Friday, April 23, 2021

Putin Increasingly a Prisoner of His Past Successes Just Like Other Pyramid Scheme Builders, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 20 – Vladimir Putin like other organizers of pyramid schemes is a prisoner of his past successes, Vladimir Pastukhov says. He must achieve new victories either militarily or without fighting but with Western concessions, but in either case, the Kremlin leader will find himself in an increasingly difficult position as pyramid scheme builders always do.

            That is because the Kremlin leader needs to maintain his image among Russians as the ever-victorious leader, the London-based analyst says. But he is increasingly in a position where he can’t achieve the kind of victory he needs either militarily or by concessions (

            If Putin expands his invasion of Ukraine either now or later, he may be able to occupy that country; but he won’t be able to control it. Instead, he will put Russia in much the same position it was in after Moscow invaded Afghanistan, with all the ensuring consequences of regime decay and even the disintegration of the country.

            But if he pulls back for the present, he must show that he achieved something by what he did other than new sanctions. And given what else Putin has been doing, including his imposition of a slow death on Aleksey Navalny, he will have difficult time showing any rewards. Instead, the West will increasingly view Russia as it viewed the USSR after 1979 as an evil empire.

            It is important to remember, Pastukhov continues, that “Putin doesn’t need war as such but only a victory.” In that, “Putinism by its political essence is an enormous ‘pyramid,’ one worse that Mavrodi’s MMM and one that the regime has been building for two decades, continuously raising the stakes and borrowing from ‘future generations’” to maintain itself.

            “Today,” the London-based analyst says, “this ‘pyramid’ is in a pre-default state. Each of its victories, like a new loan, gives rise to a need for a new and still larger and more convincing victory, but the resource base on the basis of which these loans can be paid off in the future is running out.”

            And that means, Pastukhov continues, that “sooner or later a moment will come when Putin like any other ‘pyramid’ building’ will have to go for broke or face collapse. It is possible this time has already come and perhaps a found of bright new victories awaits us.” But that doesn’t answer the question: what kind of a victory does Putin need?

            Clearly, he needs to get out of the corner into which he has pushed himself; and for that, he clearly dreams of “a new variant of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, adapted to the realities of the 21st century or in the extreme case a Munich Agreement if only one could be worked out.”

            Putin has so reconstructed Russian society that he doesn’t face any threats from it, Pastukhov argues. “Basing himself on repression, [Putin’s regime] could exist for decades even if the economy begins to collapse.” But foreign threats remain, and Putin has made addressing them his priority.

            Thus, “victory for Putin at present is obtaining from the West in any acceptable diplomatically arranged understanding of guarantees of a dual kind: The West will not interfere in anything taking place in Russia and at the same time will allow Putin to interfere in everything he considers needful within the borders of the former Soviet zone of influence.”

            Ideally for Putin, Pastukhov says, “this must be a return to something like the short-lived period of détente in Soviet-American relations which lasted approximately from 1972 (the first meeting of Brezhnev ad Nixon) to 1979 (the introduction of Soviet forces into Afghanistan).”

            That is what makes Ukraine such a fateful case. If Putin launches a full-scale war against it, that country will “become for Putin a second Afghanistan.” But if he pulls back, he may not get anything for that; and if he doesn’t, he will then find himself in a situation in which his pyramid will also be at risk because he has encouraged Russians to think he can win in Ukraine.

            Were Joe Biden to agree to such a deal, Putin might put off his need for an additional victory but only for a time because going back to Brezhnev’s Soviet Union, the Kremlin leader would convert Russia “into a new ‘evil empire,’ isolated, without access to advanced technology, but trying to compete while becoming poorer and losing its high-skilled cadres.”

            In short, Putin will gain little from either invading or pulling back, unless the West is willing to help him, Pastukhov says; and the evidence now is that the West isn’t prepared to do so. As a result, Putin’s existential problem will continue until he so overreaches that his pyramid collapses around him.


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