Friday, May 12, 2023

Fear Far from Only Force Keeping Russia’s Administrative Elite in Line, Petrov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 8 – Fear of loss of position plays an important role in keeping Russia’s administrative elite loyal to Putin, but three other factors play if anything still greater roles although they are seldom given the attention they deserve, according to Moscow political analyst Nikolay Petrov.

            First, over the last 20 years, there has been a negative selection of those at the top of this pyramid; and those who have risen have already made their choice and have nowhere to go but to support Putin regardless of what he does and regardless of whether they are happy about it, Petrov says (

            Second, Putin has reduced the circle of those with direct access to him; and as a result, even if those further away from him are angry, they are not in a position to move against him precisely because of his palace guard. And third, Putin has used the mafia principle of involving those closest to him in crimes so that they know if he falls so will they.

            According to the political analyst, Putin has taken measures to reduce the likelihood that even those further away will act. For example, he has put outsiders at the top of the military reducing the kind of corporate loyalty that might otherwise lead the military, especially in wartime, to act against him.

            And perhaps especially important, Putin has used the war in Ukraine to make an ever larger circle of people hostage to him in that way, reducing still further the chance that anyone could mount a challenge to him, Petrov argues.  The risks of doing so have thus increased and so Putin feels more secure now than even before he launched his expanded invasion.

            These arrangements mean that the eventual succession to Putin won’t be like either 1953 or 1982 because there are none of the institutions left within which new power configurations can emerge. As a result, Petrov suggests, there are two “main options, the softer and the harder” that are likely.

            “The softer one would involve a somehow controlled transfer of power with a sharp change in the direction of the system because no one else can have the amount of power that Putin currently has, at least not at first.” But a harder one would occur especially if Putin disappears from the scene “unexpectedly.”

            In that event, there would likely be a war of all against all across the entire system because there would not be any institutional arrangements to keep people in line. 

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