Staunton, Jan. 27 – In recent months, the Kremlin has made heroes out of the criminals who have gone to fight and die in the ranks of the Wagner PMC out of the belief that poverty in Russia will ensure that a continuing stream of Russians will be willing to follow the same course, Konstantin Eggert says.
“I have no doubt,” the Russian commentator for Deutsche Welle says, “that Putin’s entourage has cynically calculated to use this means not only to support the army in the field but to ‘cleanse’ the country from the criminal element” (dw.com/ru/kommentarij-cvk-vagnera-menaet-i-izmenit-rossijskuu-zizn/a-64533988).
But it is already becoming clear that the costs of this strategy are far higher than the Putin regime recognizes and that they will constitute real threats to the Putin regime itself in large measure because the Wagner PMC is destroying the state’s monopoly on armed force that Yeltsin and then Putin worked so hard to restore.
Moreover, Eggert continues, “today, the heroization of murder for money as a patriotic action has acquired such a scale that profound social consequences are becoming inevitable.” Arms are flowing into Russia from Ukraine at a rate greater than was the case during the Afghan war.
As a result, “in the eyes of the [Russian] people anyone who is armed has the right to that for the government has given an indulgence on that point even to rapists and murderers as long as they fight.” And in so doing, “the state has revealed its weakness” for all to see, including those who are now armed.
As the world has already seen, Eggert continues, the impoverished Russian world is quite prepared to commit serious crimes. Now, increasingly, those crimes are going to be committed inside the Russian Federation itself by criminals who have served in Ukraine and have returned home.
The regime will either have to face the collapse of its authority or be compelled to move in an even more draconian fashion to control society, the commentator suggests. But there is another danger that Eggert does not mention that may prove an even greater threat to the continued rule of Putin and his team.
And it is this: Russia has no tradition of military coups, in large part because the country’s force structures are tightly organized and penetrated by the security services. But if the monopoly on the use of force is lost, then the military may face competitors in the forms of groups like the Wagner PMC.
If that happens, then it is not beyond the realm of possibility that some in the military may be thinking about how best to protect themselves against that threat and even to conclude that they must control the political center in order to do so. If that happens, then the heroization of contract killers will pose the most possible threat to the current regime.