Putin Majority Breaking Down But Elite Splits and Mass Protests Won’t Come Immediately, Solovey Says

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, December 8, 2015)

The truck drivers’ strike and the seriousness with which the Kremlin has reacted to it show that “the Putin majority, the Putin consensus and Putin stability are all beginning to break down, Valery Solovey says; but that does not mean that more mass protests are likely to occur in the immediate future.

The MGIMO professor says that “really serious mass protests will begin significantly later, somewhere in a year to eighteen months. For the time being, the system has a sufficiently great reserve of strength and in society there is still too great a fear of social cataclysms” to expect otherwise (obzor.press/intervyu/12719).

Some Russian defense officials are indeed talking about taking measures to defend government buildings in Moscow, but this is because “fear has big eyes and certain paranoid aspects in the behavior of the Russian authorities have been obvious for a long time: the authorities are afraid, but they still do not understand specifically what they are afraid of.”

With regard to the Russian-Turkish crisis, Solovey says that Putin took the downing of the Russian plane as a personal affront and has responded accordingly. Some close to him have tried to “restrain” him because they think that “Putin overrates Russia’s possibilities which are not so great and that the geopolitical ambitions of the country clearly don’t correspond to its economic position.”

“These people see,” Solovey continues, “that things are not very good, that Russia should reduce its ambitions and that Putin should recognize the need to do so. But one must understand that the powers that be in Russia are organized in such a way that all key political decisions are taken exclusively by the president.”

The elite’s ability to influence him is limited, and it cannot force him to take positions significantly at odds with what the Kremlin leader wants to do.

Some people speak about a split in the Russian elite, but “there is no such split in the country, and it will not appear in the foreseeable future. There is an obvious fear among the elite and growing concerns on its about its future,” given “the unpredictability and irrationality” of Putin’s actions.

At the same time, Solovey argues, “the elite feels itself to be the president’s hostage, a typical example of ‘the Stockholm syndrome.'” As a result, “hopes that it will come out against him are at the very least naïve.”

Any split in the elites, he suggests, “will come only when mass demonstrations of society begin and when pressure comes from outside. Without this fundamental condition,” Solovey stresses, “no split in Russian elites will occur.”

Article also appeared at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/12/putin-majority-breaking-down-but-elite.html