Staunton, June 23 – Vladimir Putin offers himself as the chief guarantor of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, Ilya Ponomaryev says; but in fact, the Kremlin leader by blocking all real political life at the center is causing it to shift to the regions and thus threatening the survival of the country in its current borders.
Ponomaryev, who was a deputy in the Russian Duma, recently has become a Ukrainian citizen and says that he hopes Ukraine can be the base for Russians who reject what Putin has been doing and want a different and more democratic future for their country (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5D0E0FE2EA0CE).
The new Ukrainian citizen says he is “cautiously optimistic” about his new homeland but is much less so about the one he has left. According to Ponomaryev, things began to go very wrong in Russia when Putin decided to return to the presidency in 2011 rather than remaining as prime minister with Dmitry Medvedev staying in the nominally top job.
Had Putin remained prime minister and Medvedev president, “the country would have benefitted, Putin would have benefited, Medvedev would have benefited, everyone would have benefited” because it would have opened the way to modernization something Putin’s return has precluded.
By returning, Putin “destroyed everything, quarreled with the active part of society, split t very strongly, destroyed that which was called the Putin consensus according to which ‘we will not interfere with your working and living but you won’t interfere in politics.’ And this led inevitably to war in 2014.”
All these things, Ponomaryev says, are “links in one chain,” a chain that ended very badly for Russia. “In general, I am not certain that Russia will survive as a country. I would like it to be preserved, but I fear that it may not be.” Moreover, the longer Putin is in power, the less likely its survival becomes.
That is because all his activities are directed at preventing the emergence of an alternative to himself; and because no alternative can emerge at the center, it will emerge in the regions and centrifugal forces will become ever stronger again, just as in 1991.
“Under conditions of the absence of political life at the national level, it will appear at the regional, and this is a harbinger of the collapse of the country,” Ponomaryev says. As the center continues to weaken, all this will become ever more obvious, again just as at the end of Soviet times.
Boris Yeltsin was clever enough to keep Russia together even as the former Soviet republics sought their own way, but it is far from clear whether the current Moscow regime is equally clever. If it seeks to block exit by force, it will only provoke more of it, according to Ponomaryev.