Putinism’s greatest liability


Having lived through the collapse of two ideologies, tsarist and communist, Russia has been a post-truth society for decades, notes Anastasia Edel, the author of Russia: Putin’s Playground: Empire, Revolution, and the New Tsar (November 2017). In such a society, as long as there is an explanation, no matter how far-fetched, people will believe it, she writes for the New York Review of Books:

This year, however, has presented a new challenge—the centenary of an event so fanatically celebrated for most of the twentieth century is hard to ignore completely. So President Putin urged Russians not to “politicize” the Revolution. “It is not allowed,” he said, “to speculate on tragedies that touched every family in Russia, for political interests.”

Vladimir Putin is today the only living world leader whose name has given rise to an “ism.” But exactly what kind of regime is it that Russia’s power elite now touts in its challenge to liberal democracy? M. Steven Fish writes for the National Endowment for Democracy’s Journal of Democracy.

A quarter-century after the demise of the Soviet regime, Russia again presents a powerful challenge to global liberalism and to the Western democratic community. Ambitious military modernization, aggression in the post-Soviet neighborhood, intervention in the Middle East, the construction of a global propaganda network, support for despots abroad, and brazen interference in elections in established democracies all point toward confrontation, adds Fish, author of Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics (2005):

Putinism’s greatest liability may be its thoroughgoing personalism and lack of foundations that transcend the individual leader. Putinism’s goals and principles elicit broad elite consent, but their force stems largely from the fact that Putin pursues and articulates them. There is no Politburo, just Putin’s inner circle. There are no powerful politicians, just Putin’s administrators. There is no Party, just a party that lacks a shred of authority apart from its association with Putin. Nor has Putin spoken a word about a successor.


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