Staunton, May 8 – “Russia has entered a period of prolonged crisis,” one that is likely to involve more and larger protests, Valery Solovey says. The Kremlin will likely respond with the only method it knows, force. But now, the Moscow analyst says, it can no longer count on the unquestioned loyalty and obedience of the police.
That is not to say that the police will go over to the protesters but rather that they will be unwilling to employ the harsh measures Vladiimir Putin and others may demand from them. Those taking part in the demonstrations will see this; and that will change the ways in which they will act in the future (fedpress.ru/interview/1783972).
Such a shift is just one of the reasons, the MGIMO professor says, why it is difficult to predict how the crisis will develop and when or even if Russia will be able to escape from it.
Another reason why it is difficult to predict the future, he suggests, is that the coming protests after a lull this summer are most likely to have “not a political but a social character and also to be connected with local agendas in various regions and cities.” That is because “in Russia, every city and region is unhappy in its own way.”
But one thing is clear: the rise in protest activity is not being driven by the election calendar even though it is occurring at the same time, something that “creates an extremely unfavorable backdrop for the elections.”
The Kremlin and the powers that be more generally have falsely concluded tha the March 26 demonstrations were a highwater mark. That is a misconception, Solovey argues. And “when [the powers that be] come into contact with a new, higher and more powerful wave of protests, [they] will turn to all those mans which they have at their disposal and are accustomed to use.”
“Besides police and administrative pressure,” he says, these will include also “the organization of moral-psychological terror and psychological pressure via the mass media,” the analyst continues. That is all the more likely because the authorities can no longer count on the unqualified obedience of the police to crack down.
The police are experiencing the same problems in their lives that other Russians outside the elite are. If the Kremlin forgets this and tries to use the police in ways the police don’t want to be used, Solovey says, Russia will enter into “a qualitatively new political situation,” one in which “the powers will have lost a very important support.”
And that could easily mean, Solovey says, that “the situation will gradually get out of control.” That is all the more likely, he continues, because the Kremlin does not have an adequate understanding of what is happening as it prefers to take what it would like to be the case to be so.
In an obvious sense, Solovey says, this is “nothing new.” It was the case in late Soviet times as well, something that should give Putin and his entourage pause, no matter how high his ratings now are.