The sanctions against Russia’s central bank and sovereign wealth fund, and disconnection of major banks from SWIFT, make long term economic pressure feasible. If Russia cuts off gas and oil deliveries, Russia’s internal politics become unsustainable.
A more complex scenario arises if Russia chooses to accelerate oil/gas deliveries. Specialists hold that Russia’s economy will eventually collapse due to the many effects of pariah status, disconnection from SWIFT, and currency blockade. Will the desired result obtain? A possible scenario:
- Pumping oil/gas like crazy, a social safety net for the bulk of the population is maintained, if in a somewhat tattered state.
- Oligarchic wealth begins to dissipate. Members of this class react with anger.
- The oligarchic side of the Kremlin conflicts with a new power center, with new ideologues, extending into the military.
- The new ideologues re-legitimize Stalin.
- Borrowing from Stalin, the new power center applies harsh methods against the oligarchs.
(The Hill) Russia is shutting down its oldest human rights group. Quoting,
Memorial International, often abbreviated to Memorial, has studied “political repressions” by the former Soviet Union and present-day Russian government since 1992. Its predecessor, an earlier Moscow-based organization also named Memorial, was founded in 1987, according to the group’s website.
The largest part of Memorial’s archives concerned victims of Stalin’s terror. With erasure of memory, internal terror becomes a usable tool. To gain complete control of the Kremlin in the manner of Stalin, it is necessary to abrogate the quid-pro-quo with the Kremlin element of organized crime. This element, and those oligarchs who oppose dissipation of their wealth, could face execution. The oligarchs were last dethroned circa 2000.
A possible Neo-Stalinist nucleus now serve as Putin’s “inner cabinet”, displacing more balanced viewpoints. (NYT) The Hard-Line Russian Advisers Who Have Putin’s Ear names Sergey Shoigu, Nikolai Patrushev ,and Sergey Naryshkin. Quoting,
“This is an attempt collectively to form a counter-ideology, since Putin doesn’t have an ideology,” Konstantin Remchukov, a Moscow newspaper editor with Kremlin ties, said of what he called the “conservative-reactionary” worldview of Russia’s security elite. “The key postulate is that everyone is against Russia.”
The Kremlin fault line:
- An “inner cabinet” espousing newly devised ideology, in which practical resemblance to Stalinism may emerge. Romantics.
- The “outer cabinet”, consisting of civil servants, with an admixture of oligarchic and criminal elements. Pragmatists.
How do you play something like this? The romantics will not respond to external pressure. They may respond to pressure from the pragmatists, by accommodation or liquidation. All we can do is amplify the anxiety of the outer cabinet, whose pragmatism shows in a “quant” mindset.
This is best done by deployment of future sanctions with anticipatory advertisements, providing the oligarch with a forecast of wealth dissipation that is both worrisome and predictable. If Russia chooses to pump all-out, friendly production must be encouraged with a quota for Russian sales that decreases over time.
For more elaborate schemes, see
- Advice for a New Secretary of State, Part 6; How to Use a Skinner Box
- Advice for a New Secretary of State, Part 7