Staunton, March 21 – When Vladimir Putin said last December that he did not plan any purges, Mikhail Khazin says, “between the lines” was the message that “if you force my hand, then I will do so.” And given the increasing activism of liberal opponents of the Kremlin leader, the economist says, this time may not be “far off.”
On the YouTube channel Den’-TV, Khazin argues that many of the problems Russia faces have been created by or are at least being exacerbated as a result of the conflict of liberals with Putin’s conservative positions (newizv.ru/article/general/21-03-2020/mihail-hazin-liberaly-mobilizovalis-na-poslednyuyu-bitvu-s-putinym-i-trampom).
Their clash is now coming to a head, he continues. “In medicine, this is called the crisis when the immune system is struggling with the illness. The immune system consists of our patriotic forces which want to save Russia, and the illness is the liberal infection which has been spreading among us since 1956 when Khrushchev said satisfaction of material needs was the main task.”
Now, just as they did at the end of Soviet times, liberal Russians are talking about empty shelves and a decline in the standard of living as a way to try to turn the people against Putin. The Kremlin leader has responded with the conservative amendments to the Constitution as a way of solidifying his support.
And having pushed these conservative amendments, Putin then arranged to have his time in power extended so that the conflict about succession would be put off for decades. But if the liberals keep up their attacks and disrupt the system, the Moscow commentator says, it is entirely possible that the Kremlin leader will take additional steps against the liberals.
Khazin stresses that “the return to conservatism is a return to responsibility, and any individual who recognizes that it is necessary to go back to conservative values must today support the president.”
He suggests that “Putin’s ‘conservative transition’ is essence is analogous to what Trump is doing in the US. This is hardly because the presidents have ‘conspired’ but because circumstances are pushing them in this direction. One must understand that they both by mentality are rightist conservatives, although Putin may be a little more to the left.”
In the near term, Khazin says, Putin may follow the course that some in Spain and France are now advocating and move to re-nationalize some major firms. “Just imagine,” he says where the liberals would be if major Russian firms ceased to be privately held! They would lose one of their most important support groups.
That is not the only “card” Putin has in “his pocket,” the economist says, although he concedes that it is far from easy to say exactly what the Kremlin leader will do next. But he clearly feels the need to respond to the liberal threat, and it is possible that he will soon fire those like Nabiullina at the Central Bank and finance minister Siluanov who are among its leaders.