On Prigozhin, and Putin's 'power vertical'
“Wagner group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has launched another diatribe against the Russian army. Is he a loose cannon, or a Kremlin puppet?”
I’m still all in the “Kremlin puppet” camp; he still has no power that is independent of the tutelage he receives from the Kremlin. Fundamentally, Prigozhin has no power base that would allow him to run a half-decent coup. He is no alternative to the Kremlin. His role is to delegitimise and scare off any other part of the state system that may have the administrative structure and resources one needs to make a viable coup.
The fact that Putin feels he needs a “loose cannon” such as Prigozhin around to keep him safe from his subordinates is really just telling about how little he trusts his top government officials to remain loyal to him, no matter what.
If Putin really believed in the importance and usefulness of an institutional “power vertical”, as he used to say back in the days, Prigozhin and Wagner would have never existed. Prigozhin’s existence is testament to the fact that Putin perceives a system built around a “power vertical” as a threat to himself.