New York, March 25 – By tolerating a certain limited amount of discussion and debate, Russian commentator Irina Pavlova says, the current powers that be have effectively concealed from many in the West both just how dictatorial the regime has become and how unwilling it is ever going to be to share or cede power to anyone else.
And because of that smokescreen, the Grani.ru commentator says, the recent exchange of opinions between Vladislav Inozemtsev and Gleb Pavlovsky in the current issue of “New Times” (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/17621) provides confirmation of “just how “unconstitutional” and “illegal” the regime now is (grani.ru/opinion/m.176288.html).
In their debate on “will Putin leave?” Inozemtsev, the head of the Moscow Center for Research on Post-Industrial Society, approaches that issue, Pavlova says, “like a typical Russian intelligent, loyal to the powers that be and up to now seeing an answer from them on ‘where the country should be headed.’”
He was, she continues, a part of “that [outsider] elite which in 1999 [nonetheless] welcomed the behind the scenes decision of Boris Yeltsin on the selection of his successor as president of Russia and then saw in Vladimir Putin a modernizer.” After his initial enthusiasm, Inozemtsev became disappointed, and now “wants Putin to go.”
Pavlovsky, head of Moscow Effective Politics Foundation, approaches the issue entirely differently, having “the view of an insider who all these years has been working for the powers that be,” Pavlova continues. And she suggests that his remarks are especially revealing about the nature of the Russian state now.
First, she points out, Pavlovsky “confirmed that real power in Russia is unconstitutional and consequently illegal.” According to him, “Putin is ‘that informal institution which the Constitution does not have … He is the supreme authority of this system,” something that is enshrined in no document at all.
Second, when he discussed “’the keyboard’ by which Putin ‘works with the bureaucracy, [Pavlovsky] in essence confirmed the presence in the powers that be of a secret infrastructure, a network of paid and unpaid employees of the special services and force organs,” a network that “operates by the rules of conspiracy,” just as the “real power” did in Soviet times.
Many people, Pavlova notes, had already concluded that this is the case, and some of them look back to the August 1995 law Yeltsin signed that opened the way for the post-Soviet force structures and special services to operate in a “conspiratorial” fashion because that measure called for them to obtain information informally that threatened the state.
With the rise of Putin and exploiting both this law and the subsequent legislation on the FSB, the Russian powers that be began to exploit these opportunities in violation of the Constitution and to the detriment of the Russian people, Pavlova says. And she asks, “what kind of apolitical arrangement is this if not a dictatorship?”
“Such ‘a consolidated power’ is precisely a dictatorship,” she argues, although “true, one of a new, post-modern type. It uses not mass repressions but targeted murders, lies, bribery, corruption, provocations, and political technologies for the manipulation of social consciousness both inside the country and also abroad.”
Pavlovsky confirmed that, she says, when he observed that “20 years ago we thought that Soviet power was the CPSU Central Committee plus the party plus the soviets. It turned out that we were idiots and that Soviet power could exist with freedom of travel abroad, with free trade, and with ‘Playboy.’”
Pavlova continues that “it would be strange if this political technologist who serves the powers that be were to propose to free Russia” from these arrangements. Instead, she suggests, “he has different task in principle: he is seeking means to strengthen and modernize ‘the political façade’ of this unseen but real power.”
His casting about for a way to do that is shown by the three different ways he talks about Putin and the system. In one place, he says Putin should work with Medvedev to consolidate power. In another, he decries the way in which the tandemocracy limits Putin’s freedom of action. And in a third, he says Putin needs to be “in fact the master” and “vozhd’” of the system.
“One thing,” Pavlova concludes, is absolutely clear. “The current leadership in the Kremlin simply is not going to give up its place to anyone else.” That is something those who want Russia to become a constitutional state need to remember, she argues, and it is something that the current opposition must never allow itself to forget.