Staunton, May 20 – The Kremlin’s increasing reliance on force alone to maintain its power will come back “like a boomerang” to haunt it because as a result, it is becoming the hostage of the force structures since “even the stupidest general will quickly understand that he is the foundation” on which the regime rests, Abbas Gallyamov says.
The Russian commentator who earlier served as a Putin speechwriter says that by toughening the election law, “the authorities are driving the dissatisfied into the streets” where it assumes it can count on the loyalty of the siloviki to disperse and suppress them (newizv.ru/article/general/20-05-2020/bumerangom-po-vlasti-chem-grozit-stavka-na-silovikov-i-politseyschinu).
But this creates a problem for Putin himself, Gallyamov continues. The more he bets on the siloviki and the less he relies on his own popularity, the more the siloviki will recognize that they have the whip hand and can demand that their nominal boss accede to their wishes rather than the other way around.
How this can end, he continues, is shown in the case of Indonesia and the overthrow of the first ruler of that country. Sukarno had come to office as the popular leader of the independence movement, but his increasingly authoritarian style cost him his popularity and ultimately led those who he thought would protect him to rise against him.
Sukarno’s reliance on the military in particular ultimately created “a critical mass” of opponents among his supposed defenders when they saw that his popularity was ebbing and that he was in power only because of them. In the end, General Suharto removed him from power and placed him “under house arrest where the former ‘father of the nation’ lived out his days.”
Any leader who relies exclusively on force becomes hostage of the force structures” because their commanders can see that the ruler has no other levers left. That is why, Gallyamov says, “smart authoritarian rulers do not move toward complete police rule” and why they seek to “diversify the mechanisms” by which they hold onto power.
Judging from what the Kremlin is doing now with regard to elections, he concludes, one can see that Vladimir Putin and his closest advisors are no longer following this golden rule.” They should be thinking more about Sukarno than about Qaddafi or Milosevich.