Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Even Many of Putin’s Backers Now Hate Him, Kasyanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 24 – Many of those who feel they have no choice but to back Vladimir Putin hate him, Mikhail Kasyanov says; but the Kremlin leader’s policies are driving even more people toward open revolt, one that will replace the incumbent not via middle class-dominated elections but by a mass rising.

            In an interview with Galina Ostapovets of Ukraine’s Obozrevatel portal, the man who served as Putin’s first prime minister (2000-2004) offers one of the most negative predictions of what the Kremlin leader’s policies are leading to (obozrevatel.com/russia/planyi-putina-obruchilis-eto-silnyij-udar-on-perezhivaet-i-ne-mozhet-smiritsya-eks-premer-rossii.htm).

            Russians are running out of savings, and the government is not providing them with the kind of assistance they need.  According to Kasyanov, only 43 percent of the 12,000 rubles Putin has promised firms to keep each worker employed will go to the workers; the rest will come back to the government in the form of taxes.

            Putin understands that as people face poverty and hunger, they will become increasingly angry; and to prevent their attitudes from being a threat to him and his regime, he has been adopting increasingly repressive measures, the former prime minister says. But there are limits to how effective those will ultimately prove to be.

            What makes the situation even worse than that during the hungry years at the end of Soviet times is that Putin’s regime has the money to help but doesn’t want to – and because he has so many people working for the state and thus dependent on him, he believes that they will continue to support him no matter what.

            Kasyanov says that he expects the referendum on the constitution to take place in June and to pass. “Before then, Putin will declare everything is fine, that we have defeated all the viruses and done better than the entire rest of the world. Reports a la Soviet Union. All ahead. Hurrah!” And threats to those dependent on the state will ensure him a victory.

             “In Russia, people depend on the powers, and with each year, this dependence is increasing ever more,” the Russian politician says. “Each citizen depends directly on his paycheck. Putin wants to feed people from his hand. He doesn’t want that institutions work on their own” and that people earn money from them. 

            Putin isn’t going to change course because he believes that would make him look weak, something he cannot bear. He will have a pompous parade and he will ban all other meetings because that combination has worked for him in the past and still has the capacity to work for him now.

            Of course, the Kremlin leader will falsify the results of the referendum. Online voting will only make that easier for him because it will be harder for monitors under Russian conditions to check what goes on with the 20 to 30 percent of votes coming in by electronic means or mail. Elections will become increasingly meaningless as a legitimating tool.

            “The majority of people given the existing situation,” Kasyanov continues, “will withdraw into their families, the kitchens and dachas. They will simply survive.” Those in the big cities who protested in the past won’t do so now because the repressive measures will be too great. Putin will block almost everything.

            One must remember that “people are not prepared to defend their constitutional rights, go out into the street and demand that they be observed and respected.” Those who have protested are now afraid, but coming in their place are the increasingly impoverished masses who will ultimately carry through a revolt. “This will be horrific.”

            “The change of power will take place not through elections where the middle class dominates and explains to people how it is necessary to correctly form policy and lead the country out of the crisis.” Instead, it will be led by “hungry and furious people” who will seek to sweep everything away.

            Putin understands this, but his response is to increase repression rather than help the population, and that brings this date ever closer.  He believes he can control the situation, but that is increasingly in doubt. Not only the hungry masses but even “many Putin supporters and backers already now admit that they do not like him.”

            “Some even hate him,” Kasyanov says, but most of them assume there is no choice. As things get worse, they will realize that there is. “The issue is not one of personalities.” A sensible government could be created in a day or two. “That is a small problem” once people realize the fraudulence of the very idea that Putin is forever.

            Ultimately, there is no “irreplaceable” power. “Our country is normal. Russians want to shape their future; the majority already doesn’t expect help from the state. They ask only that it not interfere” as it has been doing.

            “People younger than 60 already do not need the help of the state for survival.” And that gives one confidence, Kasyanov concludes, that “Russia will be able to go along a normal path,” the one it was moving toward before Putin began his efforts to turn the country in an entirely other and dangerous direction.

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