Latvian SAB: Putin’s regime is stronger than ever

The wide restrictions and repressions against those unhappy with the regime in Russia have reached a nearly totalitarian level. The elites, however, have decided to consolidate around Russian President Vladimir Putin as a guarantee for the existing system and welfare, as noted in the report published by Latvia’s Constitution Protection Bureau (2022).
«In general results of last year indicate that in the coming year Russia will have enough resources to continue the war. Additionally, despite the challenges created by the war, Putin’s regime is stable and not at risk, at least in the near future. Putin’s and political elite’s priority number one is preserving power. To accomplish this, they will not allow any compromises.
Following the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, there were opinions voiced in Latvia’s and other countries’ public information space about decentrialisation of Russia and downfall. SAB believes the actual situation is the opposite – at least domestically Putin’s regime is stronger than ever before. As a result of rapidly intensifying policy employed for a long time, the regime has secured nearly full control and dominance in Russia’s information space. Opinions that do not conform with the regime’s interests are tightly controlled and punished severely. Political opposition is destroyed. As a result of propaganda and repressions

the majority of residents are intimidated and apathetic. The distance themselves from politically sensitive topics.

The core of the political elite agree with Putin and control all important instruments of power, from legislative institutions and courts to executive powers like the army and security services. Members of the elite who are unhappy with the war and its consequences are forced to accept or leave Russia, losing their status and welfare as a result.
Attempts to preserve power may seem as weakness of Putin’s regime. This seemed like the case in the conflict between Russia’s Ministry of Defence and ultra-nationalist Yevgeny Prigozhin. However, what happened only helped outline the nature of Putin’s regime – Putin needs to balance and adapt the interests of various members of the elite and associated groups while not giving any one side any preference. Prigozhin depends on resources of the regime and he operates within the borders set by Putin. Additionally, it is logical that as Prigozhin’s role grows, including in the context of the war in Ukraine, the borders set for him expand as well. At the same time, Prigozhin is a controversial person by Russian standards. There is a very low probability of him landing an official federal and regional-level post,» SAB noted.
«The mutual competition of members the elite or their groups is part of Putin’s regime and does not undermine his position. Even though the 70 year old Putin has multiple health problems,

he is still considered conditionally healthy – both physically and mentally.

Considering Putin’s beliefs and confidence, his actions are rational and logical. SAB believes these beliefs are based on a revanchist nostalgia for the Soviet empire, clear and growing conservatism, as well as dogmatic confidence that Russia was robbed after the fall of the Soviet Union and remains under constant threat. Physical force, supremacy, loyalty and consensus are on top of Putin’s hierarchy of values. He has a clear lack of empathy. Generally, Putin is a relatively typical autocrat with mediocre abilities, whose main goal is to keep power for as long as possible.
The gap between what Russian propaganda has piled up and Putin’s actual personality continued expanding rapidly last year. It became clearer that Russia’s leader is afraid of residents and he is prepared to participate in a sterile and previously planned out synergy with them.
Putin lacked charisma and courage to face Russian residents and tell them bad news or unpopular decisions. These tasks were entrusted to his subordinates, leaving Puting with the duty to present good news. The power model in which an artificial leader is both physically and ideologically separate from the outside world during elections and receives artificial support from society,» SAB outlines in the report.
«Opposite to Putin’s initial plan, his war in Ukraine became an internal problem and challenge for Russia. Explosions and the massacre caused by the war reached not only Russia’s regions bordering Ukraine, but also far-away regions, including the illegally annexed Crimea. It is also a fact that Ukraine is able to attack Russian on its own territory. This created and will continue creating additional pressure for Russian security services, especially the Federal Security Service.
The close proximity of the war also caused authorities to announce a high-alert regime in all of Russia’s territory, followed by mobilisation – secret at first, and open after the 23rd of September. Despite the chaos and non-traditional methods employed, such as involving janitors and mobilising convicts, the regime was able to mobilise hundreds of thousands of people for the war in Ukraine.
This did, however, outline the low motivation of Russian residents to voluntarily die for the unreasonable ambitions of the elite.

The main motivation for the poverty-afflicted people was Putin’s blood money.

For Wagner mercenaries the opportunity to kill people was enough. Mobilisation also helped outline the surprisingly poor image for the formally second army of the world – many of the mobilised troops had to purchase their own military uniform, arms and other equipment,» the report from SAB mentions.
«It is very likely Putin with run in presidential elections in 2024 and will try to secure at least minimal victories on the battlefield to present it as his accomplishments. He will likely announce his decision at the end of 2023. There is also a low possibility that the presidential elections could be postponed to a later date due to the war or related restrictions.
Next year Russia will have to deal with Ukraine’s attacks on Russia’s territory. It is very likely their numbers will increase. Putin will is also likely to announce a new mobilisation wave to send tens of thousands of Russian residents to their deaths while he continues leading the country through live broadcasts,» SAB notes.
Also read: SAB predicts Russian threats from territory of Belarus will continue growing