Staunton, March 28 – Speaking in Kyiv yesterday, Russian opposition leader Garri Kasparov said that the collapse of Vladimir Putin’s regime could spark the disintegration of the Russian Federation and that that in turn would likely be far more dangerous and explosive than was the end of the USSR.
Kasparov said it is impossible to know when the Putin regime will collapse because “the life of dictators does not fall under the law of a biological cycle.” But Putin’s demise, he argued, “in the course of the next five to ten years” could lead to the disintegration of Russia” (news.liga.net/news/politics/5406544-kasparov_opasaetsya_chto_krakh_putina_privedet_k_raspadu_rossii.htm).
It could occur suddenly if those in his immediate entourage decide that he is more a burden than a defense, the opposition figure suggested, adding that “if Putin thinks that he has immunity from the laws of history, then he is mistaken.” At the same time, Kasparov said, “the agony [of Putin’s regime] could last quite a long time.”
“I would not count on an immediate collapse,” he said. Moscow’s resources are far from exhausted, the economy has not collapsed, and there are no clear challengers yet. “The authorities still control the entire information space, and in the absence of an organized opposition, I would not wait for some kind of explosion” at least in the near term.
But over five to ten years, the regime could certainly collapse, and if that happened, Kasparov said, one “quite probably scenario” would involve its collapse being followed by the disintegration of Russia, something that would entail far more dangers than did the falling apart of the USSR.
“Unlike in the former Soviet Union,” he said, “there are no administratively recognized borders.” The union republic borders were, but “inside Russia there are no such borders.” Consequently, “no one knows where Chechnya ends” and a Yugoslav-type conflict likely could not be averted.
Kasparov concluded that the best way to avoid having Russia disappear in the wake of the Putin dictatorship would be for Putin to depart the scene as soon as possible. The longer he remains in power, the opposition figure says, the greater the chances that Russia will not be able to stay in one piece.
Kasparov’s argument requires at least three comments. First, he is simply wrong that the union republic borders were forever fixed and agreed upon as opposed to the borders of the autonomies within the Russian Federation. Both were changed frequently in Soviet times, and the former were and are not where everyone wanted but where the West insisted they remain.
Second, his argument that Putin’s departure could mean the end of Russia echoes many of the views of those in the regime as well as in the Russian population abroad that as bad as Putin may be, his remaining in office is essential to keeping Russia together, something most of them very much want.
But third, Kasparov’s suggestion that the Russian Federation will be more at risk of disintegration the longer Putin stays not only contradicts that but suggests that in his view Putin’s Russian nationalist integration strategy is having exactly the opposite impact on the non-Russian portion of the country than he hopes.
The combination of the three puts those who want to keep Russia in its current borders in a difficult position: If they support Putin in order to do so, they risk having him continue to act in ways that mean when he does go, as the actuarial tables at the very least require, the disintegration of Russia will be both greater and more violent than might otherwise be the case.