Staunton, October 2 – “The main lesson” Putin has taken from Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s increasing use of repression is that the Kremlin leader too can retain power as long as he has the loyalty of the siloviki however low his ratings sink in the polls, political analyst Abbas Gallyamov says.
“In principle,” he continues, “Putin guessed earlier that this was the case, but now he is likely to be finally convinced of that fact.” And if so, that likely means the Kremlin leader will not come up with a successor in 2024 but remain in office even if his standing with Russians falls to close to zero (echo.msk.ru/blog/gallyamov_a/2718857-echo/).
Putin may not have enough money coming in from the sale of oil and gas abroad to improve the lives of ordinary Russians, but he will certainly have enough income to retain the loyalty of the siloviki, judges and the Central Election Commission. “Everyone else, as the experience of Lukashenka shows, “is not that important.”
If Putin has reached that conclusion and it is likely that he has, Gallyamov argues, he will adopt a new political strategy, one based on reliance of the coercive resources of the state, and that in turn will lead to a redistribution of power within the regime away from the economists and toward those who control the forces of repression.
The Security Council, the Defense Ministry, the FSB-MVD, the Investigations Committee and the Procuracy will become the chief players in high politics. And the Presidential Administration will be reduced to a technical organ for implementing whatever Putin wants done rather than the locus of political competition.
But this shift will have another consequence, one that may lead to unexpected and from Putin’s perspective unwanted changes. As Putin’s standing declines, he will no longer have “any unique resource” relative to the other power players, and the temptation may arise among them to remove him from the scene if he doesn’t do what they want.
In the past, the siloviki leaderships approached Putin as if he were sitting on “a sacred throne” because of his unique popular legitimation. Now, they are likely to view his position as that of “a fat goose,” waiting for the slaughter to their benefit. Given that the morals of the siloviki are “no better than those of a wolf pack,” that is entirely likely.
Consequently, the lesson Putin has drawn from Lukashenka may help him only in the short run but prove his undoing in the longer term.