Staunton, June 17 – Russian commentators are now debating whether Putin’s falling approval ratings, now at historic lows, will trigger protests, with some convinced that it will and others equally certain that there is little change of that (nakanune.ru/articles/116156/ and krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/77364).
But if there is disagreement about that, there is general acceptance of the proposition that Putin’s support in the population is a critical resource for him in dealing with other members of Russia’s core elites, with the assumption, sometimes spoken and sometimes not, that if his rating falls too far, some of them demand greater deference to their positions.
One analyst who thinks is happening is Abbas Gallyamov who sees the recent spate of articles by Nikolay Patrushev, including one given advance billing today by Rossiiskaya gazeta (rg.ru/2020/06/17/patrushev-zapad-privyk-naviazyvat-svoe-mirovospriiatie.html), as a sign that the siloviki are making a move (echo.msk.ru/blog/gallyamov_a/2662283-echo/).
It is, of course, not certain that the articles by the powerful secretary of Russia’s security service is making a political move against Putin. He may even have Putin’s backing to float the ideas he is advancing. But Patrushev is clearly exploiting the current situation, including Putin’s declining ratings, to advance his own ideas.
“Experts have more than once warned the Kremlin” about the dangers it may face if its approval falls and it keeps asking the siloviki to solve political tasks, thus giving them ideas about being at least potentially “the saviors of the Fatherland,” a view no one except the number one should have.
Moreover, the analyst continues, even if Patrushev did get Putin’s approval to advance to push certain ideas, the fact that the Security Council head is doing so gives him an edge relative to others, including Putin. That will not be lost on other siloviki who recognize they can do things better than others, including perhaps Putin himself.
Gallyamov concludes: “The list of authoritarian leaders sent into retirement by their own siloviki is so long that one doesn’t even want to begin it. All that is needed for this scenario to be realized is to give the siloviki too much influence and lose part of one’s own former popularity.” Putin has now done both.