Stormclouds over the Moscow Kremlin
In a trio of posts over at The Power Vertical, Radio Free Europe’s Russia correspndent Brian Whitmore points out how very badly things are going just now for Russia’s closeted dictator Vladimir Putin.
First, Whitmore points to a recent poll from the Levada Center which startled the Kremlin by revealing that a whopping 60% of Russians polled expressed sympathy with the anti-government protests that have exploded in Russia’s Far East in recent months as the Kremlin’s economic policy has run aground. Even more disturbing for the malignant little troll who prowls the Kremlin’s parapets, one quarter of respondents indicated a willingness to join the protests. Revolutions are made from such quarters. Whitmore says that the Solidarity opposition group is planning to attempt to cash in on this discontent by instigating a new wave of protest actions in the Far East next month. As Whitmore points out, given this poll it will simply be impossible for the Kremlin to argue that the protesters are nothing but a band of freaks and outcasts it can properly ignore.
Then, Whitmore shows how the Kremlin’s economic failure is causing it problems much closer to home. He notes that close Medvedev advisor Arkady Dvorkovich has gone public calling in effect for a Stalin-like purge of the Kremlin’s ranks. He couches his rhetoric in terms of getting rid of “bureaucrats” and replacing them with more capable economic experts, but even a Russian child would understand this is nothing but code for loyalty. Cracks, to be sure, are becoming ever more apparent in Putin’s foundations. Whitmore notes that Igor Yurgens, director of the Institute of Contemporary Development and an advisor to Medvedev, has called publicly for an expansion of civil liberties as the Kremlin has broken its contract with the public which had called for less freedom in exchange for more economic stability. Kremlin powerbroker and ideologist Vladislav Surkov immediately and harshly fired back at Yurgens.
And then things starting getting really dark in the skies above the Moscow Kremlin.
Whitmore reports that Gleb Pavlovsky, a Kremlin-sponsored academic similar to the ape who recently predicted America’s imminent collapse, has been circulating rumors
that a small “pro-crisis party” is lurking inside the Russian elite and might be plotting “a new little coup.Pavlovsky said this shadowy cabal — which includes “big business, people at the summit of federal power circles in the capital, and some governors” — is planning to stage “a farcical remake” of the August 1991 coup attempt that brought down the Soviet Union or of the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine.What is the ‘pro-crisis’ party discussing? The struggle over seriously reduced resources. When there was a lot of money, any faction in power could get a cut of the money flow… But the rivers have become shallow and some people need a shake-up, which, on the one hand, will enable them to write off losses to the old regime and, on the other, to gain unrestricted access to the new one…I repeat, if one is looking for sources of social protest in Russia, seek them in the corridors of power.
The goal, according to Pavlovsky, would be to remove Russia’s de facto ruler, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
There can be, of course, only one response from Putin’s Kremlin to news like that: The Stalin response. People go to jail, others get shot in the head, many are threatened with the same until things calm down. The first step, of course, would be for Putin to return to the formal corridors of power, and it’s clear that Pavlovsky is doing nothing more than laying the groundwork for this to occur.
In other words, the Kremlin is panicking.
And rightfully so. In just six months, the Kremlin’s entire world has come crashing down around it.
Six months ago, America was ruled by a man Putin viewed as a predictable simpleton, easily outwitted. Now, America is ruled by someone whose very existence Putin cannot begin to fathom.
Russian moves against Ukraine and Georgia have been beaten back, and the U.S. Secretary of State (a woman?!) is giving assurance of their imminent NATO admission. Russia has been exposed as being wholly without credible allies, including China.
The price of oil has fallen by two thirds, and the Russian currency and stock market have collapsed right along with it, obliterating the insane fantasy propagated by the Kremlin that Russia was “resurgent,” a “safe haven” and an alternative to the United States.
And now, the economic crisis is causing its first round of really intense pain on the street of Russia. The Kremlin, blindsided by this tsunami of failure, does not yet have in place the means of equally intense social repression to control the reaction of the population, nor has it finalized its set of scapegoats.
And so it is panicking. This is the time for Russia’s opposition to move with speed and boldness to directly confront the Kremlin and consolidate a foundation of power it can use when the next elections roll around, and use more importantly as a shield from the Kremlin’s most desperate acts of violence, visited most recently upon the hero Stanislav Markelov.
Now is the time.