by Vadym Denysenko
Putin is becoming more predictable. And so, in fact, is the entire situation in Russia.
What is happening in Russia now is a complete déjà vu from Soviet times. Chekhov’s gun* (in this case, lace panties) needs to go off in the last act. The accumulation of absurdity always leads to what is amusing initially — then frightening.
If anyone thinks that Putin is continuing to fight with Ukraine, he is deeply mistaken. Ukraine, habitually, is the personification of evil and everything that is bad. But Putin, more than anyone, understands that his main enemy now is a principle as old as the world: “from love to hatred is one step.” Putin’s main war is the war against the decline in national love. What’s worse, he has no more resources with which to buy this love (that period ended approximately half a year ago). He has no more resources to conquer half of the world and then to hold on to it. He carried out a small victorious war in Crimea, which raised his popularity rating, but any politician knows that a sharp inflation of the rating also leads to its dramatic collapse.
Whatever the Russians may say, food agitation has begun in Russia. It is still not motivated by anything specific, but there are rumors — a weapon the Russians do not know how to fight. Already one can predict that in the next few days somewhere in Izhevsk sausages will begin to disappear, and in Syktyvkar, cheese. Local residents will clean out the shelves because of rumors. Then prices will rise. Then the authorities will begin their battle with speculators, which will be won by other speculators.
What will Putin do? He can do only one thing — tighten the screws. But what next? In fact, there is nothing else to tighten. More precisely, there are possible objects for tightening. The only thing needed is to adopt the methods of Putin’s hero Stalin. Is he ready to do this? Is his regime ready for this? So far, these are questions without answers. However, it does appear that neither Putin nor his regime is ready for such harsh tools. It is highly probable that, once again, Putin will try to postpone indefinitely these new methods of boosting his ratings.
Can he launch a war against Ukraine? Theoretically, yes. But then he becomes responsible for the fact that Donetsk and Luhansk become besieged cities that will freeze during winter without heat, water, electricity. His plans had called for something quite different — to show how it is the Ukrainians who freeze people.
Is Putin ready to begin war in the southeast of Ukraine for a temporary lift in his rating? It is possible to predict with some 80% of probability that he is not — especially since the Russian people will not want to experience the deaths of their children. He can invade Ukraine only on one condition — if he is sure that the war will be lightning fast and victorious. But no one can guarantee him that.
So, he has only two good tools remaining : to bribe obscure states to support local issues, and to fight speculators. The Russian people must have two enemies: Ukrainians, held responsible for the lack of normal dairy products, and speculators, who trade in illicit goods. Fences and hucksters will again be able to climb the social ladder.
* Editor’s Note: From Chekov’s dramatic principle that all elements on the stage must be necessary: “do not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one will fire it.” “Lacy panties” refers to the new Russian law that bans imports and production of synthetic lace underwear.
Translated and edited by Anna Mostovych