RUSSIA: The unprecedented challenge to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin by the Wagner fighters has revealed new “cracks” in the strength of his leadership that may take weeks or months to play out, Antony Blinkedn, U.S. secretary of state, said on Sunday.
In a series of television interviews, Blinken and members of the US Congress stated that the turmoil in Russia on Saturday had weakened Putin in ways that could help Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian troops within its territory while being advantageous to Russia’s neighbours, including the Baltic states and Poland.
After an unsuccessful mutiny by Yevgeny Prigozhin-led forces, Blinken stated on ABC’s “This Week” programme, “I don’t think we’ve seen the final act.”
Blinken said that the tensions that led to the action had been building for months, and he noted that the possibility of internal unrest may have an impact on Moscow’s military capabilities in Ukraine.
“We’ve seen more cracks emerge in the Russian facade. It is too soon to tell exactly where they go and when they get there. But certainly, we have all sorts of new questions that Putin is going to have to address in the weeks and months ahead,” Blinken added.
Blinken defined the upheaval as an “internal matter” for Putin.
“Our focus is resolutely and relentlessly on Ukraine, making sure that it has what it needs to defend itself and to take back territory that Russia seized,” stated Blinken.
U.S. authorities anticipate learning more shortly about the events that took place in Russia, particularly the specifics of the agreement with Prigozhin that was brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and resulted in Wagner fighters returning to their bases.
Blinken said, “It may be that Putin didn’t want to debase himself to the level of negotiating directly with Prigozhin.”
In Russia’s 16-month war in Ukraine, troops led by Prigozhin, a former Putin ally, and ex-convict, have engaged in some of the fiercest combat.
“To the extent that the Russians are distracted and divided, it may make their prosecution of aggression against Ukraine more difficult,” Blinken said.
Mike Turner, the chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said Prigozhin’s claim that the justification for the invasion of Ukraine was based on lies could hinder Putin’s future actions in Ukraine.
“Taking down the very premise makes it much more difficult for Putin to continue to turn to the Russian people and say, We should continue to send people to die,” Turner said to CBS’ “Face the Nation” programme.
General Philip Breedlove, a retired American air force officer and former commander of the United States’ European Command, claimed the unrest shows how weak Russia’s capabilities have become.
In an interview, Breedlove stated, “I believe one of the outcomes of the last 36, maybe 48 hours is that the institutions we have long seen as being very secure in Russia are slowly unravelling. The whole institution of the military now, the appearance of what the Russian military is, is much diminished.”
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin stated that the weekend unrest in Russia doesn’t ease Washington’s need to continue supporting Ukraine as it launches its long-awaited counteroffensive against Russia.
“This is a critical time for Ukraine,” stated Senator Cardin, a Democrat who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, during an interview with Fox News. He emphasized that the ongoing counteroffensive would play a defining role in determining Ukraine’s trajectory over the next year or two.
In an interview with NBC, Don Bacon, a Republican Representative and former U.S. Air Force general serving on the House Armed Services Committee, expressed the view that Russia’s neighboring countries such as Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland would stand to gain from a weakened Putin.
“It would be different if Putin was wanting to be a peaceful neighbor. But he’s not,” said Bacon.