Staunton, October 29 – Members of Russian elites see Vladimir Putin as the only person who can maintain the existing system in which they are beneficiaries and protect them from having to go head to head with the Russian people as a whole, Aleksandr Skobov says. Consequently, they will stick with him even if they object to some of his actions and policies.
In a Grani.ru commentary today, the Moscow writer says that this is the real meaning of Vyacheslav Volodin’s recent remark that “without Putin there will be no Russia.” That is clear if one reflects on just what Russia the deputy head of the Presidential Administration had in mind.
The Russia Volodin has in mind, says Skobov, is “the imperial, aggressive, Russianoid-fascist ‘Russia’ run by a criminal oligarchy.” And that Russia truly has “few chances to survive without Putin.” The elites know this and they know that there is no one else who can so successfully turn the heads of “’the simple people’” and thus keep them in check.
Consequently, however dissatisfied these “elites” may be “with the particular actions of the usurper,” they will stick with him in order not to have to face the Russian people, Skobov says. Unfortunately for them, the situation is evolving in a way when they won’t have that chance any longer.
The “chief resource” of Putin and his entourage which “has permitted the ruling clique to consolidate society around itself” is the so-called “’post-Versailles syndrome,’ which has given birth to aggressive anti-Western revanchism.” That term, of course, refers to the reaction of Germany after World War I. But Russia’s situation is fundamentally different.
Germany was really punished for its involvement in that conflict, but after the end of the Cold War, Russia wasn’t, Skobov says. Indeed, he points out, “not only did no one punish Russia” for its actions in the cold war and against its own people but instead, “everyone tried to help. How successfully is another question entirely.”
But that absence of punishment had an impact on the thinking of Russians who concluded that “the Soviet power did not lose the cold war but in a noble fashion conceded to the West by voluntarily allowing its colonies and semi-colonies to be free.” And then, instead of being grateful to Moscow, these countries flew to the West and the West took them in thus preventing Moscow from taking back its “wayward children.”
Putin and those who are following him today, Skobov continues, are acting as they are because they see “no one intends to punish them for the actions of their beloved Soviet power, a power which unleashed repression against millions of its own citizens, brought grief and tyranny to half of the world, and kept the other half in fear of a global nuclear war for half a century.”
Thus, they justify all the horrors of the Soviet regime because otherwise they are not in a position to “justify their own lies, hypocrisy, conformism” and other shortcomings today. And they adopt the position that “everything with us is being done correctly, we are right in everything,” and no one can complain about “our” past or present.
Russia’s current situation reflects the fact that to a large extent, Russian society was never forced by its own leaders or by the West to fully recognize “the criminal character of the Soviet regime.” In that regard, “history dealt with us too kindly. And the destruction of Putin’s Russia will hardly be so velvet-like.”
“Sooner or later,” however, Russia and Russians will have to pay, and each will have to take responsibility for his or her choice. But that day has been put off because of the failure of Russia to be punished for what it has done and the sense Putin has promoted that it never will be punished because it hasn’t done anything wrong.
Russia’s “hurrah patriots,” Skobov says, are now saying that Western sanctions are no big problem because North Korea has been living with them for years. But such claims fail to recognize that unlike that totalitarian regime, “the present-day Russian economy is completely directed toward the world market.”
And it also ignores something more fundamental: Western sanctions are “not the single cause of the worsening of the situation of the Russian economy.” People have been predicting a decline in the price of oil for some time. The real cause is the corruption of the Russian elites and their unwillingness to engage in “real modernization.”
Putin so far has been able to shift the attention of the population away from this by his invasion of Ukraine, but that tactic will work only so long. And when it fails as it inevitably will, Skobov says, the elites will turn away from him, something that will “call into question the very existence of Putin’s Russia.”