Wednesday, March 31, 2021

To Keep Power, Moscow Now Using Terror Against Its Own Population, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 29 – By its recent actions, including the arrest of relatives of those who oppose the regime, the powers that be in the Russian capital have shown that they have adopted terror as a means against the population and thus have implicitly acknowledged the existence of a civil war in the Russian Federation, Vladimir Pastukhov says.

            Increasingly, the regime is using the FSB’s Service for the Defense of the Constitutional Order and the Struggle with Terrorism against its political opponents, the London-based Russian analyst says, and that service’s officers are inclined to use the same methods against the opposition they use against terrorists (

            “This is a manifestation of civil war,” Pastukhov argues, because now the opposition is being treated not as an element of society against which laws can be deployed but as an outlaw formation that the regime can use any methods it wants to in order to suppress some and intimidate others.

            “In principle,” he says, this is like when the Bolsheviks declared the Red Terror,” and one can thus say that Russia now has “the Putin terror,” a move designed to suppress those “who do not agree with the new anti-democratic construction of Russian society which the regime has offered.”

            According to Pastukhov, this shift in state policy happened not because of Navalny and his supporters but rather “the return of Navalny became a trigger for the crossing of some sort of red line” in the regime’s thinking. Up until now, some in the regime wanted to continue to play with the opposition, but now they have lost to those who want suppression as such.

            In part, this reflects a response within the ruling circles in Moscow to the events in Ukraine and especially Belarus, a fear without justification in fact that Russia is on the road toward a color revolution of its own and that the powers must suppress anyone who might be thinking about taking part in it.

            By deploying terror, whose audience is not individuals but society as a whole, the regime is forcing Russians to choose among three options: keeping their heads down and avoiding any involvement in politics, taking a chance by doing so, or leaving the country in order to be able to live as they want.

            Most will choose the first in response to terror, Pastukhov argues. But the real problem is that “99 percent of the so-called liberal-democratic opposition in Russia consists of people who quite easily will exchange their political positions for all kinds of material benefits” and thus won’t challenge a regime which offers them carrots as well as sticks.

            In other comments, Pastukhov suggests that at present, the efforts of historian Denis Karagodin to track down those who persecuted his ancestors represents an even greater threat to the regime and those who want to use terror than anything Navalny and his supporters have done or may do.

            The historian is in the business of destroying the myth that terrorism was justified because of the victory in World War II. That is what the entire Putin edifice is based on and what allows those who engage in repression to assume that they will remain untouchable. If that confidence is destroyed, then it will be far harder for repression to continue.

            The problem is, Pastukhov continues, is that those engaged in repression are now operating as a self-directed machine. Putin is ever less important concerning what they do in specific cases because the machine has its own goals which are reinforced by the rewards it has been able and will be able to give to its officers.

            And the logic of that machine, the analyst argues, is to become ever harsher leading to the point where “if the enemy doesn’t surrender, he must be destroyed.” Indeed, “we are approaching that stage” already.

            What is important to keep in mind is that the Putin regime does not have the ambition to convince everyone. It doesn’t care very much about the 14 percent of the population that opposes it and even allows them to live on “reservations” the Kremlin has established. There, like “European Indians,” they are free to talk and complain with one important limitation.

            They must not seek to reach out beyond their own ranks. Navalny has violated that by hammering on the single theme of corruption in the hopes of expanding his political base. For the Kremlin and the security structures, that is intolerable; and now they want to destroy him for making that effort.

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