Russia is doomed to fall behind and lose

When a man like Boris Bondarev, a Russian adviser to the UN in Geneva, slams the door on his employer, the Russian Foreign Ministry, and his homeland, it is only natural to wonder if Vladimir Putin’s system shows cracks three months after the dictator’s infamous Ukrainian adventure.

However, the answer is “not quite”. Despite the relative failure of the invasion so far, the prominent deserters are remarkably few. The Russian state apparatus is not on the verge of disintegration. For most of Putin’s era, continuing to work has more advantages than desertion, writes Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg Opinion, Bloomberg TV reported.

Bondarev, a regular diplomat specializing in arms control, is the highest-ranking renegade in the foreign ministry so far. No deputy minister or ambassador has demonstrated leaving the ship, although Minister Sergei Lavrov has denied any claims of diplomacy and joined the pro-war propaganda at full speed, saying Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine could easily be a Nazi because Adolf Hitler, Lavrov claims, had Jewish blood. Even so, it took Bondarev three months since the start of the war and three weeks after Lavrov’s anti-Semitic remarks to resign and express some diplomatically soft criticism of the minister, who, Bondarev writes, “constantly makes contradictory remarks.”

Other notable deserters? Well, here is Anatoly Chubais, a longtime senior government official who quietly resigned from his last, insignificant position as Putin’s special envoy for sustainable development and left Russia without saying anything publicly about the war. Many propagandists and state television employees left the ship in an impressive way, such as Marina Ovsyannikova of Channel One, who disrupted a show by jumping in front of the camera with an anti-war poster, or two editors of the timid pro-Kremlin website, who briefly replaced the content. on the anti-Putin homepage. Others left quieter, such as Kiril Karnovic-Valois, a senior manager at RT’s propaganda network, who indicated that his RT-led team preferred to work as a startup rather than continue working for state-funded media.

Many businessmen have condemned the invasion of Ukraine, most notably billionaire Oleg Tinkov. Ukrainian and some international media were amused by the story of Igor Volobuev, Gazprombank’s vice president of Russian gas export contracts: Ukrainian-born Volobuev not only quit his job but also moved to his home country and joined its forces. territorial defense; however, history would have had more weight if the vice presidents were not dozens in Gazprombank, as in many other banks.

But anyone looking for ministers, generals, heads of state television, presidential aides, and oligarchs in, say, Newsweek’s recent “complete list” of prominent apostates will be disappointed. Of course, several dozen cultural figures have left their state-funded jobs or left Russia to protest the invasion of Ukraine – here a rapper, sometimes a ballet dancer, strange film directors, or orchestral conductors – but they can hardly be considered pillars of the regime. They are easily replaceable as far as the Kremlin is concerned.

If the rats do not run away, the ship does not sink, at least not from the rats’ point of view. One can count on the supporters of the regime – a cynical group – to make their life decisions with a cool mind. Emotional moves are a matter of days, maybe a week – and the few individuals in Putin’s crew who were capable of strong emotions about the attack on a neighboring country gave up within the first few days of the campaign. The rest sniff the air for the smell of defeat, and despite Russia’s military failures, they don’t smell it. Senior bureaucrats, officers, managers, and business leaders know the rewards of Putin’s service and the dangers of openly refusing to do so.

Tinkov, for example, says he was forced to sell his stake in the Russian bank, which is at the heart of his fortune, after speaking openly about the war; the bank has announced it will give up on Tinkov’s name, which it currently bears. On the other hand, as foreign companies leave Russia and their assets are nationalized or handed over to loyal entrepreneurs, Russia’s new pariah status creates some opportunities.

Putin’s system has fed and domesticated its people for two long decades. It is unclear what a Russian general or minister would gain if he condemned the “special military operation,” as the war in Russia is officially called. Even the regime’s lower-ranking officials, who have tried to break with Putin in recent months, are facing resistance from Russia’s vocal immigrant community. Russian dissidents living in Germany voiced loud protests when media giant Axel Springer SE hired Ovsyannikova to cover Russia and Ukraine: Why reward the propagandist while many honest Russian journalists who were never hired by Putin’s propaganda machine are struggling to find a lucrative jobs in Europe?

When Karnovich-Valois announced her departure from RT, Maria Pevchikh, a close associate of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, began a crusade against him on Twitter.

“Do not look for sympathy and sympathy in your soul for people who do not deserve it,” she wrote. “They had access to complete information. Every second they had a choice. And they did.”

You don’t have to be an intellectual giant to know that even if deserters are welcomed and seemingly rewarded, no one harbors warm feelings for them – any encouragement is just a trick to make desertion look attractive. Once this goal is met, Putin’s longtime officials have no future in the West, where both Russian immigrants and Westerners will always question their past; even in the best case, they will always face some career and business obstacles. At the same time, in Russia, they can only be inhumans, their names can be erased from all official sources, and their property, relatives, and friends can be put at risk.

Even if deep down some of Russia’s authorities – such as the so-called “systemic liberals” who have always been reserved for Putin’s imperialist project – are against the war, all it means about Russia’s place in the world is at its best. the key is to hide and wait for what is left of Putin’s rule. For now, it seems unlikely that war will displace him unless there is a major turnaround in military destiny – but even if it doesn’t, he is getting older and is rumored to be suffering from various ailments. Anyone interested in a piece of Putin’s pie should be in Moscow or close enough to it when it begins. Returns from Western emigration are unlikely for the same reasons that few German immigrants (with notable exceptions such as Chancellor Willy Brandt) prospered in their homeland after the fall of Nazism, while many former Nazis (including Chancellor Kurt Georg Kissinger) succeeded.

For those who play the game of waiting, the proverbial ship will have to take a much clearer path before taking a step, and that step is more likely to be a game of power than escape.

At the same time, the almost complete absence of open disagreement on the part of the top is not exactly a reason to celebrate Putin’s part. The weakness of the sincere emotions he nurtured in the Russian elite, and the cold calculation in the face of extremely shameful circumstances speak of a decline in the human and intellectual qualities of the elite. As the diplomat, Bondarev wrote in his resignation statement: “Unfortunately, I must admit that during all these twenty years the level of lies and unprofessionalism in the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been constantly increasing. However, in recent years it has become catastrophic.”

Led by these people, under Putin, and after he left, Russia is doomed to fall behind and lose.

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