Opinion: A few predictions about possible scenarios that could unfold in Russia in the near future.
By Robinder Sachdev
Background 1: One of many traditions in former USSR republics and Russia is that when friends and family gather for a celebration, party, or wedding, each guest raises a toast and says a few words — the flowery the better — and then everyone at the table gulps down a vodka shot. Everyone must raise, say a toast as the evening progresses. You can well imagine how loquacious, meandering, and philosophical each subsequent toast becomes as the gathering gets drunk and carried away in these conversations.
Background 2: The above is perhaps well-known. Less well-known is another USSR-ish tradition. After a night of such drunken toasts and celebrations, the next morning some of the revelers of the previous night get up early and play another game. They pick up the empty vodka glasses left on the dinner table from the previous night, and while having a groggy-eyed wake-up cuppa tea, analyze and read the dried-up vodka rings in the glasses.
The story has it that the glass that has the most marks of dried-up vodka rings must now be kept aside, and the person who was the oldest in age in the previous night’s gathering will have to have one more vodka shot in the morning when s/he wakes up, and say one more toast to sum up the previous night. These crazy Russians!
Today: In another universe, most of you may be familiar with a phrase and the art and science of â€œreading the tea leavesâ€ â€“ that is, projecting a future by reading the tea leaves left at the bottom of a teacup. Your author today attempts a similar exercise, but of course, since the matter relates to Russia, I have decided to name it as an exercise in reading vodka rings.
Reading vodka rings on June 25, 2023: So, how do I read the vodka rings, or tea leaves, with regards to the future, based upon the developments of the past 36 hours in Russia? Here below is my speculation about one possible scenario that could unfold in the coming future:
What if the big personal contract, between President Vladimir Putin and Yevgeny Prigozhin is that Prigozhin will be appointed as defense minister of Russia after three months?
1. Right now, Sergei Shoigu will be removed as Defense Minister for his incompetence.
2. Putin will appoint a new defense minister, with orders to turn around the war within three months.
3. Prigozhin will take a sabbatical in Belorussia for three months. Take some much-needed rest, do some gardening, reading, and rejuvenation. Maybe do some yoga, watch the sunrise, sunset, and contemplate some mindfulness. Host some barbecue parties and shoot the breeze.
4. Putin will review the war situation in three months.
5. If the new defense minister is not able to deliver results, Prigozhin will be appointed as the defense minister of Russia.
Question: why would Prigozhin in an alternate universe agree to the above deal?
Answer 1: Prigozhin is a â€œtrue Russian nationalistâ€. He is genuinely, from the core of his heart, angry as hell at the mismanagement by the Russian ministry of defense for losing the war in Ukraine so far. Putin now is realizing that the leadership of the Ministry of Defense has been totally incompetent. Prigozhin is his old friend. Putin makes an honorable deal with his old, trusted friend, with the proven result of winning many battles on the battlefield.
Answer 2: Prigozhin, having led the war in the trenches, agrees to the deal with Putin. He thinks, has the guttural feel, that any defense minister in Moscow will not be able to deliver victory for his beloved Russian Federation. He awaits his time to serve his nation.
Therefore, a Grand Deal: Putin tells Prigozhin, you are a nationalist at heart, I understand totally. Give me some time. I am firing Sergei Shoigu. Am appointing a new Defense Minister. If the next guy does not perform within 3 months – then I will invite you to be the defense minister. Meanwhile, do me a favor â€“ just chill down.
(Robinder Sachdev is the president of Imagindia Institute.)
Read more columns from Robinder Sachdev:
Can Modi revive a global era of Camelot? (June 21, 2023)
Can India become Americaâ€™s ordnance factory?Â (June 16, 2023)