Staunton, May 29 – No genuine peace will be possible until there is regime change in Russia, Mikhail Khodorkovsky says, and that requires far more than just the departure of Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin. Indeed, he suggests, there are four possibilities for Russia after Putin goes.
The first of these, the Russian émigré opposition leader says, is that “the Putinites will retain power” even after their namesake leaves. “Russia will continue an imperial policy,” and because the Putinites need a foreign enemy to consolidate support at home, they will continue their aggression, possibly leading to a nuclear war (t.me/khodorkovski/6535).
A second possibility is that Russia will disintegrate and five to seven nuclear states will form on its territory, states that will fight among each other over borders to such an extent that there will be a real danger of nuclear war between at least some of them and possibly with outsiders as well.
A third possibility is that “anti-Putinists who will try to establish a United Democratic Russia will come to power.” The West won’t help them sufficiently because it no longer trusts Moscow, and the new government in response will gradually move away from its commitment to democracy in the name of holding the country together and engage in a search for enemies.
And the fourth possibility is that Russia will move in the direction of federalism on the American model, with regions and agglomerations, 15 to 20 by his count, Khodorkovsky says, becoming the source of power and transferring some of it to the center rather than the other way round as has been the case.
“Since February 24” when Putin launched his massive invasion of Ukraine, the émigré opposition leader says, he has been “a firm supporter of the fourth model.” Russia will be at risk of a Weimar scenario regardless of which model it chooses, but the fourth is the least dangerous for the country and its peoples.
“The pro-European portion of Russian society” has to reconcile itself with the fact that within the borders of Russia after Putin there will remain a variety of types of states ranging from European agglomerations to “electoral sultanates” based on the most primitive forms of nationalism.
Homogenizing the country, something the Bolsheviks and the post-Soviet regime have tried, won’t work. Instead, the application of such a Procrustean bed will kill part of society and lead other parts to seek exit or, if forced to remain, in permanent hostility to those others which have tried to transform them.
If the situation is to evolve in a positive direction, Khodorkovsky says, everyone will have to show patience and a willingness to compromise. At the very least, a parliament consisting of representatives of the regions will have to block all spending on foreign adventures that some in the center will want to use to restore authoritarianism.
There are “enormous risks” that things will go wrong, Khodorkovsky says. The country could recede to an even more authoritarian past or disintegrate; and whichever way forward people choose, they will have to pay a high price, including in blood, however much many will try to avoid it.