(RepublicanNews.org) – Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told MSNBC on June 26th that Vladimir Putin is engaging in a “very delicate dance” of politics between Wagner mercenaries, their leaders, and the Russian civilian population. The Obama administration official says Putin fears Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and the capabilities of his reported 50,000-soldier private army.
McFaul was reacting to the Russian President’s recent speech, and he believes Putin was attempting to divide the Wagner leadership from their stock troops on the ground. He expressed skepticism that Prigozhin will actually go into exile in Belarus. In the event the mercenary leader is exiled, McFaul pointed out there is any number of other Wagner leaders waiting to take his place.
“There’s a whole council and these are people that have been around for years,” he said.
McFaul postulated a parallel between the current actions of Putin and the recent actions of Prigozhin. Prigozhin, he says, was trying to sow discord between the leadership of the Russian national armed forces and their enlisted ranks. Putin, he says, is attempting to do the same thing among Wagner contractors.
The Ambassador says that while he may want to, Putin is unable to have everyone that participated in the attempted coup arrested. Not only would the arrests of 50,000 private soldiers be logistically untenable, but the average Russian admires the mercenary force. Russian civilians and national army soldiers alike view the Wagner force as “heroes,” McFaul said.
Putin’s June 24th speech referred to the Wagner mutiny as a “stab in the back,” though the Russian leader differentiated between contractors following orders and a corrupted leadership structure. During his address, he did not refer to the Wagner Group or to Prigozhin by name, but he did reference an “armed rebellion” and said its organizers would be held to account.
The Wagner Group has not announced a successor to Prigozhin.
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