Just How Much Trouble Is Vladimir Putin In?

Fourteen Russia experts on what we learned about Putin over the past few days, and what the attempted mutiny could mean for Russia and the West.

Putin has become careless about brandishing nuclear weapons during the war in Ukraine, even setting out an apocalyptic vision by insisting that a world without Russia is not a world worth having. This extreme language of nuclear Holocaust, whether he believed it or not, was for deterrent effect. He embraced nuclear weapons to keep the United States and its NATO allies off his back and out of his way as he pursued his adventure in Ukraine.

It did not work out that way. The United States and NATO were not ready to fight inside Ukraine, but they were willing to do everything else to support Kyiv’s cause — economic, political, security and military assistance to ensure Russia’s defeat. Nuclear weapons failed Putin as a guarantee against external meddling.

We learned on June 24 that they are no help to him internally, either. He could not brandish nuclear weapons in the face of the Wagner Group uprising. It would have meant national suicide if he had done so — the potential for nuclear weapons to be used on Russian territory in the midst of a burgeoning civil conflict.

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