Sunday 25 June 2023



That headline in the Mail on Sunday asks a good question but the article has been taken down from the net.

I wonder why the Wagner Group's mutiny began and why it stopped. The idea a man I know posits that it was a false flag operation by the Kremlin, or that Putin let MI6 bribe Prigozhin to do what he did in order to flush out traitors or something, of course makes no sense. The events of yesterday gravely weaken Mr Putin. 

The trouble is that the mainstream media are so untrustworthy that people believe the most absurd conspiracy theories. (The mainstream media, after all, say that women have penises.)

Ben Judah says in an excellent article in the Sunday Telegraph:

'The coup marks the definitive turn of a page in Russian history. Over the next 48 hours Putin may come to some sort of uneasy truce with his one-time caterer, but the result in the long-term will be a fundamental rebalancing of power away from him. The era when he was the only thing that mattered in Russia is over. Prigozhin buried it'.
The mutiny is good because it may bring a ceasefire in Ukraine closer. Anything that weakens Putin may. I am always an optimist. 

I wished it to succeed, but see now that that would have meant bloodshed.

Some in London and Washington do not want a ceasefire in Ukraine but a Ukrainian victory, whatever that means. 

Whatever it means it is a chimera, an ignis fatuus, what Romanians call a Fata Morgana

The same people in Washington and London intend a second cold war with Russia, while fighting climate change, provoking China (China has been following a plan for 2,000 years to undermine the USA, according to the Governor of South Dakota) and ignoring the problem of the southern borders of Europe and the USA.

If I were Prigozhin I'd be very careful, go around protected by lots of armed men (if that is part of the deal with Putin) and leave Belarus swiftly for one of the Stans, out of Putin's easy reach.

I asked my taxi driver today what he thought of the war and who was to blame for it. The Americans he said without hesitating, though he added that this did not mean the Russians were justified in invading Ukraine and killing people. 

A US army officer told me the same thing recently. 

I replied that I still dislike Putin slightly more than Biden. 'Oh I don't!'

I suppose it is a moot point when one thinks that the Americans and British are illegally in Syria and armed the Saudis in their invasion of Yemen and yet talk about the need to have 'a rules-based international order'. 

Putin is a murderous, bad man - Biden is a nice man - but who does more harm?

Romanians and Romanian taxi drivers do not love Russia and are much better disposed to America than Western Europeans, so I think they are being objective. 

I am not by any means sure they are right to blame America as much as they do but they see the big picture. 

Bookish people like me often don't.

In Hungary, where I recently was, one taxi driver blamed Russia, one America and two thought both countries were to blame. 

In Lithuania, naturally, my taxi drivers blamed Russia. 

My guide in Riga remembered watching the Russian troops in Riga in 1991 - who looked like they would shed blood of protesters but in the end did not. This brought home why I side with Ukraine. 

Going afterwards to Ukraine brought it home even more clearly. I  lunched with a woman aged 30 who had known ten men whom the Russians had killed from 2014 onwards.

In Vilnius protesters were killed by the Russian army in 1991. Nothing is more forgotten than the recent past but the Lithuanians remember it keenly.

I am strongly on Ukraine's side, have no time for justifications of the invasion repeating Kremlin propaganda points about Banderists, but I am very furious with the stupidity (I do not believe they wanted war) of the US and British defence establishments and the Biden administration. 

I am furious too with Zelensky for doing what Washington and London (especially Boris Johnson) advised him to do.

A Russian said to me last night that there would have been a ceasefire in April last year had Boris not persuaded Zelensky to discontinue negotiations. 

That is not proven but Boris certainly did not encourage negotiations as he should have done.



  1. Yes it’s curious isn’t it that counties that have been previously fully occupied by Russia or in active wars ( not cold ) predominantly blame Russia for it’s rather brutal expansionism

    1. Romania and Hungary were occupied by Russia and until 1989 were ruled by Communist tyrannies imposed by Russia. The Baltic States were part of the Soviet Union and the indigenous people feel very vulnerable especially as they have Russians in their midst implanted by the Kremlin.

  2. The taxi drivers conveniently share your views. Of course you think they are right.

    1. Conveniently is a hint that I am not telling the exact truth about what the cab drivers say. I am. In fact their views influence me. On the whole, I respect taxi drivers' opinions more than those of people who went to university or have good jobs in international companies. Taxi drivers are students of real life. In Romania they tend to be religious, patriotic and have common sense, which someone said is rarer than genius.

      Not all. One confided in me as a secret that the world is flat.

  3. Mikhail Kasyanov, Russian Prime Minister under Vladimir Putin from 2000 to 2004, has said that the events this weekend mark “the beginning of the end” for the Russian president.

    A leading critic of Putin since being sacked, Mr Kasyanov told the BBC that he thought Yevgeny Prigozhin will first go to Belarus, and then to Africa “and be somewhere in the jungle or something like that”. The Wagner Group conducts several operations in Africa.

    He added that “Mr Putin cannot forgive him for this” and that his life will be under “a big question” as a result of the armed mutiny.

    Mr Kasyanov said that, for Putin, this is “the beginning of the end... he’s in very big trouble right now.”

  4. Professor Edward Luttwak:

    It was Gerasimov who cooked up the brilliant plan that so convinced Putin — as well as the CIA, the US director of national intelligence and their fashionably post-kinetic military advisors — that the air-landed seizure of the Antonov field on the first night of the war would open the door to Kyiv. Absent post-kinetic delusions, the overhead photography alone should have sufficed to tell US intelligence that the Russians would fail: they were invading Europe’s largest country with an army of less than 140,000 troops, as opposed to the 800,000 who invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, a country one-fifth the size of Ukraine and with one-quarter of the population. And, of course, as perfect yes-men, Shoigu and Gerasimov never told Putin that, if he wanted to invade Ukraine, he first had to declare war and mobilise the Russian army.

    Even so, what happened next came as a great surprise. The failure of Gerasimov’s dazzling plan and the ignominious retreat from the edges of Kyiv and Kharkiv should have been followed by the usual Russian remedy but nothing happened. In 1941, when the German army easily defeated the Red Army to swiftly conquer Ukraine and start its march to Moscow, Stalin’s favourite toady Marshal Grigory Kulik was dismissed and eventually shot. Others were shot right away, and were replaced by officers previously set aside because they were not yes-men. Some were rescued from prison to take up command at the front. (Konstantin Rokossovsky, who had been arrested, badly tortured and locked up as a traitor, was patched up and given an entire army to lead; he would finish the war a victorious marshal.)

    ......In the coming days, Prigozhin will be captured or killed. Any trial would compound Putin’s colossal embarrassment. The reason he must fail is that, in Russia, he falls into a specific category: like Yemelyan Pugachev, who rebelled against Catherine the Great in 1773, Prigozhin has no power base in Moscow, let alone in the military and security establishment he has so savagely ridiculed.

    1. Luttwak makes sense, almost up to the end of the article. He concludes that Putin needs to sack Shoigu and Gerasimov or abandon the war, but he does not seem to get two things. First, that for Russia this is an existential war, and no Russian government that walked away from it now could survive. Second, that Russia has nearly won the war. At the present rate of attrition, it has only to hold the territory it has and wait for the Ukraine to collapse, with most of its fighting men dead or disabled and its economy utterly destroyed. I sense that Littwak has been believing most of the propaganda coming out of the Pentagon.

  5. A prominent Chinese commentator said Russia “cannot return to the country it was” after Yevgeny Prigozhin’s coup attempt before apparently deleting his tweet, Louise Watt writes.

    Nationalistic commentator Hu Xijin said on Saturday that the Wagner chief’s final outcome would be “tragic” after he ordered his troops to march on Moscow.

    “His armed rebellion has made the Russian political situation cross the tipping point. Regardless of his outcome, Russia cannot return to the country it was before the rebellion anymore,” Mr Hu purportedly wrote in a tweet that was later deleted.

  6. Prigozhin doesn’t even have the largest private Army in Russia. Whatever happens to him, Putin now looks weak and desperate and is not long for this earth. Russia is a gangster state and operates much the same way the mafia does — strength or the perception of strength is what wins you power and followers. Your typical plutocrat in Russia has a private army of upwards of 10k men — Gazprom has over 50,000 private soldiers. Nearly all of Russia’s 200k conscript army is bogged down in Ukraine. This could very quickly turn into a Renaissance-style or Roman-style civil war between a half dozen different power cartels and their mercenary armies. The intelligence services of the Russian federation are the only relevant state actors here.

    1) A civil war in the largest and most far flung empire in earth will ultimately bleed over into Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, India, and China. And 2) Russia has the largest stockpile of nukes in the world, and whoever gets control of those will have the ultimate checkmate. The temptation to use a few of the smaller ones on your mortal civil enemies will be irresistible. At which point, we all lose.

  7. You said: "China has been following a plan for 2,000 years to undermine the USA, according to the Governor of South Dakota." Well, Kristi Noem in fact said "They have a 2,000 year plan to destroy [USA]", which could very well be charitably construed as "a plan for the future". Of course, this is not a very smart judgement, either.


  8. Oh yes! I hadn't thought of that. It does not weaken my point about nutty American ideas about threats. China is a threat to American hegemony in East Asia but by what right does American hegemony exist in East Asia? China is a big dangerous economic competitor but the threat to America comes from the southern border.

  9. I think you will find that it was Iran (not Saudi Arabia) who armed and organised the rebel forces in Yemen - the Saudis are backing the government forced in Yemen (the mess started when Nasser had the monarchy overthrown in Yemen). As for Syria - it has been a succession of dictatorships for 60 years, not that the forced that the last Senator McCain backed were likely to be any better than Assad.

    As for Russia and Ukraine - I have not got a clue what is going on.

  10. The Russian Army have dealt with two mad dogs , Putin and Prigozhin.

  11. This was a one-man show carried out by an out-of-control narcissistic gangster-like personality, with political aspirations. There was no indication that Prigozhin planned a military coup or to raise a popular revolt until Putin condemned Prigozhin for his actions as a “traitor.” At which point he sent troops in Moscow’s direction. Although Prigozhin has extended his curse-ridden attacks against corruption, the elite, numerous governors, he has never criticized Putin or his ‘sistema’ as such. Despite the political ambitions such critiques reveal, Prigozhin was in no way hoping to seize power by way of this expeditionary march. He sought Shoigu and Gerasimov removal from office.

    Prigozhin’s Not So Excellent Expedition and its Implications
    Gordon Hahn
    June 26, 2023
    Col Douglas Macgregor: Ukraine-Russia War Update

    1. Rebellion in Russia, Now What? w/Ray McGovern fmr CIA
      Judge Napolitano - Judging Freedom

      "Wagner n'a pas de projet politique sérieux" - André Bercoff, Le fait du jour
      Avec Jacques Baud et Xavier Moreau

    2. I occasionally listen to Douglas MacGregor, when a fan of his sends interviews with him to me. On this occasion what he says about Prigozhin is just speculation. I don't believe Lukashenko really brokered anything though I could easily be wrong. Galloway is a Communist. I think Boris Johnson did play an appalling part by deterring Zelensky from continuing negotiations. England is an American puppet at least as much or more than Belarus is a Russian one. I have absolutely no idea whether the colonel's view of the state of the Russian and Ukrainian forces is right.

  12. Sometimes the simplest explanation (Occam's Razor?) is the truth. Prigozhin pretty much stated it in his Telegram message announcing the retreat of his column advancing on Moscow, where he said the Russian defence minister was going to put his Wagner mercenaries under regular army control, and he threw his toys out of the pram. As to what convinced him to do an about-turn, one can only speculate, but Lukashenko probably assured him the Russian air force would stay loyal to Putin and turn his column moving up the motorway into a long streak of burning metal if they had to.

  13. The coup leader is an oligarch so more money means nothing rather staying the heroic leader of the Wagner in the history books does.
    However , I am sure something else is afoot because the coup leader when at his most angry started coming out with western media propaganda in a traitorous fashion .Now he is being sent to Belorussia understandably not to be in the sphere of the Russian military but perhaps there are ulterior motives and we just witnessed a huge red herring as our media went for it hook line and sinker .

  14. Edward N Luttwak
    Jun 24
    Like Yemelyan Pugachev, whose revolt against Catherine the Great swept across what is now Ukraine, Prigozhin is both brave and a talented leader. Like Pugachev he is a patriot, and like Pugachev he will be captured and killed or just killed. He cannot win: no Moscow power base

  15. Jade McGlynn
    Jun 24
    The collapse of Russian state has gone from being dismissed as unimaginable to sth everyone can, & has, imagined. That alone will have serious consequences and cannot be undone.

    1. She looks like a psychotic unpaid intern operating a coffee machine in a bank lobby...

      But I can imagine nuland or applebaum having multiple orgasms over a phrase like 'the collapse of the Russian state'...

    2. I read her book and wish I hadn't bought it - though it has useful information she does not have the temperament for a dispassionate academic. She writes unabashedly as a supporter of Ukraine and this seems to me not to be right for an academic in War Studies. However in the tweet above she is right.

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