Vladimir Putin shocked the world with his war in Ukraine. But he also caught the Russian elite unprepared. Now his environment adapts to the new reality. Is Putin threatened with a coup? According to one expert, his followers are too politically “impotent” for that.
The Ukraine war is the work of Vladimir Putin. For the first time he made a decision of such radical importance alone. He ignored the country’s political elite and presented them with a fait accompli. No discussion, no preparation. This is what Russian political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya writes in an article for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.
Putin’s decision and the course of the war sent shock waves through the Russian elite. Stanovaya writes: “The elite have digested the initial shock. Now she’s trying to accept the new reality and adapt.” One comes to terms with the “long-term hopelessness” for the country.
But what does that mean for the relationship between the elite and the Russian head of state? Is Putin threatened with a coup? No, is Stanovaya’s clear answer. Of course, Putin’s actions “shook his authority”. And serious doubts have arisen as to whether Putin can still lead the country in the future.
According to Stanovaya, Putin is weakened and his support is crumbling. “But that doesn’t mean that anyone close to Putin is getting ready to rebel against the president. The chances of that happening are actually very slim. The Russian elite is politically paralyzed.” According to Stanovaya, even if someone is pursuing their own interests or has a different view of the current situation. The actors are “politically impotent”. The Russian elite had been “atomized”. There are practically no more mechanisms to change something politically.
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Political expert Stanovaya continues: “Putin’s power as a string puller is dwindling. But he is still the only “guarantor of stability”. His followers are afraid of the future and live in constant fear of attacks from their own ranks. Many still believe that Putin is the only one who can protect them.
The political paralysis of the elite will not be resolved even through anger at Putin. According to Stanovaya, western sanctions or the resulting economic crisis are not sufficient either. Rather, the elites would try to make themselves more independent of Putin. This would pass on bad developments to its environment anyway.
The analyst writes: “Putin is increasingly becoming a burden on the Russian system. So the system will look for ways to minimize its role. He (or a successor) may remain at the top for decorative purposes and to maintain stability. But the elite must learn to take care of themselves.”
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