Staunton, February 16 – Putin has fallen into a trap of his own making, Vladimir Pastukhov says, one that forces him to appeal to “the irrational nationalism” of the population he needs to control the elites, even though he personally has a very different set of convictions. Extricating himself from that trap is going to be very difficult.
The St.Antony’s College Russian historian says that “Putin is in fact a smart and rational man and more a cynic than a hypocrite … but the configuration of power which he has created forces him to be more a hypocrite than a cynic” as his handling of the film “The Death of Stalin” demonstrates (svoboda.org/a/29036483.html).
Putin, the historian says, “is deeply convinced that the best means of retaining power is to do nothing. He is a conscioius enemy of every and all changes and any reforms. Whatever he says, his basic position is that everything that now exists is better than what could be done if it were to be changed.”
From his point of view, Pastukhov says, Putin is “absolutely right,” at least now, because any authoritarian regime lands in the greatest trouble when it tries to reform itself. “As long as Putin doesn’t change anything, [Russia] will remain in a zone of stability and security.” The problem is there are tight limits on that time and they are “practically exhausted.”
They were really at an end by 2014 but were artificially prolonged by the war against Ukraine, “the birth of mobilized consciousness and mobilizational policies. But even this resource,” the historian continues, “is coming to an end.”
The regime will see the need for change sooner and thus become “the main revolutionary in Russia.” Indeed, history suggests that “in the final analysis, it will always choose the variant which leads to a revolution most rapidly,” not by addressing the country’s economic problems but by militarization which will lead to conflicts within the Russian elite and to ever more serious wars abroad.
And with those wars, as in the case of Syria, will arise more questions among the population: what are we doing and why? “These questions aren’t being raised now because the size of the problem is still small. But if the size [of the conflicts] will grow, then this question will arise in its full extent.” That too will force a change in the situation.
But other things will as well: In 2024, Putin will be compelled to change the constitution, thus raising ever more questions among the generation that has come to maturity in the time since 1991. And that generation, Pastukhov argues, while it will have some Putinists in it, as all generations do, won’t respond well to that.
Like the disappointed generation of the 1960s who led the revolutionary changes in 1991, so too the new one will consist of people who have been subjected to various kinds of repression under Putin, and such repression will create in that generation “the characeristics needed for any revolution.”
This all means, the St. Antony’s College historian concludes, that “the main events will take place between 2024 and 2030 rather than before 2024,” although one can’t exclude the possibility of a crisis before then as “we live in an era the chief aspect of which is its absolute unpredictability.”
“The situation [in Russia] will depend on irrational factors … [and] any serous mistake of the powers could cost it its power. But even if it doesn’t commit mistakes before 2024 … [there are] few chances that it can continue the course which Putin has been following after 2025” regardless of how he arranges things.
“Then,” Pastukhov says, “a revolution [in Russia] will be practically inevitable,” the product of Putin’s own effort to build a state intended to prevent one.