Secret of the Russian Constitution

Despite the fact that the final results of the national vote on amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation will be summed up only in the evening [this article was written in the early afternoon of July 1st – ed], it was clear yesterday (June 30th) that the event will be quite representative, and the result will be positive. According to official data, more than 45% of voters took part in online voting on the amendments alone.

This means that no less than 60% of the voters must vote in the polling stations, the results of which will be summed up only by the morning of July 2nd. There is no doubt that the majority of those who voted will vote “for” the amendments.

This result was facilitated by the opposition, which could not decide on a strategy to fight against the amendments, divided into two roughly equal parts: the first called for a boycott of the vote, and the second to vote “against”. It is clear that with this approach, the opposition could neither gather enough opponents of the amendments at the polling stations (some of its supporters boycotted the vote), nor organise an effective boycott (some of its supporters went to the polling stations to vote “against”).

However, the helplessness of the Russian opposition (which, by the way, is rightly called not so much the opposition as the “fifth column”) has long been known and is not surprising. Question: why did they have to fight against the amendments at all? They, after all, absolutely do not prevent the opposition, in the event of coming to power, to implement any policy that pleases it. I will not go into grey antiquity, but I will explain the idea using two examples from the actual history of modern Russia.

Yeltsin first seized power, and only then changed the Constitution. If the Russian opposition gains power, no one will prevent it, if necessary, from adopting a new version of the Constitution or even a new Constitution. But there is a more relevant example. The Yeltsin Constitution did not prevent Putin from implementing a domestic and foreign policy diametrically opposed to that of his predecessor for 20 years.

The current amendments to the Constitution can in no way prevent the opposition from implementing a policy opposite to Putin’s. To do this, one only needs to come to power, and it is not the Constitution that leads to power, but the people, through the free expression of their will in an election. Moreover, the adopted amendments increase the opposition’s access to power. They (amendments) redistribute powers between the President, Parliament, and the government, increasing the role of the Duma and increasing the accountability of the Cabinet to it. Since it is much easier to get a faction into the Duma than it is to elect its own person as President, the opposition should welcome amendments that give it a chance to influence policy-making through the mechanisms of parliamentary control.

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So why was the opposition against it and why were our Western “friends and partners” so agitated about the amendments?

I do not think that the emphasis of the amendments on the traditional family, religion, the priority of Russian legislation over international law, and the rest of the package, called the “sovereignisation of Russia”, could agitate anyone other than completely servile grant-eaters. Among our enemies, there are quite a lot of smart people who understand perfectly well that sovereignty and international subjectivity depend not on the text of the Constitution, but on the real capabilities of the state and on the willingness of the authorities to take responsibility for difficult decisions. I have already reminded you that Putin in a matter of years made Russia completely sovereign under the current Yeltsin Constitution. Let me remind you of the opposite experience. Gorbachev destroyed the sovereignty of the Soviet Union under a completely sovereign Constitution of the USSR, and the Constitution of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in force in 1993 did not prevent Yeltsin from reformatting power despite its provisions.

The conclusion is simple: what is important is not what is written, but what you can and are ready to do. This conclusion is confirmed not only by Russian experience, but by the entire world experience.

Thus, if we were talking only about “sovereignisation”, it is unlikely that Russia’s enemies would try so hard to disrupt the popular vote, reduce the turnout to a minimum, so that its legitimacy could be questioned. And they tried very hard. So something in the amendments really hurt them.

We can easily and quickly determine what exactly lead the “partners” and the “fifth column” obedient to become mentally unbalanced if we focus on the main issue — the question of power. What have the amendments changed? What did the especially indignantly anti-amendmentists resent?

The amendments gave the so-called “reset”. In other words, Putin was able to be elected President for two more terms of six years each. But is the possible mechanical extension of the “Putin era” so critical for those who make decisions in the camp of our enemies?

By no means. From the perspective of a long-term global strategy, the extra 12 years only require clarification of “year X” — the last year of Putin’s last term, when the fight for the legacy in his team should begin. Russia is already strong enough to be vulnerable from the outside. For it, only an internal split is dangerous. What it looks like and how quickly it destroys statehood can be seen in the example of the US.

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So, the amendments are not valuable because they give Putin the opportunity to be elected President two more times. They give him unlimited room for manoeuvre.

Firstly, Putin can actually now serve as President until 2036. This is the easiest option. It gives an extra decade to make the system sustainable. But it does not solve the main problem — how to maintain team unity and prevent the split of elites “after Putin”.

Secondly, Putin may refuse to exercise his right to be elected for two more terms and, at the last moment, nominate a successor who, supported by Putin’s authority, will have a good chance to strengthen his own power and continue Putin’s policy if the main elite groups are not ready to fight for power (they will still be sure that Putin remains until the last moment). This option gives Russia the experience of changing power, without changing political priorities, and opens the possibility for a painless rotation of teams.

Thirdly, there is another option that can be considered as an improvement on the second one. Amendments to the Constitution allow Putin to run for President not only immediately after the end of his current term in 2024, but at any time after that date. He just has the right to run for President twice more, and in which elections he will do it (or not) is his personal business.

For example, a successor may be elected in 2024, and Putin may be elected again in 2030 and 2036. Of course, then by the end of the hypothetical second term (in 2042) Putin will be 90 years old. But Elizabeth II will soon be a 100 years old, and she is not going to renounce the crown of Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries.

What gives us the room to manoeuvre with the terms of Putin’s tenure as President?

At any given time, Russia’s enemies are not able to calculate the moment when Putin will leave active politics, and it is at this moment that they are timing their actions related to an attempt to once again destroy the internal unity of Russia. When a long-term absolute leader leaves politics, no matter how united his team is, it usually starts a fight. Moreover, this fight enters an active phase in the last year of the rule of such a leader, when various elite groups start to think about their future, about promoting their person to new leaders. The internal struggle in the team begins, and the country’s manageability falls. This is the perfect time to activate the “fifth column”, as well as to attract to their side the dissatisfied part of the members of the recently unified old team.

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But we must prepare for such an attack on a country weakened by intra-elite contradictions in advance: we must look for approaches to politicians and security forces, and ensure the creation of “sleeper” cells in the media and expert environment, and in public organisations. In general, it is necessary to carry out tremendous organisational work, so that at hour “X”, the protest against the government, even if it didn’t appear, but at least would seem to be comprehensive, so that the government, faced with betrayal at various levels, would lose confidence, bewildered, and miss the most important first hours necessary for making decisions to suppress the putsch. Given that it is far from easy for foreign intelligence agencies and related “non-governmental organisations” to work in Russia, it takes several years (at least) to solve this problem.

At the same time, you can’t just prepare people and wait by the sea for the weather. Preparation should reach a peak just in time for the performance. Otherwise, as a result of a long wait, the trained personnel will start to lose their mental stability. Some will be exposed, some will surrender, some will die, the chain of connections will be broken, counterintelligence will start its game and by one o’clock you can come not with an organised mutiny, but with a broken trough.

And how do you plan to prepare the game against Russia if the main date – the start time of the rotation of teams – is unknown, and the range is about 18 years? Moreover, you can not allow a false start, or “sleep through” the right moment — the anti-Russian deployment, in order to be successful, must fall exactly into a narrow time period that coincides with the real departure of Putin from politics and the start of a change of teams.

Amendments to the Constitution, which expanded Putin’s room to manoeuvre, make it almost impossible to accurately calculate the desired date, which means that a blow to Russia during the transition period becomes problematic. This is why the left, right, and regular grants-suckers are so mad about the “reset”. Not only the hopes of their masters for the collapse of Russia in the transition period are being destroyed, but also their personal hopes for power, at least in the form of seats of burgomasters and police chiefs in the occupation administration.


Rostislav Ishchenko

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