for Mr. Putin and his war in Ukraine. Certainly, the Wagner putsch was an embarrassment for his regime. It revealed much about the tensions building in the Russian elite as the war drags on. It made Mr. Putin look indecisive and weak, an impression his Monday night appearance on Russian TV did nothing to dispel. This not an image that a wartime dictator needs.

But ugly regimes don’t always melt away simply because we would like them to. Over many years Stalin’s dictatorship endured one factional fight after another, but through them all Stalin tightened his grip. Hitler consolidated his power over the Wehrmacht after the assassination attempt of July 1944 and only death broke his hold over the once-rebellious German officer class. Mao’s Great Leap Forward failed even more spectacularly than Mr. Putin’s attack on Ukraine, but years later the Great Helmsman died in bed. The Wagner mutiny may mark the beginning of the end of Mr. Putin’s power, or it may mark the start of a new and possibly even more intense phase of totalitarian rule in Moscow. It is, as Zhou Enlai would put it, too early to say.

There are three things to bear in mind as we try to make sense of the dramatic developments in Russia. The first is that politics in nondemocratic societies, especially Russia, can look very different from what we know in the West. Scheming politicians in Western societies organize parliamentary revolts or make their arguments in the press. When parliaments lack power, and the press isn’t free, political infighting moves to other venues. Usually, politics in these societies takes place behind closed doors. When the infighting bursts into the open, it can look dramatic, but drama isn’t always catastrophe.

Second, the public was, for the most part, uninvolved. There were scattered signs of public support for Wagner, but there was no surge of public unrest. No throngs of demonstrators filled the streets of Moscow; no huge crowds gathered at barricades to welcome or block Mr. Prigozhin’s advance. Even at a moment of perceived regime weakness, ordinary Russians stayed home. The Russian public may be skeptical of its leaders and unhappy with the war, but for now politics remains the preserve of the elite. All this, from Mr. Putin’s standpoint, is good news. Dictatorships rely on public acquiescence and passivity much more than on enthusiastic support, and judging from the weekend’s events, Mr. Putin’s hold on the Russian street looks reasonably secure.

READ MORE GLOBAL VIEW
China Accepts the New Indo-Pacific RealityJune 19, 2023
Russia, China and Iran in America’s BackyardJune 12, 2023
What if Putin Loses His War in Ukraine?June 5, 2023
Finally, we should remember that Messrs. Prigozhin and Shoigu both have real successes under their belts. Wagner matters to Mr. Putin. Wagner won, at great cost, the only real Russian victory in recent months when its troops forced the Ukrainians out of Bakhmut. Wagner mercenaries, taking advantage of the unaccountable strategic paralysis that seems to have gripped Washington and the West in the face of the group’s growth, have made great strides across the Middle East and Africa, bringing wealth and prestige to the Kremlin. That network is a significant asset, and unless Mr. Putin is certain that it will function as well under new leadership, Mr. Prigozhin may still be too valuable to discard.

But Mr. Shoigu is also useful. After a string of reversals, the Russian army seems to have stepped up its game. Deep minefields, well-planned trenches and fortifications, as well as Russian countermeasures against Himars and other Western weapons, have so far blunted Ukraine’s counteroffensive. Additionally, Mr. Putin believes Mr. Shoigu’s Central Asian ethnic and regional background makes him a safe choice to lead the Defense Ministry. Without the dense networks within the armed services that Russian-background generals have, Mr. Shoigu would have a hard time launching a coup.

The West very much wants Mr. Putin to fail, and if the weekend’s events signal the decline of the Putinocracy, your Global View columnist will gladly participate in the celebrations. But if Russia’s defenses hold in Ukraine, Wagner continues to prosper globally and the Russian public stays passive, Mr. Putin may be in less trouble than many of us hope.

 More at wsj.com

G M

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Re: Tallying up Putin kills
« Reply #124 on: June 27, 2023, 07:03:46 AM »
https://www.the-sun.com/news/7603864/putin-killing-russian-elite-mob-boss/

Seriously, how do you trivialize that?

https://www.amazon.com/Freezing-Order-Laundering-Surviving-Vladimir/dp/1982153288

If we ignore decades of "Arkancides" and trips to Pedo Island, how many deaths and massive human suffering can we directly link to the Clintons?

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/11/27/clinton-ponders-2020-run-lets-not-forget-her-real-libya-scandal-glenn-reynolds-column/895853001/

The American Oligarchs are our responsibility. Putin and his ilk are the default setting for how the world works.

We are supposed to be different. We aren't anymore.

We were warned by the founders to avoid foreign entanglements and we ignored that and have become what we swore to fight.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russian and Chinese Leaders (Putin, Xi, Oligarchs, etc)
« Reply #125 on: June 27, 2023, 07:33:43 AM »
"The American Oligarchs are our responsibility."

Yes.  The win-win/libertarian theory of international trade have something to do with their rise.  DITTO THE RISE OF CHINA.  Ross Perot was prescient.

"Putin and his ilk are the default setting for how the world works."

I don't disagree.

"We are supposed to be different. We aren't anymore."

Though there is still a residue of what we were (witness we here on this forum) I don't disagree.

"We were warned by the founders to avoid foreign entanglements and we ignored that and have become what we swore to fight."

This is quite a bit trickier.   Our containment strategy for the Cold War was correct and our victory great.  The challenge presented was "What to do with victory?" We were the uni-polar power both militarily and economically. Here the Clintons , , , came up short. 

Then came the War with Islamic Fascism?  What would have "avoiding foreign entanglements" looked like there?


Crafty_Dog

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RANE: What to watch for after the mutiny
« Reply #126 on: June 27, 2023, 03:35:09 PM »


What To Watch For in Russia After Wagner's Armed Rebellion
Jun 27, 2023 | 20:48 GMT



The Russian government may not fully observe the informal deal it reached to end Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin's armed uprising, raising questions about the future of President Vladimir Putin's regime and his war in Ukraine. Putin made his second public address in as many days on June 26, and his first since Wagner mercenaries ended their June 23-24 march on Moscow. Like his previous address on June 24, Putin played both sides, directly calling the organizers of the rebellion traitors for making Wagner commit ''fratricide [as] Russia's enemies wanted,'' while also claiming that ''the vast majority'' of the group's fighters and commanders were still ''Russian patriots, devoted to their people and state.'' Most importantly, Putin offered Wagner fighters the opportunity to continue serving Russia on the frontlines in Ukraine by entering into contracts with the defense ministry, thus reaffirming his support for Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu's order that Wagner and other ''volunteer detachments'' formally come under his ministry by July 1 (which Wagner leader Prigozhin claims precipitated his uprising). Notably, Putin also said he would uphold his ''promise'' of allowing Wagner troops to join Prigozhin in neighboring Belarus, but that he was sure only those who recognized their ''tragic mistake'' of participating in the mutiny would actually do so.

Against this backdrop, how the incidents of June 23-26 will impact the trajectory of Russia's political stability and invasion of Ukraine will depend on events that will become clearer in the coming days. Key questions to assess the future of Russia's domestic and foreign policies include the following:

1) What is the Wagner Group's future as a legal and organizational entity?

The future of the Wagner Group largely depends on the extent to which its associated legal entities and brand will be permitted to continue operating in Russia as authorities frame its leadership as treacherous. So far, Russian officials have not directly said Wagner will be liquidated as an organization within the country. Even as he makes clear some of its leaders are corrupt and betrayed their country, and that its soldiers must be placed under the control of the regular Russian army, Putin is also not yet referring to the organization as if it no longer exists. Reports suggest that business structures in Russia supporting Wagner, at least for now, remain in operation following the uprising. This makes sense, as the Kremlin likely wants to avoid a premature legal crackdown that could jeopardize the group's activities — particularly those in Africa, which are vital to Russia's geopolitical strategy.

However, in the long run, it appears highly unlikely that Wagner will continue to operate abroad under its current branding and organizational structure. According to Prigozhin, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko offered to let him operate further within Belarus' ''legal jurisdiction,'' without providing details. The legal and public disassembling of Wagner forces would lead to the disbandment of some of Russia's more elite and experienced offensive formations, many of which will be hesitant to embed themselves into the rigid structures of the Russian Armed Forces. And while the dispersal of Wagner troops into the regular army is unlikely to result in an immediate loss of morale, further losses and a weak performance throughout Ukraine's counteroffensive could actually see more Russian soldiers eventually rally around Prigozhin and his criticisms of the Kremlin.

2) Will Putin uphold his deal with Prigozhin?

On June 24, the Kremlin announced it had reached a deal to end Wagner's insurrection, in which the Russian government agreed to drop mutiny charges against Prigozhin, who along with other Wagner personnel would also be allowed to leave Russia for Belarus if they wished to do so. In exchange, Prigozhin would end the drive on Moscow and Wagner fighters who didn't take part in the uprising would sign contracts with Russia's defense ministry. For Putin, the agreement serves to both appease the pro-Prigozhin sectors of the Russian people, elite and military, as well as increase pressure on his own inner circle to achieve better outcomes in the Ukraine war. For Prigozhin, the deal appears to maintain his influence over certain Wagner operations and the stability of its operations in the near term by allowing him and his associates nominal safety from intervention by Russian law. But while officials have commented on the broad contours of the agreement, its terms are not codified, nor are they considered binding or official — meaning Putin can easily renege on the deal should he see fit. The Russian president could, for example, break the spirit of the deal by keeping investigations directly related to the mutiny case against Prigozhin and Wagnerites closed, only to persecute them for corruption and other offenses. Putin could also eventually order to kill Prigozhin and the other Wagner fighters involved in the uprising, to more effectively intimidate any opponents and prevent dissension in the Russian government. By punishing Prigozhin and other Wagner leaders, Putin would reassert the strength of his regime and send a message to other potential conspirators as the 2024 presidential elections near. Putin will only follow the agreement to the extent to which he believes it serves his interests, and could easily bend and backtrack on the deal once Prigozhin has been sufficiently marginalized and the Russian government is ready to take over the Wagner group's activities under new leadership.

3) What is Belarus' role?

Putin thanked his Belarusian counterpart Lukashenko for helping broker the deal that ended Wagner's armed uprising — a narrative the Kremlin may believe will further tie Lukashenko's public image to Russia's war in Ukraine. It is difficult to discern what role the Belarusian president actually played in halting the rebellion, as it is very possible that Lukashenko was simply the easiest third party Putin could call on to help resolve the crisis. Prigozhin also claimed that Lukashenko approached him with a deal that would allow the Wagner Group to continue its operations in Belarus, and Lukashenko has publicly indicated that he hopes the Belarusian army can learn from Wagner's fighting experience. Given Belarus' vassal status to Russia, Prigozhin and Wagner personnel can be easily apprehended if they step out of line in Belarus. Their presence in the country may thus be intended for other purposes, like exaggerating an already implausible threat of a renewed Russian attack toward Kyiv from the north. But while it so far appears that Prigozhin and at least some of the approximately 8,000 Wagner assailants who took part in this weekend's events may relocate to Belarus, most Wagner forces will stay at their camps in Ukraine and Russia to prepare for new assignments under contracts with Russia's defense ministry, and play no part in the claimed Belarus exile. The number of Wagner forces who actually relocate to Belarus is thus unlikely to be enough to credibly threaten a new offensive from there. However, Prigozhin's influence has already cemented itself among the Russian populace, particularly the far-right and ultra-nationalist sectors. Should Prigozhin's mutiny incite further domestic unrest or challenges, it is very likely that he'd simply be targeted in Belarus or extradited to Russia.

4) Will Prigozhin remain a political actor?

Prigozhin's refusal to accept the Kremlin's spin that the war in Ukraine was going according to plan ushered his rise to political stardom in Russia, where many felt he was speaking truth to power. Even after the mutiny, Prigozhin has continued to push his narrative of events and grievances with Russia's defense ministry, and may very well keep criticizing Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and General Staff Chief Valery Gerasimov, and eventually even Putin. Unless the Kremlin more actively moves to discredit Prigozhin, there is reason to believe he may remain Russia's second most popular political actor behind Putin, even in exile in Belarus. The Kremlin is thus likely exploring ways to muzzle him if he is allowed to live. If enacted in its publicly claimed form, the deal Prigozhin reached with Moscow to halt his recent uprising may enable him to temporarily continue leading Wagner operations in Africa from Belarus. But the Kremlin appears highly unlikely to allow this in the medium-to-long term, especially if Prigozhin keeps making critical statements about Russia's leaders. That said, if Russian troops face further setbacks in Ukraine, more Russian citizens could become disgruntled with the war effort and identify with Prigozhin's critical narratives regarding their government's strategy in Ukraine — in which case, punishing Prigozhin would run the risk of only worsening such popular dissatisfaction. There are no obvious candidates who could replace Prigozhin as Wagner chief in the interim, as most high-ranking individuals in the organization backed him, though finding someone more loyal to the Kremlin would not be difficult, at least in theory.

5) Will Shoigu and Gerasimov keep their jobs?

All current evidence indicates that, for now, the two main targets of Prigozhin's grievances — Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and General Staff Chief Valery Gerasimov — remain at their posts. But the armed rebellion has provided Putin with very clear grounds to mandate their removal at any time, especially as it becomes increasingly difficult to claim that the Ukraine invasion has gone according to plan. Indeed, Prigozhin's armed revolt also showed that certain portions of the Russian public and even the military, along with influential far-right figures, support his critical views of the country's military leadership. But while ousting Shoigu and Gerasimov from office could bolster Putin's popularity among these crucial constituencies, it could also backfire on Putin by shaking the trust of loyalists in his inner circle (who, unlike Prigozhin, actually have the institutional and personal resources to secure power). For months, the Russian president has avoided calls to oust Shoigu and Gerasimov, as removing the two highest-ranking military officials in Russia (below Putin) would risk prompting other loyalists in Putin's inner circle to conspire against him by showing them he's no longer their protector. The Kremlin will thus probably continue to delay such a decision to avoid sending the message that it has capitulated to Prigozhin. But Shoigu and Gerasimov could be canned later this year if Ukraine makes more gains on the battlefield, which would enable Putin to tie the decision to the two leaders' incompetence and not Prigozhin's rebellion.

6) What can be gleaned from the international reaction to the Wagner rebellion?

For now, the overall reaction by Russia's regional partners and allies indicates that support for Putin's regime remains largely unchanged. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Erdogan expressed their support for Putin and his government, and emphasized the need for domestic stability in Russia. In a June 25 statement, Chinese President Xi Jinping described the Wagner crisis as an ''internal affair,'' but also reasserted his support for Russia's sovereignty, indicating his continued support for Putin. Iran, China and other pro-Russian states will likely disseminate narratives that accentuate Putin's ability to de-escalate the situation and handle Prigozhin. However, should Putin's rule face future challenges, these countries may reassess their positions. At a regional level, Putin's mid-crisis briefings to Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Uzbekistan were met with indifference and a lack of commitment in coming to Russia's aid. And in the West, officials will likely continue observing for further signs of weakness in Putin's rule, and attempt to tie any similar events in the future with the need to capitalize on the window of opportunity they create by supporting Ukraine's counteroffensive operations.

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WSJ: Prig planned to capture Army leaders
« Reply #127 on: June 28, 2023, 07:55:01 AM »
Wagner’s Prigozhin Planned to Capture Russian Military Leaders
By Bojan PancevskiFollow
June 28, 2023 8:56 am ET

Mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin planned to capture Russia’s military leadership as part of last weekend’s mutiny, Western officials said, and he accelerated his plans after the country’s domestic intelligence agency became aware of the plot.

The plot’s premature launch was among the factors that could explain its ultimate failure after 36 hours, when Prigozhin called off an armed march on Moscow that had initially faced little resistance.

Prigozhin originally intended to capture Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of Russia’s general staff, during a visit to a southern region that borders Ukraine that the two were planning. But the Federal Security Service, or FSB, found out about the plan two days before it was to be executed, according to Western officials.

Gen. Viktor Zolotov, commander of the National Guard of Russia, a domestic military force that reports directly to President Vladimir Putin, also said authorities knew about Prigozhin’s intentions before he launched his attempt.

“Specific leaks about preparations for a rebellion that would begin between June 22-25 were leaked from Prigozhin’s camp,” Zolotov told state media on Tuesday.

Western intelligence agencies also found out early about the plans by Prigozhin, Putin’s former confidant, by analyzing electronic communications intercepts and satellite imagery, according to a person familiar with the findings. Western officials said they believe the original plot had a good chance of success but failed after the conspiracy was leaked, forcing Prigozhin to improvise an alternative plan.

Still, the intelligence raises questions about the extent of Putin’s authority after Moscow failed to prevent Wagner troops from marching almost all the way to Moscow despite the Kremlin’s knowledge of the conspiracy, people familiar with the matter said.



Prigozhin’s plot relied on his belief that a part of Russia’s armed forces would join the rebellion and turn against their own commanders, according to this intelligence. The preparations included amassing large amounts of ammunition, fuel and hardware including tanks, armored vehicles and sophisticated mobile air defenses days before the attack, according to Western intelligence findings.


Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has arrived in Belarus, as the paramilitary group prepares to hand over its heavy weapons following an aborted rebellion against Moscow. Photo: Belarus President Press-Service/Zuma Press
Made aware of the leak, Prigozhin was then forced to act sooner than planned on Friday and managed to capture the southern Russian city of Rostov, a key command point for the invasion of Ukraine. The ease with which Wagner’s troops took the city of one million that is home to a large military airport suggests that some regular forces commanders could have been part of the plot, according to Western intelligence.

Western officials said they believe Prigozhin had communicated his intentions to senior military officers, possibly including Gen. Sergei Surovikin, commander of the Russian aerospace force. It couldn’t be determined whether Surovikin passed this information on to the FSB, or how the agency found out about Prigozhin’s plans.

Surovikin was the first senior commander to condemn the plot on Friday and urge Prigozhin to stop his men. Forces under Surovikin’s command carried out airstrikes on the Wagner column, the only such attack by regular troops against the insurrectionists.


Gen. Sergei Surovikin was the first senior commander to condemn the plot. PHOTO: RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY/TASS/ZUMA PRESS

Gen. Viktor Zolotov said authorities knew about the Wagner leader’s intentions beforehand. PHOTO: YELENA AFONINA/TASS/ZUMA PRESS

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the reports about Surovikin, published earlier by the New York Times, as speculation and gossip in a press conference on Wednesday.

Videos posted online by local reporters and bystanders showed Wagner vehicles bypassing barricades of buses and streaming into Rostov early Saturday morning. Prigozhin appeared in footage as he entered the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District, berating Russia’s deputy minister of defense, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, and the deputy head of the Russian military intelligence, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Alekseyev.

After taking the command point without facing resistance, Prigozhin split his forces and ordered a few thousand men to head to Moscow while he commanded the rebellion from a bunker in Rostov, hoping that regular forces would join his quest to topple the military leadership.


The plot would likely have ended in an armed standoff in Moscow if Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko hadn’t offered to mediate, according to the Western intelligence analysis.


Lukashenko suggested hosting Wagner in his country, partly to bolster his own security against possible encroachment by Russia, according to Western intelligence. Putin has long sought to absorb Belarus into the Russian Federation.

The permanent stationing of Wagner troops agreed as part of the deal to defuse the crisis is meant to serve as Lukashenko’s personal security guarantee, Western intelligence said they believe.

Wagner troops faced little pushback on their way to Moscow. There is no evidence that any regular forces switched sides to join them.

The Wagner rebellion has triggered large-scale purges in the Russian armed forces, according to Mikhail Zvinchuk, a former Defense Ministry official who now runs a blog about Russia’s military and its invasion of Ukraine.

The indecisiveness in suppressing the rebellion is being cited as a reason for purging commanders and officials, Zvinchuk wrote. Surovikin hasn’t been seen since Saturday.

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WSJ: Putin moves to seize control of Wagner Empire
« Reply #128 on: June 28, 2023, 07:58:43 AM »


Putin Moves to Seize Control of Wagner’s Global Empire
The Kremlin assured nations in Africa and the Middle East that it would manage Wagner forces, which have spread Russian power at little cost to Putin
By Benoit FauconFollow
, Joe ParkinsonFollow
 and Drew HinshawFollow
June 28, 2023 9:28 am ET


In the hours after Yevgeny Prigozhin’s army of ex-convicts and mercenaries halted their advance on Moscow, the Kremlin set out to seize full control of the global empire built by the notorious military entrepreneur.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister flew to Damascus to personally deliver a message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: Wagner Group forces would no longer operate there independently. Senior Russian foreign ministry officials phoned the president of the Central African Republic, whose personal bodyguards include Wagner mercenaries, offering assurances that Saturday’s crisis wouldn’t derail Russia’s expansion into Africa. Government jets from Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations shuttled from Syria to Mali, another of Wagner’s key foreign outposts.

The rush of diplomatic activity reflected Vladimir Putin’s attempt to play down the chaos at home and to assure Russia’s partners in Africa and the Middle East that Wagner operations there would continue without interruption according to diplomats and intelligence officers, Wagner defectors, people briefed on the conversations and a review of international flight data. From now on, however, in Moscow’s preferred outcome, those operations would be under new management.

Russia, which for years denied any association with Wagner, appears to be trying to take over the far-flung mercenary network managed by Prigozhin and his lieutenants. After Saturday’s failed mutiny, it isn’t clear how much it can or how quickly.

“Wagner helped Russia build its influence, and the government is loath to give it up,” said J. Peter Pham, former special envoy for the West African Sahel region. “Wagner gave the state deniability. The question is whether they can manage its complexity and deal with additional scrutiny.”


An image released Monday by the official Syrian Arab News Agency, showing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, center-right, and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin in Damascus.  PHOTO: SANA/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

At minimal cost and at an arm’s length, Wagner helped the Kremlin amass international influence and collect revenues, managed by Prigozhin’s holding company Concord and a network of shell companies that helped funnel funds to the Kremlin, according to Western officials and documents viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Wagner companies generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year in Africa, a crucial source of funding to maintain both Russia’s influence on the continent and to finance operations in Ukraine, Western officials said. The group’s sources of income include exports of Sudanese gold to Russia, as well as diamonds from the Central African Republic to the United Arab Emirates and wood to Pakistan, these officials said.

For years, Wagner Group has worked as a security force for autocratic regimes across the Middle East and Africa, and, more recently, it has been tiptoeing toward Latin America and the Caribbean. Including Ukraine and Russia, Wagner employs more than 30,000 fighters.

Wagner’s mercenaries—backed by political strategists, financiers and geologists to prospect for mineral resources—have become entrenched in Mali, Syria and the Central African Republic. The group has offered help suppressing antigovernment protests in Venezuela and Sudan. Prigozhin’s associates had planned a secret trip to Haiti, as late as February, to offer their services to the government, which is struggling to keep control of Port au Prince, according to classified U.S. military documents leaked onto the videogame chat group Discord. Haiti’s foreign ministry didn’t return a request for comment.


Around 6,000 or so Wagner personnel perform varied work outside of Russia and Ukraine—from safeguarding mines and politicians in the Central African Republic, whose civil war dates back a decade—to defending oil wells and government-held territory in Syria. In Mali, Wagner fighters, backed by Russian-made jet fighters and helicopters, deploy alongside Malian soldiers to Saharan villages falling under the sway of Islamists. Militants have battled the state since 2012.

The fate of Wagner operations now hinges on whether the Kremlin can simultaneously marginalize Prigozhin and maintain the empire he built on three continents. Some national security officials, sizing up the prospects, say Washington may have an opening to regain influence on a continent where Russia and China have been digging in.

The Biden administration and European governments have been pushing leaders in Africa to stop working with Wagner and have been tightening sanctions on the group. In January, CIA director William Burns pressured a top Libyan commander to expel Wagner, amid fears the group could tap in to the country’s oil riches. The Treasury Department designated Wagner as a transnational criminal organization over its actions in the Ukraine war on behalf of Russia. 

The U.S. levied sanctions Tuesday against Africa-based gold firms allegedly used by Wagner to help fund its fighting in Ukraine. A State Department spokesman said more actions would soon be announced.


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin during his address Tuesday in Moscow. PHOTO: SERGEI GUNEYEV/TASS/ZUMA PRESS
After years denying any Kremlin connections to Wagner, Putin said on Tuesday that the group had been financed by the Russian state for the year ending in May. In the Central African Republic, the Russian defense ministry—which first sent Wagner there in 2018—is paying for 3,000 of Prigozhin’s mercenaries, said Fidèle Gouandjika, the nation’s presidential security adviser.

The governments of Mali and Sudan didn’t respond to requests for comment. The Kremlin didn’t respond to emailed questions for comment.

In Russia, Wagner’s men have until July 1 to sign contracts with the Defense Ministry. Prigozhin, whose plane landed Tuesday in Belarus, has repeatedly said his men would reject the contracts. He hasn’t said whether or not he would try to keep control of Wagner’s foreign operations while in exile.


Wagner’s Telegram and communication channels, which went dark on Saturday, are back online, said Lou Osborn, an analyst at All Eyes on Wagner, an open-source research group. They are largely all carrying the same message, Osborn said, that Prigozhin is being hailed as the man who could topple Putin.

Changing forces
To counter such an idea, Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Vershinin flew to Damascus over the weekend to urge Assad to stop Wagner fighters from leaving Syria without Moscow’s oversight, people briefed on the conversation said. A statement issued by Assad’s office after the meeting said they discussed coordination, especially in “light of recent events.”


The Wagner Group began as a small clandestine force but has grown in recent years into a global war cartel run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, plundering gold and diamonds while advancing the Kremlin’s strategic interests and becoming the face of the Russian assault in Ukraine. Photo illustration: Xingpei Shen

Wagner fighters, who had largely operated independently in Syria, were ordered Tuesday to an air base run by Russia’s Defense Ministry in the Syrian port city of Latakia, and they complied, two people familiar with the matter said.

In Mali, a military junta is betting on Moscow to secure a country that has been losing ground to Islamists for years. The U.N. this week is set to vote to pull out all 13,000 United Nations peacekeepers, following demands by Mali’s coup-government to end the U.N.’s decadelong security mission.

Mali’s government, which has been paying Wagner $10 million a month, had been counting on the company’s mercenaries to fill the vacuum, according to Western security officials. The Wagner Group had been operating the helicopters Mali’s soldiers used to wage war on jihadists across a country twice the size of France, its former colonial ruler. The work has the air of a public-private venture. The Russian state provided Wagner with aircraft, heavy equipment and other supplies.


Russia has told Wagner fighters and workers to stay at their posts, according to a U.S. intelligence officer, and that refusal to carry out their duties would bring harsh reprisals.

War footing

Since Putin launched his war on Ukraine, Wagner has taken aggressive steps to expand its footprint in Africa and beyond. At the start of the year, Wagner posted new recruitment ads for experienced fighters, trumpeting its expansion on the continent.

In January, Wagner held talks about sending a military force to Burkina-Faso, a West African nation also threatened by jihadists and which had decided to expel French troops. The group’s propaganda outlets signaled it was setting its sights next on Ivory Coast, a potential foray into Africa’s Atlantic coast.

The U.S. shared intelligence in February that purported to reveal a Prigozhin plot to help rebels destabilize the Chad government and potentially kill the president, an important Western ally.

A U.N. report this year said Russian instructors were working with local soldiers in the Central African Republic to gain control over regions known for artisanal diamond mining. The goal was to form a corridor from Wagner-controlled regions through Sudan, the reports said, on to the mineral-trading hub of Dubai.


Marat Gabidullin, a former Wagner commander in Syria, isn’t sure how the organization can survive without its founder. If Wagner were to leave the Central African Republic, a civil war would break out, he said in an interview last month. For now, there is little evidence of any change in the CAR.

Gouandjika, the country’s presidential security adviser, chalked up Saturday’s armed advance on Moscow to an argument between Putin and Prigozhin—“a domestic matter,” he said, with little consequence for his nation.

To make his point, Gouandjika paused while a Russian-piloted Sukhoi aircraft took off from an airport in the capital of Bangui on a reconnaissance mission.

“It’s reassuring to see nothing’s changed,” he said.

“If Moscow decides to recall them and send us Beethovens or Mozarts,” he added, “we will have them.”

Summer Said contributed to this article.

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WSJ: GM is wrong about Putin
« Reply #129 on: June 28, 2023, 08:18:46 AM »


Russia’s Godfather Is Losing It
Putin is too weak to win the war and also too weak to end it.
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
By
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
Follow
June 27, 2023 6:28 pm ET


The signature of Vladimir Putin’s rule has been the export of Russia’s creative, entrepreneurial, ambitious people until there was one left, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The process culminated with the flight of Russia’s technical and business talent amid the Ukraine war. It began with Mr. Putin’s attack on the most successful and creative of the oligarchs, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in 2003. Like Mr. Prigozhin, who started as a hot-dog vendor, Mr. Khodorkovsky operated a café. He expanded into energy and his crime was seeing a political role for himself based on his oil wealth. His biggest mistake, apparently, was not having a private army.

In the subsequent legal charade, which saw Mr. Khodorkovsky jailed and his assets redistributed to regime cronies, a question was Mr. Putin’s real agency. Originally maneuvered into position by oligarchs looking to protect their Yeltsin-era wealth, Mr. Putin’s rise was cemented by terrorist bombings that killed hundreds of Russian apartment dwellers in their beds and are now believed to have been carried out by his own supporters with or without his knowledge.

Ditto murders of journalists, critics and opposition politicians, including some who insisted on investigating the bombings. Were these outrages authored by Mr. Putin or by those trying to control him?

The echo in Mr. Prigozhin’s method in the recent uprising is hard to ignore. He rose to a sudden celebrity status via his public commentary on the failings of the Ukraine war, understood over and over to be his way of communicating with and trying to manipulate Mr. Putin.

Tellingly, amid a supposedly “existential” war, behind this week’s showdown was a standard Putin-era battle over money and graft, which was also the source of the war itself, Mr. Prigozhin explained in one of his videos. He was only acting to stop rival kingpins, Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov of the Ministry of Defense, from stealing his major asset, his Wagner mercenary force, by incorporating it into the Russian military.

It has always paid to focus on the true nature of the Putin regime rather than the Russian political and geographic imperatives that realists talk about.

Mr. Putin dreams of Peter the Great, but his retinue resembles the “prat” British gangsters who populate a Guy Ritchie movie. The very nature of his regime drove his neighbors toward NATO, which might otherwise have become vestigial. Only state cronies thrive in his economy dominated by the pursuit of graft opportunities. From local entrepreneurs to BP and Ikea, investors learned that to build something in Russia was to risk having it stolen by the regime.

From early on, he lacked a retirement strategy, meaning he would have to stay around forever and grow calcified in office. When he couldn’t give his people hope of European-style prosperity and freedoms, he gave them military adventures and “national enemies.”

And now even his leverage over his sub-bosses is starting to deteriorate, because he no longer is able to solve any real problem. He only creates them, such as launching a war in Ukraine on the misinformed premise that Ukrainians would surrender.

Mr. Prigozhin is the most off-kilter of the Putin elite but the first to say the war was launched on false pretenses. Ukraine and NATO weren’t threatening Russia. There were no “Nazis.” For all his wrong-side-of-the-tracks ambience, Mr. Prigozhin channels what every respectable regime official thinks. The truth seeps even into the propagandistic coverage of Russia’s state-controlled TV. And Mr. Putin’s attempt to brace up his godfather system this week by invoking the dignity and legalism of the state hardly helped. It was better calibrated to suggest a dictator’s wishful thinking than to show he has any answers.

Mr. Prigozhin’s fate remains up in the air, but he enjoys bargaining chips Mr. Khodorkovsky lacked, as when his employees shot down several aircraft seeking to interfere with their protest “march of justice” to Moscow. Despite the apparent amnesty afforded by Mr. Putin to end the showdown, will Mr. Prigozhin now fall out of a window as other inconvenient Putin associates have? I am more skeptical than some. Would somebody be able to place hands on him? Would they dare? What’s in it for them? Mr. Putin faces risks whichever way he turns in the still-unfinished crisis; by a strange logic, Mr. Prigozhin may even have bought himself some immunity by putting elite doubts about the war officially on the record.

At the same time, a weak Putin is even less likely to make peace. He is also less likely to be able to order the apparently strengthened Messrs. Shoigu and Gerasimov to undertake any more hopeless fantasy offensives in pursuit of ultimate victory. Expect paralysis in Moscow and defensive inertia in the war. With the ending yet to be written, the final chapter is likely to exhibit the same elements of burlesque that characterized internal Russian politics this week.

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WSJ: Another Way GM is wrong about Putin
« Reply #130 on: June 28, 2023, 08:23:29 AM »
second

The U.S. Should Encourage Russian Brain Drain
An immigration policy that would have both domestic and international benefits for the U.S.
By
John Fund
Follow
June 27, 2023 6:31 pm ET



Members of the Wagner Group military company in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24. PHOTO: /ASSOCIATED PRESS
The weekend’s abortive Wagner Group rebellion is the most extreme threat against Vladimir Putin yet. Russia is bleeding, and its injuries penetrate deeper than the battlefield. The massive migration plaguing the country is an opportunity for the West.

Over the weekend the Journal reported that prices of flights from Moscow were surging. An aviation search engine showed airfares to Dubai had soared to $4,200, Istanbul to $850 and Yerevan, Armenia, to $1,000. Travelers to some destinations had to wait for flights on Monday or Tuesday because weekend seats sold out.

Such an exodus isn’t new. Last year’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted two other waves of emigration. While estimates vary, some 200,000 left Russia in the first two months of the war, including many journalists, artists and tech professionals. Last fall, when the government decided to enlist young men off the streets, 400,000 people left the country.

Russia is reeling from its worst labor crunch since Mr. Putin came to power in 1999. Half of all businesses face labor shortages, according to the country’s central bank. In December, Russia’s Communications Ministry disclosed that 10% of the country’s IT workers had left in 2022 with no plans to return. Shortages of engineers, welders and oil drillers further hinder Russian industries.

To buck the trend, Russia’s security services have confiscated the passports of some senior officials to prevent them from overseas travel. Some Russian nationalists have even called for an aerial “Berlin Wall” to prevent average citizens from leaving. But such a move would further alienate Mr. Putin from his people and weaken his popularity.

The U.S. and its allies stand to gain from Mr. Putin’s population drain, and we should look to immigration laws as instruments of foreign and economic policy. The U.S. accepts as many as 85,000 migrants a year through the H-1B visa program, which allows employers to hire educated foreign workers for specialty occupations. By slightly expanding those numbers and targeting Russian technical talent, we can take advantage of the Russian engineers fleeing Moscow to fill our tech labor shortage.

President Biden has taken steps in this direction. Last year he asked Congress to waive job-offer requirements temporarily for Russians with advanced degrees in a host of fields including manufacturing, technology and engineering. The proposal languished in Congress. Mr. Biden needs to revive it and make it a priority.

If Washington sets an example, U.S. allies may follow in different ways. In April 2022, European Council President Charles Michel said European countries should consider offering asylum to Russian soldiers who leave their posts in Ukraine. The month before, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala visited Kyiv and called for “a coalition of states” to “provide asylum to soldiers of the Russian Federation who decide not to fight and desert.”

Taking talent and numbers away from Mr. Putin, whether through asylum or immigration, is a strategic way to weaken Russia’s military and economy while strengthening the economies of the U.S. and its allies.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for National Review and a senior fellow at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.


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Re: WSJ: GM is wrong about Putin
« Reply #131 on: June 28, 2023, 09:13:33 AM »
Be careful of what you wish for. If VodkaManBad is gone, odds are we really won’t like his replacement.




Russia’s Godfather Is Losing It
Putin is too weak to win the war and also too weak to end it.
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
By
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
Follow
June 27, 2023 6:28 pm ET


The signature of Vladimir Putin’s rule has been the export of Russia’s creative, entrepreneurial, ambitious people until there was one left, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The process culminated with the flight of Russia’s technical and business talent amid the Ukraine war. It began with Mr. Putin’s attack on the most successful and creative of the oligarchs, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in 2003. Like Mr. Prigozhin, who started as a hot-dog vendor, Mr. Khodorkovsky operated a café. He expanded into energy and his crime was seeing a political role for himself based on his oil wealth. His biggest mistake, apparently, was not having a private army.

In the subsequent legal charade, which saw Mr. Khodorkovsky jailed and his assets redistributed to regime cronies, a question was Mr. Putin’s real agency. Originally maneuvered into position by oligarchs looking to protect their Yeltsin-era wealth, Mr. Putin’s rise was cemented by terrorist bombings that killed hundreds of Russian apartment dwellers in their beds and are now believed to have been carried out by his own supporters with or without his knowledge.

Ditto murders of journalists, critics and opposition politicians, including some who insisted on investigating the bombings. Were these outrages authored by Mr. Putin or by those trying to control him?

The echo in Mr. Prigozhin’s method in the recent uprising is hard to ignore. He rose to a sudden celebrity status via his public commentary on the failings of the Ukraine war, understood over and over to be his way of communicating with and trying to manipulate Mr. Putin.

Tellingly, amid a supposedly “existential” war, behind this week’s showdown was a standard Putin-era battle over money and graft, which was also the source of the war itself, Mr. Prigozhin explained in one of his videos. He was only acting to stop rival kingpins, Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov of the Ministry of Defense, from stealing his major asset, his Wagner mercenary force, by incorporating it into the Russian military.

It has always paid to focus on the true nature of the Putin regime rather than the Russian political and geographic imperatives that realists talk about.

Mr. Putin dreams of Peter the Great, but his retinue resembles the “prat” British gangsters who populate a Guy Ritchie movie. The very nature of his regime drove his neighbors toward NATO, which might otherwise have become vestigial. Only state cronies thrive in his economy dominated by the pursuit of graft opportunities. From local entrepreneurs to BP and Ikea, investors learned that to build something in Russia was to risk having it stolen by the regime.

From early on, he lacked a retirement strategy, meaning he would have to stay around forever and grow calcified in office. When he couldn’t give his people hope of European-style prosperity and freedoms, he gave them military adventures and “national enemies.”

And now even his leverage over his sub-bosses is starting to deteriorate, because he no longer is able to solve any real problem. He only creates them, such as launching a war in Ukraine on the misinformed premise that Ukrainians would surrender.

Mr. Prigozhin is the most off-kilter of the Putin elite but the first to say the war was launched on false pretenses. Ukraine and NATO weren’t threatening Russia. There were no “Nazis.” For all his wrong-side-of-the-tracks ambience, Mr. Prigozhin channels what every respectable regime official thinks. The truth seeps even into the propagandistic coverage of Russia’s state-controlled TV. And Mr. Putin’s attempt to brace up his godfather system this week by invoking the dignity and legalism of the state hardly helped. It was better calibrated to suggest a dictator’s wishful thinking than to show he has any answers.

Mr. Prigozhin’s fate remains up in the air, but he enjoys bargaining chips Mr. Khodorkovsky lacked, as when his employees shot down several aircraft seeking to interfere with their protest “march of justice” to Moscow. Despite the apparent amnesty afforded by Mr. Putin to end the showdown, will Mr. Prigozhin now fall out of a window as other inconvenient Putin associates have? I am more skeptical than some. Would somebody be able to place hands on him? Would they dare? What’s in it for them? Mr. Putin faces risks whichever way he turns in the still-unfinished crisis; by a strange logic, Mr. Prigozhin may even have bought himself some immunity by putting elite doubts about the war officially on the record.

At the same time, a weak Putin is even less likely to make peace. He is also less likely to be able to order the apparently strengthened Messrs. Shoigu and Gerasimov to undertake any more hopeless fantasy offensives in pursuit of ultimate victory. Expect paralysis in Moscow and defensive inertia in the war. With the ending yet to be written, the final chapter is likely to exhibit the same elements of burlesque that characterized internal Russian politics this week.

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Re: Russian and Chinese Leaders (Putin, Xi, Oligarchs, etc)
« Reply #132 on: June 28, 2023, 01:07:14 PM »
On this I suspect all of us are agreed. 

Indeed it was/is a reason we think provoking this war was a bad idea.

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WSJ: Russian Leaders
« Reply #133 on: June 30, 2023, 07:41:43 AM »
The Military Leaders Who Could Swing the Balance of Power in Russia
Putin for years has played off rival commanders against each other to ensure his own power—a trick that is becoming more difficult to perform

Russian President Vladimir Putin with military leaders Sergei Shoigu, in foreground, and Valery Gerasimov last year. PHOTO: MIKHAEL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/KREML/SHUTTERSTOCK
By Yaroslav TrofimovFollow
June 30, 2023 9:53 am ET

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The Wagner revolt saw Yevgeny Prigozhin’s paramilitary group briefly seize the city of Rostov, the nerve center for the Russian war on Ukraine, on the morning of June 24, in a bid to topple Russia’s military leadership. Prigozhin’s forces got within 150 miles of Moscow before he called off the advance after a compromise was negotiated by the president of Belarus. The standoff exposed long-running tensions within Russia’s security forces and President Vladimir Putin’s tendency to pit them against each other. The mutiny’s aftermath raises questions about where the loyalties of Russia’s competing commanders might ultimately lie.

The Mutineers:
Yevgeny Prigozhin


PHOTO: PRIGOZHIN PRESS SERVICE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The owner of the Wagner paramilitary organization launched the failed putsch on June 23 after feuding for months with the military’s top commanders over tactics and resources, but has been given immunity by Putin and is relocating some of his men to Belarus. Prigozhin operated out of the Southern Military District headquarters that his men seized in Rostov during the mutiny.

Lt. Col. Dmitry Utkin

A veteran of Russia’s GRU military-intelligence special forces and the founding commander of Wagner, Utkin led the column of Wagner’s troops toward Moscow on June 24. He is covered by Putin’s amnesty and his whereabouts is unknown.

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Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev


PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
The commander of Russian forces during last year’s siege of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine, Mizintsev was promoted to the post of Russia’s deputy defense minister before being abruptly fired in April. He was immediately hired by Prigozhin as deputy commander of Wagner. His exact role in the mutiny and his whereabouts is unknown.

The Loyalists:
Gen. Sergei Shoigu


PHOTO: RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY PRESS S/AP
Russia’s minister of defense since 2012, Shoigu is blamed by many critics inside the Russian military for failing to prepare the Russian Armed Forces for the war in Ukraine. Shoigu, whose removal was Prigozhin’s key demand, reappeared in public after the failed putsch, attending meetings with Putin in the Kremlin. His position appears to remain secure, for now.

Gen. Valery Gerasimov


PHOTO: SERGEY FADEICHEV/SPUTNIK/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
The chief of Russia’s General Staff since 2012, Gerasimov assumed direct control of the war in Ukraine after sidelining Gen. Sergei Surovikin in January. Gerasimov fled Rostov as Wagner seized the city on June 24 and hasn’t yet been seen in public. Prigozhin has repeatedly blamed Gerasimov for mishandling the war, demanding his removal.

Col. Gen. Aleksandr Lapin


PHOTO: YEGOR ALEYEV/TASS/ZUMA PRESS
Blamed by Prigozhin and by Chechen militia leader Ramzan Kadyrov for Russian defeats in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region and Lyman last fall, Lapin was removed at the time as commander of the Central Military District. In January, he was brought back as chief of staff of the Russian Ground Forces and has since assumed the role of a deputy commander of Russian troops in Ukraine, meeting Putin on the president’s visit to Luhansk in April and leading the response to May’s cross-border incursions in Russia’s Belgorod region.

Col. Gen. Ramzan Kadyrov


PHOTO: HEAD OF CHECHEN REPUBLIC/TASS/ZUMA PRESS
The Chechen warlord, who commands a large force that ostensibly belongs to the Russian National Guard, sided with Wagner against Gerasimov last year but later entered into an open conflict with Prigozhin. Kadyrov sent his men to Rostov to confront Wagner on June 24, but the Chechen troops never entered the city.

Gen. Viktor Zolotov


PHOTO: SERGEY GUNEEV/SPUTNIK/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK
The commander of the Russian National Guard participated in the celebrations of the mutiny’s defeat in the Kremlin, boasting that his forces were ready to stop the rebels outside Moscow. He announced that the National Guard, an internal-security force, will now be strengthened with tanks and long-range artillery.

Under a Cloud:
Gen. Sergei Surovikin


PHOTO: MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/REUTERS
The chief of Russia’s Aerospace Forces was appointed as the first overall commander of the Russian military in Ukraine last October, after a series of battlefield defeats. Dubbed by the Russian media as “General Armageddon” for his campaign to destroy Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure, Surovikin was repeatedly praised by Prigozhin—and was demoted in January, as the Wagner owner’s relationship with Shoigu and Gerasimov soured. Surovikin recorded an appeal to Wagner to stop the putsch on the evening of June 23, but hasn’t been heard from since then. Some Russian news organizations report that he is under investigation for allegedly abetting the rebellion, and possibly in custody.

Col. Gen. Mikhail Teplinsky


PHOTO: RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE/ZUMA PRESS
The commander of Russia’s VDV Airborne Forces was removed from the battlefield last fall, and recorded a video message at the time complaining that he isn’t allowed to participate in the war. A hero to many Russian hard-liners, he returned to Ukraine earlier this year and was seen meeting Putin during the president’s visit to southern Ukraine’s Kherson region in April, in his role as a deputy commander of the Russian forces group in Ukraine. Teplinsky is seen as close to Surovikin, and according to Russian military analysts repeatedly complained about Gerasimov’s orders for frontal attacks that caused huge casualties.

Lt. Gen. Vladimir Alekseyev


PHOTO: RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE
The deputy chief of Russia’s GRU military-intelligence agency, Alekseyev was responsible, among other duties, for private military companies like Wagner, helping establish the group. He was inside the Southern Military District headquarters when Prigozhin seized the building on June 24, and was filmed smiling and saying “Take them” when Wagner’s chief demanded the handover of Shoigu and Gerasimov. Alekseyev hasn’t been seen since then.

Col. Gen. Andrey Yudin


PHOTO: RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE
The deputy commander of Russia’s Aerospace Forces was reported by the Russian media to have been removed from his position after the failed mutiny. He told Russian media that he hasn’t been detained.

Col. Gen. Yunus-Bek Yevkurov


PHOTO: SERGEY FADEICHEV/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A deputy defense minister, Yevkurov was inside the Southern Military District headquarters when it was seized by Wagner. According to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Yevkurov—who passed his phone to Prigozhin—was a key facilitator of the negotiations that ended the mutiny.

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at yaroslav.trofimov@wsj.com

The War in Ukraine and the Wagner Rebellion


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Nixon
« Reply #135 on: July 22, 2023, 09:15:27 AM »
The Ukraine War Wouldn’t Have Surprised Richard Nixon
A declassified 1994 letter to Bill Clinton shows how well the former president understood the Russians.
By Luke A. Nichter
July 21, 2023 1:54 pm ET




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Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev sign agreements and treaties on arms limitation and cooperation in Moscow, May 29, 1972. PHOTO: -/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
When Bill Clinton eulogized Richard Nixon on April 27, 1994, he spoke of the former president’s “wise counsel, especially with regard to Russia . . . based on our last phone conversation and the letter he wrote me just a month ago.” For nearly 30 years, the content of that letter remained a secret. Thanks to its declassification this week through Mr. Clinton’s presidential library, it is hidden no longer.

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What is most striking about the seven-page, single-spaced letter dated March 21, 1994, is that Nixon anticipated a more belligerent Russia, the rise of someone like Vladimir Putin, and worsening relations between Moscow and Kyiv. Nixon, who was 81, had just returned from a two-week trip to Russia and Ukraine. In 1972 he became the first sitting president to visit Moscow, where he signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. After leaving office he continued to have access to elites in governments and opposition leaders around the world. That Mr. Clinton was a Democrat and Nixon a Republican made no difference. The ultimate Cold Warrior was an elder statesman interested in the contours of the post-Cold War era.

Nixon warned that Boris Yeltsin’s brief experiment with democracy was already over. “As one of Yeltsin’s first supporters in this country and as one who continues to admire him for his leadership in the past, I have reluctantly concluded that his situation has rapidly deteriorated since the elections in December, and that the days of his unquestioned leadership of Russia are numbered,” Nixon wrote to Mr. Clinton. “His drinking bouts are longer and his periods of depression are more frequent. Most troublesome, he can no longer deliver on his commitments to you and other Western leaders in an increasingly anti-American environment in the Duma and in the country.”

Nixon also said that Moscow’s relationship with Kyiv would worsen. Though the dynamic had improved during Yeltsin’s tenure, the situation in Ukraine was “highly explosive.” “If it is allowed to get out of control,” Nixon warned, “it will make Bosnia look like a PTA garden party.”

The former president didn’t think American diplomats were taking the issue seriously enough. “Because of the importance of Ukraine, I reluctantly urge that you immediately strengthen our diplomatic representation in Kiev,” he wrote. It was equally important that the U.S. anticipate Yeltsin’s potential successor. “Bush made a mistake in sticking too long to Gorbachev because of his close personal relationship. You must avoid making that same mistake in your very good personal relationship with Yeltsin.”

It wasn’t clear who that successor might be. “There is still no one who is in Yeltsin’s class as a potential leader in Russia,” Nixon wrote. “The Russians are serious people. One of the reasons Khrushchev was put on the shelf back in 1964 is that the proud Russians became ashamed of his crude antics at the U.N. and in other international forums.” In other words, if the U.S. didn’t act promptly to cultivate Yeltsin’s successor, Russia could again shift to a more nationalist, hard-line leader, as when Leonid Brezhnev succeeded Khrushchev.

Nixon also warned Mr. Clinton about presidential personnel. “I learned during my years in the White House that the best decisions I made, such as the one to go to China in 1972, were made over the objections of or without the approval of most foreign service officers,” he wrote. Nixon evidently didn’t think Mr. Clinton was being served well by his own people. “Remember that foreign service officers get to the top by not getting into trouble. They are therefore more interested in covering their asses than in protecting yours.” Always inspired by the big play—the lunar landing, the unilateral ending of the gold standard, and trips to China and Russia—Nixon encouraged Mr. Clinton to do the same. That would require that the best ideas not be stifled by his administration.

Mr. Putin has sparred with five presidents to date, but it was Nixon who saw him coming. “After he died, I found myself wishing I could pick up the phone and ask President Nixon what he thought about this issue or that problem, particularly if it involved Russia,” Mr. Clinton said in 2013. Nixon didn’t live to see Mr. Putin succeed Yeltsin, but his newly declassified correspondence with Mr. Clinton shows that he wouldn’t be surprised by Russia today.

Mr. Nichter is a professor of history at Chapman University and author of “The Year That Broke Politics: Chaos and Collusion in the Presidential Election of 1968,” forthcoming in August

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Putin's breaking point?
« Reply #136 on: August 08, 2023, 02:48:30 PM »


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When falling out of a window is too subtle; RANE
« Reply #138 on: August 24, 2023, 06:29:27 AM »
https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/when-falling-out-of-a-window-is-just-too-subtle/

==========================

The Wagner Group After the Death of Yevgeny Prigozhin
5 MIN READAug 23, 2023 | 23:17 GMT





Yevgeny Prigozhin on July 4, 2017, in Moscow.
Yevgeny Prigozhin on July 4, 2017, in Moscow.
(SERGEI ILNITSKY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia's paramilitary Wagner Group, will enable the Kremlin to consolidate political control and extend its influence over the Wagner Group, whose fighters are likely to focus on deployments in Africa and Ukraine. On Aug. 23, an Embraer ERJ-135 aircraft with tail number RA-02795 linked to Prigozhin exploded over Russia's Tver region between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Russia's aviation authority Rosaviatsiya said Prigozhin and his chief Wagner deputy Dmitry Utkin were on board. Sources linked to the Wagner Group claimed that the plane exploded after an anti-air system shot it, and a Western official told the Financial Times the plane had been brought down by a Russian anti-aircraft missile system. However, other Russian media sources claimed that the wreckage did not show signs of being struck by an anti-air system and instead suggested that a bomb may have been placed on board. Russian authorities have not definitively confirmed Prigozhin's death, but the Grey Zone Telegram channel linked to the Wagner Group claimed it had confirmed that both Prigozhin and Utkin were killed.

The explosion came almost exactly two months after the start of Prigozhin's mutiny in June, and — aside from killing Prigozhin and Utkin — left five other high-ranking Wagner associates, plus the plane's three crew members, dead.
Prigozhin's death is likely an assassination at the hands of the Kremlin in order to deter challengers and dispel notions of Russian President Vladimir Putin's weakness ahead of the 2024 presidential election. Since the Wagner Group's mutiny in late June, the Kremlin has used the uprising to reveal and neutralize military personnel, officials and public figures suspected of sympathizing with Prigozhin's criticism of the Kremlin's handling of the war in Ukraine. While the mutiny ended with a deal to send Wagner personnel to Belarus, Putin was only incentivized to abide by the agreement until it stopped serving his interests. As a result, there was always a large risk that he could backtrack on the deal once Prigozhin was sufficiently marginalized and the Russian government was ready to take over the Wagner Group's activities under new leadership. Prigozhin's death is likely intended to reduce perceptions in Russia and around the world that Putin responded to the mutiny with weakness by allowing Prigozhin to preserve his life, wealth and status despite the damage dealt to national unity by his brief revolt. Prigozhin's death will likely deter similar challenges to Putin's rule that could have made the Russian political system more volatile ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed that an informal "deal" he helped broker to end the Wagner Group's mutiny included a "security guarantee" for Prigozhin. Prigozhin's death will therefore serve as the latest reminder for would-be opponents that Putin will always prioritize power preservation — a message that he and his supporters can use to curb any internal pushback ahead of next year's election.
As per Russia's usual information strategies, Russian propaganda networks will likely offer an array of explanations for the plane's explosion. But the Kremlin will likely hint that Prigozhin's death should serve as a lesson to would-be opponents.
Prigozhin's and Utkin's deaths make the Wagner Group's future uncertain, but the Russian government will likely strive to send its fighters to Africa and Ukraine. Telegram channels associated with the Wagner Group have said the organization is calling an extraordinary meeting of its commanders in the coming days. It is likely that as a result of this meeting, Russia's security services, namely the GRU and FSB, will gain more control over Wagner leaders. This greater unity of command will reduce the political liability and operational volatility associated with Prigozhin's and Utkin's leadership of the Wagner Group. The death of Utkin and the other Wagner leaders means the organization's remaining leadership will likely come under firmer Kremlin control. The organization's new leaders will likely claim to be continuing Prigozhin's recently announced renewed focus on Africa, where Wagner troops are present in the Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, Sudan and possibly Burkina Faso; speculation also swirls suggesting they could be sent to Niger. Furthermore, Prigozhin's death renders the role of Belarus in the group's future largely unnecessary and likely to be wound down in the near- to mid-term, as Wagner's fighters are unlikely to want to engage in major provocations against NATO from its territory. Furthermore, Belarus is unlikely to desire the group's long-term presence in the country given that Minsk would have to absorb a greater share of the costs, and more important, as Wagner forces are much more needed in Ukraine and would be of greater use for Russia in Africa than in Belarus.

At a meeting with Wagner leaders June 29, just days after the mutiny, Putin reportedly tried to reveal and expand differences between Prigozhin and Wagner's top commanders by suggesting that, unlike Prigozhin, they want to return to the war in Ukraine.
On Aug. 21, Prigozhin posted a video address on his Telegram channel, his first since the June mutiny, in which he said he would seek to expand Russian influence on all continents and make Africa "more free." While Prigozhin's location in the video was unconfirmed, some observers suggested it was filmed in Mali.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2023, 06:39:47 AM by Crafty_Dog »

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Zeihan on the Prigozhin hit
« Reply #139 on: August 24, 2023, 11:26:54 AM »

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George Friedman on Prigozhin
« Reply #140 on: August 29, 2023, 12:56:31 PM »
August 29, 2023
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Prigozhin RIP, Or Do the Best You Can
By: George Friedman
Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is dead. He died of a fatal dose of self-confidence. He made three mistakes. First, he thought himself a competent commander. Second, he attempted a coup against a former KGB man who was trained in paranoia. His final mistake was to fail at all that he tried. Arguments over who killed him and how he died are inevitable. Enough time had passed since Prigozhin’s failed coup that it seemed reasonable to conclude that Russian President Vladimir Putin had decided to let him live, and strange theories emerged to support this. My favorite was that Prigozhin and Putin had collaborated in staging the coup. The theory never advanced to the point where it explained why Putin would organize a coup against himself, but the obvious answer – that the apparent coup was just a coup – was so boring.

An early theory about Prigozhin’s death was that a surface-to-air missile downed his plane. The uncertain origins of this missile could allow Putin to neutralize suspicions that he had organized the killing and, more important, signal that he was still worried about Prigozhin. It is more likely that a bomb was placed on the plane while it was on the tarmac preparing to leave Moscow.

But the missile theory opens the possibility of shifting the blame onto the Americans or Ukrainians. The problem with that theory is that Prigozhin was worth more to them alive than dead. Prigozhin frightened Putin by staging a coup that came within 120 miles (190 kilometers) of Moscow. Prigozhin was Putin’s caterer and friend. He was likely at many dinners and other social events where things took place that Putin would rather be forgotten and that Putin’s enemies would cherish. His continued existence might cause Russians and others to believe that Putin had lost his resolve at a time when the Russian president couldn’t afford to let doubts linger. A living Prigozhin was Putin’s nightmare and an American and Ukrainian dream.

There is also the question of why Putin waited so long to kill Prigozhin. I think it was because, in the wake of the coup, questions over Putin’s competence and control would have risen. Putin did not want what happened to appear to be a near success. It might have prompted thoughtful men and women to calculate their own odds. Rushing to kill Prigozhin would smell of fear. Letting him run loose (while monitoring his every breath) raised the possibility that Putin somehow authorized or at least wanted a coup, and demonstrated that Putin did not fear him. The long period of waiting minimized the Prigozhin legend and allowed Putin to carefully hold painful discussions with Prigozhin’s former staffers and other fascinating people who might leave their guard down since Prigozhin was still alive.

The final and most interesting question is how and why a former caterer to Putin became head of a paramilitary force. The United States uses private forces like Blackwater, but they are never on the level of Wagner. Nor do they operate under their own power, regardless of how it might seem. American private military companies occupy the lesser jobs. Wagner was a significant military force in its own right – which is very odd for a major power like Russia. The group was used in various lesser conflicts when Russia did not want to send its main force, but after the Ukraine war started, Putin concentrated them in Russia and then in Ukraine.

I think the reason was that Putin did not trust his own general staff. The opening of the war, with tanks massed without consideration of logistics like fuel, deepened his concern. The issue was glaring enough that even after the invasion started, it was possible for Kyiv to believe the attack from the north was merely a diversion, with the main effort coming elsewhere. But the Russian military attacked and was immediately bogged down. The Russian army constantly tried to capture cities of no military importance instead of seeking to break the enemy’s forces. The Ukrainians were left with surprising freedom of action.

This early performance forced Putin to make a decision: withdraw, continue with the general staff or bring in the Wagner Group, unconventional but ruthless and better than what he had. This is where Putin made his great mistake. He left the regular army on the battlefield while also deploying Wagner. In effect, he had two armies under different and competing commands. Wagner also went after control of cities, rather than trying to destroy the Ukrainian army as is only proper. Inevitably, the regular army and Wagner competed with one another for missions and supplies. Artillery shells were particularly fought over in increasingly ugly and public disputes, much to the delight of Russia’s enemies.

Putin did not appreciate what he had set in motion and did not decisively intervene. It was Prigozhin who went too far, criticizing the general staff and, by implication, Putin. When the Kremlin finally tried to cut him down, Prigozhin moved to eliminate the general staff and take control. The clumsiness of his coup indicates that it would not have solved any problems. The simple fact is that the war had to be fought, according to the Russians, to gain strategic depth. The problem was that the Russian high command had not prepared the army for the war because Putin, an intelligence guy, did not understand the logic of war, lacked or failed to allocate the necessary material, and lacked competent commanders. I have heard a motto: “Never let an intelligence genius run a war.” I don’t know if Putin is a genius, but he ran the war as if he believed he was. He personally has survived the chaos and killed the guy who fought in the war, albeit badly.



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Putin speaks
« Reply #143 on: October 07, 2023, 08:09:48 PM »



President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Participants in the plenary session, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad to welcome you all in Sochi at the anniversary meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. The moderator has already mentioned that this is the 20th annual meeting.

In keeping with its traditions, our, or should I say your forum, has brought together political leaders and researchers, experts and civil society activists from many countries around the world, once again reaffirming its high status as a relevant intellectual platform. The Valdai discussions invariably reflect the most important global political processes in the 21st century in their entirety and complexity. I am certain that this will also be the case today, as it probably was in the preceding days when you debated with each other. It will also stay this way moving forward because our objective is basically to build a new world. And it is at these decisive stages that you, my colleagues, have an extremely important role to play and bear special responsibility as intellectuals.

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Putin outlines desired principles of international relations

READ MORE Putin outlines desired principles of international relations

Over the years of the club’s work, both Russia and the world have seen drastic, and even dramatic, colossal changes. Twenty years is not a long period by historical standards, but during eras when the entire world order is crumbling, time seems to shrink.

I think you will agree that more events have taken place in the past 20 years than over decades in some historical periods before, and it was major changes that dictated the fundamental transformation of the very principles of international relations.

In the early 21st century, everybody hoped that states and peoples had learned the lessons of the expensive and destructive military and ideological confrontations of the previous century, saw their harmfulness and the fragility and interconnectedness of our planet, and understood that the global problems of humanity call for joint action and the search for collective solutions, while egotism, arrogance and disregard for real challenges would inevitably lead to a dead-end, just like the attempts by more powerful countries to force their opinions and interests onto everyone else. This should have become obvious to everyone. It should have, but it has not. It has not.

When we met for the first time at the club’s meeting nearly 20 years ago, our country was entering a new stage in its development. Russia was emerging from an extremely difficult period of convalescence after the Soviet Union’s dissolution. We launched the process of building a new and what we saw as a more just world order energetically and with good will. It is a boon that our country can make a huge contribution because we have things to offer to our friends, partners and the world as a whole.

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Sanctions have helped Russia restructure economy – Putin

READ MORE Sanctions have helped Russia restructure economy – Putin

Regrettably, our interest in constructive interaction was misunderstood, was seen as obedience, as an agreement that the new world order would be created by those who declared themselves the winners in the Cold War. It was seen as an admission that Russia was ready to follow in others’ wake and not to be guided by our own national interests but by somebody else’s interests.

Over these years, we warned more than once that this approach would not only lead to a dead-end but that it was fraught with the increasing threat of a military conflict. But nobody listened to us or wanted to listen to us. The arrogance of our so-called partners in the West went through the roof. This is the only way I can put it.

The United States and its satellites have taken a steady course towards hegemony in military affairs, politics, the economy, culture and even morals and values. Since the very beginning, it has been clear to us that attempts to establish a monopoly were doomed to fail. The world is too complicated and diverse to be subjected to one system, even if it is backed by the enormous power of the West accumulated over centuries of its colonial policy. Your colleagues as well – many of them are absent today, but they do not deny that to a significant degree, the prosperity of the West has been achieved by robbing colonies for several centuries. This is a fact. Essentially, this level of development has been achieved by robbing the entire planet.

The history of the West is essentially the chronicle of endless expansion. Western influence in the world is an immense military and financial pyramid scheme that constantly needs more “fuel” to support itself, with natural, technological and human resources that belong to others. This is why the West simply cannot and is not going to stop. Our arguments, reasoning, calls for common sense or proposals have simply been ignored.

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Putin predicts ‘gradual collapse’ of dollar-based financial system

READ MORE Putin predicts ‘gradual collapse’ of dollar-based financial system

I have said this publicly to both our allies and partners. There was a moment when I simply suggested: perhaps we should also join NATO? But no, NATO does not need a country like ours. No. I want to know, what else do they need? We thought we became part of the crowd, got a foot in the door. What else were we supposed to do? There was no more ideological confrontation. What was the problem? I guess the problem was their geopolitical interests and arrogance towards others. Their self-aggrandisement was and is the problem.

We are compelled to respond to ever-increasing military and political pressure. I have said many times that it was not us who started the so-called “war in Ukraine.” On the contrary, we are trying to end it. It was not us who orchestrated a coup in Kiev in 2014 – a bloody and anti-constitutional coup. When [similar events] happen in other places, we immediately hear all the international media – mainly those subordinate to the Anglo-Saxon world, of course – this is unacceptable, this is impossible, this is anti-democratic. But the coup in Kiev was acceptable. They even cited the amount of money spent on this coup. Anything was suddenly acceptable.

At that time, Russia tried its best to support the people of Crimea and Sevastopol. We did not try to overthrow the government or intimidate the people in Crimea and Sevastopol, threatening them with ethnic cleansing in the Nazi spirit. It was not us who tried to force Donbass to obey by shelling and bombing. We did not threaten to kill anyone who wanted to speak their native language. Look, everyone here is an informed and educated person. It might be possible – excuse my ‘mauvais ton’ – to brainwash millions of people who perceive reality through the media. But you must know what was really going on: they have been bombing the place for nine years, shooting and using tanks. That was a war, a real war unleashed against Donbass. And no one counted the dead children in Donbass. No one cried for the dead in other countries, especially in the West.

This war, the one that the regime sitting in Kiev started with the vigorous and direct support from the West, has been going on for more than nine years, and Russia’s special military operation is aimed at stopping it. And it reminds us that unilateral steps, no matter who takes them, will inevitably prompt retaliation. As we know, every action has an equal opposite reaction. That is what any responsible state, every sovereign, independent and self-respecting country does.

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Everyone realises that in an international system where arbitrariness reigns, where all decision-making is up to those who think they are exceptional, sinless and right, any country can be attacked simply because it is disliked by a hegemon, who has lost any sense of proportion – and I would add, any sense of reality.

Unfortunately, we have to admit that our counterparties in the West have lost their sense of reality and have crossed every line. They really should not have done this.

The Ukraine crisis is not a territorial conflict, and I want to make that clear. Russia is the world’s largest country in terms of land area, and we have no interest in conquering additional territory. We still have much to do to properly develop Siberia, Eastern Siberia, and the Russian Far East. This is not a territorial conflict and not an attempt to establish regional geopolitical balance. The issue is much broader and more fundamental and is about the principles underlying the new international order.

Lasting peace will only be possible when everyone feels safe and secure, understands that their opinions are respected, and that there is a balance in the world where no one can unilaterally force or compel others to live or behave as a hegemon pleases even when it contradicts the sovereignty, genuine interests, traditions, or customs of peoples and countries. In such an arrangement, the very concept of sovereignty is simply denied and, sorry, is thrown in the garbage.

Clearly, commitment to bloc-based approaches and the push to drive the world into a situation of ongoing “us versus them” confrontation is a bad legacy of the 20th century. It is a product of Western political culture, at least of its most aggressive manifestations. To reiterate, the West – at least a certain part of the West, the elite – always need an enemy. They need an enemy to justify the need for military action and expansion. But they also need an enemy to maintain internal control within a certain system of this very hegemon and within blocs like NATO or other military-political blocs. There must be an enemy so everyone can rally around the “leader.”

The way other states run their lives is none of our business. However, we see how the ruling elite in many of them are forcing societies to accept norms and rules that the people – or at least a significant number of people and even the majority in some countries – are unwilling to embrace. But they are still urged to do so, with the authorities continually inventing justifications for their actions, attributing growing internal problems to external causes, and fabricating or exaggerating non-existent threats.

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Russia is a favourite subject for these politickers. We have grown used to this over the course of history, of course. But they try to portray those who are not willing to blindly follow these Western elite groups as enemies. They have used this approach with various countries, including the People’s Republic of China, and they tried to do this to India in certain situations. They are flirting with it now, as we can see very clearly. We are aware of and see the scenarios they are using in Asia. I would like to say that the Indian leadership is independent and strongly nationally oriented. I think these attempts are pointless, yet they continue with them. They try to portray the Arab world as an enemy; they do it selectively and try to act accurately, but this is what it comes down to. They even try to present Muslims as a hostile environment, and so on and so forth. In fact, anyone who acts independently and in its own interests is immediately seen by the Western elite as a hindrance that must be removed.

Artificial geopolitical associations are being forced onto the world, and restricted-access blocs are being created. We see this happening in Europe, where an aggressive policy of NATO expansion has been pursued for decades, in the Asia-Pacific region and in South Asia, where they are trying to destroy an open and inclusive cooperation architecture. A bloc-based approach, if we call a spade a spade, limits individual states’ rights and restricts their freedom to develop along their own path, attempting to drive them into a “cage” of obligations. In a way, this obviously amounts to the dispossession of part of their sovereignty, often followed by the enforcement of their own solutions not only in the area of security but also in other areas, primarily the economy, which is happening now in relations between the United States and Europe. There is no need to explain this now. If necessary, we can talk about it in detail during the discussion after my opening remarks.

To attain these goals, they try to replace international law with a “rules-based order,” whatever that means. It is not clear what rules these are and who invented them. It is just rubbish, but they are trying to plant this idea in the minds of millions of people. “You must live according to the rules.” What rules?

And actually, if I may, our Western “colleagues,” especially those from the United States, don’t just arbitrarily set these rules, they teach others how to follow them, and how others should behave overall. All of this is done and expressed in a blatantly ill-mannered and pushy way. This is another manifestation of colonial mentality. All the time we hear, “you must,” “you are obligated,” “we are seriously warning you.”

Who are you to do that? What right do you have to warn others? This is just amazing. Maybe those who say all this should get rid of their arrogance and stop behaving in such a way towards the global community that perfectly knows its objectives and interests, and should drop this colonial-era thinking? I want to tell them sometimes: wake up, this era has long gone and will never return.

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I will say more: for centuries, such behavior led to the replication of one thing – big wars, with various ideological and quasi-moral justifications invented to justify these wars. Today this is especially dangerous. As you know, humankind has the means to easily destroy the whole planet, and ongoing mind manipulation, unbelievable in terms of scale, leads to losing a sense of reality. Clearly, a way out should be sought from this vicious circle. As I understand it, friends and colleagues, this is why you come here to address these vital issues at the Valdai Club venue.

In Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept, our country is characterised as an original civilisation-state. This wording clearly and concisely reflects how we understand not only our own development, but also the main principles of international order, which we hope will prevail.

From our perspective, civilisation is a multifaceted concept subject to various interpretations. There was once an outwardly colonial interpretation whereby there was a “civilised world” serving as a model for the rest, and everyone was supposed to conform to those standards. Those who disagreed were to be coerced into this “civilisation” by the truncheon of the “enlightened” master. These times, as I said, are now in the past, and our understanding of civilisation is quite different.

First, there are many civilisations, and none is superior or inferior to another. They are equal since each civilisation represents a unique expression of its own culture, traditions, and the aspirations of its people. For instance, in my case, it embodies the aspirations of my people, of which I am fortunate to be a part.

Outstanding thinkers from around the world who endorse the concept of a civilisation-based approach have engaged in profound contemplation of the meaning of “civilisation” as a concept. It is a complex phenomenon comprised of many components. Without delving too deeply into philosophy, which may not be appropriate here, let’s try to describe it pragmatically as it applies to current developments.

The essential characteristics of a civilisation-state encompass diversity and self-sufficiency, which, I believe, are two key components. Today’s world rejects uniformity, and each state and society strives to develop its own path of development which is rooted in culture and traditions, and is steeped in geography and historical experiences, both ancient and modern, as well as the values held by its people. This is an intricate synthesis that gives rise to a distinct civilisational community. Its strength and progress depend on its diversity and multifaceted nature.

Russia has been shaped over centuries as a nation of diverse cultures, religions, and ethnicities. The Russian civilisation cannot be reduced to a single common denominator, but it cannot be divided, either, because it thrives as a single spiritually and culturally rich entity. Maintaining the cohesive unity of such a nation is a formidable challenge.

We have faced severe challenges throughout the centuries; we have always pulled through, sometimes at great cost, but each time we learned our lessons for the future, strengthening our national unity and the integrity of the Russian state.

This experience we have gained is truly invaluable today. The world is becoming increasingly diverse, and its complex processes can no longer be handled with simple governance methods, painting everyone with the same brush, as we say, which is something certain states are still trying to do.

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There is something important to add to this. A truly effective and strong state system cannot be imposed from the outside. It grows naturally from the civilisational roots of countries and peoples, and in this regard, Russia is an example of how it really happens in life, in practice.

Relying on your civilisation is a necessary condition for success in the modern world, unfortunately a disorderly and dangerous world that has lost its bearings. More and more states are coming to this conclusion, becoming aware of their own interests and needs, opportunities and limitations, their own identity and degree of interconnectedness with the world around them.

I am confident that humanity is not moving towards fragmentation into rivaling segments, a new confrontation of blocs, whatever their motives, or a soulless universalism of a new globalisation. On the contrary, the world is on its way to a synergy of civilisation-states, large spaces, communities identifying as such.

At the same time, civilisation is not a universal construct, one for all – there is no such thing. Each civilisation is different, each is culturally self-sufficient, drawing on its own history and traditions for ideological principles and values. Respecting oneself naturally comes from respecting others, but it also implies respect from others. That is why a civilisation does not impose anything on anyone, but does not allow anything to be imposed on itself either. If everyone lives by this rule, we can live in harmonious coexistence and in creative interaction between everyone in international relations.

Of course, protecting your civilisational choice is a huge responsibility. It’s a response to external infringements, the development of close and constructive relationships with other civilisations and, most importantly, the maintenance of internal stability and harmony. All of us can see that today the international environment is, regrettably, unstable and quite aggressive, as I pointed out.

Here is one more essential thing: nobody should betray their civilisation. This is the path towards universal chaos; it is unnatural and, I would say, disgusting. For our part, we have always tried and continue to try to offer solutions that consider the interests of all sides. But our counterparts in the West seem to have forgotten the notions of reasonable self-restraint, compromise and a willingness to make concessions in the name of attaining a result that will suit all sides. No, they are literally fixated on only one goal: to push through their interests, here and now, and do it at any cost. If this is their choice, we will see what comes of it.

It sounds like a paradox, but the situation could change tomorrow, which is a problem. For example, regular elections can lead to changes on the domestic political stage. Today a country can insist on doing something at any cost, but its domestic political situation could change tomorrow, and they will start pushing through a different and sometimes even the opposite idea.

A standout example is Iran’s nuclear programme. A US administration pushed through a solution, but the succeeding administration turned the matter the other way around. How can one work in these conditions? What are the guidelines? What can we rely on? Where are the guarantees? Are these the “rules” they are telling us about? This is nonsense and absurd.

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Why is this happening, and why does everybody seem comfortable with it? The answer is that strategic thinking has been replaced with the short-term mercenary interests of not even countries or nations, but the succeeding groups of influence. This explains the unbelievable, if judged in Cold War terms, irresponsibility of the political elite groups, which have shed all fear and shame and think of themselves as guiltless.

The civilisational approach confronts these trends because it is based on the fundamental, long-term interests of states and peoples, interests that are dictated not by the current ideological situation, but by the entire historical experience and legacy of the past, on which the idea of a harmonious future rests.

If everyone were guided by this, there would be far fewer conflicts in the world, I believe, and the approaches to resolving them would become much more rational, because all civilisations would respect each other, as I said, and would not try to change anyone based on their own notions.

Friends, I read with interest the report prepared by the Valdai Club for today’s meeting. It says that everyone is currently striving to understand and imagine a vision of the future. This is natural and understandable, especially for intellectual circles. In an era of radical change, when the world we’re used to is crumbling, it is very important to understand where we are heading and where we want to be. And, of course, the future is being created now, not only before our eyes, but by our own hands.

Naturally, when such massive, extremely complex processes are underway, it is hard or even impossible to predict the result. Regardless of what we do, life will make adjustments. But, at any rate, we need to realise what we are striving for, what we want to achieve. In Russia, there is such an understanding.

First. We want to live in an open, interconnected world, where no one will ever try to put artificial barriers in the way of people’s communication, their creative fulfilment and prosperity. We need to strive to create an obstacle-free environment.

Second. We want the world’s diversity to be preserved and serve as the foundation for universal development. It should be prohibited to impose on any country or people how they should live and how they should feel. Only true cultural and civilisational diversity will ensure peoples’ wellbeing and a balance of interests.

Third, Russia stands for maximum representation. No one has the right or ability to rule the world for others and on behalf of others. The world of the future is a world of collective decisions made at the levels where they are most effective, and by those who are truly capable of making a significant contribution to resolving a specific problem. It is not that one person decides for everyone, and not even everyone decides everything, but those who are directly affected by this or that issue must agree on what to do and how to do it.

Fourth, Russia stands for universal security and lasting peace built on respect for the interests of everyone: from large countries to small ones. The main thing is to free international relations from the bloc approach and the legacy of the colonial era and the Cold War. We have been saying for decades that security is indivisible, and that it is impossible to ensure the security of some at the expense of the security of others. Indeed, harmony in this area can be achieved. You just need to put aside haughtiness and arrogance and stop looking at others as second-class partners or outcasts or savages.

Fifth, we stand for justice for all. The era of exploitation, as I said twice, is in the past. Countries and peoples are clearly aware of their interests and capabilities and are ready to rely on themselves; and this increases their strength. Everyone should be given access to the benefits of today’s world, and attempts to limit it for any country or people should be considered an act of aggression.

Sixth, we stand for equality, for the diverse potential of all countries. This is a completely objective factor. But no less objective is the fact that no one is ready to take orders anymore or make their interests and needs dependent on anyone, above all on the rich and more powerful.

This is not just the natural state of the international community, but the quintessence of all of humankind’s historical experience.

These are the principles that we would like to follow and that we invite all of our friends and colleagues to join.

Colleagues!

Russia was, is and will be one of the foundations of this new world system, ready for constructive interaction with everyone who strives for peace and prosperity, but ready for tough opposition against those who profess the principles of dictatorship and violence. We believe that pragmatism and common sense will prevail, and a multipolar world will be established.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the forum’s organisers for your fundamental and qualified preparations, as always, as well as thank everyone at this anniversary meeting for your attention. Thank you very much.


Sent from my iPhone

DougMacG

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Re: Putin speaks
« Reply #144 on: October 08, 2023, 07:08:05 AM »
Crafty, do you take anything new from this?

He lays out ideals that he does not live up to. He seems like a humble man but he also is a murderous psychopathic dictator.  With truths and half truths mixed in, he is one of the best propagandists in human history, in my view.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2023, 11:04:52 AM by DougMacG »

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russian and Chinese Leaders (Putin, Xi, Oligarchs, etc) other countries too
« Reply #145 on: October 08, 2023, 12:39:53 PM »
No time in this moment to write up a proper analysis (note the overlap with Mearsheimer though), but certainly we should expose ourselves to what he has to say and what it tells us about how Russia and he view things.



DougMacG

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Re: Putin heart attack?
« Reply #147 on: October 23, 2023, 08:19:36 PM »


https://resistthemainstream.com/vladimir-putin-allegedly-found-on-floor-after-suffering-cardiac-arrest/?utm_source=newsletter1

I saw that too.  Now I've seen it on two sources I've never heard of. 

NYT/MSM report Israel bombed a hospital based on Hamas' word but find this story unverified?

DougMacG

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Putin is evil
« Reply #148 on: October 24, 2023, 07:38:57 PM »
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12666523/Third-executive-Russian-oil-giant-criticised-Putins-invasion-Ukraine-dies-suddenly.html

Every sentence and every thought about Putin or Russia under Putin should be prefaced with Putin is evil, in my humble view.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russian and Chinese Leaders (Putin, Xi, Oligarchs, etc) other countries too
« Reply #149 on: October 25, 2023, 07:35:21 AM »
Works for me!