Staunton, December 12 – Only the naïve think that Vladimir Putin’s next term will be his last time in power or that there will be a palace coup or revolution against him, Fedor Krasheninnikov says. But his power vertical is far less stable than was that of the CPSU and the succession after him will be far more chaotic and uncertain.
Putin’s 18 years in power by his design have led to “the liquidation of any possibilities for a peaceful, democratic and planned transformation of the current political regime,” the Yekaterinburg analyst says. But the system he has created is so dependent on him personally, that the transition to a new leader is extremely uncertain (snob.ru/selected/entry/132213).
“When every policemen and mayor … has his limited powers only because they are guaranteed by the next up the line and when those exist only because Putin has chosen them, [his] departure from the scene would instantly destroy the system by transforming bosses into a crowd of frightened people without any basis for their positions,” the analyst says.
And regardless of whether anyone wants this or not, “every passing year brings it ever closer” if for no other reason that the actuarial tables.
The contrast with Soviet times is instruction, Krasheninnikov says. The USSR fell apart when the CPSU ceased to be a constitutionally defined power vertical. The soviets were simply “a fiction,” with real power in the party and its nomenklatura control. “This was the true power vertical in the USSR.”
And it was far more important in ensuring stability and the transfer of power than the loyalty of the security agencies or anything else because everyone looked to the party hierarchy with the Politburo at the top and knew that it could and would take decisions and then impose them on the country.
“Now,” the analyst continues, “the situation is much more unstable. With the exception of the president, all those organs of power which run the country according to the Constitution are de facto fictions.” The most important decisions are taken by the president and an informal grouping of people around him that is nowhere defined by law and the constitution.
Consequently, in the Putin system, “there is no single ‘party of power’ or even more a Politburo known to all. Instead, there is an indefinite circle of trusted people who are close that is formed exclusively on the principles of long-standing friendship, common fate, family ties, similarities and other informal characteristics, among which chance plays a key role.”
And that points to another distinction of the Putin system from its Soviet predecessor. “The Soviet Politburo consisted of self-standing figures, each of which had his own experience or rising to power and an independent weight and influence. Otherwise they could never have made this ascent.”
But those very characteristics of the Politburo, Krasheninnikov continues, made the transfer of power in the USSR relatively straightforward. “In any case, the new general secretary would be one of the members of the Politburo and he would be recognized as such both in the country and abroad.”
This system worked numerous times, right up to 1985, and its ability to do so showed that “only an effective and strong structure of political power could peacefully survive frequent changes of leaders in a situation which each successive one was less capable physically than his predecessor.”
The current Putin system has nothing like this and therefore when he does exit the scene, there is no certainty as to who or what may succeed him. “The official political elite of Russia looks like a clutch of zeroes who have acquired billions and trillions only in a situation wehre oer them stands the single boss, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.”
For the existing Russian system, he is truly “irreplaceable and indispensable,” and consequently, there is no possibility to transfer power in ways that everyone will recognize and accept immediately, opening the way to chaos at the top and possible disintegration below, the analyst continues.
“The prolongation of Putin’s one-man rule … is not a way out of this situation to a new level and not a way out for the president himself, his entourage or for those who sincerely believe that only a change at thee stop can security stability in the country.”
Instead, Russia has entered “a pause,” one that could “end at any moment” and for the reasons outlined “acquire rapid and radical changes for which both society and the authorities are unprepared.”