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Shades of 1917 in the Russo-Ukrainian War: The Coming Coup to Remove Putin

by Col. Mike Ford, US Army (Retired)

Putin at the Kremlin
Putin is being surrounded by enemies at the Kremlin.

There is an ongoing coup in Russia to remove Putin; an active attempt to topple him. Wait! What did he just say? While the "coup" appears to have died aborning, that's not the end of the story.

The real story is it’s starting to look a lot like 1917 in today’s Russia and the Ukraine-Russia War. However, I do not believe we are taking that seriously enough. The last time things got this bad in Russia, we ended up with a little thing called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

For a brief moment, the legacy media and pundit class were breathlessly anticipating a coup in Russia which would result in Vladimir Putin being deposed.

Over a day, Yevgeny Prigozhin the head of the Wagner Group — a paramilitary organization for hire and arguably the only effective force the Russians have engaged in Ukraine — had a public spat with his nominal boss, the Russian Defense Ministry, began a march on Moscow, ostensibly to topple the government and finally, agreed to a negotiated settlement with Putin that would see Prigozhin exiled to Belarus.

As reported over at Red State by my good friend Streiff:

Earlier on Friday, Wagner Group PMC chieftain Yevgeny Prigozhin accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei “the Plywood Marshall” Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov of deliberately sabotaging the Russian war effort. Prigozhin referred a criminal complaint to the Investigative Committee of Russia, demanding on his Telegram channel that Shoigu and Gerasimov “must be held responsible for the genocide of the Russian people, the murder of tens of thousands of Russian citizens and the transfer of Russian territories to the enemy. Moreover, the transfer is deliberate, just like the murder of Russian citizens and genocide. Shoigu has a genocide on a national basis.

Streiff followed this until the end, or at least until this event came off the front page and was ultimately ignored by the chattering class.

So, is it over? What happens next?

I had this discussion with David Webb** on his Monday show, where I proffered that although this was a one-day event, we aren’t taking its potential fallout seriously enough. Webb responded that no-one really knows what’s next or how this all plays out. I agree and wouldn’t presume to predict the end state.

However, I remain convinced that this is far more dangerous than it appears at first blush.

What got my head meandering down that particular path was something Streiff and I had been discussing on and off since President Biden practically invited Vladimir Putin to have his way with Ukraine. In Streiff’s own words to me and from the article Putin Surfaces… above:

Over the past 16 months, I’ve repeatedly said that Putin’s goal is not reestablishing the USSR with its Potemkin Soviet Socialist Republics. He wants to bring back the Russian Empire of Nicholas II.

Think about that for a second. Putin wants to be the new "Tsar of Russia". Let’s explore what that meant back in 1917.

During the reign of Nicholas II, the Russian people were starving, and an entire generation of young men was being slaughtered in a war that from the point of view of the average Russian, did nothing but serve the ego of their despot.

The fortunes of war may have improved, but the fact of war remained which continually took Russian lives. The crisis in morale (as was argued by Allan Wildman, a leading historian of the Russian army in war and revolution) "was rooted fundamentally in the feeling of utter despair that the slaughter would ever end and that anything resembling victory could be achieved."

Utter despair that the slaughter would ever end and did their monarch care? Some have opined that Tsar Nicholas,

"fell back on personal favorites, whim, simple mulishness, and other devices of the empty-headed autocrat ... when a telegram was brought to him announcing the annihilation of the Russian fleet at Tsushima, he read it, stuffed it in his pocket, and went on playing tennis.”

Nicholas II, Russian Revolution, Russia, 1917
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his children pose with the elite Cossack warriors. The (Credit: Use allowed with attribution to the Romanov Collection, General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.)

Although the above cited an incident from an earlier conflict, the Russo-Japanese war, it almost certainly demonstrated an attitude toward his subjects that held them to be of little to no value. His callous disregard finally became so widely known by those same subjects that they not only deposed him, but they also murdered him, and his entire family.

Let’s fast forward to 2023 and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Recall that Putin wants to be Tsar, and by most accounts he is walking the same path that the last one did. He has established himself as an autocrat with little to no check on his power from within his own system. He surrounds himself with a select group of cronies that help keep him in power and of course are financially rewarded for doing so.

That state of affairs could have gone on for some time. The Russian economy was being helped by absurd energy decision by the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and although no bed of roses, the level of personal pain in Russia was certainly not enough to foment a popular uprising.

Then Vladimir Putin made a huge error in judgement worthy of Nicholas II. On his own accord, he started a war of choice with a neighbor that was absolutely no threat. And like his predecessor, he badly misjudged things. Putin’s troops are now in month 16 of a projected 2-week “special operation.” The Russian military has burned through most of its top tier equipment and is now pulling T-55 tanks out of mothballs.

For context, when I was first commissioned back in 1980, T-55’s were in the process of being replaced by T-62’s, which have since been replaced by T-72’s.

The same thing is happening to its ground forces. Top tier units have been decimated. The Russian reserves are nowhere near the standard in the American Army, which requires regular training of both individuals and units. Russian reserves are merely individuals who have served their initial active duty commitment and are now on a list. When they’ve been called up, they are issued little equipment, receive almost no refresher training and in some cases become dead, wounded and/or captured within 3 days of reporting for duty. The only effective ground force the Russian military has (had) is the Wagner Group.

When their boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin ordered a march on Moscow, that had to have rattled Putin. The word of regular Russian military units cooperating with the Wagner forces likely didn’t help his state of mind either.

Here’s the part being overlooked: remember the horrific Russian casualties in the Russo-Japanese War and in World War I? Remember the visceral anger of the Russian populace? I think that same level of anger has to be growing in Putin’s Russia. The government is being cagey with casualty reports. However, social media is getting around that. Some Russian men are refusing to report for service and as I mentioned above, those that do are being killed, wounded or captured in inordinate numbers. That word is getting out.

How long will it be before the pot boils over? How long before the Russian populace gets to the point of utter despair that the slaughter would ever end? That's for somebody smarter than I to figure out.

My only point to this screed, is that it’s all well and good to advocate for regime change in Russia. How that happens and under what circumstances is important.

But what follows the Putin regime is even more important. The last time the Russian people were angry enough to depose a despot, not only did they kill him and his family, but they also birthed the evil empire known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

As Max taught in one of his recent civics' seminars Socialism v Capitalism, we fought a long Cold War with a totalitarian monstrosity foisted upon the world by such circumstances that we see being played out now in Russia. We must be careful what we wish for, because we may get it.

* Streiff does a weekly analysis of the Ukraine conflict. He does it better than any of the talking heads you see on cable.

**David Webb is on Sirius XM, Channel 125, M-F, 9-Noon

***Tuchman, Barbara W. The Guns of August. New York: Presidio Press, 1962, p. 71.

COL(R) Mike Ford
Col. Mike Ford, Iraq , March 2003.

Col. Mike Ford is a retired Infantry Officer. He has served in Europe, Central America and in Southwest Asia, Commanding at the Detachment, Company, Battalion and Brigade Levels. He served as a Deputy Sheriff in South Florida for 10 Years. In a brief foray into the private sector, he was a Product Line Manager, specializing in special operations applications. Ford has been a contributor for American Thinker, Canada Free Press, the Gateway Pundit and Red State. He is currently the Managing Editor of American Free News Network,a 501(c)(3). You can find more of his work and that of other great writers there. In 2023, he joined Max's Brigade, operating in the shadows.

US Army Bird Col Insignia

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