Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
25th January, 2016
The West believes that the sharp drop in oil prices combined with Western economic sanctions imposed after the annexation of Crimea, and its support for separatists in Eastern Ukraine, would cause such economic and social unrest in Russia that could threaten the government of President Vladimir Putin. This is not the right view of the situation, said the expert of Stratfor Agency, Steven Hall.
According to him, in defense of this concept, commentators cite the recent protests (particularly the Russian protests of truckers, who opposed the increase in fees), anti-Putin rhetoric from the Russian opposition bloggers and even an open investigation into the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
The problem is that the authors analyze Putin, the Kremlin and the events in Russia with overly Western positions. In fact, the power of Putin in Russia and his reputation among Russians remains consistently strong despite the circumstances that could end the political career of the majority of Western leaders.
Hall emphasizes that the power of Putin “is not derived from the people he governs, as it does in Western democracies. In his management of the country Putin relies to a much greater degree on coercive methods. Some experts wish to exaggerate the importance of Putin’s previous career in the KGB, but it’s certainly not the only experience in Russian intelligence that has made Putin who he is. Meanwhile, the experience in the KGB, or the FSB, or any other security services in Russia, imposes a certain view of the world”.
And in general, Hall notes, Putin doesn’t care how Russians express their discontent, namely, demonstrations, protests and so on, and these manifestations of discontent affect his decision. Western commentators and reporters sometimes called the protests harbingers of change or indicators of dissatisfaction, but it is worth reminding that Russia behind the scenes watches the protests very carefully and the Russian security services do a great job to control them.
Meanwhile, Putin “even sees some merit in allowing such protests to take place, because it allows him to create the appearance of democracy in Russia, which appears as a place where opposition forces are allowed to freely express themselves. It can be very helpful in such international forums like the UN, the EU and so on.”
Hall also highlighted the misconception that, if economic conditions in Russia will continue to worsen, discontent and anxiety of the Russians will reach a level that will threaten the current status quo. “When the Russian government explains the causes of economic hardships in the nationalist vein, and accuses external forces, such as the EU and the US, the need to tolerate and deal with the deficit becomes almost a national sport and a national pride”, said the expert. Therefore, it does not pose a threat to the authorities.
“As mentioned above, even if the level of his popularity was substantially reduced, Putin will still have his intelligence agencies that will help him to retain power,” writes the expert. As a reminder, as was written on Politonline.ru in May last year, Russian businessmen have admitted that most people trust the President of Russia Vladimir Putin (68%). Within the rating of trust were the army with 30%, complete the top three representatives of business colleagues trusted by 27% of top managers. The survey was conducted by the Agency “Contact”.
Also, a previously conducted a poll showed that more Russians endorse the work of the police, and trust them. There was also an increased number of those wishing to become law enforcement officers.
The Russians trust the President, the army and the Church, according to the conclusion of experts of “Levada-center”. A recent survey showed that most Russians trust the President (80%), army (64%) and churches (53%). The increase in the credibility of the army (11%) and police (8%) was significantly.
Actually, the “Russian conservative turn that began after Putin returned to the Kremlin in March 2012 was probably closer to the worldview of the Russian conservative and Patriotic majority, than the majority of Western governments are willing to admit”, states Dal Santo in The National Interest.
“But the liberal majority, who are waiting for the West’s release, simply does not exist. The problem with the Russian liberals is the same, which has always been the problems of the Russian revolutionaries: they look down on the rest of the country and believe people are fools,” said the Director of the Moscow Institute Carnegie Dmitri Trenin.
And the Runet, which is traditionally considered the fiefdom of liberal thinkers, too, somehow does not contribute to the “democratization” of youth. The Washington Post released data of huge number of those who are agree with the necessity of control over extremism in social network. But a liberal expert, Fedor Krasheninnikov, bitterly noted that the majority of the Internet support the authorities, and Crimea and is not going to be the capital of a revolution. All of this destroys the myth of the opposition that “the government support is maintained by money, trolls and the career-minded”, by saying the support of the state is honest and free.
“It’s important to admit: the Internet in Russia is no longer a citadel for the opposition,” – upset liberals.