Instability caused by the failed Wagner group rebellion could lead to a “collapse in morale” or even a mutiny among the Russian military that could change the course of the Ukraine war, a former MI6 boss has said.
Sir Alex Younger said that despite successes on the battlefield achieved by the Ukrainians last year, they are not expected to make a breakthrough just yet that would see them driving troops back into Russia.
However, he adds that after Wagner group mercenaries turned on Russian military brass last week and sent a convoy within 200km of Moscow before calling the insurrection off – the picture could easily change.
“A lot of this is about psychology. For one thing, what would change what I’ve said is a collapse in morale of the Russian army more broadly or a mutiny,” Younger told ITV’s Peston show.
“And that’s a possibility now they’ve seen this fiasco unfolding behind them.”
Ex-MI6 Chief Anticipates New Mutiny as Morale Crumbles
Younger said that because Russian leader Vladimir Putin hasn’t had to divert many troops back to Moscow to defend the capital, the balance on the Ukrainian frontlines has mostly stayed the same this year.
However, he said Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s uprising – even if it was called off – has resulted in “a significant weakening of Putin’s authority”, which could change the direction of the conflict.
“Everybody comes out of this weaker, and Putin in particular. He created this situation by creating a whole set of rival gangs within the security infrastructure,” Younger told journalist Robert Peston.
“He kicked the Prigozhin can down the road, even as Prigozhin made it super clear – more or less – what he was going to do.
“And then on the day, on the morning, threatening bloodthirsty vengeance against traitors and then doing a deal by the afternoon, so he’s been revealed to his people, for what he is, by the way, as a vacillator incapable of big decisions.”
Former MI6 Chief Foresees Potential Mutiny in Russia Amidst Low Morale
Head of the British intelligence service MI6 Richard Moore said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had thus far suffered a “strategic defeat” in Ukraine, failing to achieve any of what Moore described as three key objectives — removing Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy from power, taking control of the country’s capital, Kyiv, and sowing disunity within NATO.
“On all those,” he said, “I think they count as epic fails.”
Moore, who participated in a question-and-answer session at the yearly Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, predicted that Russian forces would be forced to regroup within “the next few weeks,” offering Ukraine a crucial window to make battlefield reversals.
“I think they’re about to run out of steam,” Moore said of the Russian military, adding that the U.K. assessed that Russian forces “will increasingly find it hard to supply manpower and matter over the next few weeks.”
“They will have to stop in some way, and that will give the Ukrainians chance to strike back,” Moore said.
He added that the Ukrainians’ ability to notch successes would serve as “an important prompt to the rest of Europe: that this is a winnable drive by the Ukrainians” – significantly ahead of what Moore said would be a “pretty tough winter.”
Ex-MI6 Chief Warns of Impending Mutiny
“We’re in for a tough time,” he said.
Still, he said Russia had been hampered since the start of the invasion by what he called a “toxic combination” of military miscalculation and intelligence failure.
“I don’t think they’re having a great war,” Moore said. “They misunderstood Ukrainian nationalism. They underestimated the degree of resistance that the Russian military would face,” he said.
The Kremlin’s intelligence shortcomings were now likely exacerbated by the expulsion, earlier this year, of more than 400 Russian intelligence officers from the European continent.
“We reckon in the U.K., that’s probably reduced their capacity to do their business to spy for Russian in Europe by half,” Moore said.
The British intelligence chief also echoed a more casual remark yesterday by CIA director William Burns at the same forum yesterday, who quipped that Putin appeared “entirely too healthy” before noting that was not a formal U.S. intelligence assessment.
Moore said Thursday that “there’s no evidence that Putin is suffering from serious ill health.”
Like Burns, Moore also said China had been “conservative” in whether to provide military assistance to Russia — though it had otherwise supported the Kremlin by purchasing Russian oil.
“[I]t feels pretty tight, but it’s not an equal partnership, and Ukraine has made it less equal,” Moore said. “Moscow is the junior partner, and the Chinese are in the driving seat.”
He also said China’s close observation of the West’s approach to the conflict made it imperative to bolster Ukrainian forces.