It’s possible that Ukraine’s success is closer than we expected. The confusion and incompleteness of the bargain that ended Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenaries’ brief uprising persist as the dust from their failed march on Moscow begins to settle.
In actuality, it is obvious that anyone who asserts that the situation is not confusing is not paying attention. While the immediate repercussions of Moscow’s authority being questioned are still being felt, the longer-term effects on Russia are abundantly obvious.
Both President Putin and Russia have been shown to be far more vulnerable than they would like to admit. Video of Wagner columns passing through airport security on their way to Moscow and then strolling into a significant military headquarters while sipping coffee has disproved Putin’s assumption of absolute power in Russia.
The freedom with which a group of armed insurrectionists has roamed southern Russia has exposed the Russian state’s inability to deal with issues beyond the front lines of its war with Ukraine.
That doesn’t imply the Ukrainian army will have an easy time taking the roadway to Moscow. However, it does demonstrate that the Kremlin and its forces are fractured and uncertain, suggesting that Ukraine’s victory in the war may be more attainable than previously believed.
Also, and this is very important, it does not indicate that Russia is in imminent danger of collapse or “fragmentation.” Even if Prigozhin wanted to, he was powerless to defy Putin, and Russian administrations have a habit of surviving their own obvious dysfunctionality for far longer than expected.
However, the impact this should have on Ukraine’s coalition with Western backing presents a chance.
Interpreting the Wagner standoff for the ‘negotiated settlement’ . That Russia’s opposition is so easily broken destroys a major justification for pressuring Kiev into a ceasefire or “negotiated settlement.”
It was argued that Kyiv would have to negotiate peace terms eventually anyway because it was highly implausible that Ukraine could inflict a convincing defeat on Russia and expel its forces from Ukrainian territory already under ruthless military occupation.
It’s a statement commonly used in tandem with inane justifications for Ukrainian “neutrality,” which gloss over the country’s complex and troubled history and the present-day situation. All of these measures would essentially reward Russia for its aggression by giving it the upper hand.
The counteroffensive by Ukraine has looked slow, which hasn’t helped. Both before and after the launch of significant operations, top officials in Kyiv have been careful to temper public anticipation. Military experts can now make some sense of what Ukraine is up to, and they agree that forward progress isn’t the only indicator of success.
However, in order to keep its coalition of support and ward off these persistent calls to accept defeat, Ukraine must demonstrate progress and the prospect of an end to the war. This is especially true in light of suggestions that Kyiv has only one chance at clear success before being pushed into negotiations.
The West should not prepare for defeat but rather increase its support. The Prigozhin ordeal demonstrates that the hopeful predictions of the Russian resistance’s eventual collapse by Ukraine’s backers may not be so farfetched after all. However, this must be balanced against the concern that Ukraine’s efforts may have been severely hampered due to delays in the delivery of potentially game-changing military hardware, especially from the United States and Germany.
These setbacks serve as evidence that Russian information strategies, particularly nuclear fear, have been incredibly successful. Western officials, for whatever reasons, are not wholly convinced of the necessity of a Ukrainian triumph, and this is something that these reports highlight as a circular argument.
Instead of preparing for victory, many seem content to prepare for defeat, reasoning that since Ukraine hasn’t received enough military aid to defeat Russia, it can’t win, so we might as well prepare for a standoff and negotiations instead.
Instead, the Wagner standoff shows that further backing for Ukraine is needed right now. A convincing defeat of Russian aggression is necessary to (at least temporarily) remove the threat to Europe, and now is the time to make up for lost time and take advantage of the visible wavering within Moscow to achieve that goal.
This goes beyond simply providing for Ukraine’s pressing necessities, such as maintaining the denial of Russian air superiority. This also includes removing any restrictions on what Ukraine can do with the weapons it gets. Avoiding antagonizing Putin by not employing them to attack within Russia is ridiculous and must end.
First and foremost, we must allay the concern in some Western capitals that a Ukrainian triumph would mean a Russian loss. This week, I was one of nine world-renowned experts on Russia and Ukraine whose study was published by the Chatham House think-tank for international affairs.
Our group has come to the consensus that providing aid to Kyiv immediately is the only way to ensure Europe’s security in the face of Russian aggression.
An investment in peace is the provision of arms to Ukraine and complete support for Kyiv to defeat and remove Russia’s invading army. That investment’s optimum moment has long since passed. However, the ideal time to act is now.