Staunton, December 16 – The last line of defense in Moscow against new charges that Russia’s special services were behind the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny is that they could not be “so unprofessional,” Abbas Gallyamov says. Indeed, the Kremlin has implied as much by implying that if they were involved, they would have succeeded in killing the opposition figure.
But such logic works only for those who “never in their lives” have come in contact with the ruling bureaucracy, the Moscow commentator and former Putin speechwriter says. Those who have come into contact with these people know that officers of the special services can be that incompetent and even more so (echo.msk.ru/blog/gallyamov_a/2759160-echo/).
“In general, it would be strange, if the situation were otherwise,” Gallyamov continues. The Kremlin and the government are ineffective, propaganda works ever less well, and both governors and military commanders regularly demonstrate their incompetence. What possible reason is there for anyone to believe that the special services have escaped this trend?
The reasons for this general decay are obvious, he says. On the one hand, in the current environment, those who hold positions in these various institutions are working hard to ensure that their children will do so in the future. And on the other, the Kremlin in supporting this also is seeking to buy loyalty rather than maintain it through generating commitment to anything else.
Both of these factors are working to generate a caste mentality in institutions like the security services, Gallyamov argues. Its officers “feel themselves ever more set apart from ordinary citizens and view themselves as some kind of new nobility, ‘the salt of the Russian land.’”
Political scientist Daniel Treisman has proposed the word “silovarchy” to describe this phenomenon, a term that combines siloviki and oligarchy and that has emerged in the security services and other parts of the Russian government as the regime tries to win loyalty by paying selected groups more and people in these institutions seek to provide jobs to their offspring.
According to Gallyamov, the Putin regime increasingly needs the services of the siloviki to keep itself in power and “ever more actively uses material stimuli” to get them to stay loyal, given the absence of any larger idea. Hence the increases in salaries and bonuses for those most critical to the defense of the Kremlin.
Putin is doing this now because he fears protests before or after the upcoming Duma elections and is buying loyalty from people in this way and also by telling the siloviki that they have a vested interest in defending the regime because protesters will be coming after them as well.
This is creating a situation that is exactly the opposite of what Russian society needs. Rotation of elites is critical because what the regime wants, that the children of oligarchs will be oligarchs and the offspring of siloviki will be siloviki, freezes the current disastrous situation and makes it unlikely that any part of the regime will avoid further deterioration.
What is happening in Putin’s Russia, Gallyamov says, contradicts the pattern in other countries and means that the Russian regime “cannot have a future. The only problem is that when it falls, many are going to suffer, both those who are part of it and those many others who are not.”