Monday, March 23, 2020

Putin Following Path of Yugoslavia’s Tito and with Potentially Similar Results, Savvin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 18 – The plethora of constitutional amendments, including Tereshkov’s which will allow Vladimir Putin to remain president until 2036, do not solve the problem of transition but instead push it off into the distant future, an arrangement that may help the Kremlin now but entails ever more serious negative consequences, Dimitry Savvin says.

            That is because what is happening not only shows that Putin does not have a plan and thus has fallen back on the strategy Yugoslavia adopted for Marshal Tito, a strategy that maintained stability as long as he was alive but then led to the disintegration of the country, the editor of the Riga-based Harbin portal says (

                On the one hand, Putin like Tito has made himself a president for life, a dictator for the purposes of development who promises democracy but only after him. And on the other, he has failed as Tito did to arrange for a transition and even boosted the still-shadowy State Council into an organization whose members will represent partial rather than all-Russian interests.

            In the short term, this may work for Putin both at home and abroad. He and his representatives can tell Russians and especially the young that he is working to create conditions under which they will get the democracy and freedom he suggests Russia is not yet economically prepared for.

            And he and they can tell the Western powers that Putin remains committed to democracy but like other modernizing leaders, he needs and deserves their support rather than hostility if he is to achieve that goal – especially given that they have supported other dictators who have made similar claims.

            All this recalls what Yugoslavia did with its constitution in 1974. Tito was made president for life because of his special role in the country’s history. “Putin has decided to act in an analogous way, keeping for himself the place of the single and unrepeatable Father of the Fatherland.”

            But that is not all Putin has done. He has also retained the shadowy State Council, an institution he clearly intends to use but that is so undefined that it seems unlikely to serve as the commanding height of the system but rather become a new arena for conflicts not only between Putin and others but among the others about the future.

That too has a Yugoslav analogy, Savvin says, because at any moment, this Council may take on real power; and its members are likely to represent the interests of only segments of the country and its lower-standing institutions rather than the national interest of the Russian Federation as a whole.

What this means, the conservative Russian commentator says, is that “the Kremlin does not see for itself an effective mechanism for the transition ofr power. The single model which more or less satisfies the neo-Soviet ruling stratum is that of the Chinese Peoples Republic.” But as recent developments there show, that model leads to the return of an ordinary dictatorship.

That is the path Russia is currently following, but its consequences down the pike are “completely obvious: The longer the transition of power will be put off, the fewer chances there will be that it will take place in a positive way. And the example of Tito’s Yugoslavia is extremely indicative.”

“A dictatorship cannot be transformed into a democracy automatically by the inclusion of ‘sleeping’ institutions earlier written about in laws but in fact not functioning,” Savvin says.  Instead, with the passing of the dictator, who wants to hold onto all power, the regime faces the prospect of losing everything.

According to the commentator, “after the death of Tito there did not remain a single politician who had serious authority in the country as a whole – all significant leaders had support only within the limits of their national republics,” a pattern that set the stage for the disintegration of the country and its descent into civil war.

            Stability and continuity are possible under a dictatorship only if the dictator grooms a successor or creates an institution out of which such a leader with national goals can emerge. Russia has neither at least as of now, Savvin continues.  And the much-ballyhooed constitutional amendments have not pointed to the emergence of either.

            As a result, just like Yugoslavia a half century ago, Russia faces the continuation of a dictatorship and the prospect that with the passing of the dictator, the country will face not a transition but chaos and disintegration. Putin may have put that off for a time, but he has not solved any of the challenges Russia faces.

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