Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Is Russia in danger of a Chekist coup?

An interesting opinion piece appears in today’s Moscow Times penned by Anders Aslund. Aslund draws parallels between the succession which will take place when Dmitry Medvedev assumes the role of President of the Russian Federation this year and the situation which pertained in 1991 when members of the Soviet government launched a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev.

His premise is that the ex-KGB elite promoted to power under Putin will be victims of the changeover and indeed already effectively no longer enjoy their mentor’s patronage. The diminution of power for the security organs and their ex-members could cause a coup.

Although Aslund is correct in identifying that both situations have in common a security elite threatened with substantially diminished influence, it is a leap too far to compare the succession of the new president with 1991. At that time the KGB’s influence was not the only prescient factor in fomenting the coup. The structures of the Union were being changed and the Soviet Union was slowly imploding structurally and economically. Russia is a much more stable and affluent society presently and it is unlikely that anything as dramatic as Aslund hints at will take place.

Although the article is rather dramatic, it is an interesting analysis of the various factions and powerbases in Putin’s Kremlin and the effect the re-ordering of power may have on them.

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