Staunton, Feb. 20 – Russia’s ruling class sees no alternative to supporting Putin or his war in Ukraine, Ivan Preobrazhensky says. “There’s nowhere for it to run,” and the dangers of protest are all too real. As a result, the elite in Russia remains “monolithic” in that regard, something Putin chose to underline by scheduling his address to the nation on February 21.
Despite the expectations of many in the West and the fact that many in the Russian elite have suffered because of Putin’s policies, the Deutsche Welle commentator says, “the Russian ruling class approaches the anniversary of the start of the war perhaps even more monolithic than it was” a year ago (dw.com/ru/kommentarij-u-elit-v-rossii-vyhoda-net-ili-vmeste-za-putina/a-64746718).
In both the Russian and European media there is talk about “a Party of February 23” which supposedly consists of those who “would like to return to the re-war period. But in the Russian ruling class,” Preobrazhensky says, “there is much more strongly represented what one might call “the Party of February 21.”
“It is no accident,” he continues, that Putin chose this date to deliver his address because exactly a year ago, on February 21, 2022, Putin assembled the Russian Security Council and forced his inner circle to “publicly support the aggression that was beginning. For him then this date is clearly very important.”
By taking that action, Putin himself “openly showed that he is most afraid not of popular risings for which he has large repressive resources to suppress but a split in the elites.” By forcing them to commit as he did, the Kremlin leader left them with no chance to oppose him in the future about the war or about his remaining in power.
In working to keep the elites around him monolithic, Putin has also employed carrots as well as sticks. Most prominent among the former over the last year was his decision to cancel much of the anti-corruption efforts his regime had made. Now, the elite, as long as it remains loyal, can enrich itself with less worry about the future.
Putin can thus look to the future with confidence as far as his domestic situation is concerned, Preobrazhensky says, “because after a year of war, he has been able to maintain the main thing, the loyalty of the ruling class.”