Familiarity with the world press of recent times creates the feeling that the main world problem of the current year is the future of Russian President Vladimir Putin. This topic is not emerging for the first time – the world has repeatedly prepared for the departure of this controversial character from the global political scene, but each time fate (or something else) presented its unexpected surprises. What is being put forward as “undeniable” facts that, in the opinion of their supporters, testify to the imminent departure of Putin, pictured in the most dramatic scenarios? What future is prepared for the remnants of post-Soviet countries that have strayed around the CIS, the departure or extension of V. Putin?
The voices of the internal radical opposition agree that Putin’s days are running out, he is not quite adequate and will not be able to rule the country soon, so next year he will not be in power. Extravagant critic of the government Valery Solovey suggests preparing for the creation of the State Council, because “during the pandemic that hid in the bunker, Putin showed his complete failure. The vertical of power has disappeared; Putin has thrown off all responsibility and transferred it to the regional authorities. Today, Putin’s real rating is from 15 to 25%.”
Thorough circles rely on sociological research presented by an independent group of S. Belanovsky: “Serious ideological changes are taking place in Russian society. The trend of negative attitude towards the federal government, which began to take shape back in 2011 and re-emerged after the “Crimean break” in 2018, was sharply intensified in 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic. Among the main conclusions: the collapse of state propaganda, which causes increasing rejection in almost all segments of society, President Putin personally, became the object of negative statements. Such a situation could lead to mass protests accompanied by victims. The situation is so critical that the tried and tested technologies for distracting public opinion through modern “heroic military operations”, appeals to the past, and building models of a “happy” future cease to work. The prevailing reality is too cruel and unsightly: forgotten promises, unjustified expectations, pension reform, higher taxes and fines, rising unemployment and prices, small amounts of state aid …
Many Western observers echo these findings:
“When people complain, Putin reacts annoyed. His environment likes to blame evil languages abroad for indignation in the country. In any case, the president is so estranged from Russian reality that he probably does not understand the real mood in the country. It’s becoming more and more difficult to feel for everyone else as the few remaining independent media and public opinion research institutions fall under pressure, ”writes Zilke Bigalke in the article “Stagnator”. Süddeutsche Zeitung. 06.24.20
Under these conditions, there are two existing (with reservations) resources: the Great Patriotic War and the annexation of Crimea. These topics were included in an article by V. Putin “75 years of the Great Victory: shared responsibility before history and the future,” published on June 18 by the American conservative magazine National Interest (representing circles advocating dialogue with Russia), and then on the Kremlin website.
The assessments of the Western press and scholars are generally negative, although sometimes they defend the truth of some theses of the President of Russia (British historian Richard Evans, for example, is also worried that in the EU they increasingly put an equal sign between the USSR and Nazi Germany) – a reader with familiar with them or can familiarize yourself. Perhaps, the goals pursued by the article, according to Western journalists and analysts, are to justify the annexation of Crimea, an attempt to take advantage of the serious problems that arose in the West against the backdrop of a pandemic. Here is the crisis of US global leadership, and Washington’s uneasy relationship with Brussels, and NATO’s strife, the US’s racial tension throughout the world, and the EU’s endless debate over its anti-crisis strategy. The main goal is to obtain the right of Russia on an ongoing basis to occupy one of the leading places in world politics.
Against the background of the discussion of this article, less attention was attracted by the speech of V. Putin on the air of the program “Moscow. Putin. The Kremlin”, which was aired on Rossiya-1 TV channel (06/21/20), in which the president, in particular, noted that when the Soviet Union was created, many of the republics that became its members “received a huge amount of Russian lands” and “traditional Russian historical territories “. At the same time, when leaving the USSR, according to the President of Russia, each of these republics had to “go out with what it came from” and not “carry gifts from the Russian people”. Since “during the creation of the Soviet Union, the contract stipulated the right to withdraw from it, but no procedure was prescribed,” the withdrawal of states from the USSR was illegitimate.
Putin did not specify which republics and which lands he meant; however, noteworthy is reference with the article “75 years of the Great Victory”. The article in the part on Poland, says, “… not only the territories fell into the Soviet sphere of influence, where mainly the Ukrainian and Belorussian populations lived, but also the historical Polish lands between the Bug and Vistula rivers. Not everyone knows about this fact now.” And further: “In October 1939, the city of Vilno and the surrounding region, formerly part of Poland, were returned to Lithuania.” Territorial claims against the two remaining Baltic republics are probably namelessly included in the president’s television speech. In this list, of course, Kazakhstan, previously often mentioned in connection with “territorial claims”, and then, as it seems, any post-Soviet country. We will pay particular attention to the situation in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, where the claims have taken the form of an endless secession.
Why is President Putin returning to this topic? The closest explanation is that the post-Soviet countries residing in the CIS have set new benchmarks for external dependence, seeing more generous and reliable partners in the United States, China and the EU. The recent rise and rapid suppression of Maidan sentiment in Belarus has demonstrated that Russia has the strength to preserve the CIS countries under its auspices. In addition, the rule in these states of authoritarian (possibly, with the exception of Moldova and partly Armenia) regimes, extremely similar, and sometimes even exceeding the authoritarian regime in Russia, is the key to “loyalty” to the leaders of these regimes personally to Putin, since he is the guarantor of preservation their authorities. Then it turns out that Putin would like to create a more stable political system than the CIS (which he once called the “divorce tool” of the post-Soviet countries)? Obviously, this is required by circumstances of both domestic and foreign policy.
As an internal reserve, relations with the CIS countries (and they promise to be difficult, if not to say – conflict) can become a distracting maneuver in the event of a “deterioration” of situation of the Russian population in these states, while simultaneously giving an alarm to the “renegades” (Ukraine and Georgia).
As an external reserve, it is the formation of a new policy, which concerns primarily the countries of Eastern and Southeast Europe, which used to be part of the socialist camp. It seems to some observers that Putin’s maniacal obsession with the idea of restoring the USSR is not much simpler: Putin wants to stop NATO’s ongoing eastward movement, which has already reached a critical point. The advancement of the US-China tandem by the “southern underbelly” of Russia may complete the process of geopolitical encirclement of this country with the understandable goal of its collapse.
Russia has a very small choice. Naturally, the question arises: will the situation change if Putin leaves? Historical experience forces us to answer this question negatively: NATO’s eastward movement began under the “democratic” Russia of Yeltsin. It turns out that modern politicians and leaders of major powers purposefully lead the world to another war, the name of which will be either “third” or “last”.
Let us consider the conclusion of Andreas Umland, set out in the article “Why Putin’s conquest of Crimea is only a temporary phenomenon” (Focus, 06.22.20): “European diplomats and politicians should be ready today for a further major change in the geopolitics of Eastern Europe – as soon as Putin leaves the political the scene…”
However, the future of the CIS countries will not be easy …