Staunton, November 23 – Sergey Kolesnikov, who earlier attracted attention for an article entitled “Putin Forever!” (vedomosti.ru/opinion/news/1526746/putin_navsegda), now says that Vladimir Putin is prepared to start a war, even a nuclear one, in order to retain power and thus block any chance that he would be charged with corruption were he removed from office.
A biologist now living abroad and former business partner of Nikolay Shamalov who has been sanctioned by the EU and the US, Kolesnikov says that Putin is so focused on his personal power because he fears he would be tried and convicted for corruption were he to leave office (svoboda.org/content/article/26704277.html).
To prevent that series of events from happening, Kolesnikov says, he is prepared to start a war and even use nuclear weapons, an indication of the extent to which Putin is part of an extremely corrupt system and an explanation of why his actions, irrational from the point of view of Russia may appear to him a completely rational defense of his own person.
According to Kolesnikov, “a politician uses all means which he has in hand. No one would have suggested two years ago that a real war would be unleashed in the center of Europe and that thousands of people would die. But today is this a fait accompli.” Thus, “one must not exclude the possibility” that Putin will start a nuclear war in the future.
At present, Kolesnikov says, “Putin and his immediate entourage are already thinking not so much about the defense of their own property or about money.” Instead, “they are devoting attention simply to their own lives,” fearful that if they lost power, they “at a minimum” would be investigated and likely “punished” for their crimes.
Putin is not protected from this possibility by his high ratings, Kolesnikov continues. They don’t mean anything and could decline to almost zero overnight as has happened with other leaders when administrative measures are directed against them as happened in the case of Yuri Luzhkov, the former Moscow mayor.
Nor are Putin and his allies protected by laws or the Constitution. “There is no law in Russia, and even the Constitution does not work.” Consequently, he and they fully understand that any guarantees they think they may have will disappear as soon as someone else comes in their place.
What was protecting Putin, Kolesnikov suggests, is the grand bargain between himself and the Russian people, in which they deferred to him on political issues in turn for a guarantee that their personal well-being would continue to improve. But the economic crisis has called that bargain into question.
Neither Putin nor anyone else “wants to say that we are guilty” of what has happened. “It is always simpler to say that we have enemies – America and Europe – and that they are responsible for the fact that we are living worse than we were.” That helps to explain why Putin began the war in Ukraine; it may explain as well why he cannot stop it.
Putin hasn’t cared about money per se since 2008 because “all Russia belongs to him, and palaces are simply toys.” Instead, he cares only about “retaining power as a [necessary] condition for the preservation of his own life.”
The West in general does not understand Putin or understand what can and should be done with him. German Chancellor Merkel has come closest, Kolesnikov argues, when she observed that “we live in different realities.”
“The reality of Western politicians and the reality of Putin are different. These are parallel worlds,” and consequently, it is difficult to predict “what Putin will do” – and equally difficult to assume that there are certain things, even the most horrific, that he will refrain from doing.