Monday, June 26, 2023


The Russian tremor passed, as many unspoken dysfunctions there usually do.  The players in this sordid scenario all share an identical DNA. The rest of the world watched and opted wisely for silence. The Russian society appears like a nihilistic experiment better to be observed from some distance than to be subjected to close scrutiny. Under Putin the society went under. The humiliation that a group of freaks was able to inflict on the regime will resonate for a long period of time and is being closely watched everywhere.

Russia appears now almost more barbaric than its normal posture--already unpleasant in more "normal" times--generally conveys. Nowhere, besides the usual suspects like North Korea or Lukashenko's gulag, is the rule of the bulk as merciless. Ukraine is the vicious demonstration of a kind of almost fanatic disregard for life and dignity, truth and repentance. The Ukrainians fight for a cause while Russian soldiers are lost, uninformed souls in a conflict which they can hardly understand, given their disbelief in fighting others that in so many ways were so close.

The fact remains that Putin lost the control of the narrative and that his paranoia will only increase. He was always an unpleasant customer. He might become unpredictable, trying to show off rather than to come to terms with former President Obama's assessment of Russia as a "regional power". The Russians were never able to come to terms with Western nonchalance regarding their bombast. Only Trump fell for the lure of being regarded in Moscow while the rest of the world watched him in disbelief.

Putin becomes more dangerous now since he will have to prove that he controls both the narrative and the establishment around him. He was dented but not crushed. Russians seemed to be more blasé than worried. The West remained cool but one can bet that China, India and Russia's clients elsewhere watched closely, some out of political angst, some out of financial or sordid panic.

In this episode without structure, devoid of ending, both Putin and Prigozhin are alike. The Wagner mercenaries will still be active in Africa, or wherever their turf and payroll might be. None has any existential investment. The Russian people have seen it all. The West remains aloof, wisely so. Let them auto-destruct. One lost, the other didn't win. Too bad, both the play and the actors are so unappealing....

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