Fifty thousand demonstrators are shouting “Russia without Putin!” as I write this post. Symbolically, they are milling in Bolotnaya Square, the site where the Don Cossack Pugachev was beheaded in 1775, after fighting a two-year war against Catherine the Great.
Madeline Albright used to tell us that “Saddam is in a box.” He was not, but Putin is. His siloviki (power men) can handle a demonstration of one thousand but not fifty thousand. He can no longer claim any kind of legitimacy after the party he founded (and now distances himself from) could not win a majority against ancient communists and bumbling nationalists.
Putin’s “box” offers him no convenient way out. In the old days, he could scold his ministers on his obsequious television networks for not paying pensions on time or for failing this assignment or that. After all, he was looking out for the people. This tactic will not work any more. The demonstrators, at last, understand that Putin is the problem.
Putin cannot cede power. He heads a vast corrupt KGB state of “scoundrels and thieves,” who have been robbing Russia blind for over a decade. There is no peaceful retirement to his secret palace in Sochi. He can only protect himself and his associates by staying in power. Any successor government would banish him or put him behind bars. I can imagine the panic and confusion in oligarch villas, secret police headquarters, and regional governors’ office. Their resistance will be fierce. They have not only their wealth but also their personal freedom to lose.
.go to Forbes.com