Staunton, June 27 – Many suggest that the continuing economic decline of Russia will prompt people to go into the streets and demand change, Vladislav Inozemtsev says; but “nowhere on post-Soviet space have we see mass protests arise as a result of economic issues.” The Russian people will come to terms with their economic situation.
The Kremlin leadership understands this, the Russian economist says, and therefore Vladimir Putin isn’t worried and sees no need for the kind of changes many are advocating. He is thus not likely to make economic policy a priority anytime soon (znak.com/2019-06-27/sudba_rossii_v_blizhayshee_desyatiletie_razmyshleniya_ekonomista_vladislava_inozemceva).
Instead, Inozemtsev says, the leadership clearly believes that it can do whatever it wants with the population and will face only limited challenges that it can counter either by the use of force or targeted concessions without having to address the country’s fundamental problems, something that shows that it has “finally lost a sense of reality.”
It is “obvious,” he continues, that “the Kremlin itself isn’t predicting a revolutionary situation.” The powers that be are indeed increasingly inadequate as a result of the negative selection they have been subjected to, but they remain quite confident that they can and will control the situation as long as Putin is alive and in office.
Moreover, they have their reasons for thinking so. The existence of open borders is one reason why the preconditions for a revolution are unlikely to grow. Every year, some 100,000 Russians emigrate. The majority of these are “politically dissatisfied,” but once abroad, they typically cease to care what is happening in Russia.
And in their place, the Putin regime is bringing in “comrades from Central Asia who are getting Russian passports and will to the end of their days vote for Putin and United Russia.”
But that is not the most important reason for assuming that Putin will remain in power until his death and will not face serious challenges to his position in the meantime, Inozemtsev says. Rather it is the absence of any belief in change among those in power and of any idea or program for change among those who oppose Putin.
Changes like those in perestroika times happened because of a sense in the leadership that the current system wasn’t working, a sense that spread to the population and led to a revolution. Now, however, “there is no sense among those in power that the system has gone into a blind alley and must be renewed.”
This pattern reflects an underlying reality, the economist continues. “Russian society strongly depends on the rhetoric and actions of the powers that be.” If they talk about change as Gorbachev or even Medvedev did, the Russian people will as well; if they don’t as Putin does not, then they are unlikely to do so either.
“Putin doesn’t intend to leave,” Inozemtsev says. “Today all the decisions are taken on that assumption. Noo one is thinking about plans even five or six years ahead. I don’t doubt that we will be watching the administration of Putin until his own death. So that no ‘successor’ operations will in fact occur.”
At the same time, it is important to remember that “the Putin regime is in essence a personalist dictatorship. And no such regime ever outlives its creator.” When Putin passes from the scene, Russia will change but exactly in what direction is uncertain. It will become ever more unpredictable.
In the course of his long interview with Znak, Inozemtsev makes a number of other observations, two of which should be highlighted. He says that the West could but probably won’t affect the situation by imposing real sanctions on Russia by declaring it a state sponsor of terrorism, which it very much is.
And he adds that Russian is not going to seize Belarus in a Crimea-type operation unless suddenly and unexpectedly Minsk opens a real drive to join the West. Short of that, the Kremlin will continue as it has been, increasing its control over its western neighbor by means of the aid it provides it.