Thursday, June 29, 2023

Putin Must Now Choose Between Being a Stalin or Becoming a Gorbachev -- or Someone Else will Make that Choice, Savvin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 28 – The Prigozhin revolt “didn’t change and couldn’t change” the basic laws governing the current neo-Soviet system in Russia, Dimitry Savvin says. But it has accelerated developments to the point that Vladimir Putin will soon have to decide whether he is going to be a new Stalin or a new Gorbachev.

            The editor of the conservative Russian Riga-based Harbin portal says that even though Prigozhin failed to reach Moscow, he by his actions has effectively ended “the time of half measures” that has characterized the current Kremlin leader especially in recent times. Now Putin must make a clear choice (

            As far as Prigozhin’s actions are concerned, Savvin says, three things are clear: this was a real revolt, it showed the extraordinary degradation of the system and its force structures, and as such it constituted a very serious threat to Putin because it “destroyed the image of Putin as a dictator with absolute power. And that is perhaps the most significant result of all.”

            The neo-Soviet authoritarian system Putin has created needs such a dictator to survive. If there are challenges, they must be put down hard or the entire system will soon cease to work and ever more people will challenge it one way or another, the conservative Russian commentator continues.

            But instead of suppressing the Prigozhin rising in that way, Savvin says, “Putin tried to use his favorite tactic of doing things by half.” But that won’t work: now he must choose to become either “a full-fledged Stalin” or “a new Gorbachev.” The system requires that in order to survive,

            “Consequently,” the commentator argues, “in the near future, there will either be put in pace a mechanism of a perestroika-like transformation or mass terror and the purge of the state apparatus.” There are reasons to think that both are possible and that neither can be excluded at the present time.

            The logic of the Putin regime drives toward the Stalinist option, but the logic of the experiences of the population and Russia’s current isolation from the international economy because of the war with Ukraine points in the other. What is important to remember is that neither will signal a revolution but either may open the way to one.

            Another aspect of the situation that the Prigozhin rising highlighted is that “when a real threat to the Putin regime arose, not a single opposition trend was able to offer any real action plan, not to mention make any demonstration of its own power. These aspirant groups limited themselves to talk about whether they should support Putin or Prigozhin.

            That is of course natural in a situation “when there is no alternative elite” and what many refer to as an opposition is really no more than “small groups of dissidents,” the conservative commentator continues.

            “The only form of liberalization which is possible and even probable in these circumstances is a Perestroika 2.0,” one that may take the form of what has already been happening in Uzbekistan (, and which is likely to involve a peace agreement with Ukraine.

            Such an agreement, Savvin suggests, “in all probability will involve something like the withdrawal of forces to the line of February 23, 2022, some compromise on Crimes such as rent, and so on.” Despite what it says, the West would enthusiastically support such an arrangement; and the Kremlin could present it to Russians as something positive.

            But it is likely that Putin will seek – and indeed is already seeking – a truce, the commentator continues, because what he wants is not peace but a breathing space after which he will find it easy to restart the war.  Which direction Russia will now go remains uncertain, but one thing is clear:

            Putin will now have to make some very serious decisions; otherwise, someone else will make them in his stead.” (emphasis supplied)

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