Staunton, August 19 – An increasing number of Russians, horrified by what Vladimir Putin is doing and convinced that reforming his regime is impossible, are beginning to think about what will happen “after Putin.” In many cases these reflections are disturbing in the short term but provide a source of optimism over the longer haul.
Such examinations of possible post-Putin futures are becoming so numerous that Rusmonitor.com has launched what is says will be a continuing series of interviews and articles under the rubric “After Putin.” The first article is an interview with Sasha Sotnik, head of the Sotnik.TV project.
Sotnik as a journalist begins his analysis with a discussion of Putin’s systematic destruction of the free media and hence free elections. “In the Bible, it is said,” Sotnik notes, “that ‘In the beginning there was the Word.’ When the Anti-Christ will come to power, he will seek to destroy the Word.”
But in the case of Russia, the Anti-Christ won’t have a lot to do. There, the destruction of the word has proceeded a long way. “There is no free word.” The Chekists who came to power with Putin understood that the only way they could control the situation was by destroying a free media, the basis of democracy.
Had they not destroyed the media, Sotnik says, they might have faced charismatic opponents like Galina Starvoitova and could have lost to them. “Therefore, they killed her among the first.” Then they moved against others who could threaten them, often with “helicopter accidents” or similar devices.
“As a result, there is no freedom of speech. There is no journalism. There is no television. The press is destroyed.” And now, he says, Putin and his regime want to suppress the Internet because it too contains things they don’t like and hence are a threat. If they get their way, one will be able to go online “only having gotten a ticket from the party committee.”
Those who view this as simply a threat are wrong, Sotnik says. “We are not simply on the edge of collapse,” as they believe. We are already in a desperate situation. Moscow’s propaganda insists “we are flying forward.” We are flying, he says, but downward at an ever increasing pace, the country is going to fall into a large number of pieces.
The result will be “from bad to horrific” because “the new parade of sovereignties” won’t be peaceful and bloodless as it was a generation ago. Instead, it is likely to involve privatized violence because the Duma is considering legislation that will allow many companies to have their own militaries – and these will fight, like the private armies in Somalia.
This prospect is so horrific that Sotnik is asked whether Russians and the West will prefer to remain with Putin even for “5,000 years.” But the journalist says that he does not think that will be the case, although he argues that the West bears enormous responsibility for Putin being in power and the way he is by its actions in the past.
“Putin is [the West’s] miscalculation and mistake,” he says, and he argues that the West “also is obligated to help correct this mistake” by distancing itself from Putin and his crimes and by supporting those in Russia who are opposing the Kremlin leader and his system.
Sotnik then focuses on what needs to happen in Russia after Putin with regard to media: He calls for the introduction and enforcement of a constitutional provision like the First Amendment to the US Constitution mandating freedom of speech. Sotnik also calls for “a complete lustration of Putin’s special journalists.”
Such people – and they include in the first instance the 300 who were secretly given awards for their work on the Crimean issue as well as others and their instructors – must be excluded from professional life in much the same way that de-Nazification excluded those who collaborated with Hitler.
At the same time, Sotnik argues that there will be a place for a government-funded public television channel in the Russia after Putin, but it will have to operate under the protection of a special board that will prevent the government from misusing it for its own political and propagandistic purposes.