Staunton, February 19 – Russian reality under Vladimir Putin is one in which everything is turned on its head, Liliya Shevtsova says. “Weakness, compensated by unpredictability creates the illusion of strength. Stability is preserved by eroding principles and [suggesting] the lack of alternatives. [And] aggressiveness conceals a lack of certainty.”
That pattern, the Russian political analyst says, once recognized provides a clue for understanding both the real nature of Russia today and also why what looks like a stable situation is certain not to remain one (voboda.org/a/29029956.html). To make her point, she examines 21 cases of this inversion:
1. “Legitimacy of Power” is being undermined both among traditionalists who see the regime destroying itself by de-sacralization and among the modernists by “their lack of faith” in the possibility of the change of the system.
2. Putin’s new term and his agenda: “The Kremlin hasn’t thought up any idea which can unify the country. ‘Dictatorship of law’ is discredited by illegality. ‘A besieged fortress’ by the country losing access to resources from the West. ‘A purge’ by the need to build a defense against ‘the purged.’”
3. “Loyalty as a principle of the existence of the ruling stratum works as long as the leader guarantees well-being. As soon as he ceases to play this role, the ruling stratum begins to look for a new object of loyalty.”
4. The siloviki were created to defend the leader and benefit from doing so. When they can not longer benefit from him, the question arises as to how ready they are to defend him.
5. The system can’t struggle against corruption because it was built by corruption and risks self-destruction if it starts a real fight against it.
6. Revolution could happen as a result of “the refusal of the ruling class” to take necessary reforms.
7. Decay is the result of the policies of authorities who are afraid of a revolution and that others threaten the territorial integrity of the country.
8. Liberalism, “the ideology of the minority,” has been discredited by the cooperation of some of its members with the Kremlin and by “the cooperation of the West with the kleptocrats.”
9. The “’Sobchak project’ is a means of finally depriving the liberal minority of mass support.
10. Intellectuals help humanize the autocracy by their cooperation with it.
11. Civic initiatives strengthen stability by trying to address problems the state refuses to address.
12. “The ‘Navalny factor’ is a test of the capacity of society for protests and the willingness of the authorities to engage in bloodletting.”
13. “The West is an opponent and a donor at one and the same time.” The regime benefits by being able to portray as an enemy those who are giving it assistance.
14. “War is a means of survival for the Russian system.” It allows the Russian elite to threaten the West in order to gain dialogue with it.
15. “The search for ‘an enemy’ is a mechanism for the self-assertion of the leader and the nation, evidence of a political neurosis that it remains unclear whether it can be cured.”
16. “Sanctions represent an attempt of the West to force the subject of sanctions to behave well. But how justified are these expectations?”
17. “’The Trump paradox’” consists of a situation in which “the most pro-Kremlin president of the US under threat of impeachment is forced to pursue the most anti-Kremlin policy.”
18. The Kremlin list was intended by the White House not to worsen relations with the Kremlin but in fact has now put the entire Russian ruling class at odds with the West.
19. “Dislike is the feeling which the surrounding world feels toward Russia, the result of the Russian illusion that the world wants our embrace and our instructions on how it should live.”
20. “Putin in the Kremlin after March 2018 is a hostage who knows that he cannot excape from the Kremlin labyrinth and a society which also knows and doesn’t know what to do with this.”
21. “The fear of the chaos of the collapse of power is the firmest ‘binding’ of autocracy which neutralizes destructive tendencies. And this is the existential question: will the moment come when society comes to view the chaos the authorities are giving birth to begins to exceed the fear of the collapse of power? It is possible that the new presidency of Putin will give us an answer. We don’t have long to wait.”