A week later, it is still not possible to draw definite conclusions or even to advance credible hypotheses. The word maskirovka comes persistently to mind, as well as Winston Churchill’s famous adage about Russia, that it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
What we tentatively can say is that if the Wagner affair is indeed something other than what at first blush it appears to be – call it maskirovka, riddle, mystery or enigma – from a technical standpoint it was executed brilliantly.
First off, there are incoherencies of the account that rapidly is being established on both sides of the unofficial Iron Curtain dividing the collective West from, as we might provisionally call it, the BRICS/non-globalist world. They were credibly expounded by Jeff Taylor on his channel, self-identified as “dedicated to dissecting the news and world events”. Jeff Taylor is not a household word or a heavy-weight commenter of the calibre of the Duran, Andrei Martyanov, Scott Ritter, or what the Saker used to be, but when what you are saying, whoever you are, makes intuitive and largely factual sense, that scarcely matters. This is what Taylor in his engaging Scottish accent had to say on this particular subject:
Food for thought and grounds for critical re-examination of most of the claims and analyses, coming from both sides.
There are at this point essentially three analytical approaches to the mutiny that are deserving of attention. They were advanced by Pepe Escobar, Andrei Martyanov, and Alexander Dugin. We will go through them briefly in turn.
Pepe Escobar’s triumphalist view is that “Putin wins – on all counts.” Based on the filtered information that we have at this point that is not necessarily an implausible interpretation. Pepe’s article should be read in its entirety in order to appreciate the enthusiasm as well as the perspicacity with which it was written. Many of the points that he makes, for example that the upheaval, whatever its ultimate inspiration, will have benefitted Russian security by exposing the pesky 5th and 6th columns as never before, seem absolutely correct. Yet, the declaration of victory appears somewhat premature in an informational environment where many important circumstances remain to be firmly established.
True to form, in his assessment Andrei Martyanov has been sober and restrained. He seems to favor the view that Prigozhin was corrupted and in some sense co-opted by Western intelligence to perform a strategic task to the detriment of Russia on behalf of Russia’s adversaries, a hypothesis that seems credible based on (this must be continuously stressed) the incomplete information available at this point. Martyanov looks forward (as we probably all do) to the visit that in the coming days will be paid by “grim faced” operatives of Russia’s security services to all actors who have been or will be suspected of involvement in this affair. That visit certainly is in order but concerning its results, unlike the security officials’ superior echelons, we will never be the wiser. It is extremely unlikely that to any significant degree their findings will be publicly disseminated.
Martyanov does make some provocative personal observations, however, about Prigozhin and his background. That Prigozhin is a greedy 1990s oligarch is the least of it. Rather, if Martyanov’s information is correct, the man who was entrusted to organize and command Wagner, with such a key role assigned to him in what is commonly agreed is Russia’s existential fight, is a loathsome common criminal. Not a white collar delinquent, as they would say in America, but a ruthless street thug who, among other outrages, in the early 1980s assaulted, beat and robbed a helpless woman in Saint Petersburg, an odious crime for which he spent several years in prison.
Would Christian charity toward a reformed sinner be the explanation for the presence of such an unsavoury individual in the entourage of the President of Russia? When it was rightly decided that a military contingent needed to be formed for duty in the Donbass in support of its beleaguered Russian population, circumventing obstacles placed by Russian law, a point that Scott Ritter cogently makes, were security agencies unable to locate in the whole of Russia a person more upright than Prigozhin to whom they could entrust such an important patriotic task?
It is enough to pose this and an avalanche of similar questions. Jeff Taylor, whoever he is and whatever his expertise, if any, might be right to point out that something here does not add up.
Finally, we have Alexander Dugin’s take. Beyond asserting that treason must be punished, a sentiment that all decent persons would share, Dugin is the only one so far to have made the crucial moral point which, in the heated discussions about the practical mechanics of the mutiny, most seem to have missed. It is that the events of the last few days highlight what for Russia is an urgent need and at the same time a woeful deficiency. According to Dugin, Russia lacks a broadly unifying patriotic ideology. Its governing classes have erroneously been attempting to make impossible compromises and, as it were, to serve God and Mamon at the same time. In essence, that means the elevation of Russia’s Orthodox and traditional national values to the status of unchallengeable guiding principles of the State and the Nation. When that happens, the wellsprings of treason will have been eliminated and embodiments of corruption such as Prigozhin and enablers in high places who apparently cavorted with him will be deprived of the environment in which they can operate. We concur.
The grim faced gentlemen should certainly be left to complete their task and make their report. We do not know and probably will never be privy to key details of this political plot with heavy theatrical overtones. What we can say with certainty at this point, and nothing in the future is likely to occur to change that assessment, is that the Wagner affair is evidence of deep moral rot. It can only partially be cured with recourse to the usual instruments of state power. Ultimately it can only be dealt with after conducting a thorough spiritual self-examination and self-correction.
Dugin is on the right track.