There is no doubt that Yevgeny Prigozhin’s rebellion has weakened Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s central authority.
Failure to punish Prigozhin and his rebel forces will embolden others to challenge Putin’s authority.
Dan Negrea, senior director of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity at the Atlantic Council, believes in a report published by the American National Interest magazine that Russia may be heading towards internal turmoil that will include a new round of secession by the country’s constituent republics, as happened in 1991.
Policymakers in Washington and the capitals of the world must other free prepare for such an eventuality.
Dan Negrea, who worked at the US State Department as a member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Office, added that Putin didn’t achieve what he expected of the Russian people.
After 24 years of Putin’s rule, Russia still lags far behind Europe in terms of freedom and prosperity, and it’s now getting backward.
He now asks the Russians to die in a war against a peaceful sister country and to suffer further deprivation as a result of foreign economic sanctions.
Nor does he enjoy the approval of the corrupt clique that controls the levers of security, military, and economic power.
The Ukrainian war turned Russia into a pariah state, and most of them suffered from sanctions and the freezing of their assets by the countries of the free world.
Negrea says Putin looks weak, and he’s facing a loss in Ukraine.
Before his invasion of Ukraine, the Russian army was classified as the second in the world after the United States army… Now it’s considered the second in Eastern Europe, even behind Ukraine.
Inside, Prigozhin’s mercenaries seized one of Russia’s main military centers without firing a shot; Many Russian military leaders waited and watched before choosing the side of the regime, and Putin didn’t even have the strength to punish Prigozhin and his rebels.
An atmosphere of resentment and weakness is likely to encourage further challenges to power, and perhaps by another military man, or through renewed separatism among the Russian republics.
Russia is a multinational empire, as through the centuries, the Grand Duchy of Moscow expanded by conquering the peoples of Europe and Asia, but these peoples didn’t forget their national identity and their dreams of freedom, like the peoples that were once part of Austria-Hungary or Yugoslavia.
Separatist movements in Russia were strong but ultimately unsuccessful in 1917 when Russia was defeated in World War I and the corrupt and failed tsarist regime had little popular support.
The separatist movements were successful in 1991, when 15 republics, including Ukraine, the Baltic republics, and Kazakhstan, succeeded in secession after the defeat of the Soviet Union in the Afghanistan war, and it began to fail economically.
Russia’s heavy losses in life and treasure in the Ukrainian war, isolation and sanctions by the free world, and the weakness of central authority in Moscow create conditions in which separatist tendencies are likely to reassert themselves.
Especially since the probability of killing members of Russian minorities in Ukraine is thirty times greater than the rate of deaths of Russians.
Twenty-one republics already have the legal structure they need to secede.
Each has its own constitution, its own legislature, its own president or prime minister, a system of courts, a flag, and a national anthem.
There are, of course, differences regarding its history, geography, and natural resources.
Some of them border Russia and are rich in resources, and some are republics in the Caucasus.
Others are in the Volga region, non-tourist but with a strategic location and natural resources, and inhabited by large numbers of Muslims and Buddhists, such as Tatarstan, Kalmukia.
Perhaps any new wave of secession by the Russian republics will be peaceful like the first wave in 1991, or it may lead to a prolonged civil war like the one in Yugoslavia.
Negrea says that contrary to allegations of conspiracy theories in Moscow, which are many, Russia’s current problems are not the result of sinister plots in foreign capitals.
It’s the result of Putin’s corrupt and repressive policies at home, and revisionism and expansionism abroad.
However, policymakers in the United States and the free world will have to confront three thorny issues.
The first is how to deal with demands for recognition by the Russian republics seeking self-determination.
Second, how to ensure that the 6,000 nuclear weapons are not used during unrest.
Strategist and American political scientist, Matthew Kroenig raised the possibility of Russia experiencing its first nuclear civil war.
And, third, how to deter any Chinese usurpation of land in the resource-rich Siberian region.
The current borders were cemented 160 years ago when a weak China was forced to cede 350,000 square miles of Siberia to a powerful Russia.
Today, the balance of power has reversed, especially with regard to the population in the border region, where six million Russians face 90 million Chinese.
Dan Negrea concluded his report by saying that any new round of secession by the Russian republics may seem far-fetched now.
However, that’s what happened in the first round at the time.
It’s important to prepare policy options for this eventuality.