Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Putin’s Plan to Save the Russian Titanic Faces Two Inescapable Problems, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 4 – For the last century at least, Russia has resembled the Titanic after it hit the iceberg, with various commands offering various proposed solutions to keep it afloat but none being willing to face up to the two inescapable problems of Russian statehood, Vladimir Pastukhov says.

            But unfortunately, the London-based Russian analyst says, there is little willingness among either the Kremlin elite or large swaths of the Russian population to face up to these challenges and take the only steps that might be able to save the sinking ship from taking on more water and ultimately going down (

            Toward the end of the 20th century, Pastukhov says, “the ark of Russian civilization” having collided with “the iceberg of the Cold War,” began taking on water and appeared likely to sink. That led to two changes in command. In the first, Mikhail Gorbachev brought a group of liberals to the bridge and offered the passengers individual rescue plans.

            “Many really jumped from the deck and in democratic lifejackets,” the analyst says; “but the bulk fell into a stupor and watched in horror as the Titanic continued to slide under the water.” That led to the second change. Vladimir Putin took over, dismissed the liberals and for a time patched up the hold in the ship with petrodollars.

            Initially, Putin confined only the third-class passengers in the hold; but as things got worse and the petrodollars disappeared, he had to send the second and then even some of the first class passengers after them. Each was provided with an equally comfortable or uncomfortable bed but at least a bed.

            As everyone knows, “you can live in the hold of a ship. After all, it is better than on a life raft in a rough sea of wild capitalism, especially if there is no sign that anyone is going to rescue you.” And for many Russians, that is enough. They are all together, and they see no other way forward.

            But there are “two problems” with this. On the one hand, “it is clear that the Titanic will sink sooner or later and then no one will escape from the hold.” And on the other, the imperial forces now on the bridge “are glowing further and further into the North Atlantic and will soon plow into an icefield that will make the Cold War seem like a snowflake on the windshield.”

            Most of the Russians in the hold understand all this, Pastukhov says; but they aren’t going to leave the hold until there is some obvious rescue ship like the Carpathia on the horizon to pick them up. And they will accept as rescuers only those who agree to take all of them. Any who offer to take only some will be rejected.

            “The only alternative to this imperial narrative of collective salvation,” he argues, is the federal one that would allow transferring some of the people to a smaller, sparer and newly constructed boat. That’s “a very risky rescue operation, especially under conditions of severe storms.”

            But there is no alternative to everyone going down with the ship except for that; and at present, most seem willing to reject that chance at salvation in favor of acting in ways that make a collective demise almost inevitable, Pastukhov concludes.

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