Differences between capital and government, and interior political relations connected with the impending parliamentary elections have aggravated. Information wars, which accompany these processes, affect Russian President Vladimir Putin. At present two political forces – liberal democrats (Boris Berezovsky) and the Communists – criticize the president.
Boris Berezovsky recently published an article in Kommersant and accused Vladimir Putin of “organizing a creeping anti-constitutional coup d’etat” in Russia. Berezovsky thinks that Russia is on the verge of a civil war because another phase of redistribution of property has begun.
The businessman named five basic elite groups in Russia (governors, bureaucrats, oligarchs, the special services, and the Army), which can stop this process. According to Berezovsky, bureaucrats and part of the special services support Putin. Berezovsky asks all elite groups to unite and act: “How can we prevent a civil war? The answer is that we must understand what is going on and overcome our fears. We must show our will and resoluteness. The main thing is that we must act. We must not wait until the government considers our complaint. We must use our constitutional right to organize meetings and demonstrations…”
In other words, Berezovsky asks society and elite groups to combat “the Putin regime” physically. This means another revolution. Russian has not heard such appeals for a long time. It is evident why Berezovsky is doing this. However, his article is rather symptomatic. The point is that some social layers of society are dissatisfied with Putin. Perhaps Berezovsky is right that some governors and oligarchs do not like the president. At the same time, he is mistaken if he thinks that the Army does not like Putin and the untalented defense minister Ivanov.
Berezovsky says that the Army takes fifth place in the hierarchy of elite groups, which can affect social processes in Russia. In reality precisely the Army plays the main role in the country’s stability.
At present social and financial problems of Russian officers are not as topical. Why does the president enjoy the Army’s respect? Firstly, Putin has raised servicemen’s money allowances. At the same time he has cancelled some fringe benefits and failed to solve topical socio-economic problems. However, officers appreciate his effort.
Secondly, the Army has always been apolitical. To date, nothing has changed. The Army thinks that it’s the duty of every serviceman to support the high commander-in-chief.
Thirdly, the Army respects the president because he did not stop fights in Chechnya after the 1996 capitulation. The president has become a symbol of patriotism.
Fourthly, Putin supports the process of reforms aimed at creating a professional army and agrees with ideas to increase financial incentives to Russian servicemen.
Fifthly, Putin’s influence depends on Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. It should be noted that positive changes in the social and financial sectors of servicemen’s lives took place right after he was appointed as defense minister.
In the meantime, there is a range of negative factors, which weaken the positions of the Russian president in the Army and society.
1. Political factor. The president relied on former officers when creating a team of loyal officials. There are many former officers in the government, the Federal Assembly, and the Presidential Administration. On the one hand, these are Putin’s support. On the other hand, these people are a factor, which is linked with the influence of various political trends. Senators, Duma deputies, regional politicians who originate from the Army are often involved in political intrigues.
2. Economic factor. Despite positive trends connected with the Army’s loyalty to the president, senior officers maintain relations with the shadow business. This happens because generals’ wages are not high. Secondly, almost all generals are connected with distribution of material resources. The army spends huge sums of money. It is natural not all generals can resist a temptation to make money. As a result, some officers become members of criminal groups. It is possible that capital can exert influence on some representatives of the military leadership.
The problem is that Russia does not have civil and financial oversight over the Army. The inspectorate, which must fulfill these tasks, was created by the Defense Ministry. The State Auditing Commission, which found serious violations in the sector of housing distribution, has not managed to prove generals’ guilt.
3. Ideological factor. Russia has not yet created a national ideological doctrine. The system of values is too vague, and many soldiers do not understand whom they protect – oligarchs or people. In addition, foreign political positions linked with the withdrawal of troops from Kosovo and Bosnia undermine the president’s image.
In other words, the Army currently plays the role of the main guarantor of the president’s stability. Vladimir Putin’s positive image has strengthened in the Army. At the same time, there are some negative factors, which the Kremlin must take into consideration.