Staunton, June 27 – Given the decline in federal subsidies and the collapse of investment, the governments of the North Caucasus republics are currently being forced to cut back on social spending across the board except with regard to those areas where they fear protest activity is the most likely, according to Anton Chablin of “Kavkazskaya politika.”
The analyst draws that conclusion on the basis for four recent studies prepared by leading Moscow economic research institutions and on the basis of the central Russian government’s own actions and signals to the governors of the republics in his home region (kavpolit.com/articles/defolt_majachit_na_kavkaze-17840/).
On the one hand, he suggests, Moscow has shown that that is what it expects by holding the leaders of federal subjects responsible for any protests or demonstrations on their territories. And on the other, it has shown the way it wants them to proceed by creating an institution to target money to problem areas like the decaying company towns.
What Chablin does not discuss but what may be the most important consequence of such targeted assistance are the three ways in which such an approach is likely to backfire: First, if the leaders of particular problem regions know they are likely to get more money if they show that their residents are ready to protest, they are likely to encourage some protests to get even more.
Second, the leaders of those regions which have the reputation for being quiet and who are thus likely to receive even less at a time of retrenchment are likely to consider organizing protests in the hopes that they will then be able to get more funding. Obviously, keeping quiet is not a useful strategy.
And third, regardless of what the leaders of either do, the populations of both kinds of regions will see what is going on and likely to choose to act on their own on the basis of the principle that “only the squeaky wheel will get the grease.” To the extent that happens, yet another Moscow strategy intended to keep things calm may have exactly the opposite effect.