Russia’s Dangerous Nuclear Consensus
The war in Ukraine has raised the specter not only of Russia’s disintegration into warlordism, as Yevgeny Prigozhin’s recent rebellion showed, but also of a catastrophic nuclear confrontation with Vladimir Putin. Given the stakes, the West must use every tool at its disposal to take the temperature of Russian domestic discourse.
MADRID – Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s weekend rebellion has shone a harsh spotlight on the apparently fragile state of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime. While Prigozhin soon agreed to stand down, and ordered his mercenary army to halt its advance on Moscow, the warlord-led uprising highlights, yet again, the imminent and existential risks that an aggressive and unstable nuclear power poses to the world.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began last year – and especially since it became clear that Putin would not secure the quick victory he apparently expected – a nightmare scenario has loomed. Putin could be driven from power, leaving behind a fragmented Russia where various “warlords” compete for power – including control of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.
When Prigozhin accused Russia’s military of attacking Wagner Group encampments, seized control of Russia’s Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, and ordered his mercenaries to march on Moscow, this scenario appeared likely. But though this particular coup did not materialize, there is no guarantee that another will not follow, especially in light of the support Prigozhin seems to enjoy among some segments of Russia’s population.