Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Kremlin’s Recent Actions have Landed It in Seven Self-Destructive Traps, Shevtsova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 2 – The Putin regime no longer has the resources to ensure that it stays in power indefinitely and so it has resorted to bluffing and other ill-considered actions, seven of which are paradoxically not helping to stabilize the situation but undermining the regime, Liliya Shevtsova says (

            First of all, the Russian political analyst says, its ever more obviously fraudulent elections which are according to the constitution are supposed to be the basis of legitimation of the powers that be in fact mean that as Russians see they have no chance to change their rulers via elections, they are left with only one possibility: going into the street.

            Second, the new wave of attacks against major business are becoming ever more of a problem not because they are a continuation of the raiding carried out in the past. Rather, they highlight the formation of “a Triad – power, property, and the repressive organs,” with the last increasingly dominant and killing off any possibility for economic growth.

            Third, the powers that be have no option but to purge the overly greedy in the apparatus but by doing that they are “undermining the vitality of the powers that be” which depends on giving the apparatus and the silovki the right to feed off the population and the right to arbitrary action in exchange for their loyalty.”

            Fourth, the Kremlin is seeking to promote the idea of a foreign threat to unite the population, but “is mobilization possible if there is no ideology?” Or can it succeed if the regime is concerned about its own profits and its siloviki want to vacation “not in Crimea but beyond the borders of the Motherland?”

            Fifth, equally, the Putin regime is seeking to use militarism as a means of strengthening the existing system; but “militarism requires from the people a readiness to sacrifice both its own standard of living and even its lives. There are real doubts as to whether the population is ready to do so.

            Russian society is ever less united as far as that is concerned for another reason. The Putin regime is rapidly stratifying it and working to ensure that this inequality will be inherited. “Vladimir Putin is the most important instrument of this process.  But success in doing so will above all require a change of political regime.”

            In short what has happened is that “Putin’s leadership” for many Russians is no longer “a goal in and of itself, but rather a means to an end. But do Russians want to live in the stratified state they are being driven into?” Almost certainly most do not either because of a sense of the injustice of it or of a feeling of opportunities foreclosed.

            Sixth, the Kremlin has misconstrued Russia’s return to the world stage.  Its message is “’We stood up to them, and they have surrendered!’” But that isn’t what has happened.  The situation is more complicated. “The West is concerned by an increase in Russian aggressiveness if it remains in isolation.”

            “But the West’s readiness for ‘conversation’ does not mean the return of Russia to the world club. The West seeks a new formula for relations with Russia as a hostile subject which one needs to worry about, must contain (from this comes the strengthening of NATO), but must not provoke.”

            As Shevtsova puts it, “Western handshakes mean not a sudden appearance of trust but rather forced hypocrisy.”

            And seventh, Shevtsova continues, “the need to demonstrate strength in the absence of any chance to assert itself by other means is turning out to be yet another trap” for the Putin regime.  It can’t retreat because it sees this as a display of weakness.  And therefore, it either won’t back down or will see to compensate for retreats by aggressive behavior elsewhere.

            Unfortunately for the regime, “when institutions have been no content, force becomes the only instrument in politics. But force always breeds counterforce. No one has done away with the boomerang effect in politics … sooner or later, the powers that be will have to deal with that response.”

            And today it seems, Shevtsova concludes, that “there is a sense of this inevitability and general fear of it hanging in the air.” 

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