EDITORIAL: Stormclouds over the Moscow Kremlin

EDITORIAL

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.

15 responses to “EDITORIAL: Stormclouds over the Moscow Kremlin

  1. Unrest in Russia’s economically undiversified monocities:

    Things are not fine in Zlatoust, population 188,000, where production at the Zlatoust Metallurgical Works has dropped 80 percent since October amid plummeting demand for its steel alloys.

    One of Russia’s so-called monocities — company towns that are home to about 12 percent of the country’s 142 million people — Zlatoust is a prime example of the dangers of the Stalin-era practice of depending on one factory to employ workers, heat apartments and support small businesses.

    The global economic crisis has hit the monocities, with their undiversified economic bases, especially hard, driving up social spending and exacerbating the first national budget deficit in 10 years. They also have a potential for civic unrest that analysts say Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev may be overlooking at their peril.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=ae09JAJf0UtE&refer=home

    And from the Radio Liberty link today:

    YEKATERINBURG, Russia (Reuters) — Sixteen Russian steel workers have begun a hunger strike in protest against wage cuts and threatened redundancies at the Zlatoust steel plant in the Ural Mountains, a protest organizer has said.

    http://www.rferl.org/content/Sixteen_Russian_Steel_Workers_Start_Hunger_Strike/1508097.html

    Putin squandered eight years of oil revenues investing nothing in labor diversification and infrastructure. One of Russia’s most serious problems in this economic crisis is that unlike the US and Europe their work force is stuck in place.

  2. http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20090302_financial_crisis_and_six_pillars_russian_strength

    LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS:

    Do be so kind, you heinous gorilla, as not to spam this blog. Not only did you post this link three different times, it has nothing whatsoever to do with this post and you make no effort whatsoever to claim otherwise. This post is about RUSSIANS expressing discontent, and a proper response would be evidence of RUSSIANS showing content. It is useful, of course, in pointing out what we often do here, namely that Russia is dangerous and must be squashed. But we doubt you realized that.

    Your brain power is easily dwarfed by even the smallest lemon.

  3. There’s definatly a battle inside the Kremlin for the shrinking money pie and you could hear everyone getting very nervous.

    Military generals expects their bailout for weaponry and expensive geopolitics adventure.

    The Oligarch expect their bailout to save their companies.

    Russian Ganster needs their cut to keep anti-Kremlin population in check.

    So you have all of them sensing the pie is getting smaller and are just getting ready to fight each other for the remaining piece.

    I hope they all destroy themselves and sink with the boat.

    Let’s hope no one survive.

  4. Eugene,
    That was a good article in stratfor. I don’t doubt that many in the west don’t understand the intricate Russian system and therefore make incorrect assumptions about the future. The challenge, or (in my opinion) weakness in the articles assumptions, will be in keeping the people sufficiently cowed so they continue to work for the state no matter what their circumstances, that remains to be seen. The future could be cruel on those using behaviors of the past to predict future developments. In many respects the world is in uncharted territory.

  5. Bush may have been a simpleton, not. His staff was rock solid.

    Obama is the naive one. Putin must be rejoicing that they have a left wing moronic admin to deal with. The letter and overcharge button must have been like fresh air in Putin’s sails.

  6. I hear that Obama has been to busy cranking out pork laden stimulus after stimulus and seeking out “moderate” Taliban with whom to negotiate with that he is way behind in staffing for the treasury department. I am praying that Obama can keep himself and Pelosi and Reid and the gang away from microphones and cameras and let one week go by without spending several billion dollars so that things can stabilize a bit. But as bad as things look for America in the near term it is nothing compared to Russia’s economic apocalypse.

  7. Eugene,

    All those six pillars were “firmly” standing already in 1917 and 1991, still the entire system collapsed two times… How come? For some reason Stratfor did not give an answer to this “puzzle”.

  8. Daily Journal defined two parties (and potential alternatives for development) in Russia: the party of blood, and the party of money. It’s interesting to watch which side will prevail.

    It’s also worth noting that Putin is not going to provoke the West in the immediate future. The clearest sign was his trip to Davos and the “suggestion” to forgive the loans that the West made to his friends. So, if this thinking is correct, there will be no new little Georgian war, no provocations in Sevastopol, and no new Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad. Note that Russia is not pushing for anybody (not even Venezuela or Upper Volta) to recognize Abkhazia or South Ossetia. One can argue, of course, that they just can’t, but it is equally possible that the risk of margin calls for Kremlin friends is too high to stir the Western pot.

  9. The Soviet Union did not have to contend with a once vibrant economy. The money was worthless and so was the output.

    The people, the Government, and business have all tasted in some way the money founded on Russia’s resource wealth. Now in full view it is receding 4 times as fast as it arrived.

    With all the disparate and powerful groups fighting for the little remaining amidst the relentless crisis, the current Kremlin leaders cannot satisfy many, even those with great influence and authority.

    Putin will be gone this year.

    Gary Marshall

  10. Blaze: Military generals are furious because many (most?) are going to be forcibly retired in the newest attempt to reform the RA.

  11. I know that it all depends on the expertise of specialists, but I have found Stratfor to have no understanding of political processes outside of the Beltway.

  12. “Your brain power is easily dwarfed by even the smallest lemon.” Um.. you’ve gotta work on the snappy comebacks, not so poetic. Maybe you can cut and paste somebody else’s come backs instead.

    Also The writer of this article was positive about Obama and Clinton, where’s you’re right wing outrage to that?

  13. The writer of this article was positive about Obama and Clinton, where’s you’re right wing outrage to that?

    The writer was referring to Putin’s lack of familiarity with Obama. He just needs to send Obama a bust of Lenin and all should be right.

  14. Kolchak, “He just needs to send Obama a bust of Lenin and all should be right.”

    I almost missed that joke, that is f$^%ing hilarious.

    Bravo Kolchak, Bravo.

  15. Also shale gas has hit the energy markets with a huge bang. My sister owns shale gas interests and thinks she is going to get rich.

    Unfortunately for sis, prices will continue to decline.

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