Even if Navalny Replaced Putin, Russia Wouldn’t Change Because Putin is ‘Simply a Product of Russian Society,’ Milin Says

Kremlin and River

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – Staunton, February 22, 2020)

Vladimir Putin has not changed Russian society as much as many think, Dmitry Milin says, because he “is simply the product of Russian society.” Consequently, even if he is replaced by someone like Aleksey Navalny, little or nothing will “change for the better.”

Among Russians, the Moscow commentator argues, 30 to 40 percent of the population are “conformists who will always vote for those in power, 20 to 30 percent are on the left, and 30 to 50 percent are on the right from the nationalists to the liberals. As a result, the prospects for change regardless of who is president are small (blog.newsru.com/article/21feb2020/forecast).

In many ways, this is a reflection of an updated version of one side of the debate which animated many in Soviet times: with Milan arguing as many did in the past that Sovietism was the product of the Russian tradition in opposition to those who suggested that it was strictly the product of communist rule.

According to Milin, “the only thing that unites a majority is the rejection of corruption in the upper reaches of the powers that be.” Navalny has used this too good effect, “but by itself the struggle with corruption cannot lead to a flourishing of the country,” although it would certainly result in a reduction in the crudity of the leadership.

Consequently, he continues, “the replacement of the president (even for Navalny) would not be any rapid improvement. The struggle with corruption will take years if not decades.” And there is no guarantee that Navalny would not adapt to the rules of the game at the top much as Putin has.

Putin’s national projects like Andropov’s and Gorbachev’s “acceleration” 40 years ago “will not give any results.. The money will simply be spent ineffectively.” The same is true for import substitution. It will only accelerate losses and lead to a decline in the incomes of many Russians.

Real economic reforms, the blogger argues, “if they begin to be introduced also will not lead to the rapid growth of the economy and a rise in the standard of living. Instead, they will lead in the first two to five years to a significant decline in incomes. The path to flourishing lies not through the president” but in production of saleable goods and that requires hard work.

Just redistributing incomes from the sale of raw materials abroad won’t do the trick either, Milin continues. “Russia is not a Norway with five million people.

Russia must produce competitive goods, stealing designs from abroad if necessary. But those designs won’t help much either unless there is a new work ethic among Russians. For the country to flourish, “a minimum of the majority of the population” will have to work harder than it does now.

That will be hard to achieve given that “man is mortal and often suddenly so.” And consequently, Russians should stop living with “unachievable hopes for a rapid improvement in the situation. Only the bad can happen quickly; the good always takes a long time, is complicated, and requires effort.”

[Article also appeared at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/02/even-if-navalny-replaced-putin-russia.html]