Staunton, May 8 – The Putin regime has long celebrated itself as ready to handle any contingency, but the coronavirus pandemic has thrown it into a panic, demonstrating its inability to take the necessary actions and highlighting “the seven weak links” of the regime, Sergey Shelin says.
The Russian people are “tired of the lockdown, tired of the leadership’s babbling, and tired of the lack of good news,” the Rosbalt commentator says. “The ordinary citizen is afraid of getting sick but he is ever less ready to agree with the bosses’ explanations and prohibitions” (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2020/05/08/1842481.html).
“Our regime with its super-centralization, ideally obedient upper classes and the beloved (in words) mobilization model looked ideally prepared to any misfortunes. But when mobilization was required, it fell apart in all directions,” Shelin continues. And it showed that seven things the regime is so proud of in fact are its “weak” places.
First of all, the pandemic showed the dangerous dependence of the power machine “on the interests and ideas about reality of a single individual.” Had Putin focused on the pandemic at its start instead of worrying about constitutional amendments and Victory Day, Moscow might have taken timely actions. But he didn’t, and it didn’t.
Second, the pandemic has shown that the vaunted power vertical can function only if there are constant directions from above. When those are absent, the system doesn’t know how to function: it doesn’t function at all. No one now knows who is responsible for what and what is to be done.
Third, the spread of the coronavirus showed the weakness of the bureaucratization of the economy and the shortcomings of the regime’s plans for import substitution. The regime stopped importing medical equipment but it failed to produce it on its own. Even under the Soviets and during the wild 1990s, the situation was not so dire in this regard.
Fourth, the pandemic has highlighted the absence of professional expertise and its organization in a way that ensures the necessary information flows upward and the necessary directives flow downward. In Russia today, Shelin says, “there is not only no single administrative leadership but also no single scientific leadership as well.”
Fifth, the pandemic has shown that the regime’s guardians can be used “however it likes except for supporting order.” Russian Guards are incapable of explaining to people what is needed, only of repressing them. As a result, “the absurdity of half of the prohibitions has been softened by the lack of any requirement that they be observed.”
Sixth, the spread of the infection has shown that Putin’s healthcare optimization has destroyed the ability of the medical system to take care of the people or even to take care of its own staff. Doctors and nurses are being infected and dying, and ever fewer of them are available to treat ordinary Russians.
And seventh – and this is definitely “last but not the least important,” the pandemic has shown that “a gigantic gap” has opened between those on top of the political pyramid and everyone else. A decade ago, the regime appeared ready to help Russians recover from the economic crisis; now, it offers crumbs which only make the crisis worse.
All these things taken together are undermining the proclaimed struggle against the pandemic, Shelin concludes; but they are also dissipating any faith that the current regime is capable of meeting other challenges now and in the future. And that may prove an even harder infection to cure than the coronavirus.