Staunton, February 4 – Vladimir Putin is talking about the disintegration of the Soviet Union in order to promote among Russians that their country is at risk of the same fate, an idea that as it gains currency will drive off the political agenda all other issues, including the failures of the current regime, according to Moscow commentator Kirill Rogov.
The suggestion that such a threat “real or imaginary” exists “immediately changes the priorities of the political agenda,” Rogov says. Everything people normally care about including economic well-being and justice becomes “secondary” to preventing collapse and saving the country (rbc.ru/opinions/politics/04/02/2016/56b2f9ff9a7947866ab4c031
And this is “the surprising historical paradox: the struggle for the preservation of the Union became for Gorbachev both a motive and occasion to put off economic reforms and in the final analysis the most important factor of the collapse of the union state.”
Had he undertaken reforms, could Gorbachev have saved the situation? That is at least a possibility, Rogov says, although of course there is no way to be certain. He could not have held the Baltics but he certainly could have kept together “five or six” of the core republics and maintained himself in office as well.
After the fell apart, the Russian Federation was also at risk of disintegration in the early 1990s. That that outcome didn’t happen, Rogov says, is due “not so much to Boris Yeltsin but to Yegor Gaidar” who liberalization policies restored the importance of money and access to resources and thus made regional elites look to Moscow rather than pursue independence.
According to Rogov, “there is no threat of disintegration confronting today’s Russia. But it is, it would seem, seriously threatened by the permanent struggle for the preservation of Russian unity,” since that is one of the best means to block any serious consideration of and pursuit of reform.
That is what the demise of the Soviet Union teaches, the Moscow commentator says; but he strongly implies that it is a lesson the current Kremlin has not yet learned.