Saturday, June 27, 2020

Putin No Longer Cares How He Looks to Others at Home or Abroad, Shevtsova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 25 – “An entire era is coming to an end” for Russia, Liliya Shevtsova says. Vladimir Putin is no longer interested in pretending to have Russia and its regime be part of Europe. Instead, “everything has become harsher and clearer,” and what is on view threatens Russians, the world, and ultimately the man behind this change.

            The main thing the upcoming referendum does, the Russian analyst says, is not making Putin president for life but rather “personalizing the Russian state,” something that requires constant legitimation, the rejection of which will be viewed as treason and betrayal (

            This change comes at a high price, Shevtsova says. “The price of putting in place a new system of power through a return to the past is the rejection of any movement toward the future. Even thinking about a vision of the future will look like sacrilege.”  And even small changes will be rejected lest they open the way a la Gorbachev to larger ones.

            Putin’s decision to use a referendum to achieve this end shows that he “doesn’t trust the elite. Possibly, he even despises it.” If so, the elite is in trouble because “the constitutional ‘voting’ unties Putin’s hands in dealing with the political class.”  And those who have tried to cooperate with him for one reason or another will find their lives far more difficult as well.

            In the short term, this may help Putin hold and even build power. But by making his rule lifetime, the new changes do not resolve the problem of what will happen after he dies. “With the liquidation of [all] institutional regulators, this process will become a threat to the stability of the state and society.”

            Thus, Shevtsova says, “by fixing the powers in cement today, the Kremlin is creating an explosive problem for the future.”

            Moreover, when he does pass from the scene, his successors will almost certainly build their power by denouncing his and putting at risk what he has tried to do, even if these future leaders too will want to declare that “l’etat c’cest moi” as they may want to given what those around the current leader are like.

            Moreover, Shevtsova continues, “the flight into the past will define the future fate of the country. Militarism, the destruction of the human personality as an independent subject makes progress impossible. [And any] hopes for an economic ‘breakthrough’ and ‘digitalization’ will dissipate.”

            But the problems won’t stop at Russia’s borders, the commentator says. “Putin understands that he cannot achieve [what he wants] by means of economic power. And as a result, his idea is to have a world order based on the rebirth of the Club of Victors at the end of World War II.”

            Few will be interested in that, and those like Germany which he has left out will certainly be opposed.  But Putin’s pursuit of this will mean that they like the Russian elites and the Russian people are going to suffer as well because of the decisions the Kremlin leader has now put in concrete.

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