The Domodedovo bombing has undoubtedly shaken up last week’s political scene in Russia. Of course, the attack has many interpretations and many lessons to draw from. I refrain from commenting on ever-surfacing opinions that the whole terror wave in Russia was in fact orchestrated by some murky state structures to allow a tighter grip on regions and further disrespect of human rights. A sober assessment dissmisses these assumptions. In fact, the aftermath of the attack is much more interesting from our point of view than the question of the whodunit. The actions taken by President Medvedev seem to confirm our point made earlier about the safe game we are likely to see this year before the election. Other than that, it will be interesting to see how all the questions put by the growing threat of terror will shape Russian politics only a bit more than a year before the presidential election. And also, who will solve them.
The apparently imminent surge of nationalism and North Caucasian terrorism in Russia in itself raises some serious problems which alone would be worth a blogpost. First of all, it is obvious that the new North Caucasus policy of the government, instated a year ago has so far failed to produce the tiniest result. Even though it may be comfortable before an election to be able to directly point at the enemy (the police was quick to state that, against earlier proofs, the suicide bomber was indeed a North Caucasian), things get pretty complicated once you win the vote. The President (and the 2012 presidential candidate, with the concession that they might be the same) faces an enormous puzzle: what if the economy-based solution doesn’t work because the region lacks stability, and the policy of strong hands doesn’t work either, because impoverished people are absorbed by terrorist gangs? Does the Kremlin have anything else up its sleeve? And what if I add that it will need to wrestle an alarming nationalist upsurge at the same time?
It is obvious – at least from the numerous divergent opinions on this topic – that it will matter who is in charge for these issues. So, who will be? Let’s return to the gordian knot of power structures.
One of the highlights of last week in the Russia-watching blogosphere was the publication of an excellent update on who’s who in the clan jungle of Russian politics on Sublime Oblivion’s site. If you stroll through these charts, which I largely agree with, you will be able to draw the easy conclusion that civiliki took over practically the whole of the monetary and fiscal realm of Russia with siloviki still having most of the strongholds in energy, in law enforcement and in intelligence. The judiciary is some kind of a shared field, and I have serious doubts about the civiliki looking at United Russia as something to conquer rather than something to defeat.
It is more or less known that the interior ministry has been chosen as the next prey of the civiliki. This was made obvious by the sudden eruption of police scandals two years ago, and the subsequent tabling of a President-sponsored police reform, with the government’s trying to raise public awareness at a previously unseen level. In spite of all this, the law, adopted this week by the State Duma was deprived of its reform qualities.
This is where the Domodedovo blast comes into the picture. Many noted that Medvedev, quick to fire some second-grade police officers, was considerably smoother to power structures that actually should have prevented the attacks. The Moscow Times notes, for example that neither the head of FSB, Alexander Bortnikov nor the interior minister Rashid Nurgaliyev were “grilled” after the attacks. The President clearly chose to be very careful with the siloviki.
Of course, this careful approach may be attributed to 2011 and more importantly, 2012 being election years with Medvedev trying to secure as much support as he can possibly get from every power group. I have also elaborated on that before. In this case, of course, the takeover of the interior ministry is likely to happen only next year or the year after.
But will it?
I cannot help tying these recent developments to the widely embraced theory of the tandem being Brezhnev and Gorbachev, the hardliner and the moderniser at the same time. What if the aforementioned distribution of duties is a part of this arrangement? What if, rather than a gradual democratisation that some suggest, the tandem’s plan is a Russia of a gradual economic mobilisation, only achievable through a civiliki-controlled economy, but at the same time, a stable Russia, only achievable through a siloviki-controlled law-enforcement, with a shared control over strategic resources?
Could it be that Russia learned something from China?