R.Politik CEO and founder, Tatiana Stanovaya, is regularly quoted by major Russian and international media outlets. She is available for commentary in Russian and English.
By Tatiana Stanovaya
This month’s protests in Moscow over city parliament elections are proof that Russia’s non-systemic opposition has taken its struggle to be recognized by the Kremlin as a major political player to a new level. Faced with a foe that has seized the initiative, set the agenda, and brought people into the streets, the Kremlin is at a loss. Its brightest idea, it seems, is to forcibly disperse the protests and prosecute the demonstrators: an approach that risks the state’s takeover by the siloviki.
Now that Cherkalin has been arrested and Tkachev has the upper hand, a question arises: was this all an attack on the latter? One theory holds that Feoktistov and Tkachev established a circle within the security services which was autonomous and able to exert its own influence. The two security officials were not simply Korolyov’s men, but were in fact counterweights to his influence. According to information from various sources, it was namely due to the stringent positions of Korolyev that Feoktistov was unable to return to the FSB after Ulyukayev’s arrest. Another theory proposes that president Vladimir Putin personally intervened, as he was dissatisfied with Feoktistov’s excessive toughness towards figures who play an important role in Russia’s system of governance; not just Ulyukayev, but also the oligarch Nikolai Tokarev, who is president of the pipeline company Transneft. This was when “Sechin’s special forces” began to be reformed; without Feoktistov by his side, Tkachev’s position weakened.
Tatiana Stanovaya, head of analysis firm R.Politik, said Putin’s hands-off approach also reflected a change in how he governed Russia and a move to distance himself from some domestic matters and focus instead on international affairs.
“The Putin system is still there but Putin isn’t because he’s gone into geopolitics,” said Stanovaya. “And without him everyone fights among themselves.”
The wave of unrest in Moscow is becoming “a serious risk for the Kremlin,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, an independent political analyst. It “cannot be ignored politically,” she said.
Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a key Putin ally who’s run the city since 2010, is taking a hardline approach toward the opposition because “it is extremely important for him to show he can control the situation in the capital,” said Stanovaya, the political analyst.
Every Man for Himself: The Russian Regime Turns On Itself
The Russian regime is less and less like a well-tuned orchestra with a confident conductor, and more and more like a cacophony in which every musician is trying to play louder and get more attention than everyone else. No one is focusing on the harmonious sound of the symphony. Instead, institutional and corporate priorities take precedence over national priorities, and are carried out at the latter’s expense. This political divergence has been provoked by Putin’s political absence, and fueled by a general fear of an uncertain future and lack of clarity regarding Putin’s plans.
Calvey, the founder and CEO of private equity firm Baring Vostok, was practically the main participant of the forum, despite sitting this one out due to being under house arrest. He was discussed by Sberbank CEO German Gref and former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, by current Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin, by Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, and by Putin himself. And during the forum, Calvey was joined as a cause célèbre by the journalist Golunov.
There are three clear positions on the Calvey case. The first is pro-liberal and non-state, and believes that the U.S. investor’s arrest was a powerful blow to Russia’s investment climate. This is the position expressed by business ombudsman Boris Titov and the in-system liberals Kudrin and Gref, and is the position favored by the business and investment community.
The second position is more formal and is represented by state functionaries. Siluanov is clearly weary of the responsibility attributed to him as a representative of power, so has called for less focus on Calvey’s case while emphasizing that there really are “questions” concerning the bank’s activities. Neither Siluanov nor his fellow minister Oreshkin are in a hurry to stand up for Calvey, though they abstractly acknowledge the existence of a “systemic problem” of prosecuting businessmen. It seems that the case against Oreshkin’s predecessor, Alexei Ulyukaev—currently serving an eight-year term for graft in a case instigated by none other than Sechin—has been an effective cautionary tale: publically opposing the siloviki is not now the done thing.
The third position was formulated by Prosecutor General Chaika, who attempted to defend the actions of the siloviki against accusations that they had intervened to help one side in a corporate conflict, saying there were “enough grounds and reasons” to open a criminal case into Calvey.
As for Putin, only one thing was clear from his first detailed public comments on the case: the president himself doesn’t really know to what extent Baring Vostok is guilty of anything, and so prefers to leave it to the supposed professionals.
In this context, the Calvey case looks like a regrettable yet insignificant episode on the periphery of the global war for markets and spheres of influence, in which Putin, as head of a state under attack, is dealing with a completely different scale of tasks. Against the backdrop of these global challenges, the arrests of businessmen and representatives of independent media get a little lost, along with despairing officials who barely believe in the possibility of economic growth in a country that is at war.
Will Facebook and Twitter be next?
Tatiana Stanovaya, the founder of the risk analysis firm R.Politik, said that when it comes to taking on the tech titans, the Kremlin had become hostage to its own policy.
“The Kremlin doesn’t want to ban Facebook. I think there is an understanding that a new generation of Russians has grown up and they live on the internet,” she said. “If they were to block it online it could lead to a revolution.”
The Kremlin is growing nervous over rising public resistance to the Russian president’s long rule.BY AMY MACKINNON
The Russia analyst Tatiana Stanovaya has argued that the Russian system of power is slowly starting to cannibalize itself. A key barometer of this has been the uptick in arrests of former officials and high-profile individuals, including Michael Calvey, a prominent American investor who was arrested this year in the midst of a business dispute.
«La Russie se préparait au scénario selon lequel Porochenko irait jusqu’à tronquer le scrutin pour gagner, ce qui lui permettait de ne pas reconnaître les résultats de l’élection, comme frauduleuse, et de rompre radicalement toutes les relations», analyse la politologue Tatiana Stanovaya, du cabinet d’expertise R.Politik.
Face à la victoire de plus en plus certaine de Zelensky, la Russie garde la même ligne. Si beaucoup d’Ukrainiens le préfèrent au président sortant, car il représente le changement et qu’il ne peut pas être pire que Porochenko, devenu insupportable, au Kremlin on attend de voir. D’autant que le comédien néophyte en politique n’a jamais exposé de programme clair, tout en misant sur une unification de tous les Ukrainiens, par-dessus la fracture traditionnelle Est-Ouest. «Le rapport à Zelensky est ambivalent, poursuit Stanovaya. On ne comprend pas ce qu’il a dans le ventre, son degré d’autonomie, dans quelle mesure il peut s’entendre avec les élites ukrainiennes, quels sont ses projets pour le Donbass, s’il est totalement dépendant de la conjoncture intérieure.»
Tout dépendra donc de la ligne qu’adoptera, s’il est élu, Zelensky. «S’il s’engage à perpétuer la ligne dure de son prédécesseur, en réclamant la Crimée, le Donbass, des compensations, alors la réponse sera dure aussi. Par exemple l’accélération de la distribution de passeports russes aux habitants des régions séparatistes du Donbass», explique Stanovaya. Mais même s’il montre patte blanche et apparaît ouvert à la négociation avec la Russie, jamais il ne pourra mener une politique favorable aux intérêts du Kremlin.