Vienna, February 9 – Because the economic system adopted under Vladimir Putin is no longer working, the political system the former president and current prime minister put in place is rapidly approaching its end, according to a leading Siberian political analyst. But what will replace it and equally how it will be replaced remain very open questions.
In a lengthy commentary posted on the Irkutsk portal Babr.ru, Dmitry Tayevsky argues that because Moscow is running out of money as a result of the declines in the price of oil and gas, the Russian political system is no longer in a position to sustain itself or act as it has both at home and abroad (babr.ru/?pt=news&event=v1&IDE=506710).
Barring a miracle – and Tayevsky says there won’t be one – Moscow will not be able to meet the commitments it has made to foreigners – including its efforts to purchase friends in the CIS – or to Russians – such as promises to increase pensions – and consequently, Russians won’t be able to continue to live at the level they thought was theirs after the troubled 1990s.
It is worth recalling, Tayevsky says, how “92 years ago, a much less serious situation led to some very serious consequences” and thus to think about what may happen as a result. He thus devotes the remainder of his article to a discussion of six possible “variants” of Russia’s future development.
The first variant, he says, which might be called “the New Perestroika,” would be one in which the regime would blame Vladimir Putin for all the country’s problems and move in a new and more democratic direction. Such a step would be “logical,” but it would almost certainly lead many Russian regions to seek independence rather than be “deceived” a second time.
The second variant, which could be labeled Foros 2,” would be based on exactly the opposite diagnosis. Putin would blame Medvedev for all the problems Russia now faces and demand his removal. By taking such a step, the prime minister might guarantee Russia “a long and stable development like Chile in the 1970s, Cuba, Libya and North Korea taken together.”
But if the first variant could be triggered by the stroke of the pen, the second would be more difficult to pull off, Tayevsky insists. Medvedev, unlike Gorbachev before him, simply hasn’t taken enough “energetic steps in any direction” to have alienated the population and led it to be willing to support anyone else.
The third variant, which Tayevsky calls “Iron Curtain 2,” would rest on an idea the regime has long sought to promote. “Its essence is simply – in fact, in Russia everything is wonderful … but the enemies surround it – from Wahhabis to Georgians, Ukrainians, Americans, the British, or the Estonians -- are doing everything” to destroy Russia.
Thus, Russia must cut itself off from the world in order to protect “the young Russian democracy, Orthodoxy, and nationality.” But that would alienate not only many non-Russians but also many Russians in the regions who remember how things played out the last time Moscow adopted this strategy.
The fourth variant would be a subset of the third. It would involve cutting Russia off in order to justify authoritarianism in order to modernize the country. While not that different from what some around Putin appear currently to aspire to, an effort to realize this variant could lead to the disintegration of Russia as well or to a political explosion.
Such an explosion or “bunt” is the fifth variant of Russia’s future that Tayevsky describes. That would be perhaps the worst, and yet it is the one the Russian government seems to be pushing the country toward. On the one hand, it is impoverishing the people without giving them a chance to express their anger within the system.
And on the other, the current regime lacks both the resources and the leadership to prevent such an explosion or to “redirect” in a positive way. There are, Tayevsky says, no “pretenders”now to the role of Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin, and consequently such an explosion could lead to “a complete national catastrophe.”
But it is the sixth variant, one that Soviet writers at the time of Gorbachev sometimes called “the Latin American option,” that Tayevsky suggests is “the most probable although far from the most welcome” not only in the way that it would be introduced but also for the situation it would create.
There are many people who don’t like the current regime and have the military capacity to change it, he notes. They might set up “a military dictatorship,” although it is not clear that they could run the country after taking over except by killing people in large numbers not only immediately but for a long time, just like Chile in the 1970s.
There would be only “one welcome aspect of this variant,” Tayevsky concludes his article by saying, and that would be that “none of those who have power [in Moscow at the present time would remain at large.” They would be punished, but so too unfortunately would all the peoples of the Russian Federation.
While it is tempting to dismiss such feelings as those of an isolated individual, that would be a mistake. The notion that Moscow is living beyond its means to promote its own idea of “greatness” or to distract attention from its failures is far more widely held. For another example, this time from a Moscow analyst, see www.gazeta.ru/column/oss/2937043.shtml.
But perhaps the most convincing evidence that many have exactly the same fears Tayevsky points to is that only a few hours after his article was put online, it was removed, perhaps because of pressure from above or hacked by supporters of the regime, so that at the time of this writing it is not accessible, even though Babr.ru remains functional.