Analysis of last events in Russia indicates that in Moscow some tectonic shifts are about to happen very soon, and as a result Putin will be removed from power by his closest associates, mainly top-level officials known as "siloviki".
Apparently, Putin indeed is facing serious health issues and might leave us soon. In that regard, a full-scale struggle for power took on momentum inside the Kremlin. Two clans have been formed: Putin and a shrinking group of his supporters on one side, and on the other side – "the successors", represented by high-ranking officers from security, military, or similar services, so called "siloviki".
Now, the two groups are competing for America’s and Uncle Sam's understanding trying to frame in and compromise the rivaling group. This is a tradition that is rooted in August 1991. From those times on, every change in the highest Russian power had been previously discussed in Washington, including the choice of Putin as Yeltsin’s successor. On this background "the successors" group is visibly trying to ditch Putin. Let me demonstrate just few recent examples.
Knife in Putin’s back #1. In early March Russia defiantly ruined the deal with OPEC that was meant to limit oil production though catastrophic consequences of such a move were clear even for an idiot. Consequently, a colossal blow landed on the country’s important interests. When things like that happen and the first person is responsible for it, in other countries someone from entourage normally takes the blame. It was the case, for example, when several people went to jail to shield US President Richard Nixon during Watergate scandal. It was the case during Iran–Contra affair when at least two White House employees were convicted saving President Reagan.
After OPEC deal failure there were attempts in Russia to find a scapegoat, some media pointed a finger at Igor Sechin of Rosneft. He is so odious that it was safe to assume everyone would believe he was guilty. However, in a short while a thesis was made public with direct references to sources in Kremlin that Putin himself was to blame for the blatant idiocy. In other words, Putin was designated as a scapegoat to protect Sechin’s reputation. It was a daring move unimaginable a couple of months earlier.
Knife in Putin’s back #2. Realizing that he’s being dumped Putin rushes to get Trump’s help. In course of last two weeks, he had four telephone conversations with the White House incumbent. Leaks from US administration suggest that Putin asked Trump to dispose of sanctions and to influence oil prices. In fact, it was a cry for help. Simultaneously, Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs as yet still loyal to Putin, tried to push UN resolution dissolving sanctions against Russia in face of global humanitarian and economic crisis.
At the same time, Russian trolls kept polluting internet with accusations that it was America who had developed the coronavirus. There is an axiom in America that the person behind the trolls is "Putin’s cook" Yevgeny Prigozhin. According to Russian Wikipedia he is also a convicted criminal who spent nine years behind the bars for robbery, fraud, theft and involving minors in prostitution. Anyway, some media reported citing intelligence services sources that the "Troll Factory" in fact is a shell structure covering up GRU activities. It means that one of the persons closest to Putin and one of his favorite services, notoriously known for their admiration for "Salisbury spire", undermined his efforts to get Trump’s support and his minister’s attempts to get rid of the sanctions through the United Nations resolution.
Knife in Putin’s back #3. Kirill Dmitriev, a person close to Putin’s family, CEO of Russian fund for direct investments, in his program article for CNBC appeals to America: we have a lot in common; our grandfathers fought shoulder-to-shoulder for the same values; the time has come to form tight Russian-American partnership to act jointly against coronavirus outbreak and inevitable global economic recession. Well, it’s almost like "Elbe Day" for Putin and Trump.
And just at the same time GRU trolls under "criminal cook" company disguise spread the allegations that the USA created COVID-19 as biological weapon.
The allegations got support from Mikhail Kovalchuk. He and his brother are part of Putin’s inner circle. The Kovalchuks originated from Ozero dacha cooperative, and rose to one of the richest Russian families all thanks to Putin. He personally allowed them and their bank "Rossia" to loot state-owned Gazprom assets amounted to about $60 bln dollars. Boris Nemtsov described the affair in details in his special investigation papers. That money were partly used to create the largest media empire in the country. Its main purpose until recently was to immortalize Putin’s tenure in power until his death time.
Now, all of a sudden, Kovalchuk joins "the Cook" and GRU in their efforts to prevent Putin from getting a deal from Trump. On April 10, immediately after Dmitriev's article for CNBC release, Novye Izvestia newspaper printed a Kovalchuk’s article where he heatedly accused the USA for "keeping pushing us" and "not even letting us to save face". In order to resist this "unhuman" way, according to him, Russia and China had united, and had combined "military and political might" of Russia with economic potential of China.
Seemingly, now the despicable Yankees would meet their long anticipated end. But "pay attention – the virus popped up on such a background" Kovalchuk shrewdly notices. The following clarifications are meant to lead readers to the conclusion that the Americans had created coronavirus in order to "reduce population" all over the world. Than monstrous Americans, using "incubator" and "artificial womb" would replace humans with human-functions.
What about those sanctions Putin is eager to get rid of? Kovalchuk reckons they must not be lifted off because "we all have just perked up under the sanctions".
When reading this stream of consciousness people in Washington obviously realize that it was written not by a high school dropout but by the most prominent intellectual in Putin’s entourage who controls whole Kremlin propaganda machine. And if Kovalchuk’s article jeopardizes Putin intention to secure Trump’s support and lift off sanctions, than it means there is profound schism in once monolith Putin’s "politburo".
Knife in Putin’s back #4. In some cases, "the successors" land crushing punches on Putin. In particular, one of "kremlin leaks" reported that Putin had offered Trump an unprecedented help in forthcoming electoral campaign. Russian intelligence services would produce through Ukraine some "deadly incriminating evidences" against Biden. In response, Trump would drop off the sanctions and paralyze Pentagon for five days this summer to allow Putin to take over one of the Baltic States, Ukraine and Belarus.
It is hard to imagine any worse accusation against Trump and Putin. Not so long ago Special Counsel for the Department of Justice Robert Muller had not find direct evidences of collusion between Trump and Putins’ people during previous presidential election. As a result, Trump was not removed from the office. Now, Trump’s opponents are getting a royal gift. They are informed that right now Putin is drawing Trump in a collusion where he would have to commit a treason to be reelected.
It is also a heavy blow for Putin. If he really offered Trump those things, it is time for the USA to investigate and prosecute him as an accomplice in conspiracy. And, to return to the topic of the nature of his unconventional relationship with Trump.
In general, recent revelations "from Kremlin" are so monstrous that they made me ask myself maybe people in Kremlin had fell victims of a special coronavirus strain that targets human brain, resulting in damage inside heads due to chaos in the highest echelon of power in Russia.
Knife in Putin’s back #5. Telephone call between the Kremlin and the White House is very serious event. It is meticulously prepared and preparations take considerable time. Putin having four conversations with Trump during two weeks demonstrates that it is his utmost priority and he devotes all his time to it. And, while Putin is on the phone with Trump almost simultaneously Russian Ministry of Defense conducts anti-satellite missile test, and Russian Su-35 airplane executes a dangerous "interception" maneuver of a US P-8 surveillance plane in international airspace over Mediterranean sea.
It is useful to remember that it was iron rule in Soviet Special Forces to cease all and every even remotely sensitive operations before direct highest contacts between the Kremlin and the White House. Everything was done to protect international politic initiatives of the state administration. From this point of view, the actions of Minister Shoigu people such as an "interception" maneuver and an anti-satellite missile test should be interpreted as an attempt to stop Putin from making a deal with Trump and to bury Foreign Affairs Minister efforts in the UN.
Therefore, it appears that not only Kovalchuk, favorite "criminal cook", GRU, but also Shoygu stabs "the National Leader" in the back. And makes it in a defiant manner. One can exclaim "Et tu, Brute Kuzhugetovich?".
Meanwhile, "the successors" take rapid actions aimed to switch public attention to unimportant subject and away from the main topic: a fight for power. On the other hand, they dramatize the situation and push their bluff up to the red line in order to be able to get honorable capitulation in face of Washington instead of full and unconditional one.
One of manifistations of this campaign is constant replication of idea that there are some mysterious "messiahs" inside Kremlin who are still planning to conquer the Baltic States, Ukraine and Belarus. But those Napoleonic plans faint like a balloon in real time. Recently they were talking about preparedness for a limited nuclear war in Europe. Now it’s deflated to some murky blitzkrieg with help of Russian virologists. But on the background of global pandemic in progress and rather apocalyptic prospects of Russian economy even those plans look so inadequate that it is hard to make any comment. Just some brief remarks.
Kremlin-spread thesis about "messiahs" has a practical meaning if people in Kremlin are planning to surrender to Uncle Sam. Indeed, there are totally different perspectives when you are turning yourself in as thief, drug courier and murderer, and when you are impersonating Napoleon (Messiah). In the first case, you are looking at imprisonment for life; in the second one, you might be able to negotiate an honorable capitulation with the preservation of capital.
In fact, "messiahs" in Kremlin is rather old and raw fiction dating back to the Khruschev’s time. In popular perception messiah is sent from above to the people in critical situation to lead them to salvation. Now Russia faces a critical situation, and the people crave someone to save them. Where is he? All "messiahs" are hiding in bunkers. They are very capable and skilled in budget looting or privatizing great victories of the past they have nothing to do with. However, when the time comes to show some real courage, leadership and intelligence they disappear like morning dew. It is all we need to know about "messiahs" in Kremlin. There is none. Kleptocracy and Messianism are incompatible. This is the axiom of political life in Russia.
Military and political plans of mythical Kremlin "messiahs" announced for this summer reminds us of Hitler’s last days fantasies in his bunker about General Wenck and his army fighting back Soviet troops away from Berlin. Fortunately, those fantasies crash when they collide with an elementary logic.
Armed operation against Baltic countries (NATO members) and Ukraine has to be unexpected to succeed. Plans must be secret. If the plans really exist than after the very first leak people responsible for it must have been arrested for treason or at least for defamation. If one leak follows another with tiring regularity and the FSB does not mind it than we are looking at a low quality disinformation. And the only rational explanation of these leaks in my opinion is intention to show that Putin had lost his mind and needs to be removed from power, as well as to try to demand more favorable conditions for surrender to the USA.
Curiously enough, one of a source for "Kremlin leaks", Professor Valery Solovei, last year was spotted as an author for The National Interest, a media known for its long history of assisting Russian Special Forces activities in the USA. Its founder Dimitri Simes has close connections with KGB/FSB community.
For instance, The National Interest was the only US media to advertise the Institute for democracy led by Andranik Migranyan and to promote Maria Butina who was later convicted for acting as an unregistered Russia’s foreign agent in the USA.
Considering modus operandi of Russian Special Forces, it is safe to consider recent leaks "from Kremlin" about "messiahs" to be the FSB’s active measures. For almost 30 years, Mr. Simes threatened Americans with devastating war with the USSR and then Russia. Now, Valery Solovei took the flag from his weakening hands.
Judging by the development of the situation, Putin might be removed from power reasonably soon. Exact timing depends on many factors including the pandemic, oil prices, and consequently state of economy and speed of impoverishment of population of Russia.
Moreover, there are certain intelligence signs that hint that the Day X is approaching. One of the main signs is significant financial resources flight from Russia.
We know from the experience that it occurs two to three months before the decisive events. It was that way before the failed coup of August 1991, and on the eve of Russian presidential election of 1996 when Yeltsin appeared to have no chance according to public opinion measurements. People acted in the same manner before first Putin election, and temporary transfer of power to Dmitry Medvedev in 2008. It is almost an axiom: before any serious changes in the Kremlin clandestine evacuation of gold and currency reserves from Russia occurs.
There were at least two examples in recent past. In January-February 2020 Russia significantly increased its investments in US government bonds, that were pompously sold in 2018 due to "strategic" considerations.
In January-February volume of gold transported from Russia multiplied by seven times. Ingots are even sent in a baggage by regular flights. On March 26, the golden ingots were sent from Moscow to London packed in 40 containers, total weight more than one ton and worth more than 2 billion rubles. Media reported that the owner was a private citizen but the name was not made public. Let me assure you that if this gold was moved without FSB approval its owner would be already arrested and his name was widely mentioned in reports on brilliant anti-smuggling operation that saved Russia’s golden reserve.
Even if we would assume that increased volumes of gold might have been exchanged for currency badly needed for fighting pandemic and recession, even than purchasing of US bonds for American dollars remains unexplainable in current situation.
By the way, both transaction were uncovered accidentally. The first one had appeared in routine US Treasury report. The second one because of one of the containers got broken and a couple of golden ingots have fallen out onto Sheremetyevo International Airport floor. We could safely assume that many more episodes of bullion and currency gotten transferred out of Russia remain unknown to the public.
Other telltales that suggest an approaching of tectonic shifts in the Kremlin are following:
– "unexpected" exposure of Russian agents in the West. In this regard it is worth to pay attention to the recent arrest of SBU General Shaytanov who allegedly had worked for Russian secret service. This operation was made possible by disclosure of agents network and FSB operations in several European countries based most probably on the information received by the CIA from Moscow. Let me remind you how in the autumn of 1991 Russians exposed to Americans the most valueable KGB agents in the USA;
– it is possible that in different corners of the world some people with relations to Russia might mysteriously die. Most probably it might happen to agents involved in money laundering, and persons responsible for secret cash boxes, so called "obschaks" that were created by Putin and his cronies all over the world. Some of that people might prefer to turn themselves in to the US officials and apply for witness protection program;
– private jets flights from Russia, especially when air transport virtually ceased to operate due to coronavirus. MBK Media reports that in February and March planes of people close to Putin left the country more than 20 times. Additional attention should be paid to two trips to Chicago and Seattle made by Sergey Chemezov, who is close to Putin since they worked together in Dresden; recent Helsinki flight of Gulfstream G650 owned by ex-Vice-Premier-Minister Igor Shuvalov; and 11 (sic!) flights of an aircraft that is in disposal of Dmitry Medvedev’s family;
– Russian Special Forces will intensify its active measures. One of them undoubtedly is promotion in imformation environment thesis of forthcoming takeover of Ukraine and possibly Baltic states by Kremlin "messiahs";
– statements and behavior of Russian top officials will be changed reflecting the shifts in the configuration of forces in the Kremlin. Overall, I have a feeling that Putin is hiding in his bunker surrounded by the most loyal guards not so much from coronavirus but mostly to avoid chemical agents like Novichok in all of their variety.
And now, briefly about what should be done outside Mordor:
1. Pentagon should boost the process of creating nuclear rapid deployment forces. In order to do so modernization of BGM-109 missiles should be completed and they should be adopted by the US Navy Corps. Nothing clears minds of Kremlin inhabitants better than realization that the Kremlin is within 10 minutes flight of a foreign missile.
By the way, restoration of the Kremlin adequacy will also benefit the Russian people. At least their bosses will drop their geopolitical show-off games and get busy with real problems namely economy.
2. Ukraine should employ some Javelins and conduct one or two military trainings. It must have some pacifying effect on the Kremlin strategists.
3. More than that, let's make a notice: in Kremlin they are saying almost openly that they have agents in Ukrainian establishment ready to, following the command from Moscow, betray and call for agressor’s military invasion in Ukraine. They underline in support of this message that Ukrainian high officials act in a manner suitable for Kremlin, at least since the notorious visit to Oman.
Keeping this in mind, I would like President Zelensky and his closest foreign policy advisers to realize two basic things:
– There is no merit in building human relationship with a rat boxed in a corner. It might result in emigration to Rostov, and even that is not guaranteed.
– it is time order SBU to take up its direct duty – to identify and to neutralize Russian agents in Ukrainian political establishment. But with this request, I guess, one rather contacts CIA, FBI or MI6.