Friday, December 29, 2023

Putin has Created a War Economy in Russia and Thus Made It Unlikely His Successors will Be Able to Change Moscow’s Aggressive Stance, Martynov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 28 – A year ago, many in Russia and the West felt that if Putin were to depart the scene, Russia would return to what it was before February 2022. But today, Kirill Martynov says, Putin has transformed Russia into a war economy and thus made it unlikely that his successors will be able to change course quickly.

            On the one hand, the editor of the Novaya Gazeta. Evropa says, many of who have fought in the war are likely to be unwilling to accept anything short of victory; and on the other, the war itself has created a new class of winners who would see their gains disappear if the war were to end (

            According to Martynov, “Russia at the end of 2023 has no other development model left except military mobilization.” Some in the Russian elite aren’t happy about that, but the beneficiaries from the war, including most important the new class of “guardians,” will fight them tooth and nail to prevent a return to anything like the pre-February 2022 situation.

            To be sure, he continues, “the conformist minority” which now supports the war will support whatever the top elite does, as long as it is presented as “the norm.” “But Putin’s campaign rhetoric shows that he no longer needs the support of a Europeanized minority or is ready to rely on the majority.” Instead of being “a people’s president,” he is now “a war leader.”

            “Support by the new military Putinism, which no longer needs to be disguised as being in the interests of the majority, comes from a closed caste of ‘guardians’ consisting of the beneficiaries of the war and the apparatus of state coercion and terror” numbering 10 to 15 million people,” Martynov argues.

            The siloviki long pursued just such an arrangement, but what is different now is that al other social “elevators” have been blocked, leaving them and their allies among the beneficiaries of the war the only game in town and forcing those who don’t join them into becoming their servants.

            “By starting the war, Putin led the country into a trap from which two years on, there is no obvious way out. The government which comes to power after Putin will be dependent on the beneficiaries of the war and face strong resistance if it attempts to dismantle the war economy” and the aggressive stance which supports that economy.

            As a result, “the future of Ukraine and Europe depends on the results of the US elections,” Martynov says. “Putin’s plan is to again bet on Donald Trump, wait for his return to the White House and conclude an agreement dividing the street in the manner of the popular television serial, ‘The Boy’s Word.’”

            For Ukraine, this means the prospect of a continuation of war to the point of exhaustion; for Europe, it means the threat that Putin will move into the Baltic countries possibly on the basis of a call by “’the oppressed Russian speaking minority.’” And that neither Ukraine nor Europe will be able to count on a united NATO with America in the lead to defend either.

            “In 2024,” Martynov concludes, “we will receive the answer to the main question: is the free world capable of protecting its future from a mortal enemy – even if that imposes some short-term costs on its national economies?”

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