w/e 21st October 2022
Rumours circulating on secure social media “east of the Balkans” are beginning to suggest that Vladimir Putin may not be as secure as President of the Russian Federation as he might think he is. “Mad Vlad”, as the tabloids are wont to call him these days, is being circled by the vultures who are the siloviki (the “strong men”) in the Kremlin who are reportedly planning and preparing a change of control.
This appears to be being prompted by the desire to find an exit from the increasingly embarrassing Ukraine debacle. The scenario being wargamed would seem to be this: any planned escalation of military operations in Ukraine by Russia will be halted; Putin will retire due to a sudden and debilitating illness (real or pretend); and Russia will seek to negotiate some sort of successful termination of the war that will satisfy their political elite and general public.
In return, Ukraine will agree to opt for a non-NATO security arrangement, whether that is as part of an EU defence structure or some other body. No doubt Russia will ideally like to hold on to its territorial gains as part of this negotiated peace compromise, but I don’t think Ukraine is any mood for giving up any of its territory at the moment. After all, they are winning now, and hope to be able to sustain their success; they will not settle for the status quo ante bellum, I suspect, but might, just might, settle for the pre-2014 status quo, before the annexation of Crimea and part of the Donbas.
And who might replace Putin as President? Step forward one Nikolai Patrushev, politician, security officer and intelligence officer, who has been secretary of the Security Council of Russia since 2008. Not particularly well known internationally, he’s probably seen as an ‘acceptable face’ or stalking horse, internally at least, in any exit game for Russia from the Ukraine fiasco. One of Putin’s inner circle, he is understood to be one of the President’s closest advisers and an influential figure in Russia’s national security policies.
His accession might, however, turn out to be an out of the frying pan into the fire moment for the West.