By Paul Goble
Leonid Gozman, an opposition politician now in emigration, says that “it is clear to all except perhaps to Putin himself that his regime is approaching its end.” To replace him, many Russians have placed their hopes in elections or in a revolution, but the Kremlin leader has checkmated both.
As a result, Gozman says, there are only two ways forward: the complete collapse of the state and disintegration of the country or a palace coup that removes him but keeps the country in one piece. The former Moscow liberal leader makes clear that for him, the latter is by far the preferrable option (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2022/10/23/kak-nastupit-25-fevralia).
According to Gozman, the country is already on the path to the first of these. The center is losing its ability to control the country. Its orders aren’t being obeyed or are being obeyed in ways that undercut their purposes. As a result, “the process of disintegration can assume an avalanche-like character,” one in which “it won’t be possible to maintain stability.”
Russia has experienced similar things in the past, he continues. “In the last days of the USSR, President Gorbachev constantly issued orders which no one tried to carry out, and he no longer had the mans available to force them to do so. But then there were structures” which limited the spread of chaos,” including party elites.
Something similar happened after February 1917 when the Duma leadership forced Nicholas II to abdicate, although that new “provisional” government proved incapable to holding power because it was not able to maintain under conditions of war the kind of force structures to hold things together.
“In Russia today,” Gozman says, “there are no such structures, and that means the demise of the state will inevitably lead to ‘a war of each against all,’ armed formations controlled by various bosses will enter into battle with one another, and joining this will be Putin oprinchniki like Prigorzhin and Kadyrov.”
According to Gozman, “this will be the Apocalypse,” and must be avoided at almost all costs.
The second possible path forward is more peaceful and thus more hopeful. It is a palace coup that either overthrows or forces out the current president. It is obvious that those elites around Putin recognize that he is destroying their chances for the future they want, one where they can use their ill-gotten gains for life in the West.
But what is not yet know is whether any of them are “brave enough” to take action. Putin has surrounded himself with weak “’vegetables’ incapable of displaying initiative.” And consequently, they will be unlikely to force him to abdicate or to remove him without violence, something he is defended against and they likely fear trying to use.
But if such people do not appear and show such courage, then, Gozman concludes, “I’m afraid our country’s chances of survival are nil.”
What Gozman doesn’t discuss but what may prove decisive in the calculations of those around Putin is that undoubtedly he has convinced many of them that if he is overthrown, the other alternative for Russia’s future, its complete disintegration and collapse into violence, is possible and that they fear that as much or more than he does.