Staunton, Aug. 16 – As for most dictators, corruption for Vladimir Putin is a double-edged sword, Ilya Nadprozhsky says, providing an important glue to keep his supporters on his side both by making them rich and putting them at risk of charges and a potential threat because the population doesn’t like corruption and ultimately blames the system and its leader.
Putin must thus balance between using corruption to solidify support lest elites turn against him and challenge his policies and his positions and, at the same time, appearing to oppose it lest he alienate the population, the US-based Russian scholar says (holod.media/2023/08/16/corruption/).
The first requires that elites know exactly how much corruption they are allowed to take part in and how much they risk if they go beyond those limits; and the second requires the suppression of anyone, like Aleksey Navalny, who uses an anti-corruption platform to mobilize support, and regular doses of anti-corruption actions to reassure the masses.
Dictators like Putin who use ostensibly democratic procedures to legitimize themselves face a particularly hard time both when they face specific challenges like the Prigozhin mutiny and when they have to orchestrate elections. At such time, the contradictory nature of corruption for the regime is especially noteworthy.