Wagner Group, US think tank: “Setting of the Prigozhin star”

ISW: “Putin may have felt threatened by his rise. Less risk of irrational escalations”

The star of Wagner’s mercenary chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, “is waning due to the failure of his promise to capture Bakhmut.” The American think tank Institute for the Study of the War today published an extensive analysis on Prigozhin’s fall from the good graces of Russian President Vladimir Putin, underlining how his marginalization in favor of the regular army reduces the risk of “irrational escalations”.

Putin, reconstructs the ISW, had given a chance to Prigozhin and his ally, General Sergey Surovikin. But the former did not catch Bakhmut and the bombing campaign of Ukrainian civilian infrastructure decided by the latter “achieved little” and consumed “a large part of the remaining stocks of precision missiles”. Meanwhile, Prigozhin had convinced himself that he could challenge both the Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, but “these hopes were illusory”. And Putin, notes the think tank, “may have felt threatened by Prigozhin’s tactless rise.”

According to the ISW, “the marginalization of people like Prigozhin, who executed men with hammer blows…is a good thing. The influence of military professionals like Gerasimov suggests a lesser chance of Putin complying with the insane demands of the pro-war far-right, further reducing the already low chances of irrational Russian escalations”.

But there is also cause for “concern” in the revival of professional soldiers, finally notes the think tank referring to the appointment of Gerasimov as commander of the “special operation” in Ukraine, which took place on January 11, in place of Surovikin. Because “as long as Putin favored Prigozhin and other irregular approaches to continuing the war, it was postponing the day when Russia could re-establish a powerful conventional military force. The return to Gerasimov and regular order probably pushes Russia towards reconstruction of military force”.