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'Successful' Russia Sanctions Would be West's Worst Nightmare (Gazeta, Russia)

 

"The idea that the harm done by sanctions would cause aggrieved members of the elite to start a mutiny behind their leader's back, plunge in the knife and depose the culprit over their losses, could arise only from the rational Western mind. Even without considering the lack of alternatives, the current ruling class will stand with Putin to the end, not so much out of fear of him, but for fear of the mob. In the West, where questions of the moment seem so pressing, no one seems to have considered any of this. After several years, Europe and the West may end up dealing with a country that is so firmly in the throes of anti-American and anti-Western sentiment that the USSR will seem like a close ally in comparison."

 

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Translated By Rosamund Musgrave

 

August 7, 2014

 

Gazeta - Russia - Original Article (Russian)

Georgy Bovt believes Westerns supporters of sanctions haven't properly calculated Russian strength

 

The logic of those who initiated tightening sanctions against Russia is simple. What they say aloud goes something like this: the sanctions will hit Putin and his entourage, they will be disadvantageous and damage profits, and Putin and his allies will retreat (when and how hasn't been answered in this scenario). What they don't mention aloud, of course, is the implication that sanctions will hit the Russian economy as a whole, both political and business elites and inevitably average people as well. As a result, a wave of popular anger will supposedly emerge, sweeping away the current regime which has become quite objectionable to the West, after while everyone will be happy.

 

If they are truly serious about eliciting a wave of "people's anger," then they are terribly out of touch with our people. As for their understanding of the elites (the term in this case is better with the prefix "so called"), I would suggest that their delusion is no less profound.

 

As for unity between the "party (power) and the people," if anything, the situation now might be called complete nationwide support.

 

As this dangerous escalation of events continues, and Ukraine slips further in the direction of full-scale war, the ratings of the Russian president rise further. This is quite unique in modern politics, and to the Western mentality quite incomprehensible, but after effectively 14 years with Putin running the country, his popularity has never been higher.

 

According to a recent Gallup poll (taken before the downed Boeing), Russians pronounced themselves satisfied in every common marker used by sociologists. That was not only the case for Putin, but the government of Medvedev, which had approval ratings of 64 percent. They are satisfied with level of personal freedom and the state of the economy, even as it teeters between stagnation and recession. Even the current reforms to patch holes in the electoral system are approved by greater numbers than ever before, (around 40 percent). Just a year ago, Putin's approval rating was only around 30 percent. Now it's 83 percent, which still isn't as high as the traditional 90 percent that Nazarbayev receives in Kazakhstan. Nazarbayev's 90 percent rating remains stable, while our 83 percent is the result of previous drops and subsequent rises, which looks much more active and believable.

 

Can even the most severe sanctions divide the Russian ruling class, as well as undermine Putin's support among ordinary people?

 

The idea that the harm done by sanctions would cause aggrieved members of the elite to start a mutiny behind their leader's back, plunge in the knife and depose the culprit over their losses, could arise only from the rational Western mind. Logic like this might apply to regimes based on a different mentality, but in Russia there are several existing conditions that prevent such eventualities.

 

1. Any political opposition to the regime is not only marginalized in the eyes of the man on the street, but exists in a state of ideological and organizational paralysis.

 

2. There has been a steady simplification of social and political life against the backdrop in recent years of a decline in education, culture, and even technological knowledge, which has led to more primitive ideological discourse (reducing it to the level of a pathetic talk show). This has actually blocked the appearance of all sorts of information sources or the emergence of a intellectual elite, especially one based on alternative notions of power.

 

Therefore, there is no "other," "substitute," or "alternative" elite, either political, intellectual, or even technocratic, in today's Russia, that has the potential of coming out of nowhere and taking power. There is quite simply a lack of adequately educated and competent human resources in tune with the needs of the moment.

 

In this regard, any suggestion of the need to "rotate" the elite or recruit new people, i.e.: bright young minds, souls and thinkers, is nave and only good for making patriotic statements. A rotation of power would mean bringing Dugin-inspired thugs, Kurginyan militants, or ignorant urban madmen to power.

 

 

It wouldn't be a rotation of the elite, but a succession of anti-elite coup d'etats, a Russian Cultural Revolution (in the Maoist sense of the term), and as a result, technology and civilization in the country would quickly begin to degrade.

 

Even without considering the lack of alternatives, the current ruling class will stand with Putin to the end, not so much out of fear of him, but for fear of the mob. In the West, where questions of the moment seem so pressing, no one seems to have considered any of this.

 

There is neither the strength, nor the guts, nor the brains, nor is there the slightest hope, of an opposition that would garner the slightest level of public support.

 

Finally and most importantly, centrally organized regimes like we have in Russia have an extraordinary capacity to mobilize and redirect resources and financial flows, even when they become scarce under the impact of sanctions. Those loyal to the regime have an advantage in such cases, and are the first have losses incurred by the West offset. All at the expense of the budget, of course. The country has the resources to do this for a long to come to come.

 

Experience from other authoritarian regimes shows that the ruling elite are the last to suffer from the impact of sanctions.

 

All of this is contrary to what Western analysts predict. In this sense, Western sanctions are nothing more than a gesture to voters who live within the context of a simplified picture of the world, thanks to the power of mass media and their own intentions to "punish the bad guy" for disobedience. It is just another form of populism which today governs the structure of world politics.

 

Contrary to what we've seen, for example, in Iran, in Russia, the threat of sanctions and outside pressure is unlikely to create any new cohesion between the leadership and the masses. The chasm between them will continue to be great. The first are unlikely to engage in self-sacrifice or restraint (in terms of what is referred to as "conspicuous consumption") for the sake of solidarity with the people. The latter will suffer in the traditional fashion, and the increasingly stark social divide in will become an even more evident reality of Russian life. Noblemen and serfs - this is how it always has been and always will be.

 

As for the people, they are always prepared to deal with emergencies. Historically, Russians citizens are used to living under siege. Although the suffering of a few Russian oligarchs will of course be received with malicious glee, in general, external pressure on the regime will result in greater consolidation of the nation to deal with the foreign threat.

 

As for Iran, despite their obvious economic difficulties, anger hasn't turned the people against the state (although it is true that former President Ahmadinejad goes to work by bus and hasn't profited from his post in any way, our people have more modest expectations of our leaders - they're inured to displays of wealth). Even now, after several years of tough sanctions, the Iranian ruling class is in no hurry to capitulate on the most fundamental issue - their nuclear program. They continue to haggle in an attempt to play on the growing contradictions between Washington and Moscow and the people support them in this.

 

In Russia, as trends in the evolution of public opinion indicate, the same is likely to happen. As greater pressure is applied (especially now, in an atmosphere of indignation over the downed Malaysian airliner), Putin's ratings rise - along with anti-Western sentiment.

 

After several years, Europe and the West may end up dealing with a country that is so firmly in the throes of anti-American and anti-Western sentiment that the USSR will seem like a dear friend by comparison.

 

In this case, the consciousness of the masses will narrow, and even without excessive propaganda, it will be easier to accept what's happening by fitting it into the already-existing picture of the world in which everyone is against us.

 

Equally shortsighted is a strategy to stifle and ultimately overthrow Vladimir Putin (I assume that this option is regarded as realistic and desirable for some American experts and political circles). If you overthrow it, what would the result be? A debacle with nuclear weapons in the hands of some Fascist hooligan in the Kremlin, who will make even the current disorder in Ukraine seem boring by comparison.

Posted By Worldmeets.US

 

Of course, direct comparisons of Iraq or Libya to the Russian case are unlikely to be appropriate, but it's worth noting how the toppling of authoritarian leaders in the in the context of a scorched political landscape and the absence of any developed democratic culture has led to the collapse of both states. Yugoslavia is the exception that proves the rule: the shards of the country were simply integrated into the common European space, albeit with great difficulty. In Russia, there is no threat of such a prospect.

 

There is an alternative to all this political hysteria: instead of tightening sanctions and trying to strangle the Russian regime (without any coherent strategy for the future) we must urgently find a compromise on the Ukrainian question, while recognizing that Russia and her interests cannot be pushed aside and left to suffer a humiliating defeat. For this is an outcome that would be impossible to live with.

 

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Posted By Worldmeets.US August 7, 2014, 11:19am