Staunton, September 10 – Vladimir Putin will likely leave office in three or four years either by appointing a successor as Boris Yeltsin did him in 1999 or as a result of being confronted by popular uprisings like 1991 and 1993, risings that the Russian military will not want to crush by force, according to Valery Solovey.
The MGIMO professor and frequent commentator says that the latter events show that the military would only “extremely unwillingly” shoot at Russian citizens and the killing of 120 people by the authorities in Kyiv at the time of the Maidan shows that “even a peaceful revolution after the first deaths radically changes its nature.”
In the course of an interview taken by Dmitry Bykov for the latest issue of Sobesednik, Solovey says that if Putin can exercise the 1999 option, he will not select Sergey Shoygu or Dmitry Rogozin and Aleksey Dyumin couldn’t handle the job (sobesednik.ru/dmitriy-bykov/20170908-valeriy-solovey-naverhu-preemnika-opredelili-no-budet-inach#).
When Putin leaves one way or another, his system will disappear with him because it is a pyramid that was built from the top down, Solovey says. Asked whether this would lead to territorial disintegration, the MGIMO scholar says no because the country is held together by “the Russian language, the Russian ruble, and Russian culture.”
But the main reason for that conclusion is that no one is pressing to leave. Even in Tatarstan, centrifugal forces are minimal: the most Kazan will seek will be “some symbolic preferences.” As for the North Caucasus, no one there has figured out how to live independent of Russia.
According to Solovey, there is also little chance of fascism or mass repressions: “Even FSB generals do not get real satisfaction from that.” What they want is a personal yacht. And their children are the same. They want to be in charge but they don’t want to expend the effort that real repression would require.
Solovey devotes much of his interview to issues surrounding Ukraine. He says that “relations between Russia and Ukraine will never be what they were,” that the longer the Donbass is under Russian influence, the less likely it will be to return to Ukrainian control, and that Ukraine may agree to federalize if Europe rather than Russia pushes that idea.
At the same time, however, he argues that Moscow has no interest in or even ability to achieve the absorption of all of Ukraine. It is finding it difficult to incorporate Crimea with its 2.5 million people; it was face a much bigger and likely impossible task if it were to try to take in 45 million.
Solovey dismisses the idea that anyone will pursue war as a policy: It is “a wonderful means of resolving internal problems if it doesn’t lead to suicide;” and he argues that there is no wave of conservative revenge sweeping the world despite what so many had concluded last year after Donald Trump won election and Britain voted to leave the EU.
As for Russia, he continues, it will have to cure itself because “now the country and society are serious ill, and we all feel this. The problem even isn’t in corruption: that’s a secondary issue. It is rather in the thoroughgoing and general amoralism” that has affected everything.
This has assumed forms of “absolute absurdity and idiotism which we feel at all levels. In the medieval world into which we are falling not by someone’s evil will but simply because if there is no movement forward, then the world rolls backward.” What is needed, Solovey says, is “a return to the norm.”
Almost everyone “with a few exceptions” even in Putin’s entourage understands this and wants it, the MGIMO scholar concludes. And if the new government moves in that direction, it will have support except from the five percent that exists in every society and wants to remain opposed to whatever is going on.
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