Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Three Paradoxes of Putin System Guarantee More Disasters Ahead, Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 3 – There are three paradoxes in the Putin system that guarantee more disasters ahead unless and until that system is radically transformed or what is more likely replaced by a different on, Russian commentator Igor Yakovenko argues in a remarkable essay on the Kasparov portal today.

            First, he says, there is the paradox that “when power becomes total, it suddenly turns out to be powerless” because those below cannot act with sanction from above and those above cannot act without the direct knowledge and concern that only those close to the situation have (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5AC22D7CF0A51).

                Second, there is the paradox that any local leader who tried to take the kind of steps that would guard against disasters would be removed even more quickly than he would be if he did nothing and waited until a disaster occurred and a sacrifice was required to mollify the population.

            And third, there is the paradox that the population believes it can only solve its immediate social problems if it declares that it is not engaged in political action without recognizing that it will only have a chance to address its problems if it gets involved in politics, however much the powers that be fear and oppose its participation.

            Since Putin’s “triumphal victory” on March 18, Russia’s new political system has been marked by an uninterrupted chain of catastrophes in foreign policy and domestically as well, Yakovenko says.  Dozens of Western countries expelled Russian diplomats to show their solidarity with London, while Moscow couldn’t find a single one ready to join it in response.

            “Within the country,” the commentator says, any celebration of Putin’s victory was undercut by the Kemerovo tragedy and the trash “revolts” in Moscow oblast. “The chief and only political consequences of these two events was the dismissal of the senior official on the scene, Kemerovo governor Aman Tuleyev and Volokolamsk district head Yevgeny Gavrilov.

            Tuleyev had been the ruler of the Kuzbass for only a little less than three decades Yakovenko says; and he could have taken steps to ensure that an accident like the one that claimed 64 lives would not have occurred. But doing so would have led to his dismissal even more quickly than the fire itself did.

            That is because, the commentator says, “power in Putin’s Russia is so constructed that at all levels it does not have any relationship to the population and does not have any obligations to it. The obligations of the regional part of the pyramid of power are only before its top and these obligations Tuleyev punctiliously fulfilled.”

            “If Tuleyev had created in Kemerovo conditions which would have minimized the chances of such tragedies, then, paradoxically, his political career would have ended much earlier and much more unhappily for Tuleyev himself. Doing so would have put him at odds with the rest of the system and the system would have taken its revenge.

            The dismissal of Gavrilov is much less important but it highlights the same problems. “In Russia there is no local self-administration,” Yakovenko continues. Gavrilov was “one of 22,327 heads of municipal formations in Russia. In Moscow oblast alone, there are 326 of them, of which 29 are at the district level.”

            “This entire army of faceless bureaucrats of the lowest level in general cannot do anything and to a great extent aren’t needed for anything either,” the commentator says.  And because they can do only what they are ordered to above, nothing can change unless they and the system they represent are changed. 

            “The people who lose those close to them in Kemerovo came together in a spontaneous meeting, the people who breathed in the fumes from burning trash blocked the roads in the Moscow region, and both the one and the other carefully did not allow that these things be called “politicized protest.”

            As long as that paradox remains, there will be more such tragedies like those Russia is now suffering from, Yakovenko says, “simply because when power is total” as is the case in Putin’s Russia, it is always powerless,” perhaps the most profound and disturbing paradox of them all.

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