Carol J. Williams is a retired foreign correspondent with 30 years' reporting abroad for the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press. She has reported from more than 80 countries, with a focus on USSR/Russia and Eastern Europe.
The Kremlin leader has burned through Russia’s arsenal of sophisticated missiles in the 18 months since he launched his “special military operation” to conquer Ukraine. He now must rely on barter with impoverished Soviet-era allies to resupply his stalled war machine.
The new arms race threatens to end as did the old one more than three decades ago. Russian prioritizing of government investment in war-fighting capability over the needs of its population will end with the economic collapse of a state that can no longer afford to keep pace. The demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 was the result of Communist hubris that bankrupted the federation in its failed bid to out-power the United States.
Punishing the Russian invasion’s more effective commanders for speaking truth to power is unlikely to reverse the damage Prigozhin’s mutiny inflicted on Putin’s posture as the strongest Russian leader since Peter the Great.
“Vilnius has been a summit for implementation for the NATO of tomorrow,” the leaders’ statement proclaims. “A new generation of regional defense plans has been put in place, making the Alliance more capable to deter and defend itself than in recent decades.”
Prigozhin’s drive toward the Russian capital — in his words a “march for justice” with unspecified intentions — reached to within 120 miles of Moscow before the surprise announcement late Saturday that a retreat had been brokered by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.
The Pyrrhic victory of taking the destroyed city of Bakhmut after nine months of bloody attrition has emboldened the bombastic mercenary chief to crow about his forces coming to Putin’s rescue in the stumbling 15-month-old invasion.
Putin’s failure to take Bakhmut after eight months of stalemated combat and casualties in the tens of thousands dealt an embarrassing blow to the Kremlin leader during last week’s WWII Victory Day celebrations.