Paul Goble: Kremlin has Lost Its Levers of Influence over a Demoralized Russian Society, Kagarlitsky Says

Staunton, May 16 – “The Kremlin has lost the levers for influencing” what is now a totally demoralized Russian population, and voting on the constitutional amendments “may become the channel for the expression of this sharp popular dissatisfaction with the powers,” Boris Kagarlitsky says. The director of the Moscow Institute on Globalization and Social Movements tells Novy den that as a result, “a catastrophe is already inevitable.” The only open question is “when will this ‘explosion’ occur.” It could come quickly and without apparent cause or it could arrive later as pressures build (newdaynews.ru/moscow/691726.html). One has the sense, Kagarlitsky says, that the Kremlin has decided to put everything on pause, “as during a computer game” when you then have the chance “to start again from the same place where you

stopped … But in real life this doesn’t happen.” The world keeps changing and when you reenter it, it is a different place. In the Russian political system, “ever more negative trends had been manifest” even before the pandemic, “but up to a certain time, it was possible to say that the technical aspect of rule was working.” Now, that is not true. And it is clear that there are problems not only with the process of taking decisions but with the decisions themselves and their implementation. The reason the Kremlin handed off managing the pandemic response to the governors is that it “doesn’t know what to do and does not have levers to influence the situation.” But the center only went part way: it didn’t give the governors the powers and resources they needed because the regime feared it might have a hard time recovering them. “To expect effective results from the regions which are tied hand and foot to the federal center is senseless,” Kagarlitsky continues. “The regions will fight with the crisis until they fail.” Exiting the crisis, he says, “is being complicated by the divisions and passivity of society.” The powers view that as a resource that helps them maintain their position, but it is now a problem that makes it almost impossible to address the issues before the country. But given the occasion, society can coalesce against the authorities. The powers that be may be ready to create one by insisting on going through with the referendum on the constitutional amendments. If people are angry and have no outlets otherwise, this may give them one. They may vote no, and that will force the regime to falsify the results, triggering protests, or admit defeat, which could become fatal. “The best variant would be to put off all-Russian voting on the amendments,” Kagarlitsky says. But the Kremlin seems committed to going ahead, thus creating a disaster for itself. Indeed, a catastrophe has become inevitable. The only question being when and how it will become manifest. source: window on eurasia

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