fischer205_Boris AlekseevAnadolu Agency via Getty Images_kremlin Boris Alekseev/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Heightened Risk from a Weakened Russia

Following the aborted march on Moscow by Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner Group, the war in Ukraine has entered a dangerous new phase. The endgame is approaching, and whatever happens on the battlefield will determine the future of Russian domestic politics, too.

BERLIN – Russia’s senseless war in Ukraine has been raging for nearly a year and a half, and the basic criminal nature of the enterprise has not changed. A major nuclear power wants to deny its neighbor – a “brother nation” – a previously recognized right to exist. Russian President Vladimir Putin has chosen a war of conquest as his means. If he achieves his desired end, Ukraine will be incorporated into Russia, disappearing as an independent sovereign state.

But with every passing week, there is more evidence to suggest that his calculations have backfired. Far from delivering a quick victory, Putin’s “special military operation” has become a bloody slog that Russia could well lose. While it has certainly imposed many sacrifices on Ukraine, it has also created costs for ordinary Russians.

The seriousness of the mess that the Kremlin has created for itself became fully apparent in late June, when Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner Group mercenaries challenged the top leadership directly. Prigozhin’s attempted coup played out over many hours with the whole world watching, and his Wagner forces even captured the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, the headquarters of the Russian army’s southern military district. From there, his forces – including tanks – marched on Moscow, coming within 200 kilometers (124 miles).

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