Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Putin’s Perestroika, One Driven Like Gorbachev’s by a Desire to Revive a Stagnating System, Path to Its Destruction, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 8 – Vladislav Inozemtsev, who has long argued that the Putin system is likely to remain stable for at least another decade, now says that the Kremlin is acting in ways that point to an attempt to fundamentally restructure the Russian political system before the 2024 presidential vote.

            And such a perestroika, exactly with Mikhail Gorbachev’s, the Russian commentator argues, is driven by Putin’s desire to revive a stagnating system, may prove as its analogue did a direct path to its own destruction (

            According to Inozemtsev, the annulling of presidential terms via the constitutional amendments of 2020 in fact made any elections “unacceptable” for the regime because despite controls, such events do allow the population to express its own opinion. Consequently, the regime has been doing what it can to render voting irrelevant.

            “This is understandable,” the economist says. “The constitutional referendum of 2020 was in fact a referendum on the restoration in Russia of a monarchy, and the powers that be organized it out of a conviction that the time for this had come.” And a monarchy, unless it is a constitutional one, doesn’t work well in combination with elections.

            According to Inozemtsev, the Kremlin felt compelled to move to make the upcoming elections something other than they were advertised as being. These were the reaction of the Belarusian people to Lukashenka’s manipulation of voting, something that showed a people can rise up even if they have not had much possibility to do so for a long time, and the Navalny case.

            The latter showed, the analyst says, that even with Putin’s control of the media, an opposition figure could arise and gain support; and even if the authorities attacked and then incarcerated him, he could continue to serve as someone around which popular unhappiness could coalesce.

            “I do not consider it an exaggeration to say that Lukashenka and Navalny became the two historical personalities who accelerated the transition of Russia from a defective and declining republic into a still more grotesque monarchy.” Moreover, they show that the Kremlin now has ended the period of compromise and “intends to rule by repression.”

            What is striking is that the Putin system that existed until recently, one based on the use of the media to mobilize people and relatively few restrictions, was working well and would not have needed to be replaced had the Kremlin leader not wanted something else. But he did and does, and so Russia is in the midst of another perestroika.

            He isn’t prepared to tolerate any competition or a situation in which he controls less than 70 to 80 percent of the Duma deputies. And so Putin has worked to achieve something that his earlier system could not but with a price that his actions have further alienated the population and necessitated more coercion than before.

            What this means, Inozemtsev argues, is that “the problem of the powers even now consists not in that they can’t win a victory” but that they can’t do so without employing methods that make it clear to everyone that they don’t have the kind of support that they insist they do.

            By acting in this way, the Kremlin has driven itself “if not into a trap then into an extremely difficult situation.” Had it done so 15 years ago when the economy was going well, it might have engineered the transition to monarchy it wants without difficulty. But now things aren’t going as well, and the population is far more alienated.

            And that in turn means that Putin and his team must use ever more coercion to achieve their goals, something that may work for a time but that carries within itself the kind of delayed action mine that is likely to blow the entire system up just as such mines have done in the past in Russia.

            And while Putin will get the result he wants in these elections, he will face the task of changing his system even more fundamentally immediately afterwards; and that means, Inozemtsev concludes, that “the period from 2021 to 2024 will be one of active preparation for the restructuring of Russia’s ‘stable’ Russia.”

            But as Russians know from experience, “perestroika driven by a desire to renew a stagnant system is the most effective means of bringing about its own destruction.”

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