Staunton, January 16 – It is “a big mistake” to think that Vladimir Putin has organized his system so as to enrich himself and his entourage, Dmitry Oreshkin says. His logic is just the opposite: he has enriched his entourage to buy their loyalty to achieve what he sees as his “mission” – the restoration of a powerful state like the USSR once was.
Put most simply, the Russian commentator says, Putin “buys” loyalty while Stalin secured it “by fear.” The money that central and regional government and business leaders have “is not a goal but an instrument to secure the loyalty of the strong players around Putin himself” (apostrophe.ua/article/world/ex-ussr/2020-01-16/putin-idet-po-puti-stalina-kak-v-rossii-proishodit-transfer-vlasti/30362).
“An unavoidable element” of a power structure of this kind is “infighting among the elites.” To prevent that from getting out of hand, Putin not only monitors them closely but encourages some to denounce others because that is the only way to prevent the creation of “some kind of ‘anti-party group,’ if one uses the terms of Comrade Stalin and thus a coup.”
Stalin countered this danger by “shuffling the force structures,” the commentator says. Putin does so by pitting one group against another and transferring wealth. And that means that in his system as in Stalin, “administered conflict is the natural state for such political models.” The difference is only the coin of the realm.
In two other ways, Oreshkin suggests, Putin is relying on Stalinist principles. On the one hand, like Stalin, he understands that cadres, not positions, decide everything. Consequently, it is a matter of indifference to him just as it was for Stalin to have the highest position in the state as long as he has the greatest power.
Stalin was never head of the Soviet government but between 1923 and 1953, there was no question that he had the most power as the general secretary of the CPSU who made all the key decisions and ensured that they were enforced.
And on the other, Putin has a Stalinist approach to running the country. “Putin in essence is repeating the Soviet model when there was a central committee of the party and under it committees of various subordination. A decision which the leader of the party took was immediately communicated to the lower reaches and then back came reports on its fulfillment.”
“This is a successful idea for conducting a war,” Oreshkin says; “but a very unsuccessful one for developing the country.” Nonetheless that is what Putin wants to see, a rigid hierarchy. He doesn’t have a party structure to rely on, but he is working to ensure that his power vertical will perform in the same way.