The quick and tense-filled situation with the Wagner Group in Russia over the weekend has signaled to many world leaders that Russian President Vladimir Putin is losing his lock-tight grip over his country.
The uprising that The Wagner Group staged in Russia – threatening the capital of Moscow before an apparent stand-down agreement with Putin – showed how weak Putin’s regime in the country is, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
Blinken appeared on a few talk shows last Sunday morning, repeating that same message over and over again about how the rebellion – even though it was brief – is proving that Putin’s grip on the power in Russia seems to be loosening. On the “State of the Union” program on CNN, Blinken said:
“I think you have seen cracks emerge that weren’t there before.”
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the mercenary group, said when the uprising began last Friday that the justifications that Russia initially made for why they were invading Ukraine were based on pretenses that were false.
During an interview for the “Face the Nation” program on CBS News, Blinken said:
“Prigozhin himself in this entire incident has raised profound questions about the very premises for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in the first place, saying that Ukraine or NATO did not pose a threat to Russia, which is part of Putin’s narrative. And it was a direct challenge to Putin’s authority. So, this raises profound questions.”
As the uprising was going on, Putin accused Prigozhin and the members of the Wagner Group of committing “treason,” promising that they’d all have to pay consequences for their actions. Then, however, on Saturday, a de-escalation of the situation was announced where the Wagner Group would stand down and Prigozhin would go to neighboring Belarus.
Basically, the deal had Prigozhin telling his mercenaries to stand down and stopping marching on Moscow in exchange for Russia not pursuing a criminal case against him.
At this point, “it is too soon to tell” what might happen next in this situation, Blinken said while appearing on the “Meet the Press” program on NBC News. He added:
“But certainly, we have all sorts of new questions that Putin is going to have to address in the weeks and months ahead.”
Blinken also added, when questioned, that the Biden administration is prepared in case Putin’s government in Russia ends up falling, and whether the nuclear stockpile Russia has is secure. He said:
“We always prepare for every contingency in terms of what happens in Russia. It’s an internal matter for the Russians to figure out.
“Of course, when we’re dealing with a major power, and especially a major power that has nuclear weapons, that’s something that’s of concern, something we’re very focused on. We haven’t seen any change in Russia’s nuclear posture. There hasn’t been any change in ours, but it’s something we’re going to watch very, very carefully.”