Saturday, April 4, 2020

Putin Now Faces Plethora of Problems He Can’t Solve with His Accustomed Means, Krasheninnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 1 – For most of time in power, Vladimir Putin has been able to address the problems Moscow faces by propaganda campaigns, force or money. But now, Fyodor Krasheninnikov says, he must deal with problems beyond their reach. And after the coronavirus ends, he will face an even more unfavorable environment as far as those means are concerned.

            Indeed, the Russian commentator suggests, the pandemic is “destroying Putinism” as it has existed up to now ( “For the first time in 20 years, Putin’s regime has had to change its habits and approaches to running the country.” Its past typically successful ways simply aren’t working, as the epidemic and economic crisis now show.

            The epidemic is happening everywhere and it touches people in immediate and dramatic ways, overwhelming concerns about geopolitics or “’the falsification of history,’” the commentator says. And even more, it is forcing Putin to appear and thus “again and again” to take responsibility for problems, a strategy he has avoided in the past.

            Of course, the Kremlin leader continues to try to shift responsibility and to ensure that others announce the harsh measures and bad news so that he can later announce the lifting of restrictions and good news.  But will the measures announced work if they don’t become all-Russian? And when will there be good news to talk about?

            Moreover, Krasheninnikov continues, there is this: “the main skeptics and violators or quarantine measures are not opposition figures who are dissatisfied with Putin but that very ‘deep people’ on which he is accustomed to rely.” If the pandemic passes quickly, he may be able to win them back; but the economic shadow it is casting suggests that too will be hard.

             “If all the measures declared so far don’t stop the epidemic, the president will have to introduce a real quarantine or full-blown martial law – but with a delay and after valuable time has been lost … Moreover, that step is his last card, and if for some reason, it doesn’t work, this will finally undermine the authority of the powers that be.”

            To be sure, “the epidemic sooner or later will end, but this hardly means that the worst will be behind” Russia and Putin. “In a certain sense, what will be ahead will be still worse because people will cease to worry about their health and will return to their daily concerns” – and it is not clear that Moscow will be able to help them with those anytime soon.

            As a result, 2020 will be a disaster for the Putin regime. “Instead of a rapid and effective change of the Constitution crowned by the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the company of world leaders, instead of messages in honor of fallen heroes and curses of falsifiers of history, [Putin] will have to spend all spring” dealing with doctors and the virus.

            And at the same time, he will be compelled to “think about what is to be done further,” when the pandemic has passed but “the economy lies in ruins.” The virus isn’t going to harm Putin’s health, but one can see that it is “killing off before our eyes [Putinism] in the form in which it existed in recent years.”

            “For the first time in all his years in rule, Putin has encountered a whole complex of problems not one of which can be solved only by public relations, force, money or simply by waiting it out until it somehow resolves itself.” That means Putin is going to have to take responsibility for “everything bad, horrific and sad” which lies ahead.

            It is already widely recognized that “the world after the coronavirus epidemic will not be what it was,” Krasheninnikov says. And that is especially likely to be the case for Russia which was caught unawares by the pandemic and with a leader completely unprepared to cope.

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