She points to a June 29 article by Moscow commentators Aleksandr Staver and Roman Skomorokhov on the influential Vooyennoye obozreniye site entitled “The Real New Opposition Against the Eternal Putin” in which they argue that United Russia no longer reflects the attitudes of the Putin majority and that a new party is needed (topwar.ru/143678-kak-poluchit-realnuyu-novuyu-oppoziciyu.html).
The two concede that many of the problems with United Russia have arisen because Moscow has promoted the social justice themes of Soviet times as well as taken liberal steps including on wages and pension ages that understandably have offended and alienated many members of what has been up to now the reliable “Putin majority.”
Such unexpected criticism both implicit and direct should not obscure the real message of Staver and Skmorokhov, Kirillova says. They are not making any case for the existing opposition systemic or extra systemic; instead, they are calling for the formation of an entirely new political party or movement that would support Putin’s imperialist course while backing greater social welfare, a kind of national socialism if you will.
The two, the Russian journalist says, “not only do not see the ‘extra-systemic liberal opposition” either as a threat or a replacement for Putin. Instead, they directly say that “it does not have any right to existence” because it has sold out to the West and engages in “illiterate populism.” Worse, it opposes the Kremlin’s expansionist foreign policy.
They call for the replacement of the current “party of power” with one that doesn’t feature the current liberal members of the government, is “younger,” and does not include just the United Russia electorate and leaders. For them, “the chief enemies of the country are again declared to be ‘the liberals’ both systemic and even more extra-systemic.”
In short, Kirillova says, “the criticism of the authorities here is made only from the unofficially permitted ‘hurrah patriotic’ positions, in exactly the same key that this is done by the sadly well known Girkin-Strelkov and his ‘militant comrades in arms’” from the Donbass front against Ukraine.
And it should surprise no one that Staver and Skmorokhov draw the conclusion that “there is no alternative to Putin,” despite their words of criticism. Instead, what they are seeking is the formation of a new party, left of center in its domestic views to recapture Russians unhappy with Moscow’s social policy but fully supportive of its imperialist agenda abroad.
They thus are proposing as a model for this movement the now almost forgotten ideas of Sergey Udaltsov who in 2014 was sent to jail for his role in the Bolotnoye protests against Putin but who fully supported the Kremlin leader’s Anschluss of Crimea and his efforts to recreate the USSR. (Udaltsov laid out his ideas in 2014 at (echo.msk.ru/blog/udaltsov/1285254-echo/).
The two Voyennoye obozreniye writers say that “in contras to the many who shout that there is ‘no alternative’ [to Putin’s course] we have found an alternative,” a party and leaders like Udaltsov who just as supportive of an aggressive foreign policy as Putin but who want to return to a social state the current leftward drift of Russian society will support.
Such a party could help generate an ultimate successor to Putin or in the meantime lead to the formation of a more moderate social policy, both things that some in the Kremlin are clearly interested in. At the very least, it is an important indication that those around Putin are thinking how to exploit the leftward tilt of the population rather than simply suppressing it.
At the same time, Kirillova notes, the possible formation of such a party and the development of such a trend in Russian society should remind Ukraine and the West that they should not expect any softening of Putin’s aggressive foreign policy even after he leaves – and that moderation at home may be the basis for that rather than its antithesis, as many now think.