Staunton, August 21 – In the classic film about Watergate, “All the President’s Men,” Deep Throat, Bob Woodward’s source inside the Nixon administration, tell the Washington Post journalist to forget all he thinks he knows about the White House: People there, he says, have turned out to be not so smart as many had thought; and things have gotten out of hand.
One is reminded of that episode by a commentary offered by Gennady Gudkov on Ekho Mosvky today, one that suggests that Russians and others have overestimated the IQs of those now in the Kremlin and failed to recognize how stupidly they are acting even in terms of their own interests of political survival (echo.msk.ru/blog/gudkov/1607342-echo/).
Those interests require a dialogue between those in power and those in the population, a dialogue possible only when there are genuine elections which are the only way to measure where each stands in fact and, even more important, the only means of ensuring an orderly rather than a violent transfer of power from one group to another, the Russian politician says.
Many in the opposition understand that, Gudkov says, but “we overestimated the IQ of the authorities: there are no more elections in Russia for those whom the existing regime doesn’t like and who do not support the course which it has been leading the country.” Instead, there is fake voting, with pre-arranged results, and no meaning beyond that.
That is because, he argues “when there is no opposition in the elections, there are no problems.” It is all “simple, effective and cheap.” Or so it must seem to the denizens of the Kremlin. “But there is one problem: in the contemporary world, there are only two means of changing power.”
The first “civilized” way requires “honest and competitive elections;” the second is “the overthrow of those who have usurped power and decided to rule eternally, persecuting and suppressing all their opponents,” Gudkov continues. But “unfortunately” for those in power and those not, this invariably leads to “conflicts, blood and the deaths of people.”
Given that historical pattern, one must expect that in the Kremlin today “has begun to work the staff of a future revolution.” Gudkov says that “both Nicholas II and the leaders of the CPSU sincerely believed that their eternal rule was something good for the power and for the people. Well, how did this end?” Not well for either.
More than that, when the end came, it came unexpectedly and more quickly than anyone ever imagined. Few predicted February 1917, and few expected August 1991. And so too by implication now as well.
“It is becoming obvious that the Kremlin has decided to act in the Soviet manner, to tighten the screws, liquidate the REMNANTS of democratic freedom, to shut the mouths of all critics and to broaden repression as necessary,” Gudkov continues. There is already a good little war; the only thing remaining is to “mobilize psychiatry” and declare all opponents “mad.”
One can understand the logic of those in power, he says; but it is the logic of the short-sighted. Hold on to office as long as you have the money and resources to do so. But this course “leads not only into a historical dead end but also to possible shocks and tragedies.” Because everyone knows: “the irreplaceability of the authorities always leads to their overthrow.”
This month, Gudkov argues, “the Kremlin missed possibly the last historical chance to avoid the intensification of the political crisis … and begin a dialogue with that part of society which doesn’t accept the current course of the country but all the same is ready to have an honest dialogue about its correctness rather than take to the barricades and the battlefield.”
“Those who play chess know: the cause of defeat in a game at times is a mistake make even in the first moves, but the INEVITABILITY of checkmate becomes obvious many moves before it is declared even though there is then no way to prevent it.” Now it is possible to see a checkmate ahead for Russia under the current regime.
Russia is “entering a period of dangerous political turbulence which it will be impossible to get through without serious consequences.” That is because Russia is in the midst not of an economic crisis but “a SYSTEMIC” one that requires the fundamental modernization of the country without those now in power if they will not change course.
Can Russia avoid a checkmate “in this ‘game’ involving the fates of millions? Theoretically, the authorities still have a few months in order to correct the situation,” Gudkov says. But he adds that he and most others are skeptical given what Putin and his team have been doing. “I myself do not believe” they can change: their IQs aren’t high enough.