Staunton, Nov. 23 – As everyone but Putin knows, the Kremlin leader’s rule is approaching its end, Leonid Gozman says; but suggestions that this will happen via elections or a popular revolution are unlikely to work given the regime’s willingness to use force and the fact that the population shares Putin’s attitudes toward Ukraine and the West.
That means, the opposition politician says, that “there are only two somewhat realistic scenarios for the end of the Putin regime: one is horrific and the other has little to do with democracy but at least it gives Russia a chance at a future” (themoscowtimes.com/2022/11/23/how-exactly-could-the-putin-regime-collapse-a79451).
“The first scenario,” Gozman says, involves “the rapid collapse of the Russian government. Essentially, the government is already in decline: it is clearly losing control, orders are not being followed or — as in the case of mobilization — being followed in such an unorthodox manner that negative consequences far exceed positive outcomes for the regime.
He suggests that “Ukraine’s counteroffensive and growing socioeconomic problems could create a snowball effect, and all stability could be lost. This has already happened once: in the last days of the Soviet Union when Mikhail Gorbachev was issuing decree after decree, which no one had any intention of following, and which he had no way of enforcing.”
But because of Putin’s actions, Russia today lacks the institutions which in 1991 “stepped in and prevented chaos: the party organizations of multiple republics and in the Russian regions, Boris Yeltsin’s team, and the new institutions of power in the Baltic countries.” And that in turn means that the regime’s collapse would result in a violent clash of all against all.
“The level of violence and bloodshed would be unimaginable; it would be apocalyptic,” Gozman continues.
The second and “less terrifying” scenario would be a palace coup. Putin’s “entourage certainly understands that he forced the country — and, what they care more about, them personally — into a dead end. Their main problem isn’t Ukraine or Russia, but rather their ability to personally reconcile with the West and regain [the] use their assets and bank accounts.”
They “understand that as long as Putin is in power, they will never be able to do this.”
According to Gozman, “there is a chance, especially in the event of large-scale military losses, that several of Putin’s most trusted advisers might offer him an exit strategy. Perhaps some minor figure who would be easy to manipulate could be appointed president. This nominal leader would be tasked with ending the war, making all possible concessions to the West, and thus “buying forgiveness” for Putin’s inner circle. The West would most likely cooperate.”
“We don’t know whether there are people in Putin’s inner circle who are brave enough to bring him such a proposal as he's been surrounding himself with spineless yes-men for years,” Gozman says. “Anyone in Putin’s inner circle daring to approach the president with a proposition to step down would also need to be someone prepared to take further measures should the proposal not be accepted.”
“Otherwise, I fear that our country’s chances of survival are nil,” he concludes.