Putin Fears His own Pet

Makes a big mistake at the worst possible time

Shankar Narayan
7 min readMar 9, 2023
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The taste of unlimited power is like a drug.

Once you taste it, you’ll be hooked and sucked deeper, until you end up upside down. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Muammar Gaddafi, and Saddam Hussein are perfect examples of dictators who travelled very fast from the top to the bottom.

It is impossible to be a dictator and not know how these dictators met their end.

The Russian president, a history buff, is running the who will throw me out question on an endless loop, resulting in some actions that do not bode well for the Russian army in Ukraine.

Putin prioritized his security over Russia’s victory in Ukraine at the worst possible time. Institute for the Study of War, the Washington., D.C based think tank believes Putin is behind the Wagner Mercenaries being expended at an alarming rate at the Ukrainian frontline.

“Prigozhin is one of the most extreme of the Russian pro-war nationalists. He is one of the very few with a serious military force loyal to himself. He has even seemed at times a possible threat to Putin or a possible successor. Which may be why Putin is allowing the Russian MoD to hang him out to dry.

Badly damaging Prigozhin’s power and reputation within Russia would be an important accomplishment from the standpoint of the long-term prospects for restoring sanity in Russia. That is an aim in America’s interests as well as in Ukraine’s, and it raises the stakes in the Battle of Bakhmut beyond matters of terrain and battlespace geometry”.

The Politics Behind the Division

Russia is in a do or die battle against Ukraine in Bakhmut.

A victory in Bakhmut would have softened the anger simmering inside Russia against Vladimir Putin, giving a lift to army recruiters struggling to find the next Russian soldier.

Rather than accepting the crisis his army is facing in Bakhmut and prioritizing Russian interests over his own, Putin has revealed his true colors. Rebuilding the old Soviet Union is important to Putin, but it is not as important as protecting his own power or skin.

It shows how afraid Putin has become that he is willing to accept the loss of Bakhmut, even though he could have addressed the growing influence of Prigozhin at a later date.

The Wagner Group

During the consolidation phase of his dictatorship, Vladimir Putin raised a lot of oligarchs. Each oligarch served a purpose. An operational vertical was chosen for the oligarch and a set of state-owned resources were prepared for exploitation.

Putin helped them extract money out of the Russian system, which was then parked all over the world. Not a penny can be traced directly to Putin. His climb to become the silent billionaire is a work of genius.

One such oligarch was Mr. Prigozhin.

“The sanctioned Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin generated revenues of more than a quarter of a billion dollars from his global natural resources empire in the four years before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, according to corporate records”.

Putin had the conventional army do the heavy lifting and the intelligence agencies do the covert work. But he needed a militia to carry out his dirty work. In order to gain plausible deniability and expand his global influence, he created a mercenary group.

The mercenary group will help him accomplish things that his army, or Russian direct intervention cannot accomplish. In the past few years, the Wagner group played a major role in misinformation campaigns that messed up the entire world. Before the Ukrainian conflict, it was impossible to tie the Wagner group directly to Putin.

In many cases, Wagner arrives after the United Nations or other security partners failed to resolve conflicts for years, as was the case in the Central African Republic and Mali. Detailed investigations into Wagner’s activities in these countries illustrate how the group facilitates democratic backsliding, systematically engages in human rights abuses, and acts in concert with Prigozhin-linked companies to extract resources.

But, for all their malfeasance, Wagner offers military and security services at a lower price point than similarly amoral PMCs, and contracting Wagner usually comes with the promise of Russian bilateral support and greater independence from the interests of former colonial powers.

Putin’s misinformation campaign was delivered by the Wagner group, but global leaders could not accuse him and force him back on his heels, because he would simply state that he had nothing to do with it.

The Wagner Group’s operations were nicely positioned between the army and intelligence agencies. Prigozhin was Putin’s former chef. It would be a gross understatement to say that Putin effectively raised him into the man he is today.

For years the group operated in secrecy. There was no head and there was no tail. There was simply a body of work in so many different places.

After the blitz to topple Kyiv in 100 hours failed, Putin updated his strategy and pressed everything he had at his disposal into Ukraine. That included the Wagner Group.

The Russian army couldn’t get anything right after invading Ukraine in February last year. They suffered setback after setback, until the Wagner group reversed the trend by taking control of Popasna and Lysychansk in June 2022.

Following the victory, “Prigozhin was granted a Hero of the Russian Federation medal, which the Kremlin hinted was done by secret presidential decree”.

It was at that point that everything turned for both Putin and Prigozhin. Sensing an opening, Prigozhin regularly attacked the Russian military high command, while expanding his influence inside Russia. He slowly become an alternate power center.

According to ISW: “Prigozhin has ostentatiously ramped up efforts to disseminate Wagner’s militarism and ideology throughout Russia by advertising Wagner’s role in Bakhmut.

The Wagner Group has recently opened several recruitment centers at sports clubs throughout Russia, opened a youth branch, and is visiting schoolchildren to lecture them about Wagner’s structure and show them unfiltered combat footage from Ukraine.

Wagner’s success in Bakhmut thus far has given Prigozhin a major advantage in the information space, bolstering his reputation and increasing his popularity in a way that will likely have long-term impacts in the Russian domestic sphere”.

As the gap between Prigozhin and the ultra-nationalists has narrowed over the last few months, Prigozhin has become a formidable challenge to Putin’s control over the levers of power in Russia.

Putin has responded to this threat by expending the Wagner group in Bakhmut. He is decimating the group’s capacity to stay in the fight.

  • On February 9th, 2023, “The recruitment of prisoners by the Wagner private military company has completely stopped,” said Wagner’s founder Yevgeny Prigozhin. This could not have happened without Putin’s approval.
  • One day later, the ISW reported the following: “Russian forces are attempting to supplant Wagner forces in the Bakhmut area with conventional forces by deploying them to deprioritized areas on the frontline and replacing them with conventional elements”.

Both statements cannot be viewed in isolation. They are intertwined. Putin and the Russian army are squashing the Wagner Group. Prigozhin thought Russian prisoners were expendable. Putin thinks Prigozhin is expendable.

A match made in hell.

How does this impact the Ukraine War

It is worth noting that the Wagner group is a global terrorist organization that escaped scrutiny because it tried to hide behind Putin’s smokescreen.

This terrorist organization has been deeply rooted in the Russian society due to the Ukraine war. They have recruitment centers all over the country and visit schools to promote their organization. For all practical purposes, there is no significant gap between the Wagner group and the ultranationalists in Russia.

Many keep talking about the possibility of a nuclear war. But those people do so in order to promote their agenda or in order to gain attention. China and India, the countries that backed Russia in the last year, have both publicly stated that they oppose nuclear weapons being used by Russia.

The keyword here is ‘public.’

It was possible for both governments to do this in secret and not speak about it, but they didn’t. It was a message to Putin. It was a message to Europe. It was also a message to their own citizens in order to justify their decision to support Russia at a time when the entire world turned against Putin.

If Putin uses a nuclear weapon, he will lose the support of these two countries. One drop will bring Russia and his own future to an end.

The threat we should remain fearful of is not Putin using nuclear weapons, but a nuclear-armed Russia falling into the hands of ultranationalists like Prigozhin. And that would be the worst nightmare, the first step to armageddon.

The world has no place for a terrorist organization like the Wagner Group.

Prigozhin sent “a sledgehammer smeared with fake blood” to the EU parliament as a message. After brutally killing a Russian who had defected to Ukraine with a sledgehammer, Prigozhin proudly circulated the video calling it “a dog’s death for a dog.”

The first time since the war began, I am actually on Vladimir Putin’s side. Go ahead dictator. Finish the Wagner group and protect your seat. Let Bakhmut turn into the black hole that swallows your army of thugs and mercenaries whole.

May Bakhmut be the end of the Russian Army.



Shankar Narayan

He didn't care what he had or what he had left, he cared only about what he must do.