Postponing Putin’s Waterloo: How is he hanging on?


The key to any possible change in leadership in Russia is in the hands of the ruling elite, as it has been throughout Russia’s long history, notes Dr. Vitali Shkliarov, a Harvard University fellow at the Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. But so far, as in most countries, the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic in Russia isn’t hitting the elites directly, he writes for RealClearWorld:

As most economic crises do, this one too is affecting mostly the middle class, small business, and blue-collar workers. That’s why Putin hasn’t passed an economic stimulus bill to provide relief to his citizens. That’s why he’s hiding out and leaving most of the dirty work to his cabinet. But rest assured if the pandemic starts to hit the pockets of the Russian elite, Putin might have something to worry about. Then he might consider doing something to help spread the wealth. RTWT

This year was supposed to be the Kremlin’s “year of triumph,” in which Putin’s life rule would be confirmed, but instead, 2020 is rapidly becoming his Waterloo, fraying the regime’s authoritarian docility-for-prosperity social contract, argues analyst Lilia Shevtsova (above, HT: Paul Goble).

“The Russian state, directed toward great power status via militarization, expansion and the nuclear fist now looks helpless to defense human life, even the life of its ruling class.” Putin stopped giving orders, leading to chaos and in the process destroying his vertical, she writes.  Consequently, “the center won’t take responsibility, and those below cannot take it because they lack the means and will,” adds Shevtsova, a member of the Editorial Board of the National Endowment for Democracy’s  Journal of Democracy.

Making the situation still worse for Putin, the Kremlin has walked away from any notion that Russia is “a social state” which “guarantees equality and justify in the distribution of economic benefits,” she adds. As a result, “the powers have destroyed the new contract between Putin and society: I give you social guarantees, and you give me lifetime rule.”

COVID-19 is spreading in Russia. In KennanX Episode 5: “Russia’s COVID Crisis,” Jill Dougherty is joined by Judy Twigg, Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Oksana Antonenko, Director at Control Risks, for a discussion on how the Russian health system is handling the pandemic, how the average Russian is dealing with the crisis, and how the crisis will affect Putin’s presidency and the Russian economy.


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