Staunton, June 28 – One of the key distinctions between Putin’s war in Ukraine and his earlier wars, Andrey Soldatov and Irina Borogan say, is that the Kremlin has worked hard to prevent military commanders from having the kind of media access that would allow this or that general to acquire popularity and thus be in a position to challenge Putin in any way.
In earlier conflicts, the two Russian researchers of the siloviki structures say, the Kremlin allowed the formation of press services that meant that journalists could have access to senior commanders, something that inevitably allowed certain personalities to emerge. But not this time (reforum.io/blog/2022/06/29/pravda-li-chto-putina-dezinformirovali-o-situaczii-na-ukraine/).
In other comments, Soldatov and Borogan say, the special services have been very surprised that they were not queried about what would be the likely consequences of the war for Russia. The center wanted to use them to act but not to inform, another reflection of the fears around Putin of anyone becoming an alternative source of influence and even power.
They also suggest that this reflects the fear Putin has instilled in society as a whole but point out that there is still a large amount of popular unhappiness with the war. The reason that the Kremlin has not launched mass repressions, they suggest, is not fear but rather the lack of sufficient resources to do so.
As that becomes obvious, of course, the power of fear alone to keep people in line will decline and the regime will be put at risk. For the moment, the Kremlin isn’t threatened by this; but the question remains how long it will be able to operate in the way that it is, without consultations and the emergence of multiple centers of power but without mass repressions.
They imply but do not say that Putin will sooner or later have to make a choice between one or the other of these approaches; but in saying that he lacks the resources for mass repressions, they also are suggesting that he will ultimately have to open up the system even that runs against his grain.