Staunton, Mar. 11 – Because in a country not based on the rule of law, Vladislav Inozemtsev says, “property becomes the foundation of serfdom rather than freedom,” Russia’s wealthiest elite has become no less solid a base of support for the Putin regime than are the security forces.
“Having spent years building business empires,” the Russian economist says, “people become hostages to them and are prepared to go to great lengths to preserve what they have accumulated,” something the Kremlin understand and is “brilliantly using to defeat even the most unshakable tenets of economic liberalism” (ridl.io/ru/sobstvennost-i-rabstvo/).
“Moreover, the sanctions policy pursued by Western countries” has played a role in consolidating the Russian business elite around Putin more in the last year than in the previous decade in fact as it has led them to flee back to Russia rather than face personal sanctions in Western countries.
According to Inozemtsev, the sanctions regime has had another unintended consequence in this regard: it has fallen far more heavily on those members of the Russian business elite who had been playing by the rules than on others who acted as thuggish raiders who never were prepared to do so.
All this and Putin’s skillful playing of it has contributed to the almost universal political passivity of the Russian business elite. But that passivity doesn’t mean that the elite will always be in Putin’s corner. They aren’t going to forgive the Kremlin leader for what he has put them through in the last year and how much of their wealth he has cost them.
But while “the business world could give a push” toward a new openness in Russia at some point, it isn’t going to do that anytime soon and is unlikely to be able to “consolidate against the siloviki and turbo-patriots and provide genuine support for politicians more tolerant of the outside world.” Some of them may even feel they have been betrayed by that world too.