Sunday, June 12, 2022

Kremlin Promoting a Nationalist Upsurge It May Not be Able to Control, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 25 – Faced with the collapse of the Crimean consensus, the Kremlin has promoted a nationalist upsurge by its changes at home and its war in Ukraine, Vladimir Pastukhov says; but there is the risk that it will lose control of the situation and be faced with the kind of nationalism that will turn on its sponsor, overthrow him and even set in train the disintegration of the country.

            “Today,” the London-based Russian analyst says, “the authorities however strange it may seem is trying to make this process one it can administer and control. But here is the problem: there is an uncontrolled nuclear explosion and a peaceful atom with a controlled chain reaction” (россия/20220525-политолог-владимир-пастухов-если-россия-сожрет-украину-у-нее-возрастет-аппетит-и-она-поймет-что-готова-на-большее).

            In many respects, the Kremlin is creating for itself a Chernobyl, something that could go out of control. “The turn of society in the direction of the far right has already taken place,” Pastukhov says. “One is speaking only about whether this will be controlled by the powers or whether it will be transformed into an uncontrolled chain reaction.”

            The war in Ukraine is not the end. However it ends, Russia will be a problem for itself and for others. If Moscow wins, it will conclude it can take similar actions in the future; if it loses, it will be bent on revenge with the possibility of an even worse outcome at home and abroad, the Russian analyst says.

            According to Pastukhov, the transformation of Russian society began in the summer of 2019 when municipal elections took place in Moscow. The Kremlin saw that the Crimean consensus had evaporated and decided it had to do something. At home, this led to “an openly fascist state.” Abroad, it led to war.

            As to the war, Moscow expected to win and at low cost, not only because of its overwhelming power but because of its allies in Western countries. But it has been proven wrong on both counts, and that has made the situation explosive. The longer the war continues, the more fateful it will be for Russia itself and thus for the world as well.

            Russia is entering a period of extreme unpredictability, Pastukhov argues. Those who are enthusiastic Putinists today may turn out to be the most anti-Putinist of his successors, just as Beria did following the death of his patron Stalin. They could even dismantle his system in order to attempt to build their own power.

            In other comments, the analyst says that the USSR came apart 30 years ago because the Russian authorities felt that holding it together was costing them more than it was worth and it did so peacefully because the Soviet army was far more disciplined in carrying out their policies than many expected.

            Now, there is a ruler in the Kremlin who believes that Russia can only survive by taking back this former periphery; and at least for now, he has a military which is prepared to follow his orders to do that. Hence, Georgia; hence, Ukraine; and perhaps in the future, others as well, Pastukhov says.

            “Ukraine is not Russia,” and that may prove the undoing of this effort. The two nations began to diverge more than half a millennium ago. “Each has its own path … The main distinguishing feature of Russian political culture is its orientation on the state.” Ukrainian culture is by definition less focused on a strong state.

            “Russian culture is power centric, and this is very important. As a result, in Russia, an authoritarian regime can be very quickly restored. And if very powerful institutional limits are not put in place, this will take place constantly.” Ukrainian culture is different. It is not inclined to build a strong state. But Putin’s war is having the effect of helping Ukraine to do just that.

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