In Germany, stingy with political reactions to events that have been worrying Russia since last weekend, the word is left to the experts. Analysts, historians, geopolitical scientists, criminologists old and new, and university professors are trying to decipher overt and above all obscure movements within the Moscow landscape, to understand what is moving inside the solid body of Putin’s regime.
Geographical link (and not only) between Germany and Russia
Russia is close. Geographically: only 1,200 kilometers separate the eastern German border of Frankfurt on the Oder River from the western border of Russia from the Zelenkovsky Ragon, and it is passable on a motorway that crosses Warsaw and southern Belarus. And politically: for a long time the East Bank of the Ostpolitik, the occupying power of the eastern half of Germany in the Cold War era and therefore a trading and above all energy partner until the invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
Despite this, “after 1989 there was a kind of decommissioning of the departments dealing with Russia within the various German security services, to the point that in recent years it has been difficult to find people who speak Russian,” regrets Stefan Meister, director of the System Center and governance in Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia at the Dgap, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, one of the most prestigious think tanks heard by the German government. The services’ attention turned to the Islamic world (without actually achieving great successes if one recalls the story of the attack on the Berlin Christmas market in 2016), leaving the eastern flank of Europe exposed: on the one hand, so was Russia. It is considered such a reliable partner that it has delivered the switches for power supplies in Germany.
Weakness of Putin’s regime
Therefore, many research institutes and specialized universities in Eastern Europe are struggling today to frame the Moscow events. Meister tries to speak at a conference organized by the foreign press in Berlin. “For me, the story of Yevgeny Prigozhin does not seem like a play, but rather a kind of black swan for the Putin administration, an event that no one expected and changes some cards on the table.”
What stands out, according to the Dgap expert, “is the vulnerability emerging in Putin’s system that was emphasized by his first televised address, in which the president seemed aloof from the world, as if he didn’t fully understand what was happening.” If what happened “may not be defined as a coup, but more as a challenge between the private militia and the regular army,” then it gave Putin’s elite the feeling of “losing control over the situation.” Not a good sign for them.
“The system did not react,” Wagner’s march advanced unhindered toward the capital, and there was no interference from the defense or interior ministries: a paralyzing sense of disillusionment with the failed course of the war in Ukraine threatened solidarity with the authorities, Hakim says.
Dictatorship in decline
From Berlin to Vienna, in the classroom of the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (Iwm), an institute founded in 1982 in neutral Austria that specializes in historical and social studies in Central and Eastern Europe, two exceptional guests were crowded in the hall and in virtual communication: the American Timothy Snyder and Bulgarian Ivan Krastev.
“The process of the dictatorship’s decline has begun, and is set to continue even with episodes less dramatic than those observed over the weekend,” began Snyder, who has been re-adapted from his 23 Yale University lectures on the formation of modern Ukraine. video On YouTube and on Spotify podcasts, he has become a media star. For the American historian, what we have seen points to the dramatic moments of the fall of fascism in Italy, even for some paradoxical and surreal aspects: it is curious how it took Wagner’s soldiers months to advance a few kilometers to conquer Bakhmut in Ukraine and instead only a few hours to advance rapidly from Rostov to Moscow, before Stop. “And the fact that no one has taken to the streets in Rostov to defend Putin tells us that he may no longer be as popular among Russians as he is believed to be.”
It will remain a constant moment in what happened in recent days, Snyder continues: “When Prigozhin publicly told the truth about the ridiculous reasons for the war, only he can boast of a victory on the field, if we want to call Bakhmut’s victory.” However, the conclusion of the rebellion, the agreement whose true contents are shrouded in mystery as well as the fulfillment of mutual promises, is “the humiliation of all heroes, Putin won without winning, Prigozhin lost without losing, Lukashenko entered the game as a third wheel, and in the end Russia was humiliated.”
A triangle that Krastev is interested in. “Since Prigozhin wanted to talk to Putin but Putin didn’t want to talk to Prigozhin, so the head of the Kremlin asked another president to talk to him.” According to Krastev, what happened before the eyes of the world should be explained by codes of criminal laws, such as those that dominate televised films on Russian state television and of which the Bulgarian thinker says he is a huge fan. “Besides, Putin did not allow a hero general to get out of the war novel and Prigozhin climbed onto the stage,” continues Krastev, who believes that “all intrigues are basically destined to end with paranoia.” Putin was not bluffing when he called the intervention in Ukraine in the first weeks a special operation, but things turned out differently and there was no blitzkrieg: “Today, Putin is no longer fighting to defeat Ukraine, he understands that it is not as long as possible and in the summer he changed Record it, saying that now the West is fighting.
Why is voting important in the United States?
Looking ahead, Snyder considers voting in the United States next year a decisive step: Biden has shown that he is a much better president not only than he imagined, but also than some of his predecessors, not only Donald Trump but also Trump. Barack Obama, whose policy on the occasion of Russia’s annexation of Crimea failed. Then he warns of the West’s fears of the nuclear threat: It is not true that nuclear powers cannot lose wars, as the history of recent decades is indeed filled with nuclear powers that lost their wars, led by the United States. “Rather,” warns the American historian, “raising fear of a Russian nuclear reaction serves Europeans as a diversion to avoid thinking about the atrocities committed by Russian forces day in and day out in the war in Ukraine, from the rape of women to the castration of men, to the abduction of children, and the deportation of populations.” the whole.” A somewhat hypocritical comfort zone.
Krastev, who in addition to being an expert in Eastern European political science directs the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, notes that the responses of European peoples to the Russian threat do not follow much from the positions of the countries concerned during the Cold War. , but those that existed in the period of empires. The Baltic and Poles are very sensitive because they were under the Tsarist Empire, while in the Balkans, for example, attitudes are more relaxed because they were under the Ottoman Empire. This is where the concerns about Moscow lie.
The complete fiasco of the Kremlin
Back in Belrino, still in the Dgap, Andreas Racz, an expert on Eastern Europe, adds another element by speaking at the morning briefing organized by the think tank in Berlin to discuss developments in Russia. “The inability to respond to the threat from the Russian regime is the most obvious element of the story,” says Ratsch. “The Kremlin technically had every possibility at its disposal to stop the career of Wagner’s mercenaries in the bud, but it didn’t, and no military unit was activated.” To repel the rebels ”. The entire system of internal and military security failed, to which should be added the escape in those hours of many siloviki from Moscow: “Special flights that took off from the airports of the capital and the speed with which they left cannot be counted. Moscow is quite indicative of the prevailing mood.
However, Wagner’s game is far from over, at this point all the experts between Berlin and Vienna are in agreement. “Many are around and armed,” concludes Ratch, “some will leave so as not to end up under orders from the Russian army, and many will wait to understand whether the promises made can be trusted.” Belarus is still unknown, while some mercenaries can resume their activities outside of Ukraine, in other regions of the world where they are still active, such as Africa.
For the West, one thing is clear: there is no possibility to influence events in Moscow, but it is possible to decide the future of Ukraine. Now we need a clear and courageous plan to support them further in the conflict and give them a European perspective beyond that. The only way to hope to have an effect on Russian penetration is to put in place a good policy for Kiev.
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