By Paul Goble
Within the top leadership of the Russian powers that be, Ivan Preobrazhensky says, at least three distinct conflicts appear to have broken out in recent weeks. They appear to be intensifying, rumors suggest; but they have not reached the point at which any or all of them could come together and challenge Vladimir Putin.
The first is between those who favor a more tolerant line toward demonstrators and those who believe that the force structures should stifle any protest no matter how apparently innocent and unthreatening it may appear to be, the Rosbalt commentator says. Their conflict was on view this week (rosbalt.ru/russia/2018/08/17/1725287.html).
The authorities decided to allow the Mother’s March to go ahead without interference, but even as that happened, law enforcement officers approached organizers and warned against such demonstrations. “This is like schizophrenia on the part of the authorities where one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.”
Rumors are circulating, Preobrazhensky says, that this confusion “is the result of a conflict within ‘the power vertical’” between one group that doesn’t want to cause more problems by being repressive and another that believes that repression is the only thing that will work.
The first includes not just “so-called ‘systemic liberals,’ but also siloviki who do not want those ‘lower down’ to finally forget about laws and work only, as they say in Russia,’ according to understandings.” The second in turn includes both those who favor repression as such and also those who have used repression to advance themselves and don’t want to lose that “lift.”
A second conflict within the ruling elite concerns the issue of raising the pension age. Some want to back down in the face of public opposition lest they provoke more protests, while others like Vyacheslav Volodin appear to be doubling down, threatening to eliminate pensions altogether if Russians don’t go along with the original pension plan.
And a third conflict involves fighting over increasingly scare resources, Preobrazhensky says, pointing to the suggestion that the government should tax the super profits of some raw materials suppliers with the latter going to the mat within the halls of government to oppose that threat to their wealth.
How this or the other conflicts will play out remains to be seen, but with regard to a new attack on business, the end game is likely to involve the use of siloviki against opponents. And those who win as a result, Preobrazhensky says, will end up being in an even stronger position than they are today.
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