Staunton, May 28 – It has become a commonplace to lay all the blame for launching the destructive war in Ukraine on Vladimir Putin alone, but even acknowledging that Russia is a personalist dictatorship, such an assertion represents more “a convenient excuse” than a real explanation of what has taken place, Kirill Rogov says.
Of course, the Russian analyst says, the Russian people did not make the decision; and equally obviously, Putin did– but he did not do so outside of the ongoing power struggle between the old elites which had tried to protect themselves by keeping assets in the West and the new siloviki elites who haven’t (meduza.io/feature/2022/05/28/eta-voyna-nuzhna-ne-tolko-putinu).
Within the Putin regime, these two groups within the elite have been engaged in a titanic struggle. Until 2014 and the imposition of sanctions, the former had the advantage because their assets were abroad and harder to reach; and the latter had not yet made large inroads into the holdings of the former within Russia.
But with the imposition of sanctions, the former lost power and the latter gained. More than that, Rogov argues, the new siloviki elites saw sanctions as their allies in competing with the former oligarchic elites and thus had an interest in actions that would increase sanctions, weaken their opponents in Moscow and give themselves new advantages.
“This hardly means,” Rogov continues, “that such a major war and such large sanctions against the Russian economy were in the plans of the anti-Western Putin elite;” but “as frequently happens,” actions and policies designed to achieve an end sometimes get out of hand and even compromise those who launch them.
However, in the current situation, a paradoxical situation has emerged, the Russian analyst says: “The most direct impact of sanctions has been to undermine precisely the pro-Western group within the Russian elites.” This happened because “it was easier for the West to strike out at them: their assets are in the West.”
“At the same time,” Rogov continues, “the resources and assets of the other and more significant – component of Putin’s elites is inside Russia, protected by Moscow’s isolationist drift and based on revenues from the sale of energy. In this situation, their political influence can be reduced only by undermining the Russian economy as a whole.”