30 Years of Chaos: Technology of Russian Power
Popularly favorite movie of the era of Moscow Olympics "Moscow doesn't believe in tears" will celebrate its anniversary next year. American film academics were so impressed of this film that they awarded it an Oscar in 1981. US President Ronald Reagan even admitted that he had watched the movie "up to 8 times" to grasp the "Russian soul". This example seems to be very far away from policy, but it is absolutely relevant.
Decades have been passed, but the approaches haven't changed. As the civil society once tried to grasp through the films the essence of what is happening behind the "Iron Curtain", so does the current world's politicum trying to explain of contemporary Russian realities by the traditional clichés without understanding that it is only a work of art, wrapped in romantic flor.
However, nowaday, experts are turning from landmark films to the mirror of the planet political transformations with a trendy tune on background “The Wind of Change” by The Scorpions. The avant-garde part of Ukrainian society perceives any manifestation of protest as evidence of the revolution.
They have a habit to measure the Russian reality by the categories inherent in the liberal-oriented part of the Ukrainian society. But it is just utopia. No matter how we wait for these changes, unfortunately they will not happen shortly. For almost thirty years both states – Russian Federation and Ukraine – have existed in parallel realities. We can find the key to effectively counteracting the aggressor and returning to the status quo only through understanding and studying Russian realities. The proposed article was written for understanding the current Russian situation.
Critical self-reflection is one of the main mechanisms of self-reproduction of the system of institutions of liberal democracy. Therefore, the question arises: how to evaluate the Russian political process in the face of the threat of "unmanageable" state and also the hard permanent conflict of financial and economic interests, especially in view of the various mass protests that take place?
The base point of view, from which further analysis emerges, is the determining factor in any discussion. In our view, most of the approaches used by outside expert's community regarding to Russian policy are unproductive. Because the coordinate system in what these estimates exist is false in nature. The basic errors of this sort are related to the traditional juxtaposition of methods, ideas, mechanisms that flow from the artificial imposition of American, European or Ukrainian understanding of reality and the particularities of Russia's political landscape and mentality. The linear, Western-oriented perception in the spirit of the Weberian perceptions of politics as a profession and calling, including issues of political responsibility, play into the hands of the modern Russian political elite. You can agree that many of us can't cross the smoke screen illussions with a "Wind of Change" on background, looking at protesting 50,000 people in the center of Moscow. Accordingly, external stakeholders and experts aren't able to build a full-fledged analytical and prognostic base and model prevention mechanisms. To some extent, this is due to the fact that, again basic analytics is grounded on outdated political-economic analysis and imaginations in the Western philosophical spirit, while in Russia the overwhelming number of political agendas are based on the results activities of numerous collectives of mathematicians, experts in the theory of chaos, etc.
The "chaos theory" category is a pruint for our reasoning. Political scientists-transitologists argue that the general content of this approach boils down to the thesis about the presence of nonlinear dynamic systems, which also include society and politics. At the same time, political relations are characterized by either symmetry or asymmetry, and the purpose of activity in this field is to search for a model of the optimal functioning of the object or, conversely, the destruction of this object. Political analysis of specific countries in this paradigm is primarily connected to the study of this sort relationships and relationships between political objects at different levels - political parties, individual politicians, state structures, the electorate, individual citizens etc.
The role of these objects is determined by how much each of them is able to influence at the stabilization or destabilization of the political situation. In this context, the political system is a typical example of a nonlinear dynamic network-type system (the result of a disproportionate request; the integer is not the sum of its parts; it is unclear what is the prerequisite and what is the consequence). There are three managing models of society: central bureaucracy, marketing, networking.
The networking model is the result of scientific developments introduced at one time or another in the process of transition of post-soviet and Latin American countries from authoritarianism to democracy. This model is a prime example of the "guided crowd" principle. At the same time, the properties of this "crowd" depend on the nature of the intended regime, the level of the so-called "smart crowd" up from development of the civil society (when civic initiative of individuals and other political actors is capable of influencing on political decision-making) to the banditry. The mistake is that the Russian policy is analyzed solely from diametrically opposed positions: as examples of "network" model of society (mainly, this concerns Russian analysts), or command-bureaucratic (foreign researchers). This is especially true for the majority part of the Ukrainian expert community, whose existence and emotions from political competition in Ukraine's public policy is clouding the mind when they try to analyze the situation in Russian Federation. Due our view, it is more effective to consider the Russian Federation as a hybrid between the central bureaucratic and network models of government.
But this isn't the most important thing. Main important thing is that after it became clear that numerous democratization processes in Eastern and Southern European countries were constructed using mathematical models, the Russian government placed a huge political order on research on the standpoint of chaos theory. Having received from the West a "black box", the Russians went further, combining the creation of a multi-planar nonlinear security system with a similar system of government. What does it mean? It is a mistake to think that the governance model in the Russian Federation relies solely on the rigid vertical of power, with a sufficiently strong authoritarian leader and virtual opposition. This is a false but widely held opinion.
Let's make a small historical excursion. In the "early" period of the reign of Boris Yeltsin - in terms of the structure of political space – it has been chosen a centrifugal model of administrative structure with a large amount of delegation of political powers from the center to the regions. This situation is easily explained from the point of view of the President's political calculation and the impossibility to exclude concessions to the regional elites in the fight against political opponents, as well as Yeltsin’s desire to strengthen personal power and simplify the division ex-Soviet state property between the regional elites and the centrals.
During the "late" Yeltsin - under "early" Putin the system of government had increased control of Moscow over the regions. It was built a centripetal state governor model. Indeed, since 1998, the governor political system of Russia have had a command-administrative model. Such transformations are in line with strategic development goals, which require the creation of a one and only Decision Center to increase mobility and quality of communication. In particular, in the conditions of fundamental importance of the Russian Federation's relations with external investors and creditors. This meant that one and only decision-making center was emerging at the head of the state. The outside interest groups could be negotiated with it. This remark applies to all spheres of the functioning of the state system, but first of all it matters for the investment policy.
From this point of view, what was the famous Russian default in 1998? The authors of it weren't a sweet couple Nemtsov – Kirienko. The main author of this event was indomitable and great Stanley Fisher, with his reputation of the world crisis manager. In fact, there was another redistribution of Russian state property. During the aforementioned default of the year, the state dumped mainly “bad assets” to foreign investors. These assets were formed as a result of the chaotic Russian economic policy of the early 1990s. More comfortable conditions of entering in the Russian economy have been created for the foreign investors . There were formed Russian financial and industrial groups .
But, most importantly, the quality of these groups has changed: young "hungry predators" (for the most part, of mathematics or economists with the insatiable appetite) had been come to replace the "red directors". Another redistribution of the market took place, which allowed the Center to gain monopoly control over the main financial and economic flows and strategic sectors of the economy.
When you'll read this paragraph, just ponder: the main political myth and argument of Kremlin analysts is to stigmatize the Putin’s regime as a cause of lifting nation's from its knees, thanks to the strengthening of the administrative structure and the "purification of personnel", including at the regional level. We urge this to be viewed from a different side, which is showing that the political milestones of the early 2000s are, more likely, a demonstration of greater dependence on external investors, as well as purely economic, political and diplomatic instability.
In a situation where the black box fails, risk assessment becomes virtually impossible. But bear in mind that the Federal Center for Decision-making had to ensure the administrative unification of relations and powers of different levels of government. This was needed to reduce the level of autonomy of regional governing structures, to ensure the unification of political models, the elimination of foreign and domestic players participating in the foreign economic activity, the stability of borders and the strengthening of control over import-export flows.
At the same time, the price of the issue of strengthening the administrative vertical in the Russian Federation for external stakeholders was reduced to the possibility of solving serious economic problems with a specific officials who are "at the top of the pyramid", which greatly facilitated the achievement of agreements and provided guarantees for investment.
Thus, the creation of federal agencies and federal services, which perform a supervisory function in certain industries over regional sectoral ministries, limited the possibility of autonomous actions of the latter. It did not affect the level of corruption within the country - it remained the same as in previous years - 112th place out of 160, according to Amnesty International for 2015, but its character has changed.
The corruption of power vertical becomes non-linear and the main personal profit of the Decision-making Center comes from the decision making, not from vertical, as before, but from various sources, including both criminal and quite legal ones. The servicing infrastructure has been created under these corruption ties relations. It shows clearly that corruption for Russian Federation becomes a strategic industry or a state in a state.
There is a monopolization of the market. Regardless of whether the monopolist is naturally or artificially created (for example, laying company) each of them has a monopoly power, that is, the ability to regulate the price of the product or service produced by limiting the supply.
A special place in the monopolization of the economy belongs to the issue of regulation of price and tariff policies for state corporations controlling natural monopolies and infrastructure of national importance: Russian Joint Stock Company “Unified Energy System of Russia”, Gazprom, Russian Railways etc. However, the Western experts, without realizing it themselves, put in the hands of a frisky monkey the toy with a nuclear charge in the form of the latest manipulative technologies, including financial ones.
There was a certain unspoken agreement when building a power vertical between the Decision-making Center and investors, both external and internal. Investors provided the price on the time of the period of inter-electoral cycle. The informal agreement could be prolonged after the next elections. The fulfillment by all parties of the commitments provided some semblance of stability with the rare exception of those players who encroached on the sanctum sanctorum, "disgruntled", "offended", as well as those who had a direct conflict of interest with the Center.
However, it is known that in the conditions of a rigid administrative structure, when the democratic leadership cannot be restored to the leadership of the state, there rise to certain difficulties. With the depletion of financial reserves and credit resources the time of cycle change of elites has reduced sharply in modern Russian Federation. Those who had hoped yesterday that the aforementioned unspoken agreement had been paid for the period of 4 to 6 years, are faced with the fact that the term has been halved. In other words, the value for money is so inadequate that it is easier to break the agreement. And, in our view, this is the root cause of what is happening.
Accordingly, conflicts of interest are increasing. Moreover, not only at the level of Center - Regions, FIG - FIG, as it is required by linear relations. But there are nonlinear neoplasms. For example, FIG-Regions, which are able to oppose the Center and (or) bring together groups of all kinds of opposing interests. Such conditions lead to the fact that previously a single grouping with a single decision-making center begins to multiply not only itself own but also the new decision-making centers. Next, a support network and vertical infrastructure is formed around these centers. It causes the struggle for control of agencies and control of the regions. Mention the numerous anti-corruption processes, the first of which were the criminal cases against of Komi Republic Governor Vyacheslav Gayzer and Governor of Kirov oblast Nikita Belikh. The latter is especially interesting because he was the creature of the "young reformers" - Anatoly Chubais and Sergei Kirienko. At the same time, there is an ongoing struggle between the agencies, including the security ones. An example of this process may be the conflict of different Decision-making Centers, which results in the creation of duplicate power structures but under different informal control. Another example is the creation and development of Rosgvardia, which is tacitly controlled by one of the informal Russian leaders Igor Sechin, who controls Rosneft Corporation, Gazprom's main Russian competitor. Accordingly, confrontation takes sophisticated forms. Including the pseudo-opposition front.
Based on the above, our fundamental belief is that there is objectively no political powerful in Russian Federation, an alternative to the ruling one. We are talking only about conflicts within the entrenched Russian elite or between the latest and the new generation of hungry predators. And all the groups that are interested in changing manage are actively seeking to create and to support a new marionettes or blindly using opposition. They understand that it is the key to legitimizing new Decision-making Centers, because a new, unfamiliar figures don't have a compromised background in electoral voters imaginations yet. This model was used, in due course, when Prime Minister of Russia Yevgeny Primakov has been replaced by the "new face" Vladimir Putin' for legalization him as the KGB staff creature, who served on the team of Democratic Mayor Anatoly Sobchak.
It is also worth noting that the new Decision Centers are trying to unite not only “dissatisfied” FIGs and regions around them, but also to nominate new leaders with new, often- densely diametrically opposed and supposedly non-political requirements. The "rose" on the cake is that the same forces lead the security forces to suppress the protests too by pre-informing both those and other potential participants in the collision. The latter only reinforces the nonlinearity of the situation, confirming the use of network technologies. This is somewhat reminiscent of the classic example of a PR textbook on the situation in the Vietnam War, when humanitarian aid containers were dropped from the helicopter to population after the "carpet" bombardments (hence the idea of Russian humanitarian convoys to Syria and the Donbass). In such chaos, it is difficult for the consumer of information to navigate his or her own beliefs and social orientations, and chaos erupts in the voter's brain!
It is the idea of chaos in the minds of the participants of the analyzed events that generates a protest scenario without a leader and without the choice that later on the wave of protests they could find not only a formal leader, but also an idea what is supporting by most of social groups.
The begining of a new wave of protests can be called anti-corruption rallies on March 26, 2017, when from 36 to 88 thousand peoples walked the streets of 97 cities. The reason was the film-investigation "He isn't Dimon for you " about the secret wealth of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, filmed by the Anti-Corruption Fund of Alexei Navalny. It was the largest wave of protests that took place in most of the years, without agreement with the authorities. The significance of the event is that the mass incorporated of the people in protests acting happened not because of a certain act of power (such as election fraud in 2011), and not because of a high-profile crime (as with the murder of Boris Nemtsov in 2015), but as a result of a media event, political in nature. By other words, the participants didn't require anything specific from the authorities. Citizens took to the streets with the most vague anti-corruption slogans, and the real reason for their dissatisfaction was the general indignation at the abuse of power.
Another significant milestone was the rallies in Kemerovo, year later, after a fire at the “Zimniaya Vishnya” shopping center. They immediately received a political color: the main demand of the citizens wasn't so much the punishment of specific culprits, but the resignation of then Governor of Kuzbass Aman Tuleev, who led the region for more than 20 years and was one of the cohort of "Yeltsin" governors. The "young reformers" have long and successfully fought with the last. The situation around the fire in the “Zimniaya Vishnya” was just an excuse to "clean up" the governor's office. Tuleev’s appealing to the miners of the Kuzbass turned out to be futile.
Around the same time, the "garbage" protests in the Moscow region began: residents opposed the construction of incinerators plants and the opening of new landfills - regularly demanding the resignation of local officials.
In the spring of 2019 the protests against the construction of a landfill began in Arkhangelsk. The demands of the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin were voiced.
In May 2019 there was a confrontation between the authorities of Yekaterinburg and opponents of the construction of an Orthodox church in the park of one of the city's central squares.
The arrest of Ivan Golunov, the journalist-investigator of the “Medusa” web-site , in connection a fraudulent drug dealing, brought thousands of people to a meeting in the center of Moscow on June 12, 2019. It was even after all the charges were dropped from the journalist. Moreover, "young reformers" who had dug themselves in the Kremlin, perceived Golunov, an investigator and a fighter with corruption, as one of "new faces of protesters". It explains why the people and staff of Kiriyenko have supported Golunov, and why the information support of the campaign was carried out by all federal channels, and why the “hero” was released and the perpetrators were punished. The experiment was unsuccessful. Golunov turned out to be the guy which didn't seem like a leader figure. But brighter characters emerged during the protest campaign.
Let's turn to the recent protests. Elections to the Moscow City Duma have never been such a significant event, even in the capital. In particular, because this lawmaker city unit does not have too many powers. But even in this case, it is not quite traditional to prevent all list of independent candidates from registering. Clearly, these acting aren't purely local authority actions. They can’t make it without agreement with the President Administration in Russia. But Moscow, as a platform for social and political experimentation, is exactly what is needed to raise protests on national level.
In addition, please note that there was no practice to exclude the entire list of non-system candidates. Opposition was partly allowed at the local level. The introduction of a general refusal against the participate in elections for unsystem opposition was designed to sharpen the protest sentiment. It was succeeded and provoked mass discontent. According to the "White Counter", a meeting authorized by the Moscows powers on August, 10 on Sakharov Avenue in Moscow was the most numerous opposition action since 2014.
Almost 50 thousand people came there. This is an indicator that stocks become widespread more and more. An interesting technique was used as one of the catalysts for chaos, when public well-known media-figures who had previously supported the power are becoming the opposition now.
For example, Alexei Navalny, a former subordinate of Nikita Belykh's and Maria Gaydar, was "merged" by the "young reformers", but quickly turned into a Surkov-Voloshin project. That is why Surkov's dismissal from the Presidential Administration automatically signifies the merger of Navalny and the closure of a project that has not shown proper performance, whose electoral ratings are too low to make him the leader of protests. Therefore, it is necessary to unite and (or) create nationwide protest content, on the basis of which a protest network will be created for managed conflicts against the background of chaos.
This problem is being solved by the new faces of the protest movement. In Moscow, the actions were initiated by people not involved in politics professionally: for example, the journalist of "Novaya Gazeta", the municipal deputy Ilya Azar (one of the applicants for the march in support of Ivan Golunov) or the actress Yana Troyanova (participated in the organization "Mothers March" in defense the figures of the New Greatness case).
It is strange that the Kiriyankov's circle don't use the old leaders of the opposition, considering that the latter has no place in the new distribution of forces and emphasizing the increasing demand for "new faces" today.
Non-admission of so-called candidates of unsystematic opposition in the elections to the Moscow City Council with great speed brought to the forefront of politicians who were previously in the shadow of Navalny: Lubov Sobol, Konstantin Yankauskas, Olena Rusakov, Yulia Galyamin, as well as ones of the leaders of the almost unknown Libertarian Party. It is not accidental in this sense that 17-year-old Olga Misyk, who read the Constitution before the riot police, immediately became a celebrity. A civic campaign was immediately launched in support of a student of the Higher School of Economics, Yegor Zhukov, who is also an unregistered candidate. He was accused of participating in mass destabilizing.
Originally it used by opposing groups, the technology of chaos of personal representations, when a media personality with a certain protest background publicly declares support for the authorities and vice versa. For example, TV presenter Anton Krasovsky, previously known for his protest views and legalized unconventional orientation, stated in his interview: "I will do everything to ensure that this opposition never comes to power." The day before, Kseniya Sobchak voiced the idea that the blame for the disorder lies partly with protesters who went to a peaceful rally. Former colleague of Boris Nemtsov and a former friend and then - liberal opponent of Illya Yashin - Mikhail Konev - don't leave the screens of the federal channels NTV, Russia -1 and First Channel, saying that unregistered candidates specifically sought mass unterest for their own promotion.
Thus, we can say: what happens with the protests in Moscow is a rehearsal before the decisive clash of interest groups. At the moment, there is only a warm-up. The opposing forces entered into a positional struggle, including for blocking the channels for financing protests. This raises the issue price for campaign customers from different angles, but does not solve the issue itself.
It is worth paying attention to the content of the central Russian channels, through which, depending on the main owners, one can observe how protest moods against the old Decision Center are gradually warming up. At the same time, we note that the channels whose founders include units of state corporations do not keep pace with the events and, due to the loss of the audience, become catastrophically unprofitable, like media holdings controlled by figures closest to the Russian leader. Examples are First Channel and Russia-1, the main owner of the package of which is Gazprom-Media, as a division of Gazprom Corporation. The level of trust in the main national channels has declined dramatically, the consumer is either looking for new sources and forms of dissemination of information, or - against the backdrop of growing negativity - trying to shut itself off from the information flow. Thus, representatives of the new decision-making centers are trying to disable earlier the most electrically active part of the Russian population - women and pensioners, by activating previously passive urban youth, not only in terms of their participation in the elections, but in terms of creating a new type of protest network.
In this regard, we can recall the mistakes that are made not only by Ukrainian experts, but also by Western interest, appealing to the old, conditionally opposed Russian political council. For example, the former US ambassador to Russia, McFaul, had an internship during Gorbachev’s time in St. Petersburg in 1983, and then, at the Institute of Language and Literature. He, like many of his fellow experts both from the West and from the post-Soviet space, had old ideas about the key figures of the Russian democratic opposition from the Yeltsin era. The figures not only entered into a conspiracy with the old Decision Center, but also actively participate in the redistribution of property and directly in the struggle for power. Finally, they turned into power as such. Recall the "young reformers" Chubais and Co. and they were joined by Sergey Kiriyenko, who today puts out his leaders of protest (for example, the aforementioned Yegor Zhukov) against the Surkov-Voloshin opposition led by Navalny.
In conclusion, we would like to turn again to realities outside the borders of Russia. The sooner the international community realizes that in the conditions of chaos there is nothing to negotiate with, and the passion to fish in troubled waters can only end with dysentery or cholera, the faster and more effective the expected results will be. In the meantime, chaos reigns - be patient and wait, using the time to form your own hybrid security system and multi-plane preventive answers. It’s better to save energy and money for more useful things. And certainly: the Ukrainian establishment should not call the old Decision Center at any request - it’s not up to you. But it will solve its own problems at the expense of this kind of petitioners.