Endless Speculation on the Wagner Group.

By Larry Huss

This past weekend brought stories of a coup in Russia. And as bizarre as the facts may be the reactions by the mainstream media and the politicians was even more bizarre. But let’s first set the stage for the discussion.

The essence of the story is that the Wagner Group and its leader Yevgeny Prigohzin demanded the ouster of the leadership of the Russian Federations military, namely Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov. Mr. Prigohzin accused them of corruption, gross incompetence and disinformation relating to the rationale for the invasion of Ukraine. The final straw, however, was that Messrs. Shoigu and Gerasimov authorized the missile and drone attack on the Wagner Group soldiers shortly after their withdrawal from conquering Bakhmut in Ukraine. At that point Mr. Prigohzin turned the Wagner Group toward Moscow intending to oust Messrs. Shoigu and Gerasimov from office. Mr. Prigohzin halted his advance on Moscow when Russian President Vladimir Putin sided with the Russian Federation army and demanded the arrest and prosecution of Mr. Prigohzin for treason and mutiny. Shortly, and I mean very shortly, after that Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko claimed to have engineered a resolution of the situation in which Mr. Prigohzin would turn back and accept asylum in Belarus in exchange for dismissal of all charges against him and amnesty for his troops. Mr. Prigohzin then disappeared and reappeared in Belarus the following day.

Those are the facts. Everything else is the typical gross speculation, lying and wishful thinking by the Biden administration, the senior members of the United States military and intelligence services, the members of Congress and most of all the mainstream media. Here are just some of the more bizarre speculations:

  1. The whole scenario was yet another “false flag” effort by Russia to lure Ukrainian forces into a reckless surge and into a trap by the Russian army.
  2. The whole scenario was triggered by the missile and drone attack on the Wagner Group but it was engineered by the Central Intelligence Agency and not Moscow.
  3. The whole scenario was engineered by the American intelligence community as a distraction from the indictment of President Biden’s son for income tax evasion and gun purchase perjury.
  4. The whole scenario was engineered by the Russian Federation military leadership as a means of crushing the Wagner Group and silencing criticism of its conduct of the Ukraine invasion and subsequent military losses sustained by Russia.
  5. That Mr. Prigohzin intended to replace Mr. Putin and gain control of Russia himself.

And it goes on from there. Most people recognize that most of what is said is speculation by script readers, entertainment airheads, and wannabe experts. But there is one piece of information that demands Congressional attention and another that seems to be ignored.

The first piece of information is the claim by the American intelligence community that they knew before the infamous march on Moscow began that Mr. Prigohzin was going to do it. Given the bias and ineptitude of the intelligence community regarding anything dealing with Russia and its willingness to engineer stories to make themselves appear heroic, I suggest that everything that they have said is baloney. Congress should demand that these professional liars prove it and more importantly that they not be allowed to claim “national security interests” in order to hide their deceit.

The second piece of information is the lack of any information – including speculative information – on the effect of this dust up with regard to the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).   Given that my speculations are worth at least as much as the intelligence community’s luminaries, let me lay out the scenario. According to a Countryside study:

Russia possesses rich reserves of iron ore, manganese, chromium, nickel, platinum, titanium, copper, tin, lead, tungsten, diamonds, phosphates, and gold, and the forests of Siberia contain an estimated one-fifth of the world’s timber, mainly conifers . . .

And according to to a 2019 study by the World Bank:

This vast country {Russia] plays a crucial role in the global energy and resource markets, and is the main trading partner for many of its neighbors. Russia hold the world’s largest natural gas reserves, the second largest coal reserves and the eighth largest oil reserves.”

In contrast, China, while occupying the third largest land mass in the world – behind Russia and Canada – and challenging India for the largest population – it trails both Russia and the United States in production of critical minerals and energy resources. Much of that may have to do with the actual development of reserves but it is still a factor in their economic power.

The misguided invasion and subsequent war caused by Mr. Putin and the Russian military in Ukraine has drained the Russian economy. It has become increasingly dependent on China for financial support and Iran for war materials. The failings in the war have also exposed the weakness of Mr. Putin’s leadership and the paper tiger of his military and the growing disaffection by both the citizenry of Russia and the oligarchs who have supported him. The fact that Mr. Prigohzin would turn on the Russian government and march unimpeded halfway to Moscow in less than twenty-four hours has further demonstrated the tenuous hold Mr. Putin exercises on Russia. And Mr. Putin’s immediate turn to China, North Korea, and Iran to shore up his support, indicates that his position internationally is at greater risk. And while North Korea and Iran may take to the streets to express their outrage at the acts of Mr. Prigohzin and the role of the United State – real or imagined – China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, sits quietly calculating the short and long term possibilities that this turmoil has created.

And first among those possibilities is greater recognition that China is no longer the junior partner in its long relationship with Russia but has moved from the equal to the primary partner with Mr. Putin becoming more and more dependent on China for his longevity and for the economic support of Russia generally. In turn, Mr. Xi has leverage on the natural resources – both mineral and energy – of Russia, including room to grow as he seeks to capitalize on China’s growing economic strength. Russia, under Mr. Putin, may become a client state of China.

Of course, these are not things we discuss publicly with an administration that is so tightly tied (read subject to blackmail) by China. Not a word from our intelligence community with regard to the influence that China is beginning to exercise over Russia and even less in regard to its potential influence over Mr. Biden and his wayward son. Russia has not been any more than an irritant in the matters of the world economies and geopolitical affairs. It ranks right along with Iran in its willingness to cause trouble worldwide for the United States and other Western democracies but in terms of a real threat to gain geopolitical power it is impotent both economically and militarily. But China is a real problem and its standing has been heightened by the conflict in Ukraine and the failings of Mr. Putin.

There is one further note. Mr. Prigohzin is most likely to be assassinated. Prior to this dust up he was quite tight with Mr. Putin. So much so that Mr. Putin and the Russian treasury made Mr. Prigohzin one of Russia’s richest oligarchs as caterer to the Russian military and principle thug for Mr. Putin’s trouble making world wide, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. Mr. Prigohzin has a reputation as a ruthless gangster tolerant of rape, torture, mass killings and general mayhem. Along the way, Mr. Prigohzin has come to know where the “bodies” are buried under Mr. Putin’s regime and is in a position to either blackmail Mr. Putin and/or destroy him by release of such information. My advice for Mr. Prigohzin is to stay away from women with umbrellas, windows in tall buildings and food that he has not prepared himself. And the same advice may hold true for Mr. Biden and his son when it comes to dealing with China.