Putin has a patriotism problem

That is really interesting, because I thought you were going to say that, if Putin started to ask too much of the Russian people, his whole deal with the people would falter. But what you actually said was that there’d be this harder-edged Russian nationalism that could get out of hand.

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A shift to mobilization and getting people politically engaged would be a major shift. This trend of demobilization and keeping people away from politics is habitual, and it has been in place for more than twenty years now. With mass mobilization, we would see younger people attempt to leave the country, which has already been happening ever since the invasion by those who wanted to avoid the draft. And a move toward mobilization would entail further tightening of the regime, which is pretty repressive as is. The Kremlin would try to preëmpt any kind of reaction along the lines of public anger, public protests, people who don’t want to go die coming together to oppose the government policy. Any kind of mobilization would actually be accompanied by a policy to prevent such a reaction.

The Kremlin has also always been concerned about the far right. Around ten years ago, the Kremlin launched a campaign against radical nationalists, especially those who tended to be violent. Many of them were tried and sentenced to long terms in jail. If we look back at 2014 and 2015, the period right after the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the war in the Donbas, there was a period when propaganda was mobilizing, pugnacious, with certain characters on television who were hysterical. That had the effect of stirring activism, with Russian men going to fight in the Donbas and the situation getting out of control. But the Kremlin did not want those people to go and fight there on their own initiative. When one of them, a man known as Igor Strelkov, began to rise as almost a national hero in certain constituencies, the Kremlin scaled it down. Those hysterical figures were removed from television, and things were back under control again. I think we have some evidence that the Kremlin does not want any emotions that might get out of control and motivate people to act independently.

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