Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
6th April, 2016
The military situation in Syria continues to have a direct impact on collective political planning of the West against Russia. After the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, it became apparent that the calculations of Western strategists to sink Russia into the Syrian “swamp” (the words of Obama) were not met. In late February, Russian diplomats had achieved victory in the negotiations with our American colleagues, agreeing on a truce in Syria. However, we must not forget that the ceasefire was only possible thanks to the military successes of the Russian space forces and the threat to block the Syrian-Turkish border.
In this case, there is no apparent reason to believe the truce is durable. In both the US and the Middle East, the “war party” is stronger than the “party of peace”. Chances are that the incipient peace process will be torpedoed, and the search for options to intensify Russia’s problems will continue.
In this case, it is useful to predict the next steps from the US:
- Continued attempts to worsen the situation in Syria and the Middle East region;
- “Unfreezing” of conflicts at the most painful points in Ukraine: Odessa, Zaporozhye, Kharkov, etc;
- Increase risks of armed provocations against Donbass and Crimea;
- The loosening of the situation in other strategic areas: Belarus (accumulates in the background), Transnistria — Moldavia, Abkhazia, Karabakh, Central Asia.
But the opponents will try to create a focal point of tension in Russia. In the fall of 2015, destructive political forces prepared the script for the anti-war “Platform” to mobilize anti-war protests in the capital and across the country. They expected that there would be an escalation of anti-war sentiment in Russian society. “Platform” aimed to unite the different protest factions: the liberals, the “creative class” (the former White Ribbons), nationalists, radical left, etc. The mass protests “against the war” were intended to be used to tighten external pressure on the leadership of the country and the compulsion to “surrender”.
However, the non-systemic opposition refused the strategy of the “anti-war platform”. And there are a couple of reasons for this:
- The destructor was wrong in its military forecasts. The success of the Russian Airforce in Syria, and then a significant withdrawal of troops made the “anti-war platform” untenable. Now, you can’t say anything about the “military defeats of Russia”, nor that “Russia is bogged down in the Syrian swamp”;
- Wrong assessment of public sentiments in Russia. An absolute and stable majority of citizens supported the Russia’s mission in Syria. To the surprise of “Anti system representatives”, Russian society was ready for war. This is evidenced not only by opinion polls. Despite the efforts made to discredit Russia’s actions in Syria, the opponents failed to organize any visible anti-war protests.
However, destructors found a new factor for fanning the protests, far more dangerous than anti-war sentiment. This factor is the socio-political situation in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, the maturation of the conditions for “local instabilities”.
The logic of the destructor is as follows: “In the beginning of 2016, the economic crisis has affected wide layers of the population. There is a projected fall in the living standards of Russian citizens. In some regions the economic crisis could become social and political crisis”. Therefore, the strategic intent is to transform the economic crisis into a political protest. The main work to destabilize the situation will be rolled out in vulnerable regions. Subsequently, local protests will escalate into a nationwide wave of discontent to destabilize the situation in the country.
The strategy of destabilization consists of several components:
- A concentration of information warfare attacks directly at the President of Russia;
- Aim to discredit the representatives of that part of the political elite that openly support the Patriotic course;
- Hidden preparatory work in vulnerable regions. The organization of activist groups. Finding the “weak links” in the regional elites. The creation of a “reference cell” for the concentration of resources. Work in the regions will be carried out under the cover of the parliamentary election campaign of 2016. The election campaign should “legalize” the field training, to provide “safe access” to the population and the political elites of the regions.
- The “White Ribbon” movement of 2011-2012 was concentrated in the capital, now the offensive is expected to begin from the regions. If the “White Ribbons” first put forward “democratic demands”, now in the first place there would be social requirements. One example of such a “social rebellion” — the so-called “Electromaydan” in Armenia. In light of the economic crisis, the representatives of the destructive political forces will strongly undermine the local elite. Infiltration of the leadership of the Russian regions hostile to the state of elements occured in the 90’s. From time to time they “sit low”. However, the worsening socio-political situation will be followed by large-scale acts of sabotage. If the White Ribbon rebellion relied on the so-called “urban creative class”, now the enemy relies on local criminal clans, fused (in some regions) with local authorities. The organizers of the “social uprisings” can be criminalized by the representatives of local elites. Blackmailing governors and mayors from the “criminal” column is not excluded. The essence of the possible “color” of the script — “criminal revolution” on the wave of social revolts.
- In vulnerable areas will develop a network of so-called “social correspondents”. Any incident or protest will be posted on the Internet and for the Western media to replicate. Thus, the “international community” will try to create the impression that a wave of mass protests swept the country that authorities are trying to “brutally suppress”.
- Unfold a fierce campaign to discredit the security forces. Use provocations, disinformation, and all sorts of destructive political and information technologies against the defenders of law and order.
- Will be used to “dislike” the province to Moscow. Such approaches have long been characteristic of some regions and sometimes carefully heated by the local authorities. Weak local leaders tend to “translate” the responsibilities for the burdens of the crisis on the ground in Moscow. This anti-Moscow propaganda, as a rule, behind closed doors, through the informal influence of local elites. Regions vulnerable to a coup have accumulated the “distrust of Moscow”.
- This time the moment to destabilize the situation will be tied not to the election date (as in the classic scenarios of “color revolutions”), but will be timed with “the peak of the economic crisis”. The trigger script will be a moment that the opponents will presented as “economic collapse”. At the peak of the crisis, the opponents (from the “named regions” together with the “democratic public”) nominated to the Federal authorities an ultimatum: either reform or immediate early elections.
Here’s is what a package of such “reforms” would look like:
- Foreign policy reform. The normalization of relations with the West. The lifting of sanctions due to the delivery of “objectives” on all geopolitical conquests, up until the delivery of Crimea and Sevastopol.
- Judicial reform (with an actual professional lustration of the judiciary).
- Reform of local government. Solid elections at all levels. A maximum budget of money to leave on the lower levels. To minimize the financing of Federal spending.
- Support for small and medium businesses. Demagogy will be used to discredit large-scale industry and the military industrial complex. In fact, it will start the de-industrialization of the country; the “collapse of industry” like the example of Ukraine.
- Budgetary reform. The curtailing of military spending under the pretext of financing of education and health. Financial exsanguination of the Federal centre under the pretext of “decentralization” of the budget system.
- Decentralization of the police. The establishment of the municipal police. The transmission of power “downwards”. The center remains only “serious crimes”. Responsibilities of law enforcement are transferred to the municipal level. Under the guise of “decentralization”, the law enforcement system of the country will be disorganized and paralyzed. In some regions the so-called “municipal police” will quickly fall under the control of local crime. The rampant crime and extremism across the country as a result of this “reform” is inevitable.
- Media reform. “The return of a diversity of views.” Glasnost 2.0. Under the pretext of “banning hate speech” is a de facto ban on public Patriotic position. The result of the so-called “media reform” will be a rabid Russophobe campaign like the example of Ukraine.
- Public administration reform. A critical decrease of the power resources of the Federal center. Disruption of the control system in the country. Solid HR cleaning with the elimination of managers with Patriotic views and beliefs. “Persecution of witches”. Administrative and criminal prosecution of those who show disloyalty to the “reform package”.
- Privatization. Strategic state assets will accrue to international corporations. Privatization in the circumstances of the breakdown of governance will finally fix the colonial status of the country.
Such a “reform package” is a thoughtful and coherent plan for dismantling the state. In addition to the “reform package” has another instrument on which the opponent relies is “immediate federalization”. The principle of “immediate federalization” has long and successfully captured the mindset of “protest public”. Although non-systemic opposition constantly explains this term as the “peaceful revolution”, actually the start of the process of federalization is the inevitable scenario of disintegration of Russia and civil war.
What to do?
- Proactive need to compile a list of vulnerable regions, where there is a probability of provoking social unrest.
- It is advisable to perform stress testing of regional elites on the subject of how they behave during the acute phase of the crisis. Special attention should be paid to those figures from local authorities, who tried to “get away” from public support of the Federal government in the Crimea, Donbass, and Syria.
- Special attention should be paid to regional public organizations that are created by the governors and funded by local businessmen. What is their real work? In whose interests do they work for? Are there elements of separatism? Is there a connection with the structures of opponents (“Open Russia”, “Parnassus”, etc.)? What are the links with local criminals?
- Carefully see how vulnerable regions are to the May decrees of the President of Russia in 2012. Somewhere there is an objective problem, where elements of sabotage are possible. Now certain forces are spreading the belief that the economic crisis made the May decrees “obsolete” and “harmful”. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. The May decrees are more relevant than ever before because they are able to prevent a developing social crisis in the regions. Each step of the May decrees works to keep social stability. The ratio of the May decrees is the test of the status of local elites.
- This time political opponents will go in close union with the local criminals. “Fluffy” White Ribbon festivals will be no more. They are able to use tough actions, including the use of weapons. Enforces will have to play a key role in blocking scenarios that are destructive for the country; appropriate ideological work and social protection of law enforcement officers. All employees must understand that they are in the front line of defending the homeland.
- Inside local elites need to identify a core group of Patriotic people, who they can directly rely on in case of acute situations. At the slightest manifestations of separatism, sabotage, and a “loss of control”, decisive and tough intervention of the Federal centre based on local Patriotic personnel should be organized.
- It is necessary to develop a network of Patriotic organizations that are rooted in the regions. Existing party organizations, unfortunately, are very often not capable of living in the population. Supporters of party organizations will not be able to keep reigns on the streets and squares, and will need to be able to resist the provocation of the enemy. A regional network of various Patriotic organizations under a variety of brands is needed, managed directly from the Center and the ability to interact effectively with power structures.
The basis of the 2016 agenda will be the economy. Unfortunately, officials responsible for financial and economic development of the country are looking perplexed. Their inaction constantly reinforces in the citizens of Russia the idea that the state has no strategy that will allow us to overcome this crisis. The government constantly talks about oil prices and sanctions, but stubbornly refuses to see the internal factors for the development of the country. They do not show the strong-willed ability to set goals.
In the fall of 2016, after parliamentary elections it is advisable to offer society a new economic course that will give people hope and will beat the “economic initiative” from the hands of liberal opponents of the Russian statehood. The insecurity of the economic agenda is one of the main challenges to national security.
This article was prepared on the basis of the operational monitoring center “Berkut”. The author is Director of the Institute for strategic studies and forecaster of the Peoples Friendship University of Russia, doctor of political science.