A very alarming title. If you haven’t been in a war environment before, I can explain the meaning of this word to you in one word: “Terrifying.”
Many academics, historians, international relations experts, and diplomats have led me to write this headline. The experts on the subject say that the footsteps of the Third World War are starting to be heard. They state that the tensions and blocked diplomatic channels experienced before the First and Second World Wars, and even more, are now being experienced in relations with Russia.
Especially in Germany, where the echoes of the Second World War are still felt, people have started filling their cellars with necessary supplies. I witnessed my German friend, whom I know closely, starting to collect plants from the forest that he might need on blackout days. Of course, not all Germans, but those aged 65 and above who are familiar with war and the subsequent scarcity are stocking up on oil, flour, canned food, and even firewood for the winter.
A Ukrainian journalist friend of mine emphasizes that the tension is at its peak and adds, “The visible war does not require a guide.”
Germany’s deployment of 4,000 soldiers in Lithuania before NATO meetings and the accumulation of heavy weapons in the capital Vilnius during the NATO meetings reveal how alarming the tension is.
The presence of foreign-flagged military convoys moving south on German highways, especially at night, is unsettling. Until now, I have witnessed civil wars, wars between neighboring countries, or operations of major powers. But these days, when nuclear weapons are mentioned and military mobilization reaches its peak, I also feel uneasy. The sharp statements exchanged by politicians add salt to the wound.
The warning tests with the terrifying sound of sirens conducted nationwide in Germany several times this year also emphasize the importance of being cautious.
When future historians look back on these days, instead of June 24, 2023, they are likely to choose February 24, 2022, as the turning point of the collapse of the Russian empire to be experienced in the 21st century. It is a fact that Vladimir Putin has plunged his people into a heinous adventure in Ukraine. With this unfortunate adventure, he has already signed the death warrant for the status quo.
The uprising of the Wagner forces in recent weeks has been another milestone in Russia’s tragic course. The headhunters of Yevgeny Prigozhin briefly frightened Moscow. However, I am concerned that this might be a staged fight. Prigozhin’s dispatch to Belarus and the deployment of Russia’s heavy weapons, including nuclear weapons, in this country further increase my doubts.
Poland’s strengthening of the military corridor on its eastern border due to the Wagner forces is a clear sign of escalating tension.
Putin, who was visibly shaken by the Wagner uprising, tried to appease the nation with his speeches. He condemned such attempts and betrayal without mentioning Prigozhin’s name. He described Wagner soldiers as patriotic individuals who would be integrated into the regular army.
Both Putin and Prigozhin stated that the key to stopping the advancement of the Wagner group into Moscow is the mutual desire of both sides not to shed blood. Their agreement provided Prigozhin with a safe haven in Belarus. By putting forward what Moscow wanted from him, Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko took on the role of mediator.
The agreements and promises made between Lukashenko and Prigozhin remain uncertain. Prigozhin became the voice of the people’s hatred by criticizing the Kremlin after the occupation of Ukraine, stating that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov were responsible for the inability of Russian troops to advance. While the children of poor Russians are losing their lives in the death fields of Donbas, the Russian elites are sunbathing on the shores of Turkey, Cyprus, or Dubai.
Prigozhin’s outbursts are not against the leader in the Kremlin, and everyone knows that he is a puppet of Putin. After spending about 10 years in a Soviet prison for a robbery committed in Leningrad, Prigozhin opened a buffet where he sold hot dogs. He then became a restaurant owner. He continued to operate his restaurant in this city until he was discovered by the deputy mayor of the city, who had a KGB background.
Under Putin’s patronage, Prigozhin became the sole owner of a catering company for schools in Moscow, the Kremlin, and eventually the army. In his next step, he took the lead of the Wagner mercenary group, inspired by the United States’ Blackwater. It is known that he had no previous experience in warfare. In addition to his inexperience, it is likely that he did not even know how to make a delicious tomato soup during his time as a restaurant owner.
Wagner proved to be a very useful group for Putin not only in Ukraine in 2014 but also in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Mali, and other parts of Africa. A year before, during the occupation of Ukraine, Putin relied on Wagner’s boss as his biggest supporter. Wherever Wagner was stationed, it gained a bad reputation for its brutality. Last year, it reflected its fascist tendencies to the whole world with its role in Bahmut.
Prigozhin’s criticisms containing elements of truth about the Russian military order also reveal that he could be a better military leader than Putin and his commanders. However, his cruelty and recklessness also instill fear.
It is claimed that provocations have been made by NATO violating Russia’s borders since the 1990s. However, it would be absurd to interpret this as a reasonable cause for Putin’s aggression. The membership of Sweden and Finland in NATO further solidified the borders of the Cold War. Now, the direct membership of Ukraine and the occupation of a NATO ally’s territory can also be considered a casus belli (cause for war).
The idea of a weaker Russia under Putin’s leadership undoubtedly appeals to his adversaries. However, the possibility of Kremlin being overthrown does not seem imminent. The uncertainty about what may happen next continues. Insufficient information about Russia, which is a closed box, leads to speculations worldwide.
It is worth remembering that post-Soviet Russia was under Western control for a while, and it was the bad course of events that brought the Putin regime to power. Russia deserves a future that is not guided by Putin, Prigozhin, or the neo-liberals or neo-conservatives of the West.
After the NATO meeting, the G7 countries announced yesterday that they signed a declaration of security guarantees for Ukraine. The Kremlin announced that the West made a “mistake.” I hope that the experts on the subject are wrong in their statements about war, and Germans do not have to add more to their stocks. But as Putin said last October, “He who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind.”
YUKSEL DURGUT is a journalist and a columnist for TR724.com.