Russia’s “privileged class,” Shelin continues, has tried “for decades” to become part of its Western counterparts, but it hasn’t succeeded. Instead, the latter are increasingly inclined to impose new sanctions against such Russians, a development that one might expect would drive Russia’s privileged into an effort to find common ground with the population.
“Imagine that our billionaires would stand in line to make contributions to popular well-being.” They could give billions and still have billions more, he points out. Duma deputies would show their solidarity with the people by eating only shchi and kasha in their restaurants. And Moscow would even allow “something like democracy” in the localities.
But instead of moving in that direction, Russia’s magnates are moving in exactly the opposite one, demanding that the government extract even more resources from the population to compensate them for their losses, demands that those in power are acceding to not only out of conviction but because it many cases they and the business elites are one and the same people.
At the same time, Duma deputies are coming up with ever more inventive ways to repress the population; and as a result, this opportunity for uniting power and the people is not only being missed but undermined even more by the powers that be themselves than by any sanctions the West may impose.
And now this week, the ruling stratum has taken a step, unprecedented in post-Soviet times, that is likely going to backfire still further. In various places, the powers that be have signaled that they will no longer tolerate petitions by the population addressed to themselves and will even take measures if anyone circulate them.
The West is winning this battle because the powers that be have no good way to counter it, Shelin suggests; and the powers that be are winning this skirmish at least for a time because the people have no good way to counter them. But those who think this will continue forever should remember the outcome of the encounter of David and Goliath.
Goliath certainly looked stronger, but David won because he found a tactic that the other hadn’t expected. That is something the Russian powers that be should be reflecting upon. Perhaps if they did, they would see the benefit to themselves of changing course, in the first instance regarding the Russian people.