By Paul Goble
The Putin regime “is not simply an example of authoritarian power” which seeks to unite kleptocrats in support of the leader, Vladislav Inozemtsev says. “It is a political system which has put as its goal no more and no less than the slowing down of historical time” – and the outcome of the Prigozhin mutiny only confirms that.
Over the past 25 years, the Russian commentator continues, the Kremlin has achieved many of its goals in that regard as highlighted by the fact that “even Politburo members at the time of the death of Leonid Brezhnev on average had not been in their posts as long as today’s Security Council members” (moscowtimes.ru/2023/07/04/myatezh-evgeniya-prigozhina-kak-popitka-reanimatsii-sistemi-a47767).
Viewed from that perspective, Inozemtsev says, the Wagner mutiny represented an attempt only to remove some talentless officials near the top of the political system rather than to destroy the system itself. As such, Prigozhin can be seen as someone who wanted to “reanimate it” but it failed “because the system wanted to exist not live, stagnate and not develop.”
In the wake of the Prigozhin mutiny, he continues, the Putin system remains “stable.” Indeed, “the only result of the rebellion will be an increase in the number of those near the top who can exert serious influence on Putin.” And Prigozhin’s ouster sends a message: “now much more is allowed than yesterday” and “you can fight for the attention of the sovereign but not against him,” something that means the struggle “under the carpet” will intensify.
Russian elites now are likely to see an expansion in their freedom of action “within the regime.” That will allow Putin to be “’re-elected’” in 2024 without much fuss. And the population is unlikely to take any action that would force the issue given that the elites don’t want change and Putin isn’t ready to risk leaving office.
The Russian people “do not have subjectivity: at best, they can condemn or admire but not act.” Lacking real elections and with many of the opposition leaders “deserting abroad,” the only possibility is a real revolution “but the recent weekend showed tha the masses unlike in 1991 or even 1993 are not rushing to the barricades.”
Consequently, Inozemtsev concludes, “Prigozhin’s rebellion marks a crisis not in the Putin system as such but in its form which took shape at the end of the first decade of this century after a period of relatively dynamic development.” And what is likely now is decay but no faster than it was put in place in the first instance.