Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Success in Blocking Opposition at the National Level Opens the Way to Russia’s Disintegration, Analyst Suggests

Paul Goble

Vienna, September 29 – The success of the Putin-Medvedev regime in blocking the emergence of any significant opposition parties and movements is likely to lead to the disintegration of the Russian Federation as economic and technical decay weaken the powers that be at the center relative to local and regional regimes, according to a Russian analyst.
That superficially paradoxical conclusion, Dmitry Savvin argues, is suggested by what happened at the end of Soviet times when Mikhail Gorbachev’s unwillingness to have elections on an all-union basis led to the disintegration of the USSR into national republics where opposition political forces could emerge (www.apn-spb.ru/publications/article6201.htm).
But in others, the Russian nationalist author suggests, the coming “time of troubles” will be far worse than the one of the 1990s, both because of the nature of the regimes that are likely to emerge and because the regime has run through the resources the country had at the end of Soviet times and now lacks the funds to support those who might be able to maintain order.
Now as in the late 1980s, Savvin says at the outset of his long essay, many Russians are convinced that the regime will not collapse “because there are no ‘revolutionaries’ organized into a party under the leadership of which ‘the popular masses’ would be capable of throwing off the hated Yeltsin-Putin system.”
While it is true he acknowledges that “in reality at the present moment not a single organized force exists” capable of doing that, that is not a source of strength but rather an indication of “inertia” and weakness, something the regime itself appears to recognize given its talk about “modernization” and search for ideas – such as Medvedev’s citation of Kalashnikov.
But if the powers that be know there is a problem, they do not know what to do about it. Indeed, having “parasitically” consumed the resources of the country, they can think of nothing better than relying on force to keep themselves in office. But because they have not provided those who could do so with resources, they may soon find themselves without a defense.
The clearest examples of this are provided on the one hand, by the way in which the Kremlin used the stabilization fund, preferring to send its money abroad rather than developing the country, and on the other, by the manner in which it responded to the company town problem, using pr in Pikalevo and the use or threat of the use of force elsewhere.
And consequently, Savvin suggests, “at the present moment, [Russians] stand at the threshold of a powerful collapse comparable with the events of the beginning of the 1990s: an inevitable weakening of the powers that be,” but unlike then, the regime in place lacks “the financial and technical-economic resources” to structure what is likely to happen next.
Obviously, the powers that be are in denial about this but they “do not know” what else to do besides exploit the country’s material resources – now, they are again hoping for oil prices to rise -- and worse, Savvin argues, “they do not want to.” As a result, any initiative from the top in Russia “will simply be sabotages or treated as an occasion” for lower level people to steal more.
As a result, whether the current powers that be try or not to “modernize,” the country faces a new “time of troubles. [One,] let us say directly that will not be child’s play.” And in that period, “any enemy of the regime as it breathes its last will be viewed by the people as an alternative to the existing nightmare reality.”
Because the Putin-Medvedev regime has refused to allow the emergence of all-Russian opposition movements and groups, anger at the regime will emerge at the regional level, and Savvin suggests that sometime in the next three to five years, there will appear developments in many parts of what is now the Russian Federation that will tear that entity apart.
The first region to go will be the Caucasus, where Islamist groups, financed from abroad, will gain power via the “national front” approach that many former Soviet republics experienced. The second area is likely to be the Muslim republics of the Middle Volga, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, where national fronts will also combine ethnic and religious grievances.
The third will consist of “the separatism of [other] national borderlands,” whose residents even if they appear peaceful and well-integrated today, are likely to conclude that they will do better outside the borders of the Russian Federation than inside, possibly positioning themselves if they have resources to become the “new Switzerlands.”
The fourth area is perhaps the most explosive: it involves “the separatism of the regions” or what is often called “Russian separatism.” Many in these regions feel now that Moscow has taken their resources but neglected their interests, Savvin argues, and consequently, their supposed “Russianness” won’t be sufficient to hold them under Moscow’s rule.
And fifth will be the emergence of “territories of ‘customary law,’” ruled by atamans like the ones who emerged during the Russian civil war in 1917-1922. These will be “the new Semenovs and Dutovs, the new Dybenkos and Che Guevaras.” The direction that such people will take their regions will vary widely. At the very least, Savvin says, “it will not be boring.”
Outside powers, like Germany, the US and China, are likely to be interested in promoting some if not all of these developments. That in itself could allow Moscow to wrap itself in the mantle of Russian nationalism much as Lenin did nearly a century ago but only if the new Russian powers that be show more imagination than they have up to now.
“The only hope in all this,” the Russian nationalist writer concludes, is the development and advancement of a project “directed at the preservation of Russia and of internal forces adequate to that task.” Unfortunately, he says, the current powers that be appear to lack any ideas on this score, and now they are running out of resources and time as well.

No comments: