The head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, surprisingly broke off the march on Moscow and agreed to a negotiated settlement.
This is surprising, because on Saturday he had still said “we are all ready to die, all 25,000”.
In a negotiation, you agree when you see a personal benefit for yourself. Or, if you are afraid of the consequences of a non-agreement.
Why did Prigozhin agree? From our point of view, there are three possible scenarios:
1. Putin offered Prigozhin personal success.
For months, Prigozhin has criticized the military leadership of Defense Minister Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Gerasimov and demanded their replacement. Putin may have offered him the job of defense minister. However, this possibility seems implausible since Putin has already labeled Prigozhin a traitor.
2. Putin has blackmailed Prigozhin with the consequences of a non-agreement.
Putin may have kidnapped family members of Prigozhin and threatened to kill them. It is well known that Putin spares no pains to stay in power. He has people poisoned, imprisoned, disappeared…
3. Prigozhin overestimated his power
On Saturday afternoon, Russian troops did not oppose the Wagner Group but allowed it to pass. It looked like a defeat for Putin. But no one has publicly come out in support of Prigozhin in Russia, either. It is possible that Prigozhin had allied himself with supporters in advance but that those supporters rowed back on Saturday afternoon. With that support, Prigozhin could have continued with his plan. Meanwhile, Lukashenko, acting as mediator, reached an agreement and the charges against Prigozhin and the Wagner Group were dropped. Prigozhin was allowed to leave for Belarus.
Important information is missing in the assessment of this negotiation. The third scenario seems likely as the solution came as a surprise.
Those who are surprised in negotiations have misjudged the position of power.
No one can accurately predict the developments of the next few days.
But one thing is for sure: the power struggle is not over; it has just begun.
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