Geopolitical Insights

SITREP – Crisis in Russia

June 24, 2023
What has Happened:
  • A rebellion led by the head of Russia's Wagner paramilitary group has triggered the most significant domestic crisis for Putin since the invasion of Ukraine.
  • Earlier today, Putin ordered his military to act against Wagner forces after it seized the southern Russian city of Rostov.
  • Prigozhin, the Wagner chief, moved his forces to Rostov after he said that the Russian military had killed a significant number of his troops in attacks on Friday.
  • As Wagner forces moved toward Moscow today, they were attacked by Russian aircraft in the Voronezh region (300 miles south of the capital).
  • Prigozhin believes that the war in Ukraine was launched on “false pretenses” and accused Russia’s military of hiding the true number of casualties.
  • This crisis could significantly undermine Russia’s efforts in Ukraine as Kiev’s counteroffensive is underway.
Why it Matters:

“Anyone that thinks that they can predict what’s going to happen in Russia is mistaken. This is a very fluid situation and none of our intelligence predicted that this would happen. A strategic and tactical chess match is taking place between Putin and Prigozhin. Anything is possible. The Russian military is focused on Ukraine and now it will need to focus on putting down internal unrest led by combat forces. It is a threat to Putin even though Wagner has a relatively small force on the move. Prigozhin has been transmitting his discontent with the Russian military leadership since the fiasco he incurred in Bakhmut where his forces suffered massive casualties. Prigozhin argued that he did not receive the resources from the Russian military that his forces needed. He continued to complain out loud without a response from Putin or the Russian leadership. Eventually, Wagner pulled out of Bakhmut and it was unclear to our intelligence what this actually meant. It has now developed into the current situation and it is surprising that Putin let it build to this point. Operationally, the current situation could present an actual (or at least perceived) battlefield opportunity for the Ukrainian military. Strategically the U.S. needs to use the current situation to drive a wedge in between Russia and China. Putin will be weakened no matter the outcome. Xi is feeling the pressure from the Russian military’s failure in Ukraine and the ongoing chaos in Russia. Without question Xi is tied to Putin.” General Robert Walsh

    “This is the definition of chaos and uncertainty. However, this is not a constitutional crisis (like in 1993). It is strategic lunacy. This is minimally embarrassing for Putin and further dilutes his reservoir of leadership. Our intelligence agencies are spectators in this crisis and no doubt are primarily focusing on the control mechanisms of Russia’s vast nuclear arsenal. This is what happens when titanic egos clash.” General Spider Marks

  “First, this is a huge opportunity for the Ukrainians both from a military and a psychological warfare perspective. This could tip the fight in Ukraine's favor, particularly if Wagner's combat hardened troops come out of Ukraine. Putin's priority now is staying in power regardless of the outcome in Ukraine or Prigozhin's apparent march to Moscow. Putin wants to avoid a spark that turns public opinion against him. Second, NATO needs to be on high alert for the ramifications of what Putin might do to rally the Russian people (it could be disastrous as desperation overcomes logic and rationality). Putin could resort to anything to keep power and depending on what he does, that could pull NATO into a conflict with Russia.” General David Deptula