Rostislav Ishchenko: Russian Voters Gave Putin a Mandate to Build a Polycentric World

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The columnist of Sputnik Rostislav Ishchenko about the results of the presidential electoral race and the future of Russia.

Final data: A 67% turnout, and 77% of the votes were for Vladimir Putin. There were more than five million people more votes than there were in the elections of 2012.

In order to evaluate such a result only quantitatively, it is necessary to understand that these additional five million votes that Putin improved his previous result with is enough to elect the presidents of all the Baltic States. And if the task of winning in precisely the first round wasn’t set, then it is also possible to win in Moldova too.

And nobody had any doubts

Nobody doubted that the current president of Russia would win in the elections. Nobody also doubted that he would win in the first round. Regardless of how domestic humorists mocked foreign “friends and partners”, and regardless of how popular jokes laughed at them, in practice the embassies and residencies don’t work in vain, and they assess the political situation in Russia much better than taxi drivers and hairdressers do.

After 2012 no adequate western politician counted on a Russian Maidan. If it didn’t work six years ago, then after Crimea [referendum – ed] and Syria [war – ed] there was nothing to count on even more so.

But the political game isn’t just a long-term thing. It takes place across decades. Today a defeat is fatal only if the defeated State disappears. But if it survives, it starts to obligatorily win back what was lost. In fact, this is what Russia has been engaged in for a quarter of a century (after the collapse of the USSR).

That’s why we didn’t (and couldn’t) have any doubts that, having lost the current Russian elections, foreign policy opponents will try to recoup everything in the next ones. I.e., the current ones were interesting to them only from the point of view of creating a platform (springboard) for another game.

The “friends” of Russia imagined that this task would be rather simple. It was necessary to mobilise all oppositionists as much as possible, even highly conditional ones (left and right, liberals and “patriots”, those who simply “wants new faces” and who “never take part in elections”). On the one hand, it was necessary to lower the turnout (with the excuse “the result is predictable anyway”), and on the another hand — to lower the percentage of votes for Putin as much as possible.

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A conditional victory in the same first round, but with a 60% turnout and 55% of votes in favour of the President would allow to declare that Russian society doesn’t support actual policies, and that it “doesn’t want a confrontation with the West”.

The games of “friends and partners”

“Partners” would immediately involve themselves in calculating the number of lost votes. For the next six years we would hear about how people are “turning away from the authorities” and “looking for a new leader”. And one shouldn’t think that this would be an ineffective strategy. But once again, the task of the West wasn’t about achieving their protege’s victory in the upcoming elections. There is a need to just balance out the number of votes for and against the current course.

It was desirable for “partners” to achieve at least relative balance. Even if the end result would be 55% versus 45% — such an outcome would allow the active game against the government to start, but not at all counting on it being overthrown. Just in order to destabilise the situation.

Internal political problems were supposed to tie the Kremlin’s hands concerning foreign policy, increase its vulnerability, and force it to divert resources from outside to inside the country.

The compelled reduction of external activeness would lead to decreased support from allies, would increase their vulnerability, and would force them to look for other patrons. The same scenario that is developing today in America – which lost the support of traditional allies in the Middle East and keeps with difficulty at least the illusion of Euro-atlantic unity of the West – would start developing for Russia.

Kill yourself

The experience of the collapse of the USSR (and any other global States) demonstrates that reducing foreign policy possibilities causes the anticipatory (in a geometrical progression) curtailing of financial and economic power, which, in turn, leads to the exponential falling of the standard of living for the population and the reduction of income to the budget. The State falls into a vicious circle – a chrono-political crater that, without an alternative, drags the State into hopelessness. Breaking away from this demands huge efforts, the concentration of all resources, a talented government, and the self-renunciation of a whole generation at minimum. Such conditions very seldom coincide.

The elections that just took place were supposed to give Russia the first (absolutely imperceptible) push towards becoming weaker and dropping out of the big geopolitical game. Subsequently, everything would be a matter of technicalities and time (the next 10-15 years).

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The result of the 2018 elections guarantees us this same 1.5 decades of relative stability. During this period Russia will be pressured and attempts will be made to drag it into a conflict. But for the geopolitical opponents of Moscow, every attempt at tying down Russian resources will mean the need to involve their own resources – many times more than those that will be tied down.

Leaning on its superior economic power, the West for the last two decades was heading precisely in this direction. The US and the EU spent resources absolutely uneconomically, proceeding from the thesis: “While what’s fat becomes thin, the thin will die”. As a result Russia put on weight, and the West grew so thin that no more resources remain.

And it is precisely for this reason that there was a need to repeat the trick that worked vis-a-vis the USSR – it was necessary to stop Russia at the expense of its own resources. It is possible to do this only by stimulating internal conflict.

This is a knockout

The absolute (knockout) victory of Putin at elections, meaning the support of the population for the current direction and additional unity in response to external pressure, guarantees not only the next six years of the presidential term. In politics a certain gap works.

Stability doesn’t turn into instability instantly. A rather long transition period is necessary. For the USSR this lasted ten years, starting with Brezhnev’s death, after which there was a reshuffling of General Secretaries, and then the unsuccessful and inadequate reign of Gorbachev followed. For the US the period of increasing instability (obvious, noticeable to all, similar to what happened in the USSR in the 1980’s) has lasted for already 10 years (from the 2008 crisis).

This is despite the fact that Washington has an order of magnitude more resources at its disposal than the USSR had. And despite the fact that the US still has the opportunity to accumulate in their interests the resources of all of Europe and half of the world, the existing global political and economic system based on the exclusive supremacy of the US (and the West in general) can hold on for ten more years only if a victory if being played for (achieving every year success – albeit small – and having the prospect of a final victory in the foreseeable future).

Without such a prospect, the possibility of mobilising and concentrating resources sharply reduces, and the trend of an intra-elite conflict in the West strengthens proportionately. Six years of guaranteed anticipatory development and at least six more years of conditional stability (even in the worst case for Russia) simply don’t give the West a chance.

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New global configuration — a polycentric world

During the current year it’s possible that there will still be attempts to unceremoniously take Russia, due to the sharp and unexpected intensification of pressure and blackmail via military danger. But this will already be a frank bluff. It’s similar to Theresa May’s impudence and her semi-buried government trying, via a confrontation with Russia, to strengthen its internal political position and consolidate Europe around Britain. This problem is unsolvable – neither for tiny Britain, nor for the West in general. The trend of certain members of the EU concluding separate agreements with Russia will now only grow.

The current year will still be formally difficult, since leaders of Europe (France, Germany, Italy) will haggle for the conditions of a “beautiful new world” (in order to understand just how rigid such bargaining is, it is enough to remember how the Russian-Turkish partnership in Syria began). But by the end of the current year, especially by the middle of next year, we will already be able to evaluate the contours of the new global configuration.

Moreover, those who won’t be in time will be late – like Ukraine, which in 2014 was expecting to share out spoils together with the West on the ruins of Russia – killed by sanctions, and today Ukraine is a potential object for division among its former western partners.

The principle “you die today, I die tomorrow” is universal for the West, and extends to all members of the world community, including the most dear EU and NATO countries. And Eastern European limitrophes, which quite recently joyfully switched from Comecon to the EU, don’t have much time left to make a new responsible decision. Otherwise, while being engaged in dividing up unlucky neighbors, they may not notice how they themselves will become an object if not for division, then for financial and economic plundering by “senior brothers-in-arms” in the European Union.

In general, Russian voters gave Vladimir Putin a mandate, unlimited in time, to build a definitive polycentric world. All the others will be obliged to somehow live in this new geopolitical reality. And the sooner they realise this, the better it will be for them.

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