Staunton, January 1 – Recently a telegram channel asked its readers what “black swan” they thought might take flight in Russia in 2021 and dramatically change the country. Forty-eight percent said early presidential elections, and 43 percent said new sanctions. The latter is a near certainty, the former less likely, but that this is how part of the elite thinks is instructive.
In a commentary for Moskovsky komsomolets yesterday, Moscow analyst Nikita Krichevsky says that such expectations whether or not they prove true reflect the fact that Russia is now drifting toward chaos and that people are hoping for some kind of deus ex machina to allow.
Everyone is familiar with the quantitative decline of the Russian economy and the fact that as much as some would like to blame it all the pandemic, the problems are broader and deeper than that, the analyst says. Even Putin has said that “one need not blame everything on the coronavirus.”
But there are three qualitative aspects of the situation that typically receive less attention. First of all, “Russia is beginning to lag hopelessly far behind in the global competition race. All that we can offer the world are raw materials, slightly processed ones, and thrashing about cleptocrats.”
Second, over the last 12 months, “the institutions or rules of the game essentially have disappeared. State administration is in chaos, and laws are applied so selectively as to be meaningless … One senses that we are approaching the anarchy of the last years of the USSR, with only small corrections to bring things up to date.”
And third, “society, especially its younger part, has almost lost its faith in the formerly sacral paternalism or concern of the wide uncle state for each and everyone. Now, hope for the good tsar as before sits in our mentality, but the list of his duties has shrunk to a minimum and involves mostly protection from foreign threats.”
That is a recipe for chaos, especially as Putin is now not the only person at the top. “The role of personality in our history as before is extremely important. For the first time in 70 years, Russia has a prime minister of a kind not seen since the time of Georgy Malenkov,” whose reforms had they been carried out instead of Khrushchev’s schemes would have saved the USSR.
In the coming year, Krichevsky says, Russia’s problems will be compounded by more sanctions; and Russia can’t answer with anything except “totalitarian isolationism” based not even on conservatism but on archaic ideas and a commitment to not change any of the benefits of the corrupt oligarchic elite.
That makes the slide toward chaos and perhaps even collapse steeper and more likely.