Vladimir Putin’s system is built on risk-averse loyalty and needs informal actors who can compensate for the inefficiency of official actors and partially satisfy the regime’s ambitious geopolitical visions.
In Prigozhin’s mutiny, the same factors that had protected the regime’s integrity and deepening autocracy turned out to be vulnerabilities. The elimination of Prigozhin does not resolve this structural weakness but only shifts the problem elsewhere.
Private military company (PMC) Wagner operated in Ukraine as an autonomous unit of the Russian army with more discretion on the ground and certain organizational advantages. However, PMCs should not be seen as private armies, but as extensions of the bureaucratic army or attempts to produce “pockets of efficiency”.
The decentralization of armed groups weakens their ability to act against the political leadership. At the same time, this can be a ticking time bomb that critically weakens the state’s monopoly on violence.