Staunton, August 14 – In the wake of the brutal actions of the siloviki against Moscow protesters and the falling ratings of Putin and his regime, many are speculating that the Kremlin is going to move toward a Chekist dictatorship and only mass public protests can prevent such a horrific outcome.
But Moscow political commentator Valery Solovyey, formerly an instructor at MGIMO, argues that there is an even more important source of resistance to such a development: Russian elites, who do not want to suffer as they would if “a police-chekist dictatorship” were established (echo.msk.ru/blog/vsolovej/2482397-echo/).
Solovyey gives five reasons why this is so:
1. “There is completely lacking the ideological and what is most important organizational and cadres basis for a dictatorship.”
2. The entire elite, including the siloviki, are “categorically against a dictatorship of the chekists.” They are “cowardly opportunists” but they are quite skilled at “sabotage” and will undermine any attempt to set up such a dictatorship.
3. “Putin doesn’t need a dictatorship.” Giving the siloviki “carte blanche” to repress challenges “do not mean giving the siloviki a license to establish a new political regime. And going against ‘the leader’ is something the heads of the siloviki party are not in a position to do.”
4. The use of force against protest won’t suppress it but rather spread it and it will both intensify tensions among the various components of the siloviki and highlight how thin this stratum is. After all to control the situation in Moscow, they’ve had to bring in OMON units “from throughout the European part of Russia and from the Urals.”
5. “The public denial by the Kremlin of ‘a political crisis’ in reality means its recognition of a new discourse reality,” one that means both there will be more protests and a variety of efforts, not just force alone, to cope with it.
In his brief comment, Solovyey does not make reference to what may the most compelling precedent for his conclusion: the decision of the post-Stalin leaders, all of whom had blood on their hands from the repressions, to arrest and kill Lavrenty Beria, lest the secret police chief establish a chekist dictatorship in which all of them would be at risk.
They acted not from some abstract commitment to some principle beyond saving their own lives and careers. That almost certainly will guide them if there is any indication that some in the Kremlin are preparing to try to create a state that might be strong enough to save Putin but would also be powerful enough to destroy them.