The cracks in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “rotten regime” are being exposed as armed Wagner Group mercenaries briefly turned against their benefactor and marched against Moscow, a former NATO commander said Sunday.
Retired Adm. James Stavridis said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart” that the short revolt shows “enormous weakness” in more than just Russia’s military, whose failure, he says, has been on full display over the course of the war with Ukraine.
“What is now on display are the cracks in [the Russian] political establishment running all the way up the spine of the country,” Stavridis said.
The march on the capital led by Yevgeny Prigozhin and the late-night deal that eventually halted it has raised questions over Putin’s reputation as a leader who is willing to ruthlessly punish anyone who challenges his authority. Under the terms of the agreement, Prigozhin will go into exile in Belarus but will not face prosecution and his forces won’t either.
That may open the door for others who are unhappy with Putin’s two-decade grip on power, especially after his ill-fated invasion of Ukraine.
“If you are a dictator, the worst thing you can show the world is that kind of weakness,” the retired admiral said.
Stavridis said the cracks appearing in Putin’s regime have him concerned about Russia’s nuclear arsenal, which he called “the real highway to the danger zone.”
“If we see continuing chaos, a real breakdown of the Russian security system, a breakdown of control from the Kremlin, I think that job one is to figure out how to secure or participate in securing those nuclear weapons.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday was asked about potential concerns regarding the security of Russia’s nuclear weapons.
“We always prepare for every contingency,” Blinken said during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“We haven’t seen any change in Russia’s nuclear posture,” he added. “There hasn’t been any change in ours. But it’s something we’re going to watch very, very carefully.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.