Putin hosting top graduates of Russian military academies at the Kremlin. 28 June, 2016. (Image: RIAN)
Following the coup attempt in Turkey, many Russians began to ask if and when the Russian military might move against Vladimir Putin. But according to Oleg Odnokolenko, there is now no chance of that given the differences between the Russian army and the Turkish one and between the Russian one under Boris Yeltsin and its status under Putin.
In a comment for “Nezavisimaya gazeta” today, the paper’s deputy military affairs editor says that those like Mikhail Khodorkovsky who have speculated on this possibility are ignoring the realities of the situation, one in which Russian commanders today like Putin more than any leader of the liberal opposition.
“In a political sense,” Odnokolenko says, “the liberals lost the army already in 1991 when the military, most of whom did not support the coup plotters, all the same found themselves almost in the position of social outcasts,” something that didn’t change under the presidency of Yeltsin.
Under Putin, the situation has changed fundamentally. Not only has Putin provided the military with more funding, but he has given it a new “sense of service,” of being involved in “socially useful activity” in which “ships regularly go to sea, planes fly, even if they are not the best in the world, and exercises of various size have become an everyday occurrence.”
And because of conflicts in the world that are often beyond diplomacy alone, the Russian military now has a role in “demonstrating military force” or even going beyond that and applying it as in Syria, Odnokolenko continues. And that too marks a serious departure from the Yeltsin period.
In the 1990s, the Russian military couldn’t go beyond “the geographic borders of the fatherland and had it tried to, it would have been immediately been beaten back.” Indeed, the military expert says, at that time, “the Kremlin feared its own army more than it feared the American one and did nothing to find a common language with the military milieu.”
Putin has “returned to the military a feeling of social and professional dignity,” or put another way, “President Putin’s military project has beyond any doubt succeeded and therefore the chief of state has nothing to fear from his soldiers and officers,” however much some may dream of a military putsch that would remove him from office.
There are two other major differences between the Russian military elite and its Turkish counterpart: On the one hand, the Turkish military has always seen itself as the repository of the defense of Atatürk’s secular ideas and the defender of his ideas against civilians. There is no similar attitude among Russian commanders.
And on the other hand, a large number of Turkish officers have received training in Europe and the United States and been affected by that experience. Very few Russian officers have had that experience, one more reason that Putin can sleep peacefully as far as any military coup is concerned.
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