On Coup Rumors

This article about Russia’s current policy in Ukraine was brought to my attention this afternoon [h/t @deinioljonesGL7].  Is there a chance for peace in Ukraine?  And just what is happening in the Kremlin?  Russian political analyst, Andrei Okara, lays out his views.

First of all, he says, there are no “parties of peace in the Kremlin.  There are only hawks.  The only difference between the groups are their end goals.  Some want to go all the way to the Dnipr river, others want to go all the way to Galicia (in western Ukraine), and still others want to go all the way to Kyiv to “liberate the “mother of Russian cities” from the “fascists”.  But “All of them are convinced that the war should be continued…”

Okara then argues that Putin is still the main decision maker.  Things are not the same as in the 1970s when the Politburo decided to go to war in Afghanistan over the head of Brezhenv.

Okara then claims that if the decision to “annex” Crimea had been taken to a type of Politburo, the decision would have been to not go forward.  Because, he argues, the decision only benefited Putin, and not his inner circle, who have now been subjected to sanctions and travel bans.

He also says that he doesn’t think “transparent and fair elections” are possible in Russia.  A peaceful transfer of power through elections is impossible.  And there is no opposition in the country.  Anybody who had a chance to change things has been co-opted or killed (he names Sergei Glazyev, Boris Nemtsov, and General Lebed).

A coup is possible, but the West and Ukraine’s anticipation of this taking place due to sanctions is “unreasonable & too romantic”.  Putin’s inner circle is too dependent on him, and this was done deliberately because Putin knows Russian history.  And the inner circle have been protected from the sanctions for precisely this reason [I assume he means contracts given to Rotenberg and other Putin cronies].

Okara addresses rumors of a coup by the security services against Putin and Kadyrov.  He names FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov, Security Council Chief Nikolai Patrushev, Sergei Stepashin (former Prime Minister), and Yevgeny Primakov (who has held the roles of Foreign Minister, PM, and SVR chief at one time or another) as the alleged leaders of this coup attempt.  In this narrative the men who staged the coup did so to “try to save their own interests and the interests of the business class and the interests of the whole country”.

But even if Putin were to leave office nothing would change, he alleges.  And he again underlines the fact that none of the parties involved are interested in peace.

This article ended up inspiring a conversation about something I’ve been thinking about recently as coup rumors swirled around Putin’s disappearance last week.  What if the so-called coup had already taken place long ago, and Putin is just the face we are presented with?  Really, a lot of the rhetoric we are hearing sounds like it comes from Khrushchev’s era (the only thing missing is Khrushchev’s shoe).  It is not exactly a secret that Yevgeny Primakov wields a lot of power still in the foreign policy arena.  What if Primakov and others of his generation are the ones really formulating policy on Ukraine and other strategic areas?  Does that change the way we deal with the situation we find ourselves in now?

Regardless, the point I do agree with Okara on is that there does not seem to be anyone in power who is willing to talk and reach a kind of consensus on Ukraine.  The Russian leadership has decided that it is willing to accept the problems and risks associated with its continued adventurism.  And, unfortunately for Russia and her citizens, that does not look like it is going to change anytime soon.

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