Staunton, August 10 – One of the chief sources of support for the current Kremlin leader is that government propaganda has managed to convince a large number of Russians that if and when Vladimir Putin ever leaves office, their entire world will end and the Russian Federation will fall into pieces, Andrey Stolyarov says.
Russians need to recognize, the Russian writer says in a Rosbalt commentary, that neither of these things will happen when Putin departs. The world Russians live in will not cease to exist, and the Russian Federation will not disintegrate into pieces like the Soviet Union did or into a Hobbesian war of all against all (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2019/08/10/1796400.html).
Do Russians need Putin now? Stolyarov asks rhetorically. The answer, he says, is “quite simple” and negative as one can see by considering what he has done in the past and what he is incapable of doing in the present and what others can do now and why his departure will in fact help them rather than hurt them.
Every political leader has a task which he must resolve, the writer says. Putin had sought a task when he came to power, to “minimize chaos … stop the general disintegration, stabilize the state … and create a reality where new rules of life would be clear.” By 2008, he had on the whole achieved all that.
“A new ‘Putinist’ Russia arose which fully satisfied the majority of Russians,” who compared their situation then with their lives in the 1990s. But by achieving his first task, Putin put in place the needs for a very different one, not the restoration of order but rather the development of the country.
That he was not and is not capable of, and as a result, Russia has entered the longest period of stagnation in its history compounded by growing international isolation and a sense among elites and the population that the situation isn’t going to change anytime soon as long as Putin is in charge.
The Kremlin leader can keep things stable but he can’t develop the country. “His active potential is exhausted. A different politician, one oriented on the future, and not on the preservation of the rotting present” as Putin all too clearly is, Stolyarov continues. So the answer is that Putin was needed but isn’t needed any longer.
But will the country and its government disintegrate when Putin leaves? The answer to that question is an equally loud “no,” the Russian writer says. The much-discussed clan wars within the elite are not nearly as problematic as they were: clan heads have become more restrained not because of Putin but because they now that their actions could make things worse for themselves and not just others.
The belief that Russia will disintegrate along the lines of the USSR is equally exaggerated, Stolyarov says. Some republic leaders may dream of becoming presidents of independent countries, but they are very aware that “Russia has a strong army, the Russian Guard, and the FSB. The cost of trying to secede could be very high.”
No one is likely to be inspired by the example of Chechnya in the past or the Donbass now, he continues. But even more, he says, there is no reason to think that the Kremlin will weaken when Putin leaves. There is a collective Putin even now that will continue and act more closely according to its interests than Putin is.
Given all this, Stolyarov says, “there does not exist any need that [Putin] continues to be the head of Russia.” In his view, the people and the elites could easily agree to “thank the president for his self-sacrificing work, present him with the order ‘For services to the Fatherland’ First Class, put a bust in the yard of the apartment bloc where Putin lived as a child and so on.
If only he would leave. But this discussion is purely theoretical, Stolyarov says, because Putin has no plans to do so voluntarily and no one seems to be in a position to force him to do so against his will.