Friday, December 2, 2016

Putin May Launch a Charm Offensive by Taking Cosmetic Steps to Avoid Real Reform, Kashin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 2 – Both to keep his domestic opposition off balance and to take advantages in changes at the top of Western countries, Vladimir Putin may soon launch a charm offensive, using what some call a “putting lipstick on a pig” strategy in which he will make small cosmetic adjustments that promise more but do so to avoid making any major changes.

            In a commentary for Radio Liberty, Russian journalist Oleg Kashin says that it is rumored that in the Kremlin, there is a safe in which there is an envelope containing the regime’s last “trump card” to be used when things appear so bad that there is no other obvious way out. On that envelope is written “in large red letters, ‘Liberalization’” (

                Inside that envelope, he says, there is “a plan,” one “precise, long and clever” so that when it begins to be implemented “not everyone will immediately take note” of what is actually going on and may even be fooled by it. Kashin says that a senior official who helped prepare this plan has shared with him some of its features.

            Among its features, he says, are the following: the dismissal of the notorious culture minister and the disbanding of the Military History Society “for lack of funds,” the dispatch of Putin’s biker buddy back to his biker base, a sudden decision not to introduce Orthodox culture lessons into the schools, and the imprisonment of someone for having killed Boris Nemtsov.

            Other steps include: allowing the movie Mathilda to be widely shown, a new television program to which opposition figures will be invited, a softening of limits on foreign adoptions, dropping charges against Aleksey Ulyukayev, and Putin during a visit to the Butovka polygon saying that he is against the full rehabilitation of Stalin.

            Such a strategy he suggests “will not immediately but very quickly change the atmosphere in society.” There will be fewer alarmist commentaries and more predictions of further liberalization. And one sign of this will be that each such act by the Kremlin will be presented as “a signal” of Putin’s intentions.

            The presidential elections will pass quietly whenever Putin decides to hold them, and many in the West will decide that now is the time to cooperate with the Kremlin leader because he has turned the corner and will only do more good things if the West will only show some support.

            But that will only demonstrate, Kashin continues, that once again both have been deceived because “the main secret” of the Putin regime is its ability “to change everything while changing nothing.” That happened under the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev “and after Bolotnoye and after Crimea and certainly will be realized once again.”

            “To say ‘the worse the better’ is considered unseemly, but the reverse, ‘the better the worse’ in fact adequately describes Russia’s prospects which risk consisting of a cosmetic liberalization with the preservation of the most awful elements of the state.” “Insurance” against this consists of the most repellant people around Putin and the coming to their senses of others.

            The latter are the more reliable, of course, especially if they quickly recognize that this charm offensive is “entirely a deception and that it is directed at the strengthening of the powers that be” rather than anything else. In that, Kashin says, is its true essence: “it is not liberalization but rather a provocation.”

            Eliminating biker buddies or obscurantist culture ministers won’t fundamentally change the system. Instead, such steps will take the pressure off the regime to change significantly, he concludes, ending with the warning: “fear liberalization” when it is clearly being carried out on behave of “honest, in the sense of open, reaction and authoritarianism.”

No comments:

Post a Comment