The setbacks for the Russian army in Ukraine are now causing a lot of arguments between Putin supporters: the military, hardliners and propagandists disagree on how the war strategy should be optimized. According to experts, this could also damage Putin's power base.
After the military failures in Lyman and Kharkiv and the chaotic mobilization, a power struggle has apparently broken out among the Russian military, hardliners and propagandists. According to the US think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian President Vladimir Putin has avoided taking sides with good reason. According to the experts, the Kremlin boss is in a dilemma. He cannot alienate any of the groups without endangering his power base.
As the ISW reports, there are now three camps: on the one hand, the hardliners of the siloviki group around the Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov and the head of the Wagner mercenaries, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who are primarily responsible for the military leadership around General Alexander Lapin for the defeat in Lyman make. Second, the military establishment around Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, which forms the institutionalized basis for the continuation of the war. And thirdly, the milbloggers who are banging the Russian public for war.
While siloviki and the majority of milbloggers are calling for more radical warfare, experts say, military officials and war veterans are pushing for a reorganization of the military command and Department of Defense towards a more conventional and traditional war base. However, Putin cannot afford to strip the leadership of Shoigu of the powers - without risking that the military will turn against him. At the same time, he doesn't want to alienate the hardliners because he needs the "Kadyrovites" and the Wagner mercenaries to fight in the Ukraine.
This fragmentation among Putin supporters could "have domestic political implications and even affect the stability of Putin's regime," the experts write. "Putin will not be able to meet the mutually exclusive demands of the various groups." This is one of the reasons why the Kremlin is currently trying to shift responsibility for the defeat in Lyman onto the command of the western military district and Colonel-General Alexander Zhuravlev, who has already been deposed. Zhuravlev is said to have already been replaced by Roman Berdnikov.
Russian milbloggers defended the commanders appointed by the Kremlin and defended Lapin against Kadyrov's attacks, ISW reports. But even in this influential community, there is now disagreement about the right war strategy. "Milbloggers have begun to increasingly question each other's military credentials in order to make recommendations for the Russian armed forces," the experts said. However, the focus of their criticism is still the Ministry of Defense - i.e. the political decision-makers.
"Putin cannot afford to lose the support of any of these groups, nor can he please them all while the war rages on and Russian troops continue to suffer casualties," the ISW summarizes its report. The cracks within Putin's circle of supporters are now open to all Russians. It cannot be ruled out that some people will get the impression that Putin no longer has his own base completely under control - "with consequences for his regime that are difficult to predict," according to the experts.