Hours later, U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told reporters on the sidelines of the Aspen Security Forum audience that “an attempted coup is never a good look because there’s no way that Putin can spin this as business as usual or good news.”
“What we’re seeing is that the first, very visible cracks that are appearing on either side were not in Ukraine, were not in NATO, were not in the EU, were not in the U.K.-U.S. relationship or any of that. The first cracks that we saw were in the Russian system,” he continued.
The double-barreled message indicates London senses a weakness in Putin’s leadership since last month’s uprising — and highlights a push among Ukraine’s allies to project optimism despite Kyiv’s slower-than-expected counteroffensive.
It has been difficult to assess how deeply the Wagner insurrection has cut in Russia. Prigozhin blamed the military and defense leadership — but not Putin — for Russia’s failures in Ukraine. He claimed the mutiny, which saw a column of Wagner mercenaries storm toward Moscow, was to express his displeasure with them and possibly see them removed.
The U.K. officials’ comments come after Western leaders have been more bullish about its chances of successfully helping Ukraine against Russia’s invasion. “Putin’s already lost the war,” President Joe Biden proclaimed last week. And Tuesday, Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs chair, told reporters at the Pentagon that “the command-and-control apparatus at the strategic level is certainly confusing at best and probably challenging.”
Those governments are also buoyant following last week’s NATO summit, where on the sidelines G-7 nations promised billions in long-term security assistance to Ukraine.
But the question hanging over the national security conference in the mountains of Colorado is just how long the good feelings can last. Worries about Ukraine’s stop-and-start counteroffensive have also come up repeatedly on the public stage and privately on the sidelines, leading to questions about whether the U.S., the U.K. and their allies have backed a side that can’t win any time soon.
Cleverly said in front of the high-level audience that Ukraine was clearly winning the war, in part because they were taking territory it took the Russians months to seize. In the sideline session with reporters, he added “the Ukrainians are making progress steadily.”
“This is the ‘slowly phase’ because they’re going through heavily fortified, mined real estate, and there is no quick and safe way of doing that and they choose to do it safely rather than quickly. I think that’s the right judgment call,” he said. “And it doesn’t alter the fact that we got to stick with them until this is done.”