Staunton, August 13 – The excessive use of force by siloviki elements against Moscow protesters was not the product of panic among the authorities, Alexander Hotz says. Instead, it was a provocation by the siloviki to “occupy the commanding heights” at the start of a succession struggle within the Putin regime, a regime that increasingly resembles a junta.
In a Facebook post, the Russian commentator from Tula says that the Russian force structures did what they did in order to provoke the opposition and then demonstrate their capacity to defeat anything that the protesters might do, thus winning preferment within the regime (facebook.com/alexandr.hotz/posts/1468757679930573).
Hotz argues that “the struggle for ‘the heights’ is connected with the beginning of a real fight among the clans for the place of successor.” The best way for the siloviki to seize that position is to “imitate ‘mass disorders’” which only they can put down. But this development has another consequence: it makes Putin “a lame duck” dependent on the siloviki.
“The aging dictator is condemned to operate on the winner of this internal vendetta to the extent that he is not capable any longer of preserving the former balance between ‘the economic elite’ and the ‘oprichnik’ defenders.” As a result of the weakness of the former, the latter have gained influence and power.
It thus is becoming likely that the next few years will see a constant “’rocking of the boat’” with both a growth of protests and a growth of repression. In this worst case, this will lead to “a creeping ‘Chechenization’ of the regime,” with massive numbers of disappearances and the flight of thousands abroad.
At the very least, the logic of the situation points toward the formation of a junta, one in which those who control coercive force will be of decisive importance. In the short term, the situation for the population will deteriorate. But there is a reason for optimism: such a scenario is “the direct and shortest path to the collapse of the system.”
In fact, “the junta-ization of ‘Putinism’ has some natural limits,” Hotz says. Sooner or later, peaceful protests will grow so large that responding to it by force will become increasingly counter-productive. And that in turn will lead to the defeat of the junta in ways that will recall the end of the Soviet Union.
There could very well be as a result a repetition of “the ‘Soviet’ model of imperial collapse familiar to members of my generation,” Hotz says. “Young people will have the chance to repeat our experience.”