Defeat in World War I led to the collapse of the tsarist regime. Would defeat in Ukraine collapse Vladimir Putin’s neo-tsarist regime? During World War I the Russian army mutinied as losses mounted.
Russia’s casualties mount. An unverified report posted by a purported general of Russia’s external intelligence agency the SVR on social media claimed that the Russians have had 362,387 killed and wounded since the start of the Feb. 22, 2022 invasion. He claimed that 76,192 Russian service personnel had died.
The Wagner mutiny in July led by the late Yevgeny Prigozhin showed discontent in the ranks of pro-regime forces, leading Ukrainian and Western analysts to question Putin’s hold over Russia.
“The Wagner revolt revealed there is nothing behind the Kremlin’s propaganda facade. Everyone has now seen for themselves that Putin is an empty vessel. The emperor has no clothes. He doesn’t control the situation inside Russia and is not at all popular. Ordinary Russians are still afraid to say they are against Putin, but as soon as Wagner began to rise up, the public cheered. Meanwhile, nobody showed any interest in defending the Putin regime,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in an interview with The Atlantic Council think tank.
The Atlantic Council notes that such assessments are reliant on Ukrainian intelligence, which makes their public reliability questionable.
Putin Relies On Brutality to Keep Power
It’s easy to engage in happy talk and dismiss anything else as “Russian propaganda.” Putin easily is Russia’s most ruthless leader since Josef Stalin. He has used his background as a KGB intelligence officer to brutal efficiency, dispatching opponents like Alexander Litvenenko with polonium tea, poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal with the Novichok nerve agent, and potentially assassinating Prigozhin and Wagner founder Dmitry Utkin by blowing up their plane. He maintains power through fear and ruthlessness such that no one questions him lest they end up becoming like a Bond villain’s latest victim.
Putin’s control of Russia relies on the backing of the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) and the Russian security state. These are the same people who put Putin into power over 20 years ago in the first place. He is like the top mafia boss.
Stalin’s apocryphal statement that a single death was a tragedy while a million deaths was a statistic seems to sum up Putin. Many estimates suggest that anyone who would follow Putin might be just as brutal.
The Soviet and then Russian intelligence apparatus lies at the heart of the country and is the one institution that survived the collapse of the Soviet Union intact.
“It is tempting to believe that, if Putin were killed, or otherwise removed from power, for example in a palace coup, Russia would shake off its dictatorial shackles, normalize its relations with the West, and advance down the democratic road. Such thinking is mistaken. History suggests there are slim prospects of Russia doing so,” Calder Walton, a historian at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, wrote in a June column that appeared in Time. “The surest guarantee that Russia will not reform along democratic lines is the power of its security and intelligence services. At key junctures in Soviet and post-Soviet history, amid coups, near-coups, reforms, and revolutions, the KGB and its successors have always acted as kingmaker.”
Walton continued, “Their power has remained consistent as Kremlin leaders came and went. There is little reason to believe they will not do so again.”
Seventy-Seven Percent of Russian Public Servants Have Intel Background
He noted that Russia essentially is an intelligence service with a state attached. One 2019 estimate said that 77% of Putin’s government came from the security services.
“According to one recent CIA chief of station in Moscow, the “overwhelming majority” of technocrats in his government come from this background. And Putin is not necessarily the most hardline among them,” Walton wrote.
If Putin falls out of favor and the Russian security state turns on him, whoever would replace him likely would come from the same background. The Chekists survived the fall of the USSR by undermining Russia’s nascent democracy by creating chaos; consequently, they would ensure that their power is not threatened even if the invasion of Ukraine fails.
John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.
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