The Prigozhin execution and the end of the "worse than Putin" self-deterrence.
Results of the Audiobook drawing.
Well it took two months, but the inevitable happened yesterday. Yevgeny Prigozhin, one time chef and later war-criminal extraordinaire for Vladimir Putin, was publicly executed in the most extraordinary way. Flying with the upper echelon on his Wagner Group leadership, he was shot down over Russia by a Russian military operated anti-air system.
For a while there were the weird but expected rumors circulating such as ‘Was Prigozhin faking his own death’ or maybe ‘Did the Ukrainians do it?’ The answer seems clear, however. Putin had Prigozhin executed for the armed mutiny of two months ago. Always go with the simplest explanation.
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That Putin did this should surprise no one. He has regularly assassinated, usually in very public and often gruesome ways, those who have represented political threats to him or who he views as traitor. It seems that in this case he needed a few months to neutralize Wagner as much as possible, to replace its influence in places such as Africa with loyal henchmen, and then acted. All so rational, all so psycopathic.
If the execution was so predictable, hopefully one thing it will do is end the (frankly bizarre) discussion that has been raging since February 24, 2022—which is “Could someone worse than Putin take over if he fell from power?” This discussion, which just flared up again the other day, is one of the regular tropes that has been used to warn against pressing Russia too much—as if pushing Putin out of power would result in someone or something worse.1
This discussion has never made sense to me for a number of reasons, from the fact that the answer is more than likely ‘no’ and that is has been used as one of a range of issues that supporters of Ukraine have used to tie themselves up in self-deterring knots. Its also based on the regularly occurring and weird notion of warfighting that has regularly plagued supporters of Ukraine—the desire to overly control or micromanage events. It needs to stop now.
It might be worth discussing these three problems in turn.
First, It would be really hard to be ‘worse’ than Putin. He is the person who choose over all others to launch this sh$tshow in the first place. He is a bloodthirsty, expansionist dictator who regularly voices culturally genocidal ideas and is willing to slaughter hundreds of thousands (and millions if need be) to achieve his goals. This war was his choice, it did not have to happen and indeed many elements in the Russian state seemed terrified at its prospect.
Moreover, since he started it, what have we seen? We have had mass executions of civilians, child abduction on an industrial scale, and a willingness to sacrifice his own soldiers in historic numbers to satisfy his personal wishes. He also regularly denies the existence of the Ukrainian people and of their state, and has so shaped the Russian discourse that ideas of genocide, and I mean genocide, are now a regular staple of the evening news. Here is a sample clip of how its now regularly stated that Ukrainians need to be wiped out.
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