Saturday, December 28, 2019

Main Split in Kremlin No Longer Between Liberals and Siloviki but Among Siloviki, Oreshkin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 26 – Competition at the top of the Putin regime is shifting from one between the siloviki, on the one hand, and the liberal economists, on the other, to another among the siloviki with the liberal economists largely marginalized even though their continuing activity in the media has obscured this shift, Dmitry Oreshkin says.

            And it is the intra-siloviki conflicts to which Vladimir Putin is now devoting much of his time as he moves Russia in the direction of “an Asiatic despotism,” a direction he feels compelled to go because he has concluded no one can effectively govern Russia in any way other than the Stalnist, the Moscow political analyst continues (

            Under Putin, Oreshkin points out, “the number of siloviki has increased; they all need resources, and they compete among themselves.” Putin keeps them in line by creating a situation in which he has compromising information on all of them that he can use as necessary. That exists because in his system as in Stalin’s, few can do their jobs without violating the law. 

            This has another consequence which also makes the system more like Stalin’s, Oreshkin says. “Competition in the elites ever more depends on Putin’s personal priorities and ever less on the performance … [Stalin] personally decided whom he trusted and whom he didn’t.” Now Putin is doing much the same.

            In other comments, the Moscow analyst says the recent press conference showed that “Putin is tired and has lost a little his connection with reality.”  The Kremlin leader wants to show that he can act independently of the script, but his ability to do so is increasingly limited by the situation.

            The one place where he can go out on his own is in discussions of the past, and that helps to explain why he has chosen to do that, Oreshkin says. In many ways, this is “approximately the same” path Stalin chose at the end of his life when he began speaking and writing about linguistics.

            That Putin would promote a positive image of Stalin is no surprise. It provides a justification for what he wants to happen: more spending on defense and unquestioning loyalty to himself given that there are enemies all around.  But there is a risk in this which the Kremlin leader appears to have underrated.

            Many Russians are certain that Stalin would never have carried out the pension reform Putin did. They are right even though in Stalin’s times, the state paid miserly pensions or none at all, but the regime’s ideology meant that it could not simply but pensions in the way that Putin has. And thus Stalin appears to them not as a reason to support Putin but rather to oppose him.

            “The power vertical of the Soviet model discredited socialism, but the power vertical of the post-Soviet kind has discredited capitalism. Now, pretenses against the current powers that be come mainly from the left: people want more social justice. In Stalin, they see an alternative to the current system, the embodiment of which is Putin,” Oreshkin says.

            The next two years are going to be hard for both the powers that be and the people, he continues. The authorities want only two things: that the 2021 elections will yield the correct results and that there won’t be “loud protests.” What is worrisome is that “it isn’t important” to them “how this will be achieved.”

            As far as the population is concerned, “life will not become better. There is simply no basis for that: the population is aging, there are no investments, people are tired and angry. The enthusiasm about Crimea is gone, and Olympic achievements have been reduced to nothing with Russia excluded” from international the Olympics. 

            No one is going to lift the sanctions, and so the regime and the people are left with only one hope: perhaps a war will begin and oil prices will rise, Oreshkin says. “There aren’t any other variants.”

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