Vladimir Putin’s regime is “based on shifting sands” as demonstrated by a recent groundbreaking event in Russia, according to an expert.
Dr Alan Mendoza, the founder and executive director of the Henry Jackson Society think tank, noted that while the coup attempted by Wagner Group’s leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was short-lived, in the hours during which it was unfolding Moscow was left in a state of panic.
This signals the Russian President may struggle to retain his power should another, more destabilising challenge arise while morale in his country saps due to the grinding war in Ukraine.
Asked about the chances to see Putin losing the power he holds in Russia, Dr Mendoza told Express.co.uk: “He’s not going to lose an election, that’s not how Russia works.” While the president hasn’t announced yet he will run for re-election in 2024, he is widely expected to do so, and win by a large margin.
Instead, the founder of the think tank focused on foreign policy and national security, shared two scenarios that he thinks could lead to the Russian President’s demise.
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The first one is linked to the struggles faced by his army in Ukraine – meant to be a quick war that is instead weeks away from entering its second year.
He said: “If Russia continues to be sapped by the war struggle, people die, there’s more consternation on the streets and it’s obvious the conflict is no success, yes, at some point, there may well be a decision taken by a cabal within the Kremlin to say things have moved on from where we were a year or two years ago and he’s more of a liability than a success now.”
However, Dr Mendoza noted, it is difficult to imagine a similar outcome in the near future as Putin is still believed to have strong control within the Kremlin.
Nevertheless, the grinding war appears to be having a negative effect on Russians’ morale despite the national propaganda. Independent pollster Chronicle suggested that the number of Russians who fully support the invasion of Ukraine – which means they have consistently backed the conflict and don’t want their army to leave the European nation until Russia achieves all its goals – has almost halved between February 2023 and October, going from 22 per cent to 12 per cent.
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The Moscow-based research group, which asked 1,199 adults across Russia a series of questions in a phone poll between October 17 and 22, also said that 40 per cent of those surveyed supported the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine without Russia’s aims being achieved.
The poll also suggested that 44 per cent of Russians experienced a decrease in family income in recent months – and the financial situation of people in Russia may become even direr as Putin recently signed off a significant increase in military spending.
Another possible scenario in which Putin loses power, Dr Mendoza added, is a mutiny.
Referring to the Wagner Group’s rebellion dating back to June, the global analyst said: “I think what happened with Wagner over the summer tells you how quickly things can change in Russia. We forget it now. But when that action occurred, there was genuine panic in Moscow that this was the end.
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“So that tells you something, that tells you the regime is based on shifting sands, and that it only takes one thing to go very badly wrong. And there may be another challenge that Putin may not be able to manage in the same way as he did with Wagner.”
The Wagner coup was launched by Prigozhin on late June 23 and saw the group’s mercenary briefly taking over the city of Rostov and marching towards Moscow.
The warlord called off the mutiny, which he stressed was against the Defence Ministry leadership rather than Putin, after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko brokered a deal.
He died in an airplane crash two months after the attempted coup, in August.
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