Staunton, Nov. 13 – The silence that Vladimir Putin is imposing on Russia has the potential to be “more dangerous than any turbulence” because it means that there won’t be any public discussion of the ways in which steps intended to stabilize the situation may in fact have just the opposite effect, Liliya Shevtsova says.
The Russian commentator gives 15 examples (echo.msk.ru/blog/shevtsova/2936064-echo/):
“The transformation of elections into an instrument to maintain the status quo makes them a delayed action bomb” because those who want change will have to go into the streets or “some other place.”
· Buying loyalty works until the powers run out of resources to make payments on these accounts.
· As officials ignore the distinction between the legal and the illegal, others in society do the same with potentially explosive consequences.
· Purging the population of foreign agents and undesirables will eventually lead to purges among the elites.
· Russia has made money from its enormous natural resources but this has meant that it has had fewer incentives than others to move to a post-hydrocarbon world. Thus, the resource curse many have talked about is getting worse not better.
· ”Schroederization” of Western elites has brought Moscow many dividends, but not one should underestimate the capacity of liberal democracies to cleanse themselves of this phenomenon.
· Isolation may buy current elites time but it ultimately limits their ability to function and have influence elsewhere.
· Military power always impresses until it doesn’t as was the case in the final years of the USSR.
· Aggression is only intimidating for a short time. Then it generates a commitment to respond on the part of those against whom it is directed.
· For a regime whose basic supporters keep their money and children abroad, calling those who don’t foreign agents is not only hypocritical but self-defeating.
· Those who are able to keep their wealth abroad can hardly be counted on to defend the country’s national interests for long.
· Repression maintains the appearance of order, but it over time undermines that order by generating desires for radical change.
· Moscow has achieved much of what it wants in Belarus but won’t gain its final goals because Lukashenka has learned he can simultaneously “milk two cows,” Russia and the West.
· The West has been retreating in the face of Moscow’s aggressiveness, but eventually, as democracies always do with delays, it will take measures to respond and those measures will be all the more effective because Moscow will have mobilized Western opinion against itself.
· And Russia may be pleased by the rise of China as an opponent of the US, but it can hardly be happy that the new superpowers won’t include Moscow and that Washington and Beijing will work things out without Russia.
Shevtsova concludes that as a general matter, “a crisis is a means of renewal.” The West is in crisis now, and Russia at least in the eyes of many does not appear to be. But Moscow’s approach while it may buy some short-term quiescence won’t solve the country’s problems or allow Russia to renew itself short of radical change at the top.