This week, we discuss the implications of the Wagner Group's mutiny; ensuring safety and sustainability of outer space; how Truth Decay affects national security; addressing the housing crisis in Los Angeles; the growing problem of cyberstalking; and helping aging veterans.
Photo by Stringer/Reuters
Wagner Group Revolt: What's Next
The world watched with fascination last weekend as the Wagner Group—a Kremlin-backed paramilitary company—made a direct challenge to the Russian military establishment.
Led by Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, 25,000 mostly Russian fighters marched from Ukrainian territory toward Moscow, taking over military commands in three Russian towns before retreating.
“This was not a coup or actual attempt to take over political power,” says RAND's Molly Dunigan, an expert in Russian mercenary groups. “It was a theatrical power play by Prigozhin.”
Despite the uprising, Wagner is an important source of income for the Kremlin and will likely remain operational. However, Russia could rebrand the group, install new leadership, or even withdraw Wagner fighters from Ukraine to reduce the risk of another mutiny.
Importantly, this last option could have significant implications for Russia's ability to effectively fight a ground war, Dunigan says.
More Insights from RAND Experts
- Dara Massicot was closely tracking reactions on the ground in Russia over Twitter. She expects more clarity on this situation in the coming weeks. Until then, “it's wise to consider that 'nothing is true and everything is possible'—even the things we see.”
- Samuel Charap discussed Russian President Vladimir Putin's position following Prigozhin's dramatic play. While Putin remains firmly in power, he said, there is now a “chink in his armor among the elites.”
- Putin—and Russia—may in fact be weaker now, wrote William Courtney, and the West has options to exploit this. For instance, it could aim higher with its goals for Ukraine, ratchet up sanctions on Russia, or increase the pressure on Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
- Barry Pavel spoke to the BBC last Saturday—his interview begins at 4:15:15—about the agreement that ultimately led Prigozhin to turn around. “Don't believe a deal made between two mafia kingpins,” he said. “They never last.”
How does outer space already affect the average person's life—and how could it in the future? How do millions of pieces of “space junk” and the risk of collisions threaten the safety and sustainability of space? And what role could space governance play in addressing these challenges? Three of RAND's top space policy experts, Bruce McClintock, Katie Feistel, and Douglas Ligor, answered these questions and more in a wide-ranging audio conversation on Twitter Spaces last week.
Americans are disagreeing more and more about basic facts, a phenomenon RAND calls “Truth Decay.” Without a common set of facts, it's hard to find compromises—let alone consensus—on important issues, including national security. A recent RAND paper explores this problem, considering how Truth Decay could weaken the military, decrease U.S. credibility with allies, and call into question America's ability to respond to the next big crisis.
The persistence of remote work has led to record office-vacancy rates in Los Angeles. At the same time, L.A. skyscrapers are selling for half of what they did a decade ago and are difficult to refinance. Incentivizing office-to-apartment conversions—potentially through a temporary tax abatement—may offer a solution, says RAND's Jason Ward. Not only would this help address the city's housing crisis, it could also lead to robust tax revenue that benefits Angelenos for decades to come.
As online platforms and messaging technologies have multiplied, cyberstalking has become more common. Yet the problem has been understudied. A new RAND report provides the first empirical analysis on federal cyberstalking cases. The authors find that one major challenge in prosecuting these cases involves tying the evidence to the offenders—often tech-savvy individuals who are sophisticated at hiding their digital tracks.
An estimated 80 percent of U.S. veterans will have some need for long-term care in their lifetime. Home and community-based services allow aging veterans to “age in place” while receiving the support they need—and provide a significant cost savings over nursing homes. A new RAND paper examines what it might take to ensure such services are available to all who could benefit from them.
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