Staunton, February 8 – Many were shocked when Dmitry Medvedev said that Moscow might cut Russia off from the Internet but they haven’t noticed that the Putin regime has already taken a more serious step: In response to the Navalny protests, it has cut Russia off from the rule of law, Vladimir Pastukhov says.
With the Navalny case, the Kremlin dispensed with any reliance on the rule of law, the London-based Russian analyst says. “The disappearance of law marked the latest phased transition in the evolution of the regime, this time from ‘imitation democracy’ … to ‘the neo-totalitarian dictatorship’” it is (mbk-news.appspot.com/sences/otklyuchenie-ot-prava/).
“This is a completely new political reality, so new that its ‘depth’ is something few have yet recognized,” Pastukhov continues. It is a step which shows the regime is quite prepared to openly ignore law even as a decoration designed to fool Russians and the West. And that shift is, he argues, fundamental to an understanding of what is going on.
Some may think that talking about the dispensing with the rule of law is excessive because they believe it is only being dropped in this or a few other specific cases, he argues; but in fact, once this process begins, it spreads to the entire formerly legal system and leads to ever more arbitrariness and the fear of arbitrariness.
What has occurred is thus as radical as can be imagined. Someone has turned off law just as he might turn off a light in a room, and “this means that someone wants to live in darkness,” to take decisions without anyone watching. And in this case, the person responsible is beyond any doubt Vladimir Putin.
He wasn’t forced to do this by some “bad boyars.” He decided to take this step because his personal views have been “dramatically changed. He has become a serious misanthrope,” a major change from when he was a legalist and used law to promote his goals and even from when he used legal forms for illegal actions, Pastukhov says.
What Putin doesn’t appear to understand is what a high price this latest change is going to require him and Russia to pay. And that price will “sooner or later” have to be paid. Anyone who thinks that there can be lawlessness in one realm, the political, but real law everywhere else is deeply mistaken.
Instead, what is “completely predictable” is that lawlessness in one realm will spread to all others, returning Russia or at least threatening to return Russia to the wild 1990s Putin has presented himself as the greatest opponent of – and has even won support for playing that role, the London-based analyst says.
In prospect then is a Russia where once again “arbitrariness will become universal and not some partial norm.” Putin may be able to hold this together as long as he is in office, but even if that proves to be the case, it will open a potentially disastrous period after he departs from the scene.
“At the instant Putin leaves power, Russia will again become an enormous ‘wild place,’” with nothing under control. “Putin is the largest of the matryoshka dolls, within which all the others are hidden.” They will then emerge, and there is no predicting what will happen, Pastukhov continues.
Putin succeeded not because Yeltsin chose him or because he was from the KGB or because he was “the smartest and most clever,” but because “there was in Russian society, a demand for Putin’s policies, a stronger role for the state … and even a break with the West.” And Putin did all this at one time.”
“But today in society, a directly opposite demand against ‘a new 1990s’ is beginning to take shape, and by each of his actions, Putin is only intensifying this demand.” And if Putin can’t see it, some in his entourage can and will act accordingly. As a result, “Navalny by his return has broken the spine of the regime.”
What Putin has done in response is to turn to actions based on “naked arbitrariness alone” and thus unwittingly “initiating the process of the euthanization of the regime he established. He doesn’t understand that yet, but when he does, it will be too late: the regime will lie in a coma” and be near death.