Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Sunday that the brief rebellion led by the head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, revealed cracks emerging in President Vladimir V. Putin’s hold on power and cast doubt on the future of his war in Ukraine.
“Prigozhin himself in this entire incident has raised profound questions about the very premises for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in the first place, saying that Ukraine or NATO did not pose a threat to Russia, which is part of Putin’s narrative,” Mr. Blinken said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And it was a direct challenge to Putin’s authority.”
The internal challenges facing Mr. Putin could also hinder Russia’s war effort, Mr. Blinken said.
“To the extent that the Russians are distracted and divided, it may make their prosecution of the aggression against Ukraine more difficult,” he said on ABC’s “This Week,” calling the current instability in Russia “a cause for concern.”
During a series of TV appearances on Sunday, Mr. Blinken said the White House is closely monitoring developments in Russia, where a deal struck late Saturday appeared to end the rebellion.
The deal Mr. Prigozhin struck is said to allow him and his fighters to escape prosecution, although U.S. leaders do not know what will happen to him or his forces, Mr. Blinken said on “This Week.”
While Mr. Blinken called the upheaval “fundamentally an internal matter for the Russians,” he placed it in the same framework that U.S. leaders have used for more than a year when discussing the invasion. The revolt, he said, is part of a broader “strategic defeat” that has left Russia weaker economically and militarily as a result of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
While Mr. Blinken suggested that Ukraine could take advantage of the sudden instability in Russia, it’s unclear whether that will happen.
“It’s going to take some time, weeks, maybe even months,” for the counteroffensive to succeed, he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “There are very strong defenses that the Russians have built up in recent months that the Ukrainians are working their way through. But at the end of the day, the bottom line really is this, and it’s the reason that Ukraine will prevail: This is about their land, this is about their future, this is about their freedom, not Russia’s.”
Mr. Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, on Saturday, and added that the United States had “worked to make sure that the Ukrainians have what they need, when they need it, to do as well as they possibly can on the ground.”
Although he declined to speculate on what Mr. Prigozhin’s challenge to Mr. Putin’s power may mean for the future, Mr. Blinken said that it “raises lots of questions that we don’t have answers to.”
“It’s too soon to tell exactly where this is going to go,” he said. “And I suspect that this is a moving picture and we haven’t seen the last act yet.”