Monday, August 14, 2017

To Retain Power, Putin Wants to Destroy Everything European in Russia, Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 13 – In order to preserve his regime and retain his personal power, Vladimir Putin is prepared to isolate Russia, clericalize society, and degrade the population, Igor Yakovenko says; fur fortunately, because Russia is a European country, he has few chances to succeed in doing so.  

            The Moscow commentator points out that many in Russia, including people like “former liberal and democrat and now a big supporter of Putin and an anti-Westerner, Sergey Stankevich,” are especially angry that the US has lumped Russia together with North Kore and Iran in its current sanctions package (

                Stankevich and his ilk don’t recognize that for Putin to survive, the Kremlin leader’s only chance is to copy elements from those two states.  In a certain sense, Yakovenko continues, “sanctions and the growth of isolation can add stability to the Putin regime” far more than any import substitution or the rise in domestic production. 

            Instead, “for sanctions to strengthen the Putin regime, he must rape the country several times, finally finish off several of the remaining social institutions and cripple public consciousness” by isolating the country from the world, clericalizing society, and degrading Russian society at all levels.

            Putin has already succeeded in isolating Russia but not yet to North Korean or Iranian levels. In 2012, Russia’s share of world exports was 2.86 percent. Last year, it had fallen to 1.46 percent.  And at the same time, its trade with Iran, as some “domestic patriots from the Izborsky and Zinovyev clubs” desire, had increased.

            But that is not enough for Putin. Many of his supporters are convinced that the real crime of perestroika and its fallout was that Russians began to think that things are better in the West than in Russia, something that happened, Yakovenko says, because people could see that with their own eyes when the walls came down.

            To save himself, Putin must try to reverse that and re-isolate Russia, but unfortunately for him, “’the Putin elite’ is still not ready for that.

            Compared to Iran and North Korea, Russia’s greatest lack is a dominant totalitarian ideology. Putin would like to see Orthodoxy play a role in that regard, but there are reasons why the Russian Orthodox Church despite all its efforts as in the case of the Mathilda dispute simply doesn’t have the ability to create “an Orthodox khalifate” modelled on Iran.

            The Moscow Patriarchate is incapable of promoting that kind of ideological system: it is limited, Yakovenko argues, to seizing property for itself much as other portions of Putin’s elite have done.

              And thus Putin has focused on the third element of this unholy trinity: degrading the political elite and Russian society as a whole. Those surrounding him in the Olympus of power would be laughable as members of the ruling class anywhere but in Russia, but they are there because Putin has made great strides in degrading the population.

However, despite the Kremlin leader’s enormous efforts, Yakovenko says, “Putin hasn’t been able to reduce Russia to a situation where no circumstances can anything threaten his power. The reason is that Russia despite everything was, is and remains a European country, more precisely a country of European culture.”

Putin may want to take Russia down the route of North Korea, Iran or even Zimbabwe, but “Russia all the same isn’t an African country. And thus in the battle with everything European in Russia, Putin has not a few chances to lose,” however strong he may look at any one time. 

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