Staunton, June 21 – Many observers are suggesting that the United Russia candidates Vladimir Putin has assembled show his confidence in the loyalty of those now closest to him, the SVR General telegram channel says; but such people are “strongly mistaken” because the Kremlin leader understands that “loyalists will be the first to betray him.”
Those who attach themselves to the current power will change sides when they feel the balance of forces has shifted; and thus those who appear the most loyal now are precisely the ones who are likely at some point to become the least (t.me/generalsvr/383, reposted at rusmonitor.com/putin-prekrasno-znaet-lyudej-i-ponimaet-chto-imenno-loyalisty-predadut-pervymi-general-svr.html).
That is particularly the case if their current “loyalty” is based only on the advantages they can have by declaring their support for the current leader rather than on some broader political agenda, be it an ideology like communism or nationalism because when the leader can’t deliver the goods, he will lose the backing of those who support him so loudly now.
Abbas Gallyamov, a former Putin speechwriter and current analyst and commentator expands on this point by arguing that “loyalty is ceasing to be the norm” in the ruling circles of Russia, a reflection of what he describes as the broader “erosion of the social basis of the regime” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=60D00F17D0A40).
The analyst says that this is shown in an interesting change in the words Russians in focus groups talk about the Kremlin. With regard to foreign policy, they still repeat the slogans the regime and its television offer; but with regard to domestic affairs, “the loyalists describe their position exclusively in their own words.”
There are fur reasons for this significant change, Gallyamov says. First, people are simply fed up with official propaganda. They can see for themselves how much at odds it is with reality. Second, their lives are getting worse and the regime is not doing anything to stop that. Third, the quality of Putin’s propaganda, at least on domestic issues, is rapidly declining and that puts people off.
And fourth – and Gallyamov strongly suggests this is the most important factor of all – “loyalty in general is ceasing to be a socially-approved norm.” Even those who continue to support Putin don’t want to show people around them that they take their ideas directly from his worst television propagandists. They want to speak “a normal human language.”
Russians today “have lost their former loyalty but they have not yet shifted to final and unqualified protest,” he says. “If opposition figures are liquidated, then there is a chance to hold them in this intermediate state.” But only for a time because in the end, “people, even the loyalists, don’t like repression.”
And that means that although the Kremlin may have restrained the growth of protest for some short period of time, it will “at one and the same time create the base for its further strengthening in the future” both at the popular level and among elite groups who are affected by many of the same trends.