Russia appeared to lack an effective fighting strategy in the early weeks of the conflict in Ukraine in the winter of 2022 as a series of military commanders struggled to adapt to shifting conditions on the ground.
The situation has been different inside the Kremlin. According to analysts, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have thought through and prepared for the majority of situations that could threaten his unyielding hold on authority, using his frequently underappreciated raw political skill to fend off challengers and make his survival essential to the survival of the state itself.
According to some political analysts, Mr. Putin may be entering a time of unparalleled danger since some on the far-right of Russia may exploit the country’s military defeats in Ukraine as a political weapon to overthrow the president and put an end to his almost two-and-a-half-decade rule.
Yet, Mr. Putin seems to be fully aware of that possibility and, at times, appears to be moving much more quickly than any potential adversary.
For instance, the outspoken criticism of the Kremlin and the war effort by some Russian right-wing figures, including Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Chechen Republic, and Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been widely perceived in the West as evidence of mounting discontent with Mr. Putin and his generals and a potential change in power.
Analysts claim that Mr. Putin, though, thinks he can harness these voices and make them work in his favor. It’s a high-stakes political game for Mr. Putin in which he pits several Russian power centers against one another, thereby ensuring his continued dominance.