In Moscow, the growing public discontent is strongly influenced by the previously latent ethnic tensions that manifested themselves with shocking force in the ugly rally on the Manezhnaya Square last December.
Putin cannot count on the loyalty of the army, since the ongoing reforms have demoralized the top brass, antagonized the officer corps and incapacitated the combat units manned by poorly trained conscripts drafted for 12 months. Revolutions tend to come in series as one breakthrough gives an encouraging lesson to the opposition in every quasi-democratic system; the rulers, to the contrary, show little inclination to learn from one another’s failures as each considers his grasp on power infallible. Putin is no different from any self-made autocrat who believes that simple tricks with corrupting the society and distorting the economy make it possible to cheat history (Vedomosti, February 4). The suspicion that the time may be up does not enter his calculations on the best timing for reshuffling the court of billionaire-lackeys and compliant technocrats and reasserting his supremacy. The maidan in Kyiv was unique in leaving the power-holders an option for a dignified exit and a chance for a comeback, but Putin believes that compromises are for weaklings.