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Putin Is Replaceable

Published: August 20, 2014 (Issue # 1825)




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Will Russia plunge intochaos anddarkness after President Vladimir Putin leaves? While its understandable that propaganda-brainwashed Russians might truly think so, it comes as asurprise when U.S. analysts repeat thesame idea.

Knowing theweakness ofthe liberal opposition andthe strength ofPutins security apparatus, its hard not tofear that his replacement will make us long forthe days ofhis thuggishly predictable unpredictability, warns Julia Ioffe onThe New Republic. If theU.S. gets rid ofPutin they will have no ability tocontrol what happens next, threatens Mark Adomanis onForbes.

Such pessimistic estimates, however, are hardly well grounded. Russias 140 million citizens should be capable ofreplacing their president with someone who isnt living in another world, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said ofPutin.

Theanalysts who are scared ofpost-Putin Russia usually raise thefollowing points: 1) Putin ruined all independent institutions andmade himself theonly arbiter ofpower. This will lead tochaos once he leaves theKremlin. 2) Putin is theonly constraint onRussias highly motivated andorganized nationalists, who will transform thecountry intoa fascist regime once he leaves. 3) Personalistic regimes are rarely followed bydemocratic systems, so whats thepoint ofreplacing apples with apples?

Lets consider those arguments step bystep.

First, its true that Putin has successfully set up anautocratic political system over thelast 15 years. Bydestroying opposition parties, putting their leaders under arrest andblocking popular mobilization, theKremlin has succeeded inlimiting theRussian populations interest inpolitics. Theresulting void between theauthorities andthe people has led tocomplete alienation between theelites andthe masses.

But Russia would not be lost tochaos if Putin disappeared. Instead, it would empower one ofthe more politically successful segments inRussian society today: theliberal white-collar opposition movement. No other social group inthe last 20 years has been remotely able tomobilize 100,000 to200,000 protest participants (as they managed in2011-12 protests), or the630,000 Muscovites who voted foropposition candidate Alexei Navalny during last years election forMoscow mayor.

Thevery demobilization ofmost ofRussian society is also aguarantee against theemergence ofnationalistic groups. Many Russians might repeat certain ideas they hear onthe television, but they wont stand up forthose ideas. Theswings inRussians public opinion onthe major issues prove that point. Forexample, thesupport formilitary invasion inUkraine dropped 20 percent fromFebruary toJune following thesoftening ofthe media propaganda discourse.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Tuesday, Sept. 16


Lenexpo plays host to Tekhnodrev, a three-day convention that focuses on the woodworking industry in Russia. Promoting the latest technologies and trends, the event features not only exhibitors from some of Russias largest woodworking companies but representatives of the forestry industry, who will have their own coinciding forum.


Parlez-vous français? We dont here at The St. Petersburg Times but that doesnt mean you cant. Join the British Book Centers French Club meeting this evening at 6 p.m. in their location near Technologichesky Institut metro station.



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