Beginning of the End

It will be premature to assume that the days of Putin in power are numbered following Russia’s attack on Ukraine and failed mutiny.

By Dr. Moonis Ahmar | August 2023

Frank Hoffman, in his article “Wagner Group Coup: beginning of the end for Vladimir Putin” in DW German news agency, predicts, “Many international political analysts agree that Russian President Vladimir Putin will emerge weaker following the brief mutiny staged by Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin over the weekend. Moreover, there is a sense of bewilderment at just how the consequences might unfold in the coming days, weeks, and months.”

Ostensibly, Vladimir Putin has been able to pre-empt his dislodging from power by the powerful Wagner group in a day-long mutiny on June 25 panicked the world, but within 24 hours Wagner led mutiny collapsed as the forces of group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin reached a deal with Alexander Lukashenkothe, President of Belarus to cancel his march towards Moscow from the captured city of Rostov-on-Don. Several questions are being raised following the abortive mutiny against President Vladimir Putin. Is Putin losing control over power and will face a strong revolt against his authoritarian rule? How does the war in Ukraine tend to weaken Putin’s control over the instruments of power and mitigate his global influence? How does the power fatigue because of more than 23 years of Putin’s rule augment frustration in the general public of Russia? Will the dream of Putin to govern his country until 2036 materialize, or should he follow an ‘exit strategy’ to prevent forced removal from power?

Reflecting his authoritarian mindset and manipulative tactics, Vladimir Putin, who succeeded President Boris Yeltsin in 1999, is a ‘survivalist’ and is confident of countering any future attempt to remove or overthrow him but like other cases of over-ambitious leaders trying to remain at the helm of affairs, Putin will not be able to break the record of Joseph Stalin, Secretary General of Soviet Communist Party, who remained in power after the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1936 till his demise in 1953. So far, Putin has been in power since 1999 and has also made amendments to the constitution to contest several terms as President, but elections are due in early 2024, which will be a real test case for him.

According to an article, “Russian Mutiny: Is it the beginning of the end of President Vladimir Putin,” published in Economic Times (New Delhi) on June 26, 2023, “The recent revolt by the Wagner mercenary group has exposed weaknesses in the position of Russian President Vladimir Putin, raising questions over his ability to survive growing threats. Putin managed to quell the immediate danger, but observers say it is too early to determine the full consequences of the revolt for Putin, who has been ruling Russia for almost 25 years. The questions for Putin are particularly acute, with Russia’s March 2024 presidential election less than a year away. Controversial constitutional changes mean he can stand for two more terms until 2036”.

It is yet to be seen how Vladimir Putin will transform his power ambition into a reality by getting another term in March 2024 presidential elections because the war in Ukraine and June 2023 mutiny tend to weaken his grip over power. In August 1991, during the last days of the USSR, Soviet generals who were against the then President Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of reforms under Perestroika (Restructuring) and Glasnost (Openness) launched a coup and managed to arrest Gorbachev. But the coup lasted for only a few days as the Russian Federation’s people, under President Boris Yeltsin’s leadership, turned against the military takeover and forced generals to step down. Although Gorbachev returned to power after that coup, his control had weakened as Yeltsin emerged as his main competitor. The Soviet Union disintegrated in December 1991, and 15 independent states emerged from the USSR. One needs to examine how fragile the power of Putin is after the failed mutiny and to what extent he can cope with new challenges to his grip over power.

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