Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Putin ‘Liquidated’ Politics in Russia but Medvedev Could Force Its Return, Dugin Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, January 26 – During his presidency, Moscow’s leading Eurasianist commentator says, Vladimir Putin “liquidated” politics, something that met the needs of both the Russian elite and theRussian masses. But if Dmitry Medvedev seeks to challenge him in 2012, he will have to revive politics, something with potentially serious and negative consequences for the country.
In the current issue of “Odnako,” Aleksandr Dugin says that “at the present time, there is no politics in Russia” because “no one needs it,” neither the elite which finds it easier to pursue its interests and avoid responsibility nor the masses who are glad to have escaped the overly politicized 1990s (www.odnakoj.ru/magazine/main_theme/esli_zavtra_vesna/#comments).
Not only is the situation of “no politics – no neuroses” easier for the Russian people to live with, Dugin continues, but they also liked “living under Putin” who “liquidated” politics for his own purposes because “the Russian masses do not understand politics” and are just as happy not to have to make the effort to do so.
This situation of “no politics,” the Eurasianist writer says, arose because “Putin began the struggle against politics (as it had been in the 1990s) and in this struggle formed his own policy:” “one directed no ‘for’ anything but rather ‘against.’” That legitimized him, Dugin continued, because “people quite clearly knew what they did not want” – the Russia of the 1990s.
“The result of the eight year struggle of Putin with Russian Politics was his complete and final victory over it,” Dugin says, arguing that just how complete that his victory was is shown by his handing over his office to Dmitry Medvedev but retaining as almost everyone in Russia knew and apparently agreed complete power.
In doing this, Putin “was certain that under Medvedev politics would not again appear.” And today, half-way through his presidency, “there is no politics” in Russia. ‘This means,” people thought, “’Putin has thought everything out and everything is going according to plan.” But the question arises, Dugin says, can this “apolitical” situation in fact continue?
There is a simulacrum of politics perhaps in the public discussions of some intellectuals, but there is no real politics. Indeed, even discussing the future, which presupposes a course of action and a set of goals, is something that both the powers that be and the Russian people alike find “uncomfortable.” Instead, both prefer to focus on technical issues like “management.”
“If nothing extraordinary happens,” Dugin suggests, “then the second half of Medvedev’s term will continue within the framework of the same paradigm: ‘poor policy’ against the absence of politics (as an ersatz of ‘good policy’).” But if that is what is to take place, Medvedev must be willing to give way to Putin in 2012.
That should not be so terrible for Medvedev, of course, because he would preserve his place “in the cadre reserve” as “‘number one’ in the Putin thousand.” And the incumbent president is “still a very young man”: Waiting until 2024 would not be the worst possible outcome, if he is capable of remaining in the wings that long.
But if Medvedev decides to challenge Putin for the presidency in 2012, then everything could change. Politics would return to Russia, and while that would have some positive consequences for the country – such as setting goals for the future – it could lead to the reappearance of some very serious problems.
And Russia will know soon whether this is going to happen, Dugin says, because “this spring is the last moment for Medvedev if he wants to return politics to Russia. This return can consist of only one thing: the destruction of Putin’s power and at the same time of the consensus between Putin and the people, at the basis of which lies the accord on ‘the absence of politics.’”
According to the Eurasian theorist, “in an electoral sense,” Medvedev starts with a tiny minority – “those who voted for SPS [the Union of Right Forces] and Yabloko and also personally the old human rights campaigner Lyudmila Alekseyeva.” But he does have real resources: the liberal media, “the magic” of being president, and the support of the West.
Under current conditions, the re-politicization of Russia “can only be the division of society according to the formula: Medvedev or Putin; Medvedev versus Putin. Only this can return politics to Russia. All the rest – rights or lefts, centrists or radicals, liberals or social democrats – is not understandable, interesting or important to anyone.”
If Medvedev challenges Putin, then two parties will form: “the party of Medvedev and the Party of Putin.” Some might think that Putin already has a party – United Russia – but that organization exists “only when there is no politics” because it is “the political party instrument of the depoliticization of political life.”
Consequently, “one could say that Putin does not have a party,” Dugin says. He has “power, charisma, influence on the siloviki and bureaucracy, and the legitimation of the people.” These are no small things, but they are not everything. And to have a real party, Putin will have to define a positive program, something he has never wanted to do.
Medvedev has much greater problems with regard to forming a party, Dugin says. He can use the political intrigues of the 1990s, he can use some in the media like the regulars on Ekho Moskvy, and he can draw on Western PR specialists. As a result, he has the chance to form a competitive political party.
“Of course,” Dugin continues, “ideologically this will be a liberal party,” but success in 2012 will require that Medvedev conceal that at least in part by pushing “social (leftist) demagogy and nationalism,” both of which are likely to attract more support in the population than straight liberalism.
But more than that, Medvedev will devote no less effort at transforming himself than Putin will. “Medvedev is a depoliticized figure,” otherwise Putin would never have chosen him,” and consequently, he will have to take the risks involved of identifying and articulating “a left-nationalist” agenda.
Even if Medvedev launches such an effort, Dugin says, “Putin has incomparably greater chances for victory,” but what is important is that the outcome in 2012 is “not guaranteed.” If Medvedev acts cleverly, he “also has a chance.” And consequently, that raises the question: how will Putin respond in the meantime to ensure Medvedev loses?
Will Putin follow “the path of least resistance” and “use force and undercover methods?” Or will he become political and put out his own program, one at odds with Medvedev’s? As of now, these are “open” questions,” but Dugin argues that the world will soon know Putin’s intentions.
In Dugin’s view, “the people expect from Putin a strengthening of order and centralization, a strong paternalist power, the restoration in full of the international positions of Russia, a defense of sovereignty and a return to imperial patriotic positions.” Putin has moved in all these directions, but he has done so without either going all the way or declaring his goals.
Thus, for example, he has moved against certain oligarchs but not all of them and he has spread Russian influence but not everywhere. But if he is to be successful, he will be forced “clearly against his will and partially in spite of situation of the masses” to describe his preferred future, “to enter the political fray, and to put an end to depoliticization,” at least for a time.
Such a decision by Putin, one that would be forced upon him if Medvedev decides to challenge in 2012, would be welcome, Dugin says, were it not for the fact that it might be accompanied by “too great a risk: if politics returns to Russia, it will return together with all the risks” that Russia faced then.
Consequently, Dugin concludes, he hopes that Medvedev will show “good sense” and not force Putin’s hand and that Russia for some time to come can be spared any return to the problems of the 1990s and be guaranteed the kind of stability that Putin produced, thus allowing Russians to focus on other things besides politics.

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