Monday, July 6, 2020

Putin’s Constitutional Changes Cast Dark Shadow on His and the Country’s Future, Igor Chubais Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 4 – Vladimir Putin’s newly approved constitutional changes which among other things destroy the division of powers in Russia and take the country out of the international legal order will last as long as he is in power and cast a dark shadow on the country until then, according to Moscow commentator Igor Chubais.

            Abroad, these changes in the Russian system will raise new questions not only about its membership in the Council of Europe but also its status as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council with the right of veto, he says. How can Russia occupy that position if it doesn’t recognize international law? (

            That is especially the case, Chubais says, because Putin’s chief international defender, US President Donald Trump, appears ever less likely to be re-elected. With him no longer in a position to back the Kremlin leader regardless of what he does, Putin and his country will be ever more isolated and weakened internationally.

            But there is a second factor that will be working against Putin: growing popular anger among Russians at what he is doing. While the Moscow state since 1917 has insisted that the population must support the government rather than the other way around, in fact, popular resistance repeatedly forced the government to change – and Putin may not be able to avoid that.

            The Kronstadt and Tambov risings forced Lenin to shift from War Communism to the New Economic Policy. The German invasion forced Stalin to drop communist memes in favor of Russian nationalist ones. And risings in the GULAG after Stalin’s death caused the communist leadership to move toward a thaw.

            And Gorbachev’s perestroika “did not fall from the sky,” Chubais says. “It was a forced response to the pressure of society, to the extraordinary resonance of the actions of a small group of dissidents and to the Revolution of Anecdotes,” when the entire people laughed at the existing regime.

            What will happen now? “As a result of the changes in the constitutions, the intellectual and economic life is the country will get worse. That means that protest again will grow and even that in one way or another the Putin regime will have to take that into account. It can’t simply act as it would prefer.

            But there is a third source of problems ahead, one that has existed in Russia since 1917 and that is the conflict between the political system and its leader, even when the leader has created and seems in total control of the system. Lenin and his system played to a draw, Stalin defeated it, but the system defeated Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and even Yeltsin.

            Until these constitutional changes, it might have appeared that Putin was on a trajectory that would leave him the victor over the system, Chubais says; but now, with these changes, his victory may prove Pyrrhic and set the stage for his defeat by the system that he put in place whose members have a different long-term agenda than he does.

            The “no” vote in Nenets Autonomous District about his amalgamation plans shows that Putin’s position is “not as simple” as many assume as does the new political activism and willingness to attack the Kremlin leader by name by formerly well-integrated “systemic” opposition leader Gennady Zyuganov of the KPRF. 

            In all these sectors, Putin’s situation is becoming more complicated and difficult because tensions are rising. Having won approval of his amendments, he has put himself in a position where future victories may be even harder to come by and future defeats by the international system, his own system, and the Russian people more likely.

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