[this analysis was written for the Unz Review]
For those of us who followed the Russian Internet there is a highly visible phenomenon taking place which is quite startling: there are a lot of anti-Putin videos posted on YouTube or its Russian equivalents. Not only that, but a flurry of channels has recently appeared which seem to have made bashing Putin or Mishustin their full-time job. Of course, there have always been anti-Putin and anti-Medvedev videos in the past, but what makes this new wave so different from the old one is that they attack Putin and Mishustin not from pro-Western positions, but from putatively Russian patriotic positions. Even the supposed (not true) “personal advisor” to Putin and national-Bolshevik (true), Alexander Dugin has joined that movement (see here if you understand Russian).
This is a new, interesting and complex phenomenon, and I will try to unpack it here.
First, we have to remember that Putin was extremely successful at destroying the pro-Western opposition which, while shown on a daily basis on Russian TV, represents something in the 3-5% of the people at most. You might ask why they are so frequent on TV, and the reason is simple: the more they talk, the more they are hated.
[Sidebar: so far from silencing the opposition, the Kremlin not only gives it air time, it even pays opposition figures top dollars to participate in the most popular talk shows. See here and here for more details.]
Truly, the reputation of the pro-Western “liberal” (in the Russian sense) opposition is now roadkill in Russia. Yes, there is a core of russophobic Russians who hate Russia with a passion (they refer to it as “Rashka”) and their hatred for everything Russian is so obvious that they are universally despised all over the country (the one big exception being Moscow where there is a much stronger “liberal” opposition which gets the support of all those who had a great time pillaging Russia in the 1990s and who now hate Putin for putting an end to their malfeasance).
As for the Duma opposition, it is an opposition only in name. They make noises, they bitch here and there, they condemn this or that, but at the end of the day, they will not represent a credible opposition at all.
Well, look at this screenshot I took from a Russian polling site:
The chart is in Russian, but it is also extremely simple to understand. On the Y axis, you see the percentage of people who “totally trust” and “mostly trust” the six politicians, in order: Putin, Mishustin, Zhirinovskii, Ziuganov, Mironov and Medvedev. The the X axis you see the time frame going from July 2019 to April 2020.
The only thing which really matters is this: in spite all the objective and subjective problems of Russia, in spite of a widely unpopular pension reform, in spite of all the western sanctions and in spite of the pandemic, Putin still sits alone in a rock-solid position: he has the overwhelming support of the Russian people. This single cause pretty much explains everything else I will be talking about today.
As most of you probably remember, there were already several waves of anti-Putin PSYOPS in the past, but they all failed for very simple reasons:
- Most Russians remember the horrors of the 1990s when the pro-Western “liberals” were in power.
- Second, the Russian people could observe how the West put bona fide rabidly russophobic Nazis in power in Kiev. The liberals expressed a great deal of sympathy for the Ukronazi regime. Few Russians doubt that if the pro-western “liberals” got to power, they would turn Russia into something very similar to today’s Ukraine.
- Next, the Russians could follow, day after day, how the Ukraine imploded, went through a bloody civil war, underwent a almost total de-industrialization and ended up with a real buffoon as President (Zelenskii just appointed, I kid you not, Saakashvili as Vice Prime Minister of the Ukraine, that is all you need to know to get the full measure of what kind of clueless imbecile Zelenskii is!). Not only do the liberals blame Russia for what happened to this poor country, they openly support Zelenskii.
- Most (all?) of the pro-western “NGO” (I put that in quotation marks, because these putatively non-governmental organization were entirely financed by western governments, mostly US and UK) were legally forced to reveal their sources of financing and most of them got listed as “foreign agents”. Others were simply kicked out of Russia. Thus, it became impossible for the AngloZionists to trigger what appeared to be “mass protests” under these condition.
- There is a solid “anti-Maidan” movement in Russia (including in Moscow!) which is ready to “pounce” (politically) in case of any Maidan-like movement in Russia. I strongly suspect that the FSB has a warm if unofficial collaboration with them.
- The Russian internal security services (FSB, FSO, National Guard, etc.) saw a major revival under Putin and they are now not only more powerful than in the past, but also much better organized to deal with subversion. As for the armed forces are solidly behind Putin and Shoigu. While in the 1990s Russia was basically defenseless, Russia today is a very tough nut to crack for western subversion/PSYOP operations.
- Last, but not least, the Russian liberals are so obviously from the class Alexander Solzhenitsyn referred to as “obrazovanshchina“, a word hard to translate but which roughly means “pretend educated”: these folks have always considered themselves very superior to the vast majority of the Russian people and they simply cannot hide their contempt for the “common man” (very similar to Hillary’s “deporables”). The common man fully realizes that and, quite logically, profoundly distrusts and even hates “liberals”.
There came a moment when the western curators of the Russian 5th column realized that calling Putin names in the western press, or publicly accusing him of being a “bloody despot” and a “KGB killer” might work with the gullible and brainwashed western audience, but it got absolutely no traction whatsoever in Russia.
And then, somebody, somewhere (I don’t know who, or where) came up with an truly brilliant idea: accusing Putin of not being a patriot and declare that he is a puppet in the hands of the AngloZionist Empire. This was nothing short of brilliant, I have to admit that.
First, they tried to sell the idea that Putin was about to “sell out” (or “trade”) Novorussia. One theory was that Russia would stand by and let the Ukronazis invade Novorussia. Another one was that the US and Russia would make a secret deal and “give” Syria to Putin, if he “gave” Novorussia to the Empire. Alternatively, there was the version that Russia would “give” Syria to Trump and he would “give” Novorussia to Putin. The actual narrative does not matter. What matters, A LOT, is that Putin was not presented as the “new Hitler” who would invade Poland and the Baltics, who would poison the Skripals, who would hack DNC servers and “put Trump into power”. These plain stupid fairy tales had not credibility in Russia. But Putin “selling out” Novorussia was much more credible, especially after it was clear that Russia did not allow the DNR/LNR forces to seize Mariupol.
[Sidebar: I remain convinced that this was the correct decision. Why? Because had the DNR/LNR forces entered Mariupol their critical supply lines would have been cut off by an envelopment maneuver by the Ukrainian forces. Yes, the DNR/LNR forces did have the power needed to take Mariupol, but then they would end up surrounded by Ukronazi forces in a “cauldron/siege” kind of situation which would then have forced Russia to openly intervene to either support these forces. That was a no brainer in military terms, but in political terms this would have been a disaster for Russia and a dream come true to the AngloZionists who could (finally!) “prove” that Russia was involved all along. The folks in the Russian General Staff are clearly much smarter than the couch-generals which were accusing Russia of treason for not letting Mariupol be liberated.]
Eventually, both the “sellout Syria” and the “sellout Novorussia” narratives lost their traction and the PSYOPS specialists in the West tried another good one: Putin became the obedient servant of Israel and, personally, Netanyahu. The arguments were very similar: Putin did not allow Syrians (or Russians) to shoot down Israeli aircraft over the Mediterranean or Lebanon, Putin did not use the famous S-400 to protect Syrian targets from Israeli strikes, and Putin did not land an airborne division in Syria to deal with the Takfiris. And nevermind here the fact that the officially declared Russian objectives in Syria were only to “stabilize the legitimate authority and create conditions for a political compromise” (see here for details). The simple truth is that Putin never said that he would liberate each square meter of Syrian land from the Takfiris nor did he promise to defend Syria against Israel!
Still, for a while the Internet was inundated with articles claiming that Putin and Netanyahu were closely coordinating their every step and that Putin was Israel’s chum.
Eventually, this canard also lost a lot of credibility. After all, most folks are smart enough to realize that if Putin wanted to help Israel, all he had to do is… … well… … exactly *nothing*: the Takfiris would take Damascus and it would be “game over” for a civilized Syria and the Israelis would have a perfect pretext to intervene.
[Sidebar: as I have already mentioned in a past article, these were the original Israeli goals for Syria:
- Bring down a strong secular Arab state along with its political structure, armed forces and security services.
- Create total chaos and horror in Syria justifying the creation of a “security zone” by Israel not only in the Golan, but further north.
- Trigger a civil war in Lebanon by unleashing the Takfiri crazies against Hezbollah.
- Let the Takfiris and Hezbollah bleed each other to death, then create a “security zone”, but this time in Lebanon.
- Prevent the creation of a Shia axis Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon.
- Breakup Syria along ethnic and religious lines.
- Create a Kurdistan which could then be used against Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
- Make it possible for Israel to become the uncontested power broker in the Middle-East and forces the KSA, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and all others to have to go to Israel for any gas or oil pipeline project.
- Gradually isolate, threaten, subvert and eventually attack Iran with a wide regional coalition of forces.
- Eliminate all center of Shia power in the Middle-East.
It is quite easy nowadays to prove the two following theses: 1) Israel dismally failed to achieve ANY of the above set goals and 2) the Russian intervention is the one single most important factor which prevented Israel from achieving these goals (the 2nd most important one was the heroic support given by Iran and Hezbollah who, quite literally, “saved the day”, especially during the early phases of the Russian intervention. Only an ignorant or dishonest person could seriously claim that Russia and Israel are working together when Russia, in reality, completely defeated Israel in Syria]
Still, while the first PSYOP (Putin the new Hitler) failed, and while the second PSYOP (Putin the sellout) also failed, the PSYOP specialists in the West came up with a much more potentially dangerous and effective PSYOP operation.
But first, they did something truly brilliant: they realized that their best allies in Russia would not be the (frankly, clueless) “liberals” but that they would find a much more powerful “ally” in those nostalgic of the Soviet Union. This I have to explain in some detail.
First, there is one thing in human psychology which I have observed all my life: we tend to remember the good and forget the bad. Today, most of what I remember from boot-camp (and even “survival week”) sounds like fun times. The truth is that while in boot camp I hated almost every day. In a similar way, a lot of Russians have developed a kind of nostalgia for the Soviet era. I can understand that. After all, during the 50s the USSR achieved a truly miraculous rebirth, then in the 60s and 70s there were a lot of true triumphs. Finally, even in the hated 80s the USSR did achieve absolutely spectacular things (in science, technology, etc.). This is all true. What is often forgotten is that at the same time, the Soviet society was oppressive, the corrupt and geriatric CPSU ran everything and was mostly hated, the Russian people were afraid of the KGB and could not enjoy the freedoms folks in the USA or Europe had. In truth, it was a mixed bag, but it is easy to remember only the good stuff.
Furthermore, a lot of folks who had high positions during the Soviet era did lose it all. And now that Russia is objectively undergoing various difficult trials, these folks have “smelled blood” and they clearly hope that by some miracle Putin will be overthrown. He won’t, if only for the following very basic reasons:
- The kind of state apparatus which protects Putin today can easily deal with this new, pseudo (I will explain below why I say “pseudo”) patriotic opposition.
- In the ranks of this opposition there is absolutely no credible leader (remember the chart above!)
- This opposition mostly complains, but offers no real solutions.
The core of this opposition is formed of Communists and Communist sympathizers who absolutely hate Putin for his (quite outspoken) anti-Communism. Let’s call them “new Communists” or “Neo-Communists”. And here is what makes them much more dangerous than the “liberal” opposition: the Neo-Communists are often absolutely right.
The (in my opinion) sad reality is that, for all his immense qualities, Putin is indeed a liberal, at least an economic sense. This manifests itself in two very different ways:
- Putin has still not removed all of the 5th columnists (aka “Atlantic Integrationists” aka “Washington consensus” types) from power. Yes, he did ditch Medvedev, but others (Nabiulina, Siluanov, etc.) are still there.
- Putin inherited a very bad system where almost all they key actors were 5th columnists. Not just a few (in)famous individuals, but an entire CLASS (in a Marxist sense of the term) of people who hate anything “social” and who support “liberal” ideas just so they can fill their pockets.
Here is the paradox: the USSR died in 1991-1993, Putin is an anti-Communists, but there STILL is a (Soviet-style) Nomenklatura in Russia, except for now they are often referred to as “oligarchs” (which is incorrect because, say, the Ukrainian oligarch truly decide the fate of the nation whereas this new Russian Nomenklatura does not decide the fate of Russia as a whole, but they have a major influence in the financial sector, which is what they care mostly about).
So we have something of a, maybe not quite “perfect”, but still very dangerous storm looming over Russia. How? Consider this:
Under Putin the Russian foreign policy has been such a success that even the Russian liberals, very reluctantly, admit that he did a pretty good job. However, the internal, many financial, policies of Russia have been a disaster. Just one example, the fact that the major Russian banks are bloating with their immense revenues, did not prevent millions of Russians to live in poverty and many hundreds of thousands of Russian small/family businesses of going under due to the very high interest rates.
One key problem in Russia is that both the Central Bank and the major commercial banks only care about their profits. What Russia truly needs is a state-owed DEVELOPMENT bank whose goal would not be millions and billions for the few, but making it possible for the creativity of the Russian people to truly blossom. Today, we see the exact opposite in Russia.
So what is my beef with this social ( if not quite “Socialist”) opposition?
They are so focused on their narrow complaints that they completely miss the big picture. Let me explain.
First, Russia has been in a state of war against the US+EU+NATO since at least 2015. Yes, this war is 80% informational, 15% economic and only 5% kinetic. But it is a very real war nonetheless. The key characteristic of a real war is that victory is only achieved by one side, the other is fully defeated. Which means that the war between the AngloZionist Empire is an existential one: one party will win and survive, the other one will disappear and will be replaced with a qualitatively new polity/society. The Neo-Communist Russian opposition steadfastly pretends like there is no war, like all the losses (economic and human) are only the result of corruption and incompetence. They forget that during the last war between Russia and the “United West” German tanks were at the outskirts of Moscow.
Well, of course they know that. But they pretend not to. And this is why I think of them as the 6th column (as opposed to the 5th, openly “liberal” and pro-Western one).
Second, while this opposition is, in my opinion, absolutely correct in deploring Putin’s apparent belief that following the advice of what I would call “IMF types” is safer than following recommendations of what could be loosely called “opposition economists” (here I think of Glaziev, whose views I personally fully support), they fail to realize the risks involved in crushing the “IMF types”. The sad truth is that Russian banks are very powerful and that in many ways, the state cannot afford totally alienating them. Right now the banks support Putin only because he supports them. But if Putin decided to follow the advice of, say, Glaziev and his supporters, the Russian bankers would react with a “total war” against Putin.
If you study Russian history, you will soon realize that Russia did superbly with military enemies, did very averagely with diplomatic efforts (which often negated military victories) and did terribly with what we could call the “internal opposition”.
So let me repeat it here: I do not consider NATO or the USA as credible military threats to Russia, unless they decide to use nuclear weapons, at which point both Russia and the West would suffer terribly. But even in this scenario, Russia would prevail (Russia has a 10-15 year advantage against the USA in both civilian and military nuclear technologies and the Russian society is far more survivable one – if this topic is of interest to you, just read Dmitry Orlov’s books who explains it all better than I ever could). I have always, and still do, consider that the real danger for Putin and those who share his views is the internal, often “insider”, opposition in Russia. They were always the ones to present the biggest threat to any Russian ruler, from the Czars to Stalin.
This new Neo-Communist 6th column is, however, a much more dangerous threat to the future of Russia than the pro-western 5th columnists. Some of their tactics are extremely devious. For example, one of the things you hear most often from these folks is this: “unless Putin does X, Y or Z, there is a risk of a bloody revolution”. Having listened to many tens of their videos, I can tell you with total security that far from fearing a bloody revolution, these folks in reality dream of such a revolution.
Now, if you think as a true patriot of Russia, you have to realize that Russia suffered from not one, but two, truly horrible revolutions: in 1917 and 1991. In each case the consequences of these revolutions (irrespective of how justified they might have appeared at the time) were absolutely horrible: both in 1917 and in 1991 Russia almost completely vanished as a country, and millions suffered terribly. I now hold is as axiomatic that nothing would be worse for Russia than *any* revolution, no matter what ideology feeds it or how bad the “regime in power” might appear to be.
Putin is acutely aware of that (see image).
These Neo-Communists would very much disagree with me.
They “warn” about a revolution, while in reality trying to create the conditions for one.
Now let me be clear: I am absolutely convinced that NO revolution (Neo-Communist or other) is possible in Russia. More accurately, while I do believe that an attempt for a revolution could happen, I believe that any coup/revolution against Putin is bound to fail. Why? The graphic above.
Even if by some (horrible) miracle, it was possible to defeat/neutralize the combined power of the FSB+FSO+National Guard+Armed forces (which I find impossible), this “success” would be limited to Moscow or, at most, the Moscow Oblast. Beyond that it is all “Putin territory”. In terms of firepower, the Moscow Oblast has a lot of first-rate units, but it does not even come close to what the “rest of Russia” could engage (just the 58th Army in the south would be unstoppable). But even that is not truly crucial. The truly crucial thing following any coup/revolution would be the 70%+ of Russian people who, for the first time in centuries, truly believe that Putin stands for their interest and that he is “their man”. These people will never accept any illegal attempt to remove Putin from power. That is the key reason why no successful revolution is currently possible in Russia.
But while any revolution/coup would be bound to fail, it could very much result in a bloodbath way bigger than what happened in 1993 (where the military was mostly not engaged in the events).
Now lets add it all up.
There is a very vocal internal opposition to Putin in Russia which is most unlikely to ever get real popular support, but which could possibly unite enough of the nostalgics of the Soviet era to create a real crisis.
This internal opposition clearly and objectively weakens the authority/reputation of Putin, which has been main goal of the western “alphabet soup” ever since Putin came to power.
This internal opposition, being mostly nostalgics of the Soviet era, will get no official support from the West, but it will enjoy a maximal covert support from the western “alphabet soup”.
Finally, this Neo-Communist opposition will never seize power, but it might create a very real internal political crisis which will very much weaken Putin and the Eurasian Sovereignists.
So what is the solution?
Putin needs to preempt any civil unrest. Removing Medvedev and replacing him by Mishustin was the correct move, but it was also too little too late. Frankly, I believe that it is high time for Putin to finally openly break with the “Washington consensus types” and listen to Glaziev who, at least, is no Communist.
Russia has always been a collectivistic society, and she needs to stop apologizing (even just mentally) for this. Instead, she should openly and fully embrace her collectivistic culture and traditions and show the “Washington consensus” types to the door.
Yes, the Moscow elites will be furious, but it is also high time to tell these folks that they don’t own Russia, and that while they could make a killing prostituting themselves to the Empire, most Russian don’t want to do that.
The bottom line is this: Putin represents something very unique and very precious: he is a true Russian patriot, but he is not one nostalgic for the days of the Soviet Union. Right now, he is the only (or one of very few) Russian politician which can claim this quality. He needs to preempt the crisis which the Neo-Communists could trigger not by silencing them, but by realizing that on some issues the Russian people do, in fact, agree with them (even if they are not willing to call for a revolution).
Does that sound complicated or even convoluted? If it does, it is because it is. But for all the nuances we can discern a bottom line: it is not worth prevailing (or even failing) if that weakens/threatens Russia. Right now, the Neo-Communist opposition is, objectively, a threat to the stability and prosperity of Russia. That does NOT, however, mean that these folks are always wrong. They often are spot on, 100% correct.
Putin needs to prove them wrong by listening to them and do the right thing.
Difficult? Yes. Doable? Yes. Therefore he has to do it.