Staunton, Oct. 30 – The dominance of siloviki thinking in the Putin regime means that the Kremlin views all problems as having military solutions, in which the use of force or the threat of its use will overcome all obstacles, Aleksey Levinson says. But that approach often proves counterproductive.
A clear case in point, the Levada Center sociologist says, involves the way in which such thinking and the policies it has led to has increased distrust among Russians in their government and contributed significantly to the opposition of nearly half of the population to vaccinations against the coronavirus (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/10/29/virus-kak-voina).
For the regime, the virus was an enemy that could be fought with military means, a view it was initially encouraged by because of the apparent success China had against it by using the most draconian of measures, Levinson says. But that approach, or at least the extremes to which the Kremlin took it, has proved counterproductive.
Not only did Russians resent these force measures because of the way in which they interfered with their lives, but when it came time to vaccinate the population, the sociologist says, the Kremlin took a decision which has proved to be “a grandiose mistake,” one that has limited any success it might have had.
The powers that be “decided to show the world that we are not just the most frighting but also first in our love for humanity. [The Kremlin] recalled that our sputnik … brought great glory not only at home but throughout the world, and using the most dangerous slogan, ‘We can repeat!’ it decided to launch into the world” its vaccine against covid.
Levada Center polls show that this was a gross miscalculation because it suggested to the Russian people that what the Kremlin was doing was engaging in propaganda rather than trying to fight the disease. In their eyes, the Sputnik vaccine was not a life-saving medicine but an instrument of propaganda.”
That view was confirmed for many when the regime lifted restrictions for actions it wanted to promote such as voting on the amendments to the Constitution or Duma elections; and so the suspicions of Russians about the vaccine were exacerbated by their suspicions that the regime wasn’t acting in their interests or telling them the truth.
As a result, Russians reacted to the Kremlin’s efforts in exactly the opposite way the Kremlin wanted, an unprecedented case in Putin’s time, Levinson says. And their suspicions about the propagandistic nature of the covid campaign led many to decide that they didn’t want to use a medication that had been rushed into service for reasons other than their health.
And this attitude reinforced all the conspiracy thinking that animates much of the Russian population, again as a result of the Kremlin’s general approach. But this combination means that Moscow hasn’t been able to convince many Russians to be vaccinated and as a result many are getting sick and dying.