Staunton, January 16 – This week, Vladimir Putin “could have thought up something that would really preserve the Russian dictatorship for decades, renew its image and overcome its worst contradictions,” Vladimir Milov argues. “Instead of this, we have 1984, not in the Orwellian sense but rather in that of CPSU General Secretary Konstantin Chernenko.”
Under Chernenko, “the last parliamentary elections of the USSR took place in which the CPSU received in the absence of alternatives 99 percent of the votes,” the Russian politician says. “Key here is not ‘the 99 percent’ and not ‘the absence of alternatives’ but rather ‘the last,’” although Putin like Chernenko before him doesn’t recognize that yet (theins.ru/opinions/196535).
According to Milov, Putin does recognize “better than others that the Russian establishment is tired of him, doesn’t trust him, and recognizes his negative role as the chief restraining factor on Russia’s development and will try to throw off this inheritance at the first possibility.”
In what can only be described as a “panic” response to confidential polls done for the Presidential Administration, Milov says, Putin this week moved in two directions to defend himself. First, he overturned the existing board of political relationships by declaring that he will remain in power but perhaps not as president, thus making it hard for an opposition to crystallize.
And second and far more important, he effectively did away with the president-prime minister system that had existed in Russia since the 1990s, by dismissing the hyper-loyal Dmitry Medvedev and replacing him with a cypher who can be counted on to be even more loyal rather than as a potential focal point of opposition to the Kremlin leader himself.
One thing is clear, Milov continues. “Putin wants to create a new system of checks and balances in order not to permit the loss of his own influence” and he is doing so by declaring now that he will remain in power but will provide details only later in his own good time, thereby preventing any group from organizing against him.
Moreover, what his changes will do is increase the number of potential players at the top of the Russian system. That works to his advantage because it doesn’t allow any one of them to play the role that a strong and more independent-minded prime minister at least in principle could.
According to Milov, these moves suggest that “Putin has panicked,” having gotten “’closed’ poll results which have shown how bad his situation is.” And that conclusion is strengthened, he says, by the man Putin has installed as prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, someone who will do nothing to rock the boat.
Misushtin’s appointment provides “a clear portrait of the psychological state of the Russian leader: Putin feels himself insecure … and wants to rely on someone who will secure his wealth at any price, even at the price of the further decay of the Russian economy as a whole.”
Thus, this appointment is “not about elections, growth or the future: it is about the personal confidence of Putin that everything won’t crash despite all the indicators that it should. [It] is thus about psychology and not economics or political technology,” the former Russian official and now commentator says.
Another commentator, Aleksandr Rodionov of Yekaterinburg’s Politsovet portal, suggests that in trying to shore up his power in one way, Putin has alienated a key part of the elite by his call to ban those with second passports or foreign residence permits or who have not lived in Russia for at least 25 years from serving in senior positions (politsovet.ru/65190-putin-lishil-politicheskogo-buduschego-detey-elity.html).
This strikes at many members of the Russian elite whose children have such passports and residence permits because of their studies and who have not lived in the Russian Federation for the necessary length of time. As such, Rodionov argues, “Putin has deprived the children of the elite of a political future.”
That may solve one aspect of the 2024 transition problem by excluding many who may be looking to be part of a new nobility (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/01/russian-ruling-clique-wants-to-become.html), but precisely because it does, it creates another: anger among the parents of these children at the current ruler in the Kremlin.