Pilotless Russia, Drifting towards the Shoals
Scholar Andrew Wood of Chatham House, a former British ambassador to Russia, has published a review of the Putin regime entitled “Ten Russian Propositions” which concludes that Russia is “in ill-piloted drift towards the shoals.” He then offers ten blistering arguments to support his thesis, arguments which devastatingly expose the fundamental incompetence, hypocrisy and weakness of the maligant KGB regime that controls Russia using nothing but brute force.
The key points are as follows:
- Despite some difference in tone and rumours of mutual irritation, no substantive change in the Medvedev-Putin tandem is in prospect.
- The authorities would like economic dynamism and innovation without political renovation. This is impossible, however, because the power structures and the economy are too interwoven. There are no credible signs of manageable or steady change within the elite.
- The economic crisis has shaken the ruling class. Public discussion of Russia’s long-term prospects is more open and more honest than it has been for many years. This matters, because it casts doubt not just on the ability of the current elite to manage affairs, but also their right to do so.
- It is likely that the tension between economic renewal and the frozen political structure will continue to mount in 2010. Pressure is building within the system, and it will become increasingly difficult for outsiders, whether business or political, to manage their interests.
The central point Wood is making is that Russia is a powder keg waiting to explode. The current regime is not applying sufficient force, as recently seen in the Kalingrad and Vladivostok protests, to keep the lid on as its policy failures, and resulting suffering of the population, continue to mount.
Therefore, there are only two possiblities: One, that the regime lacks the capacity to apply that force, and in that case that it will be swept aside in another “Orange Revolution,” except that it may be replaced by an even more oppressive regime. The other is that the regime will reveal a massive new level of force designed to crush this rising opposition, beginning with the installation of Vladimir Putin as “president for life.”
In either case, the forces the benefit from democracy and liberalism are in desperate, dire straits, and any assets of Western companies are imperiled.