26 November 2016


Makhan Saikia 

A western system of governance based on rule of law is not suitable for Putin’s Russia. It is near certain that Russia is acting out of weakness, rather than strength. It would be worth watching how Putin survives his new found ideology. But international observers say that Putin will survive

Vladimir Putin’s new Kremlinology is all about anti-Westernism. His all-out campaign against America and its allies across the world is marked by a new hyper-nationalism. Putin loves the subject of patriotism. Way back in 1999, when he was all set to take over as the President of Russia, he listed patriotism and related issues of national pride and dignity in his first programme. Then in 2015, he advocated that patriotism is the “sacred duty of the Russians” and called it a “moral compass” for teenagers. To him, patriotism is “not dialogised or associated with the work of a party or any social structure”. He even goes one step ahead and says, “We have no national idea besides patriotism, and there can be no other”.

Thus, he tries to bring a whole lot of young people into his new madness. But it is felt that his tryst with patriotism will not last long. Is it a good idea to bind a nation only with a new call for patriotism? Or is it an idea of Putin to just mobilise support around his presidency? Or is it a new sign of Russia’s transition to a state of no return? What does new Kremlinology indicate for Russia? May be many things, but one thing is crystal clear that Putin is deliberately pushing the country into an era of unending terror wherein he is fast becoming the only one around whom power and authority survive. But, this can never be a pragmatic model of power. Drumming anti-Westernism can never be a mechanism to remain in power.

It is for sure that Russia’s public opinion is more likely to shape the behaviour of Kremlin. But this can never be possible within a short span of time, unless the country goes under a change of leadership. Today, the Russian Duma is a speechless house and it simply endorses what Putin wants. His inner coterie keeps all things under cover from public. Even, the members of this group are clueless at times about the possible movements of Putin. So he behaves like a true secret service guy. He has been successful so far in creating an atmosphere that Russia needs to be safeguarded against its dangerous, devious and powerful enemies headed by the US and its allies. Therefore, he aptly justifies a costly security apparatus under a new nobility. Just to protect the country from an impending danger, he has brought a new political and military command centre. He introduced a ‘high command’’ in Russia, known as “Stavka” under which his highly personalised politics survives well. Penetrating into the deliberations of the inner circle of Stavka is exceedingly difficult and equally dangerous.

With the coming of the new American President, Donald J Trump, who shares a good relationship with Putin, Russia’s equation with the US may undergo change. But Putin will probably not accept any change of balance of power wherein his country will have to heed to America. There can be no such scenario in which America and Russia will work in tandem to shape the global affairs. It can be very well gauged from how the mess in Syria is inching towards a total disaster. When Russia came down to rescue its ally Assad, America had simply branded the latter as the only despot for whom the entire chaos was continuing and the solution lied only in his ouster. It was no big surprise for the international community that the agreement to herald peace under a ceasefire arrangement in Syria went into disarray. Thus, working together for both Russia and America can simply sort of a dream even under President-elect Trump.

It would be worth watching how Putin survives his new found ideology, if one calls simply so. But international observers say that Putin will survive. Once he falls, again his country will pass onto a band of oligarchs who are no other than the members of his core team. There would be no instance (probably) under which Russia can move into the hands of a popular leadership. Consent will definitely be manufactured in the days to come. Russians, majority of them are under an illusion that their country is doing great and has become a permanent target of the West. But course correction in Russia is on its way, sooner or later.

It must be said that it is a wrong assumption that Russian confrontation with the West is all about ideology. It has always been about the threat that a western system of governance based on rule of law is not suitable for Putin’s dogmatic and regressive system. In fact, the liberal democratic system prevailing across the West used to be a potential danger for the Soviet system too. Hence it was nothing new for Putin’s regime. Russia today is more dangerous than the Soviet Union was, as there is no collective leadership of the Politburo which used to put significant restraint on the leader after Stalin’s death. It is near certain that Russia is acting out of weakness, rather than strength. Nonetheless, it would be an insurmountable job for the US and its allies in the West to contain Putin. In a globalised world, when we are so very well-integrated, the containment of the Cold War era cannot be possible. But the information war launched by Russia must be checked. However, the growing hatred among the Russian youth about the West must be minimised and a massive public awareness may be created in regard to the internal situation in that country. How this will happen can only be decided by a grand western alliance for the benefit of the common people of Russia. Russia is not China. There will be no massive investment in Putin’s Russia so that it can fast turn itself into an engine of growth. May be there could be a slow decline of Putin’s style of governance.

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