Putin's Grip On Power

 Authored by Andrew Korybko via The Automatic Earth blog,

It was earlier advised to “Be Very Skeptical Of US Intel Claiming That Surovikin May Have Helped Plan Prigozhin’s Coup”, and now two new developments lend even more credence to those suspicions.

The “investigative project” of exiled oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was designated by Russia as a foreign agent last year due to his operations being funded by Ukraine, shared “documents” with CNN purporting to show that over 30 senior military and intelligence officials are secretly VIP Wagner members.

The outlet reported on these alleged findings around the same time that they published former Vice President Mike Pence’s answer to the question that one of their journalists asked him during his unannounced visit to Kiev regarding his opinion of whether or not President Putin has full command of his military. He claimed that this is an “open question” in light of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s failed coup attempt last weekend, thus suggesting that Russian leader is struggling to exert his authority.

These two back-to-back news items were intended to leave their audience with the impression that the President Putin remains at risk of being overthrown by his armed forces, which is nothing but an artificially manufactured information warfare narrative designed to sow doubts about his leadership.

It simultaneously attempts to influence him and his circle into carrying out large-scale purges that could adversely affect the special operation while also making the public think that he’s weak if he doesn’t.

The New York Times earlier admitted that “American officials have an interest in pushing out information that undermines the standing of General Surovikin, whom they view as more competent and more ruthless than other members of the command. His removal would undoubtedly benefit Ukraine, whose Western-backed troops are pushing a new counteroffensive that is meant to try to win back territory seized by Moscow.” It’s with this motivation in mind that the latest reports should be interpreted.

No honest observer on either side of the debate really thinks that an exiled Ukrainian-funded oligarch and one of the US’ previously most powerful neoconservatives have President Putin’s best interests in mind when suggesting that he’s at risk of being overthrown if he doesn’t purge the Russian military. To the contrary, the only reason why these insincerely expressed concerns were publicly shared and then amplified by one of the world’s top Mainstream Media (MSM) outlets was for subversive purposes.

What’s curious to note is that the MSM and their putative competitors in the Alt-Media Community (AMC) are each aggressively pushing weaponized conspiracy theories to their respective audiences in the aftermath of recent events. The first wants folks to think that last weekend’s regime change plot involved high-level military-intelligence collaborators who might soon give it a second shot out of desperation to preempt their supposedly impending purge if President Putin doesn’t remove them first.

At the same time, top influencers in the second have suggested that President Putin colluded with Prigozhin to stage a so-called “false flag coup” to redeploy Wagner to Belarus and/or expose internal enemies, thus implying that he ordered that group’s chief to shoot down Russian pilots. It’s unclear whether those who propagate this totally ridiculous theory actually believe it, but this baseless innuendo is nevertheless anti-Russian to the core by hinting that its leader therefore committed treason too.

The reality is that Western intelligence agencies masterfully manipulated Prigozhin’s rivalry with the Defense Ministry, the paranoia that this provoked, and his delusions of grandeur after Wagner led Russia to victory in the Battle of Artyomovsk to plant the seeds in his mind for carrying out a coup.

He therefore functioned as the West’s most potentially destabilizing “useful idiot” in history who risked sparking a civil war that was only narrowly averted at the last minute as was explained here and here.

While it’s possible that senior military-intelligence officials are VIP Wagner members, that can’t be known for sure until the FSB’s investigation concludes, which might even determine that there’s truth to this claim whether in whole or in part but that it isn’t evidence of a deeper and more serious plot. In any case, the speculation of those Ukrainian-backed and US figures like Khodorkovsky and Pence respectively should be seen as meddling since they don’t have innocent intentions in talking about this.

They only want to manipulate the public’s perceptions of President Putin and the state of affairs in Russia, which their MSM allies like CNN are helping them do by maximally amplifying their messages. Likewise, those in the AMC who spew anti-Russian conspiracy theories about Prigozhin’s failed coup attempt such as suggesting that President Putin was in on it and thus colluded to have his own country’s pilots shot down by Wagner are also scheming to manipulate the public, albeit a different segment.

Taken together, they represent complementary efforts of the same destabilization operation that’s actively underway in the aftermath of last weekend’s events, which aims to manipulate perceptions among the MSM’s and AMC’s audiences alike about what recently took place. These weaponized conspiracy theories are being deployed to discredit President Putin, his government, and the Russian security services in the minds of their targets, and those who launder them are these three’s enemies.

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