Vladimir Putin is done as a legitimate leader of Russia. Not because he’s failed to make Russia a showcase for democracy, not because of perceived or actual human rights violations at home or abroad, not because of the rampant corruption within the regime which seems to be getting worse in recent years, not even because he and his party just tried to steal an election, nor a combination of all the above. Vladimir Putin is no longer the legitimate ruler of Russia because he couldn’t run an election in a professional Chekist way.
It may sound cynical to say that the failure to steal an election professionally and quietly undermines the legitimacy of Putin’s rule, but it is true, in a crucial and fundamental way. As everyone and their babushka knows Putin’s regime rests on the security services of the former Soviet Union, at the core of which was the former KGB, the Chekists. Putin was from the KGB’s foreign service, from Leningrad now St. Petersburg, both important points to keep in mind in order to understand the power structure which constituted the grid for his regime. Putin’s failure to covertly carry out fraudulent elections, to have not only Russia but the whole world witness a gross and bungling operation on such a scale is devastating, perhaps even deadly, to his Chekist credentials. After all tradecraft and respect for it makes the man, in Putin’s now former Profession.
The fallout and recriminations among his Chekist comrades will soon begin. Three possibilities exist:
1. Putin will be retired one way or the other.
2. There will be an internal struggle among various Chekist factions, which may have some horrific public manifestations, recall the carnage of the Moscow apartment bombings.
3. Putin and the Chekists will attempt to regroup, swear allegiance to their Chekist roots, retreat into the Kremlin and behind Lubyanka’s walls, plan and launch operations domestically and abroad, which will likely prove futile against the gathering storm outside those walls, (or Matt Drudge may finally get his apocalypse).
Putin’s election debacle is the culmination of a tragedy on an epic scale for Russia and the World. For despite his domestic and foreign critics Putin had the potential to go down in history as one of Russia’s greatest leaders. Putin did many things right in his first years. He was the embodiment of a strong leader who led Russia’s resurgence at home and abroad.
But he had one great and glaring flaw, an inability to honestly address the legacy of the KGB, the Cheka. The professionalism, intelligence, and yes even integrity, (bless yourself) of the KGB Chekists saved Russia from collapse and anarchy in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet it was incumbent on the Chekist elite and whoever arose to lead them to transcend the Chekist based state they established.
Putin needed to identify what truly constituted a source of legitimacy for the Russian state. Was it Orthodoxy? Was it Russia’s Great Cultural and Intellectual Achievements? The deep and sorrowful Russian Soul? Or a Trilogy of the three? Whatever he chose it needed to be more grounded in the Russian people and their suffering, tribulations, and triumphs than the Grand Inquisitor.
Putin can still survive but not as a legitimate leader only as an illegitimate ruler. His regime will become increasingly brutal and tyrannical until it collapses under the weight and excess of its own misdeeds. History will not chronicle the Age of Vladimir the Great, but Putin the Pretender.