Staunton, July 21 – The true test of an autocrat’s power is not when people go along with him when he is promoting reasonable ideas but rather when they do so when he is pushing senseless and absurd ones. Vladimir Putin’s backing of the pension reform, Sergey Shelin says, is increasingly a test of the second kind.
The Rosbalt commentator provides a detailed analysis of the amount of money the Russian government would in fact save if its pension plan was implemented and says it is miniscule. Moreover, if the issue was money for the state, Moscow use other means to get it including asking for sacrifices from the elites (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2018/07/20/1718861.html).
“If one looks at the real and not the fabricated figures, then the budgetary subsidies for old age pensions are comparatively small, not critical for government finances – and in the next few years will remain so.” Thus, despite what the Kremlin media and government officials say, there was no urgency to take this step now
Moreover, he continues, the Putin regime does not really care about money as such. Instead, it cares about its power and ability to maintain it to do whatever it wants. The Kremlin is concerned about falling approval rates but takes some solace in the fact that while they have affected Putin’s standing, they have left all the other power groups even further behind.
And the powers that be thus could be influenced by public demonstrations if they were to become really large; but so far, they have been relatively small and dispersed and thus are easy for the regime’s siloviki to control and if need be suppress altogether as the time for a decision about the pension bill extends into the fall.
All this leads to the inescapable conclusion, Shelin says, that “the genuine meaning of the measure [of pushing the pension reform plan now] has become an all-Russian exercise of the power vertical, a test of its readiness to fulfill meaningless orders and its ability to simply turn away from social and public interests.”
Anyone who looks at the situation with clear eyes can see, the Rosbalt commentator continues, that the vertical has with few exceptions passed this test. Putin’s power “vertical has shown that it owes nothing to the people.” The question is how the people will react when they recognize that that is how the regime views its relationship to them.
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