Friday, June 30, 2023

Putin Destroyed Russian State by Making All Its Institutions Like Prigozhin’s PMC, Matveyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 27 – Prigozhin’s PMC is not some outlier on the Russian political landscape, Ilya Matveyev says. Instead, the way in which that institution replaced and undermined the Russian military typifies the way in which Putin has effectively destroyed the Russian state more generally.

            In fact, the Russian scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, argues, what is typically referred to even now as the Russian state is in fact one giant set of privatized and semi-privatized institutions that relate to one another and to the Kremlin on the basis of that reality (

            When Putin became president, he declared that “Russia needs strong state power and must have it,” but over the 23 years of his rule, he has weakened the state in terms of its monopoly over the legitimate use of violence. And as a result, Matveyev says, his “’poalitiwer vertical’ has turned out to be as fragile as a porcelain cup.”

            “The fragility of the Russian state as shown by Prigozhin is the result of the actions of Putin himself, who built this state.” Putin wanted to modernize the Russian economy but “he did not trust either private business nor what is important the state itself.” Thus, he turned to the formation of state corporations which became a gray zone in between.

            As a result, Matveyev continues, “’statism’ in Putin’s version is not a commitment to the Weberian ideal of a rational, meritocratic corps of bureaucrats but rather to an ideology of specifically understood ‘national interests’ for the implementation of which all means are good and formalities are of little importance.”

            Under these arrangements, personal loyalty to Putin became everything and loyalty to the state ever less important. And that led to a situation in which state corporations and the PMCs which are a subset of them often resisted the demands of the state, typically in non-violent ways but now in violent ones as well.

            Putin created such a state “because his main task was the support of a regime of personal power” rather than the creation of a powerful state as such. But paradoxically, “the strengthening of the political regime (that is, the regime of the personal power of Putin) led to a weakening of the state” – and the converse would be true as well.

            As Neil Robinson has observed, it is quite possible to distinguish in the Russian case state building from regime building. Except at the very start of his rule, Putin has focused on the latter rather than the former – and the result is the Prigozhin mutiny “which revealed the weakness of the Russian state.”

             “Behind the monolithic façade of Putinism are clans, networks and corporations pursuing their own goals and quite capable of bringing the country to collapse and civil war,” Matveyev says. Indeed, it is instructive that the revolt of one of these was put down by another, that of Kadyrov’s forces.

            Any movement toward democracy will involve the disorganization of the state as happened in the 1990s, he argues. “But only a democratic transition can ultimately lead to the emergence of a strong, capable state in Russia.”  Putin was right in 1999, but since then he has done everything but follow his own understanding in order to maximize his own power.

No comments:

Post a Comment