Staunton, March 20 – In the months since the last presidential election, it has become obvious that “Putin is now a prisoner of Putinism,” that the Kremlin leader is going to use all the same mechanisms he has used in the past even though they are leading to “dead ends” and that as a result, the interests of Russia will be sacrificed to keep him in power, Sergey Shelin says.
Emblematic of this change, the Rosbalt commentator says, is the case of a young girl from Pskov who appealed to Putin for help as so many have in the past and instead of getting it experienced all kinds of misfortunes from local officials who were angry because she had made them look bad (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2019/03/19/1770405.html).
Obviously, Shelin says, not everyone who asks for help can be given it – the state simply doesn’t have the resources to do so – but if that is the expectation that the Putin system has created, when help isn’t forthcoming it can lead to disaster, as it has on the larger issue of pensions where Moscow doesn’t have the money to meet the expectations of the population.
In the first year of Putin’s term, Putin and his regime have continued to use the approaches that worked so well in the past only to discover that doing so has the effect of driving the country’s “leadership and together with it, the country, one must note, into one dead end after another.”
As a result, the population has deserted the regime, viewing it with her greater hostility. And the regime has responded with a law that will punish any criticism of it, an implicit admission by “the highest echelons of power of their own inability to give the ruling class a positive image.”
Indeed, the all too obvious hostility of the ruling elite toward the population helps explain this because such hostility “has become the only outlet for the privileged strata” to let off steam. “The leader is powerless before this fact, and therefore he has to calculate that the antagonism of the lower order to the upper ones ill only grow.”
Anywhere one looks, Shelin says, “Putin has become a prisoner of Putinism, the system he built which for a long time looked successful.” But it isn’t working anymore: it didn’t prevent the electoral disasters of September 2018, “the biggest crisis of the power vertical for the last 15 years.” Its strategies haven’t worked, but so far, the regime hasn’t changed them.
The Kremlin isn’t winning any points for supporting Asad or Maduro. “None at all.” But nonetheless it is supporting them. It isn’t winning more support for seeking to unite Belarus with Russia, rather the reverse, but again it is trying to do so. And it is not gaining anything from opposing Poroshenko in Ukraine – but it can’t seem to change course.
Thus, the first year of Putin’s latest term in office has been a disaster because he has “ruled as a prisoner of his own political inheritance,” Shelin says. “This doesn’t mean that there won’t be changes. There will be for this inheritance is in ever great conflict with reality. And to keep power, Putin is ready to sacrifice a lot.”
“In the first instance, the interests of the country.”