Ever more people around the world want Vladimir Putin to leave the scene but very few have asked themselves what Russia will be like after his departure. One who has, Sergey Klimovsky, suggests that Russia will either be a fascist state even worse than the current regime or a genuinely federal system that would work to everyone’s benefit.
In a commentary on the Ukrainian portal Hvylya, Klimovsky says that the desire to get rid of Putin has made the issue of what Russia might be like after him seem “not so important.” But in fact, the nature of the post-Putin regime in Russia is critical for that country, its neighbors and the world.
The outcome won’t be determined by Russia’s geopolitical opponents because except for Japan, they do not have territorial claims against Moscow. (Some of Russia’s friends, on the other hand, do have some, including China on the Russian Far East and Belarus on Kaliningrad, Klimovsky says.
Consequently, he continues, one must consider what would happen after “the inevitable fall of the Putin regime.” In that event, there would be “a political vacuum in Russia almost like the one which arose in the Donbas after the flight of Yanukovych. Indeed, it is possible it would be worse” because Russia lacks the parliamentary opposition that Ukraine had and has.
That makes the transition many would like toward a Russia-wide union of “democratically oriented” forces “not great, if for purely technical reasons.” More likely would be the coming to power of “a regime of Russian Nazism” led by Girkin and Zhirinovsky that would begin “a second wave of imperial hysteria.”
A better outcome which could have long-term positive consequences would be the establishment of genuine federalism in the Russian Federation in place of “the current imperial-style centralized” Russian state. “Federalization and not collapse” is in everyone’s interest, Klimovich says.
At some point, the commentator argues, “Russia’s federalization is an almost pre-ordained and inevitable step,” all the more so because of the anger many in Russia’s regions feel toward the center. Today, “’Muscovites’ for Russia is almost the same as ‘the Donetsk people’ for Ukraine, according to Klimovich.
And consequently, “one should not be surprised that the old slogan, ‘Liberate Russia from the Moscow yoke’ is again gaining popularity,” given that “the Golden Horde system” which made Moscow the tax collector continues to “function” with only one difference. “Now, Siberia pays tribute to Moscow and not the other way around.”
For Russians, federalization would allow for a more just system; for Russia’s neighbors, that country’s federalization would represent “a remarkable means of removing all their problems.” It would end Moscow’s “’defensive’ aggression” against Russia’s neighbors, and it would mean that Russia would “cease to be a source of a global military threat” and could join “a new geopolitical union from Lisbon to Vladivostok.”
Russia’s nuclear arsenal would be “a reliable guarantee” that no outsider would interfere in the process of federalization and that it could thus take place “without any ‘death’ of Russia.” Indeed, Klimovich says, “if the Ukrainian revolution had had such weapons, neither the seizure of Crimea nor the intervention of Russia in the Donbas would have occurred.”
Such a “federalist” revolution, he continues, could make the new Russia “again as immediately after 1917 an attractive model for other countries.” But whether this happens or not will depend entirely on the Russians themselves. “Neither NATO nor Ukraine will be doing this work for them.”