From the US perspective, he continues, “Yeltsin-Putin Russia is too weak” to oppose Washington for long; and the new sanctions now being introduced will “paralyze the Russian financial system,” and end the access of Russian firms to Western financial markets. And that leads to “the impoverishment of the people and the rule of criminal oligarchic-bureaucratic groups.”
Not surprisingly, Putin’s ratings are falling because however much television claims the people support him, in reality the situation is very different. The people are angry and “today are practically beyond the control of the bureaucracy, the media and the parties.”
Only the KPRF remains a real power, Shevchenko says, one that could serve as new base of support for Putin, “but a shift to an open union with the Stalinist KPRF would mean a break with Yeltsinism and the West. This is a difficult choice for Putin, but he now must make some difficult choices.
He faces two options, Shevchenko says, and neither is entirely attractive. On the one hand, he could “fall to his knees and admit his defeat, which would be death for the entire Putin entourage. And they it is certain know this perfectly well.” But the pro-Western part of his ruling group and some of the oligarchs want exactly that.
But on the other, Putin could decide on a very different course: He could “make a radical shift in domestic politics, minimizing the influence of American-connected liberal-Western democrats … conduct radical social reforms in the interests of the people … leave the WTO, introduce protectionist measures … and stimulate domestic production.”
To do so, he would have to rely on “left of center and patriotic forces.” And the Kremlin leader would need to launch a far more aggressive attack abroad on the weak points of American influence in the Middle East and elsewhere and recover Russian interests and control in the former Soviet space.
Doing this would be “impossible” if Putin were to continue “the anti-people social and financial policy within the country.” He needs to take these steps because “without the return of the real support of the people,” the kind one gets in a popular war and not in an unpopular peace, Russia won’t be able to recover and advance.
Over the last century, Russia has had a leader who chose to play at democracy at home and make compromises abroad and another who did not do either but rather built power at home an abroad. What strategy will Putin choose? That of Nicholas II or that of Joseph Stalin? On this depends “the future of the country and of millions of its citizens.”
Given that a new world war is “already going on,” Putin must choose soon and choose the right option, Shevchenko continues.