June 17, 2023

Did Shoigu overplay Prigozhin and who framed whom?


By swearing allegiance to Shoigu, "Akhmat" and Kadyrov crossed the line, which is punishable 

The scandal between Prigozhin and Shoigu involving Kadyrov, Delimkhanov, and Putin has changed the Russian political landscape a bit. However,  it was not Prigozhin who framed Putin by refusing to sign an agreement with Shoigu, as it looks like, but Kadyrov, who signed it. Especially so as Shoigu issued his order without Putin's approval, challenging him. 

The "Akhmat" Special Rapid Response Unit is a subdivision of the Russian Guard, personally subordinate to Putin and headed by his former bodyguard Zolotov.  "Akhmat" in no way is not "a volunteer unit" mentioned in Shoigu's order. 

Putin created the Russian Guard as a counterbalance to Shoigu's army for Putin's protection after one of the attempts on his life. Putin let Kadyrov create a de facto private army located in Chechnya which was formally subordinated to the Russian Guard in exchange for Kadyrov's promise to be "Putin's infantry" protecting him and his clan. But the sudden public Akhmat signing of an agreement with Shoigu meant an over to the side of the rival clan.

The death or temporary disappearance of Delimkhanov could be a warning from Putin's clan to Kadyrov. It was curious to observe the pleasure with which Putin's press secretary Peskov expressed condolences to Kadyrov in connection with the presumed death of Delimkhanov. 

Delimkhanov, the most prominent member of the Kadyrov clan, has long irritated Putin. In particular, he openly supported the official title "Father of the country" for Kadyrov, despite Putin's law of 2021 prohibiting the leaders of republics from being called presidents. The measure was taken to counter or prevent a centrifugal trend in Russia and potential fragmentation. 

Moreover, Putin believes that he is not only the President of all Russians but the "Father of the Peoples," as Stalin used to call himself. Delimkhanov's open defiance, combined with the formal defection to the opposing clan side, was bound to provoke a reaction from the Chekist clan.

As for Prigozhin, he remained loyal to Putin and, to hush up the scandal that has become public, can even sign a contract with Shoigu, but with an amendment, mentioned by Putin when asked by one of the military bloggers during the meeting. 

Putin had no choice but to pretend that Shoigu's order was issued with his knowledge but should be upgraded to the law and amended. The amendment should consider Prigozhin's interests and level the contract's provisions in his favor. For example, the agreement could be signed with Wagner as a unit, not individually, with every fighter, as Shoigu suggested. 

In such a case, Prigoshin, by stipulating his rights and Shoigu's obligations, could benefit from the contract more than Shoigu. Putin would seize the initiative from Shoigu, maintain a veneer of decency, and protect his and Prigozhin's interests.

For Putin, Prigozhin's Wagner group is the only military force he can count on if he is forced to face Shoigu's military, especially after Kadyrov's defection to another side. 

On the other hand, who in Russia pays attention to laws and follows orders? It is enough to recall how many times Commander-in-Chief Putin issued decrees ordering the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, but Shoigu never complied with them.

As a result, Putin had to send Prigozhin with the Wagner group to Syria to look after Shoigu. In response, Shoigu intentionally set up the Wagner group under the fire of the US forces. 

As Putin refuses to introduce martial law, Shoigu has no extended powers he craves for. Putin can't fire Shoigu but manages to contain him preserving an equilibrium inside the infighting diarchy.

And Shoigu, who has exceeded his powers by issuing an order ignoring Putin, will have to retreat until the next conflict between all those involved.

On the other hand, Prigozhin did irritate Putin with his suddenly growing popularity and suddenly apparent political ambitions. Putin's priority lately was neutralizing Prigozhin's popularity by increasing his presence in the information space in recent days. 

By making Prigozhin agree to sign Shoigu's order, Putin made Prigozhin look like a loser and destroyed his image as a strong leader. Also, as with Navalny, Putin banned mentioning Prigozhin's name by official media. 

By meeting with military bloggers, Putin took control of this segment of Russian media. Filling the information space with his sayings, Putin managed to push Prigozhin into the background.

No comments:

Post a Comment