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What if Vladimir Putin were killed tomorrow?
As distasteful as the question might seem, it should not be ignored by a nation that could crumble without him
The possibility of Putin’s assassination is not just a figment of our imagination. As many as seven assassination attempts have been apparently made on Putin, with the most recent one being on February 27 this year, perpetrated by an Islamist rebel leader DokuUmarov from Chechnya.
As we mentioned above, however distasteful the question might seem, Russia should not ignore the consequences of such an occurrence. It’s what doomsday forecasters would call Plan C. If Putin were to suddenly get lifted off the map, the situation will quite evidently catch Russia completely off-guard and place the nation on the brink of chaos. It’s not a question of “who will get the nuclear launch codes if Putin is not there?” It’s more a question of who has a strong enough influence to ensure on one hand that Russia’s disparate parts stay united, and on the other to drill into its citizens that Russia will continue to be as stable, if not more, under new leadership.
That’s the footprint of Putin’s influence in the Kremlin’s polity, especially in the backdrop of a weak opposition, nascent democratic institutions and the dearth of a successor. Forecasting the disaster, Masha Lipman from Moscow Carnegie Center asserts, “A key point in Putin’s campaign is that there is no alternative to Putin and without Putin, the country will collapse. Putin is the guarantor of stability and his campaign comes down to this.”
Even when it comes to US, as many as four of its Presidents were killed, including Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. The former’s death plunged the nation into chaos while Kennedy’s assassination led the nation into public riots, soaring crime rates and the general failure of law & order across various states. Like Lincoln and Kennedy, Putin is indispensable for Russia, and one can only wonder about the calamity that would get precipitated if such an eventuality were to occur!
An immensely popular YouTube clip, earlier this year, featured snippets called “Russia Without Putin. Welcome to Hell”. It talks about a tattered country without Putin, how Russia will spiral downwards and out of control and how hundreds of political parties will emerge! The video speculates on a face-off between nationalists and liberals and also the possibility of the nuclear arsenals falling into American hands and the North Caucasians opting out of the country! The YouTube clip, which was catapulted into the limelight with 800,000 views in just a few months, was blocked for reasons that are not too hard to decipher!
Even though Putin’s image does possess elements of censure, nobody wants the baton to be passed onto somebody else, as there is nobody to take it. And that means, not even Medvedev! As Russian watchers have long pointed out, he is nothing more than a protégé and a puppet of Putin. Medvedev’s fortunes seemingly rose with the help of his pro-West stand, and it was speculated that he was coming out of Putin’s shadow. But his tame give-in to Putin in the presidential race has blunted all speculation.
Putin has also created an intricate balancing act among various clan groups inside Kremlin, which, without him, will come face to face with a tremendous amount of uncertainty and may even fall apart. And one hasn’t even started talking about the most infamous Russian mafia, which, until Putin came along, was having its freest run post the Yeltsin period. For more good than for worse, Putin’s strong arm presence has forced extremist groups to quieten up. Industrial growth is stable, per capita incomes are up; and all in all, Russia is in much better position right now under Putin than it ever was.
Some say that Putin’s position is similar to that of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, whose demise would mean a precipitous fall for the entire nation. Chavez, like Putin, has no successor either.
Without a typical democratic system that lays its governance on processes than on singular leaders, and without even the typical communist party governance system – as is there in China – Russia has a potentially volcanic issue that needs to be addressed too urgently.
By:- Sayan Ghosh
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