Russian Opposition Must Talk with Siloviki and Attract Them to Its Side, Gallyamov Says

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, July 15, 2020)

Up to now, Russian protests have focused all their attention on Vladimir Putin as if he were the only person who matters; and in the regions, where they have on occasion focused on governors, they have done so because they view the governors as a kind of stand in for the Kremlin leader, Abbas Gallyamov says.

What they have not done, the former Putin speechwriter and political analyst says, is try to interact with the force structures. And because they haven’t, the force structures typically view themselves as being less important than they are and assume that any political decision will be made by those above them (echo.msk.ru/blog/gallyamov_a/2677281-echo/).

But the siloviki are very important players. “They are the real stronghold of any authoritarian regime as all other instruments which it uses to retain power are only supportive.” And this is something that in Russia has become “especially obvious in recent times,” Gallyamov says.

Consequently, it may now be time for the opposition “to begin to appeal to the siloviki” themselves “and to organize protest actions directed to the Kremlin but directly to people in uniform,” thus sending the powerful message that the force structures are part of society and victims too of the regime they are commanded to defend.

Such actions, the analyst says, “could be especially effective in the regions” given that “anti-Moscow attitudes there are intensifying and the opposition can make use of that. Appeals to the Khabarovsk siloviki on the basis that ‘you too are ours’ may prove unexpectedly effective” in meeting the goals of the protesters.

“In fact,” Gallyamov argues, what is important here is “not so much the quality of the arguments advanced as the very fact of involving the siloviki in such a dialogue. ‘Once the opposition appeals to you, this means that they have something to say’ is approximately the thought or at least the feeling” that can produce an entirely new situation.

“Precisely this impression is the most valuable thing in politics,” he continues. “Preicsely it creates the sense of power and historical justification which in fundamental ways guides the behavior of the populace.”

As Trotsky famously observed a century ago, “the fate of each revolution at a certain stage is decided by the splitting of the attitude of the army.” Unless that happens, the people do not have a chance at victory. Once it does, the regime the people are challenging doesn’t have a chance to survive