Friday, February 22, 2019

Like Alexander III, Putin has Only Two Allies But Both are Far More Problematic, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 22 – Tsar Alexander III said Russia has only two allies, its army and its navy; Vladimir Putin now insists that his Russia has only two allies – “money and the bomb,” Vladimir Pastukhov says. But neither is as effective as their predecessors: money is running out, and “the bomb” doesn’t have the impact at home or abroad he wants.

            With “the bomb,” the Kremlin leader seeks to “frighten the West” and to impress people at home, the Russian analyst says; and with money, he hopes to put out the fires of opposition to his regime.  But using “the bomb” is ever more risky and ever less effective, and the money he would need to “douse” the fires at home simply isn’t there (

            And that only adds to the sense that Putin isn’t going to make any changes whatever he promises and many hope, that he will continue to function as he has in the past and that, Pastukhoov argues, there is no evidence that he and his regime have any “’Plan B’” ready when the current plan ceases to work.

            The London-based Russian analyst says that the presidential message to the Federal Assembly “long ago lost its initial constitutional-legal meaning. Today, Russia listens to the president as astronomers do signals from the distant cosmos.” Those signals hint at what is going on inside the Kremlin, but there is no feedback and each year the signals become more indistinct.

            Putin’s situation with regard to “’the nearby cosmos’ is no better.” Those listening to him in the hall were tired and “primarily peasant faces. For those who still remember, everything looked like Soviet party activists and thus provided 90 minutes of nostalgia,” Pastukhov continues.

            The Kremlin leader’s speech was more like the report of a prime minister than a message of a president. It did not offer any new or even old strategies.  He deployed statistics to appear competent, Pastukhov argues, but “the general meaning was clear without them: under the current political leadership nothing int eh country is going to change much.”

            Surkov’s article in this regard looks “much more full of content than the message of the president.” Putin’s words were “strictly in the spirit of the reports of the General Secretary f the CPSU Central Committee at a plenum” in which the leader says a little about everything and not much about anything.

            Like Khrushchev before him, Pastukhov observes, Putin is capable of threatening the West, but his threats to destroy the world only can be effective if he never has to act on them – and his military victories have proved far less impressive on the Russian population than he had calculated.

            Because of the failure of his military exploits to keep his ratings up, Putin devoted most of his speech to talking about domestic issues, apparently intending to send a message that he is changing direction and will try to lift the Russian people up. “Judging from the initial reaction,” Pastukhov says, “many believed” that is the case.

            But it is quite clear that he can talk a good deal about this but lacks the money to make a serious dent in poverty and the other problems of Russian society. Two to three billion US dollars over six years is simply a pittance as far as the reordering of society is concerned, the London-based analyst says.

            Many laughed at Surkov’s essay, “but he who laughs last laughs best.” Putin’s words to all appearances was “an applied addition to [Surkov’s] essay about the everlasting quality of the regime. No one intends to change anything; no one intends to react. All will remain as it is.” Those who expect something else, especially after Putin’s performance, are deluding themselves.

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