Saturday, April 20, 2019

Unless West Totally Stops Buying Russian Oil and Gas, Putin Likely to Be in Power until 2042, Sergey Medvedev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 20 – Vladimir Putin is unlikely to be pushed out of power by his own citizens and thus will remain in charge until at least 2042 when he will be a still-vigorous 90, Sergey Medvedev says. Almost the only thing that could change that would be if the West completely stopped buying Russian oil and gas.

            In an interview with Konstantin Eggert for Lithuania’s DELFI portal, the Russian political analyst and television personality says it is a mistake to talk about “the 2024 problem” and Putin’s successors because the Kremlin leader almost certainly will be around for a long time (

            “I do not believe in a successor to Putin. He cannot be a successor,” Medvedev says. “In Russia, there is no politics, no institutions, no government and no civil society.” There is only Putin, and surrounding him “a scorched earth territory. If Putin disappears from the political arena, Russian politics will be reduced to nothing.”

            Therefore, the Russian analyst says, “I believe that this system will continue as long as the biological life of Putin does.”  And given the flexibility of the Russian political system, Putin can so orchestrate things that he will be in power, if not necessarily in the office of president, until 2042.

            Despite the attention the Russian “opposition” gets and growing popular unhappiness, Medvedev continues, there is little reason to think that they will combine to force Putin out. There is no possibility that there will be protests like in France or a Maidan like in Ukraine.  Russians simply do not act in that way.

            The reason is because “there are nations which changes the circumstances of their life and there are nations which change themselves [only] inside themselves.”  Russia is one of the latter: its people drink and talk; but they do not take action to change whatever the situation is around them in the absence of some foreign shock.

            “I do not like determinism,” Medvedev continues. “But the heritage of serfdom really is very, very heavy. There exists a longer political horizon.” People like Aleksey Navalny can affect things at the margin, but in the Kremlin, they understand very well that “Navalny can’t bring out a million people” into the streets.

            According to the Russian analyst, “in general, the political regime in Russia can be changed only from the outside. Of course, I do not have in mind a NATO occupation. More likely, a decline in the price of oil as was the case in the 1980s.”  New sanctions won’t be enough to achieve that.

            Instead, “the West must completely stop purchasing oil and gas from Russia.” That is, it must adopt “the Iranian variant of sanctions.”  In that event, the foundations of the Putin regime would be shaken.  But even that might not be enough to achieve Putin’s ouster and with it regime change.

            “To change the Kremlin’s line,” he suggests, “only some strong global confrontation, connected with the Islamic world, a catastrophic terrorist act, significant climate change, or the arrival of extraterrestrials.”

            In other comments, Medvedev says that Moscow’s antagonism toward NATO is for the long haul, a commitment that has been part of the genetic code of Russian leaders since the 1950s and an enemy that serves the Kremlin’s domestic needs for legitimation and its desire to be treated as co-equal to the West.

            Even though Russia should be working with NATO to counter threats from the south and the east, the analyst says, Putin is only comfortable with a sharpening of tensions with NATO because then he is in a position to “trade in fear.”  But at the same time, the Kremlin leader doesn’t believe NATO matters as much on the ground as many think.

            “I do not think that he believes that NATO will all its might would ‘come to the aid’ of Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia” in the event of a Russian attack.  Instead, Putin and those around him believe that “Russia now has military superiority in tanks, for example” and that it has a stronger “martial spirit” and therefore the West would back down.

            On the matter of Ukraine, “the Kremlin hopes that five or ten years from now, everything will be forgotten, and the West will talk with Russia” about arms control and other issues, that the West will drop sanctions as part of this process, and that it will begin to reach agreements with Moscow.

            At the same time, Medvedev says that Moscow does not fully understand that it has lost Ukraine forever, that there cannot be a pro-Russian president there, and that this has happened because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military actions in the Donbass.  Putin truly deserves a monument as a creator of Ukrainian “national independence.”

            “In his dreams,” the commentator continues, “Putin sees himself in a white tunic in the role of generalissimus at Yalta in 1945 when a 15-million-strong Soviet army stood in Europe and he dictates his conditions of peace. All Russia lives in this unceasing May 9th … and “therefore we must go back to that point, to 1945, and speak with the West as Russia did then.”

            At the end of his interview, Medvedev says that he hopes he is wrong about the ability of Russians to change the situation with regard to Putin. Russians did so at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s and perhaps can do so again. But without outside action, it is clear, he clearly doesn’t think that is likely.

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