Staunton, March 13 – Vladimir Putin is using the siloviki because they appear to him to be an effective tool under current circumstances, Vladimir Pastukhov says. But despite what some in Russia and the West have suggested, the siloviki are not exercising any more or less influence over his decisions than they did.
Suggestions to the contrary, the London-based Russian scholar continues, reflect a “false” understanding of the situation. What is happening is “Putin simply has begun to use the siloviki more often and involve them in the resolution of those political collisions which he had earlier addressed” by other means (echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/2803522-echo/).
For the first ten years of his time in power, Putin could rely on the income from the rising price of oil to ensure that the population loved him. Then he relied on “pseudo-patriotism” by the popular move of seizing Crimea, and again “all loved him … But now No one loves Putin becomes all are becoming poorer and they have even stopped loving Crimea.”
As a result, Putin has been compelled to rely on force; but he will certainly discover the truth of the well-known aphorism that it is possible to come to power via bayonets but it is “very uncomfortable to sit on them. And all are waiting for him to fall off.” But his situation isn’t as immediately dire as many appear to believe.
Russians are still better off than they were and still more enamored of Crimea than not; and consequently, Pastukhov says, “they are not ready to throw stones at the Kremlin and cobblestones from Red Square.” But at present, there are “two risks” for Russia in the immediate future.
On the one hand, Russia may be dragged into some big war; and on the other, it may shift from targeted repressions to mass repressions, “from repressions against individuals to repressions against the urban educated class as a whole, precisely as a class or a stratum.” Either would represent a fundamental change for the Kremlin and for Russia.
Which one Putin chooses to follow will depend on many factors, a large number of which he does not fully control. But Pastukhov says that a Russian war with a former Soviet republic or even with Turkey will “grow each year by a factor of two or three.” That doesn’t mean it will occur, but it does mean there will be pressures in that direction.
The West will not adopt sufficient sanctions to get him to change directions on Navalny or anything else, the analyst says. Such sanctions either don’t exist or would hurt the West too much or would require that Western countries refocus from their domestic concerns to international ones.
But at the same time, Pastukhov says, the West isn’t going to forgive and forget the Navalny case or others like it. Instead, it will behave as it did with regard to Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries. It never forgot or forgave that, but at the same time, when it suited Western interests, it reached agreements with Moscow.
There is every reason to believe that something similar will occur with the Navalny case. It simply won’t be allowed to interfere with these larger questions.