How Long Before Putin’s Plane Gets Shot Down?

Written by Jason Simpkins
Posted August 25, 2023

Tyrannical, autocratic regimes are always paranoid about external forces jeopardizing their grip on power…

But more often than not, they collapse from within. 

And increasingly, it looks like that’s going to be the case for Russia.

For decades now, Vladimir Putin has blamed the United States for everything. 

It’s in his DNA as a former KGB agent. It’s why he constantly threatens us with nuclear annihilation, meddles in our elections, floods our country with propaganda, and leverages dark-money donations to influence politicians and media personalities. 

The “encroachment” of NATO was supposedly his rationale for invading Ukraine… or at least it was until he claimed it was to “de-Nazify” the former-Soviet satellite state.

In truth, though, Putin invaded Ukraine because he’s determined to expand Russia’s borders. He fancies himself a conqueror in the mold of Peter the Great. 

Of course, he’s not. 

He’s a thug. He’s a thug who’s surrounded himself with other, weaker thugs who are easy to manipulate, dispatch, and, ultimately, replace.

And that’s what brings us to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the now deceased head of the Wagner military group — a man who was once so close to the Russian leader he was called “Putin’s chef.” 

Prigozhin was so close to Putin he reportedly considered himself untouchable. 

I guess that’s why he felt comfortable going back to business after calling off his mutiny mid-mission when everyone else on the planet knew this would be his fate. 

Just about everyone saw this coming. We all knew it was going to happen except him, apparently. 

Regardless, the question now is what happens next.

In the wake of the mutiny, Wagner was largely disassembled and scattered to the wind literally, since its operations commander Dmitry Utkin and other senior members of the group were also on Prigozhin’s plane. (Not a ride I would have taken!)

However, most of its rank-and-file members are still out there... and they’re pissed. They were already angry at the way the war with Ukraine was being conducted, and now Putin has assassinated their beloved leader.

“There’s a lot of talk right now about what the Wagner group will do,” a group of masked men claiming to be mercenaries warned in a video posted on Russian Telegram channels. “We can tell you one thing: We are getting started get ready for us.” 

Wagner is extremely active in Africa where it’s been propping up dictators in Syria, Mali, the Central African Republic, and Libya in exchange for lucrative mining rights. 

The commanders of those operations will likely stay put, but it’ll be interesting to see how they get along with their new boss once one is appointed, that is. 

They’ll probably fall in line, but they could also be less effective, less responsive, and less profitable for a Kremlin puppet. They may also go rogue and break away from Russia’s political structure entirely. It would be a lot harder to corral and penalize them for that on foreign soil.

Meanwhile, there are about 8,000 Wagner troops camping out in Belarus. Again, they could simply fall in line and be reabsorbed into other parts of Russia’s military... 

Or they could defect. Even if they don’t switch sides to fight with Ukraine outright, they could turn over valuable intelligence. 

Domestic terrorism is another option. Bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, it’s all on the table especially since the Wagner mercenaries are among the best trained soldiers Russia has to offer.

And that’s to say nothing of standard Russian grunts, who are being proffered up as cannon fodder for Ukrainian artillery on a daily basis, or the broader public that is increasingly weary of this war and the body count and economic sanctions that it’s wrought.

As I’ve said in the past, this is not a popular war inside of Russia. 

On the contrary, it’s extremely unpopular. It's just not easy to see that through the depths of Kremlin censorship.

Anti-war protests were quelled quickly and violently early on. In the wake of the Wagner rebellion, even conservative hard-line criticisms are now being suppressed.

But Russia is failing, and, like Prigozhin’s fate, it’s plain to everyone.

Many observers have been critical of the sluggishness of the belabored Ukrainian counteroffensive these past few months, but the Russian counteroffensive came and went without anyone even noticing this past spring. 

And while the heavily fortified front line has been tough sledding for the Ukrainians, they’re continuing to chip away with a steady supply of Western weapons F-16s from Denmark and the Netherlands the latest.

Meanwhile, Russia’s so desperate to boost its stagnant economy and claim Pyrrhic victories that it’s busied itself by bombing grain ports.

That will certainly subdue the world’s poor and hungry, but it won’t do much to mitigate Ukrainian artillery and drone attacks targeting Moscow and Crimea.

No doubt, progress has been slow for Ukraine, but it’s coming... and that’s more than you can say for Russia. 

So while the immediate mainstream analysis is that Prigozhin’s killing makes Putin stronger, that this is him reasserting control…

I don’t see it that way.

To me, it’s just another symptom of Russia’s dysfunction and a testament to Putin’s own failure, not his strength.

Prigozhin headed one of Russia’s most capable military units the only group of soldiers that’s taken any significant territory in the past year and the muscle behind Russia’s covert actions in Africa.

Now he’s dead, and the fate of Wagner as a whole is up in the air.

Worse than that, Prigozhin has been made a martyr.

His military success and willingness to stand up to the Kremlin made him an extremely popular figure not just within Wagner but also among rank-and-file soldiers and the Russian people. 

Killing him won’t win the war in Ukraine or prevent an outright loss. 

If anything, it makes the former less likely and the latter more plausible.

Indeed, a year from now, we could be looking back at this event as the moment Putin really lost control. 

And it may be his plane that mysteriously gets shot out of the sky. 

In the meantime, this war is destined to drag on, bringing a battalion of blank checks for military spending along with it.

So sign up for Secret Stock Files if you want to get the latest investments on advanced military tech.

Fight on,

Jason Simpkins Signature

Jason Simpkins

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Jason Simpkins is Assistant Managing Editor of the Outsider Club and Investment Director of Wall Street's Proving Ground, a financial advisory focused on security companies and defense contractors. For more on Jason, check out his editor's page. 

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