Kremlin’s ‘Mobilization Party’ believes limited nuclear strike would save its power at home and boost Russia’s abroad, Piontkovsky says

Putin and Patrushev

Vladimir Putin with Nikolay Patrushev at the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, May 2015 (Photo: kremlin.ru) 

International, Op-ed

A newly coalescing “Mobilization Party” in the Kremlin is convinced that it can only save its own position and boost that of Russia internationally by shaking up the political board in radical ways and that the most effective way to do that is via a limited nuclear strike, Andrey Piontkovsky says.

This “party” which the Russian analyst describes in detail in a new commentary believes that the West would in 19 cases out of 20 back down rather than counter with a massive counter-strike, allowing those who orchestrated this move to remain in office for the rest of their lives and Russia to dominate half the world or more.

And its members are convinced, Piontkovsky continues, that even if they do turn out to be wrong in this game of “Russian roulette” and the West does respond, they will go out in glory and ascend to heaven while the Western leaders will go directly to hell, a point of view that Vladimir Putin has even presented in public.

His new article builds on arguments he made two weeks ago in a Radio Liberty essay (discussed at Piontkovsky: To save his regime, Putin preparing to use nuclear weapons convinced West will blink first). But this time, Piontkovsky focuses less on what he calls “Putin’s Plan for Victory” than on the coalescence of Russian leaders behind it.

According to the Russian analyst, many in and near the Kremlin are worried about two things: the collapse in public support for Putin that has kept the current regime in place for so long and mounting evidence that any repetition of actions that helped him in the past will in fact hurt him and them now.

Consequently, Piontkovsky continues, they believe they need to do something not by 2024 but this year and that they need some “unbelievable means which will completely change the agenda.”

Their choice, he argues, is the use of a limited nuclear strike, one the West likely wouldn’t respond to and the Russian people would view as validation of Putin’s regime.

“Within the Putin bureaucracy is forming and strengthening a political party which has a vision of the present day and future of Russia.” It can be called “a mobilization party.” At its head stands Nikolay Patrushev, the secretary of the Security Council; and its members include Igor Sechin, Yury Kovalchuk, Sergey Ivanov and Yevgeny Prigozhin.

“Naturally,” the Russian analyst continues, “Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin in part belongs to it.”

According to Piontkovsky, “this party is growing in strength because the transit of power is turbulent.” Recent high-profile cases like Abyzov and Ingushetia are “the product of this party. But not all siloviki have joined it and not all who are in this political party are siloviki.” It draws support from the LDPR and KPRF.

The unifying ideas are the need to shore up the current system at home and restore “an enormous powerful revanchist Soviet country which will control half the world” and make the other half afraid of it.

This is not really “a party of war.” For it, “war is only a means of achieving its goals.” If it can achieve them without a war well and good, but if not, it is ready to roll the dice. Patrushev has been pushing for a doctrine of first use of nuclear weapons for almost a decade. He appeared to be rebuffed, but in fact, he has picked up support and continues to press the idea.

He is setting himself up to become “under Putin in the fourth world war what Ludendorff was under Kaiser Wilhelm in World War I – that is, a military dictator.” And he has picked up support from Putin in this, because Putin is increasingly concerned about his standing in the country and is pleased to have someone work to solidify it in this way.

“When the head of a nuclear power seriously proposes using nuclear weapons not to oppose an aggressor who threatens the very existence of the state but for the achievement of some ambitious geopolitical goal, there are only two possible explanations for such behavior,” Piontkovsky says.

The first is that he is a fanatic prepared to die in the pursuit of his goals, “but the second is that he is an adventurer-player, which is much closer to the truth in our case.” He will threaten to use nuclear weapons and then, if that isn’t enough, actually use them in a limited way that he believes will cause the West to back down rather than escalate.

Piontkovsky says that many in response to his suggestions that this is the Kremlin’s strategy like to point out that the people in the Kremlin have children, wives, mistresses palaces, yachts and billions in the West and aren’t likely to be willing to see all this become “radioactive rubble.”

“Of course, they can’t. But Patrushev, Putin, Kovalchuk and their mobilized party comrades do not intend to die or give up their lives as dollar multi-billionaires or destroy the Western civilization” which makes this all possible for them, the Russian analyst says. Instead, they want it all – victory over the West and “political immortality” at home.

The members of this party, he continues, believe there is only one chance in 20 that the West won’t back down and will instead escalate to mutually assured destruction.

But in that off chance, they are sure they will go to heaven and everyone else will simply burn in hell, a victory of sorts in their mind.

Piontkovsky concludes his essay by quoting his own words of 20 years ago when Putin came to power: “Putinism is the highest and concluding stage of bandit capitalism in Russia. Putinism is war, ‘the consolidation’ of the nation on the basis of some ethnic group, isolation from the outside world and further economic degradation.”

“Putinism is,” he says, “a control shot at the head of Russia.” Everything else has happened. Only that remains to happen before the mobilization party will test its calculation that it has a 95 percent chance of winning at home and abroad with a limited nuclear first strike.

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Edited by: A. N.

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