Let’s check the weaknesses of the Russian dictatorship using Gene Sharp’s checklist (“From Dictatorship to Democracy”, pp. 26–27).
The author observes the following weaknesses of dictatorships:
1. The cooperation of a multitude of people, groups, and institutions needed to operate the system may be restricted or withdrawn.
Dictators don’t need powerful civil society institutions. Prone to reducing the influence of people, their groups and institutions turn into dictator’s obsession. Lots of organizations in Russia are outlawed, declared extremists, or accused of spying for the USA and other states. On the other hand, people and groups needed to operate the state system leave Russia through economic, political, and other reasons, including international sanctions pressure.
2. The requirements and effects of the regime’s past policies will somewhat limit its present ability to adopt and implement conflicting policies.
Years of Putin’s regime “achievements”, broadly highlighted by the obedient TV shows all over Russia, predated the act of aggression on Ukraine. Ukrainian brutal resistance made the dictator change his previous plans, but not abandon them. Total withdrawal of the winning war plan equals Putin’s political death. Hence, Putin is trapped in his own inadequate ambitions.
3. The system may become routine in its operation, less able to adjust quickly to new situations.
The Russian state system is extremely rigid. Obsolete state institutions hardly adjust to new situations and challenges.
4. Personnel and resources already allocated for existing tasks will not be easily available for new needs.
The same faces are seen for years occupying top state and political positions. It seems that fresh faces and perspectives are commonly restricted. The state management system in nowadays Russia strives to become hereditary. On the other hand, the exported fossils and crude oil are precious and limited. Russian income from the export of primary raw materials and energy resources is still extremely high, but it utterly depends on the demand and usage of alternative sources in European countries. The economic sanctions imposed on Russia will gradually reduce the profitability of the respective export operations.
5. Subordinates fearful of displeasing their superiors may not report accurate or complete information needed by the dictators to make decisions.
That is exactly what has been happening in Russia for the last few years. The advisers to Putin and his closest surroundings have been significantly distorting the information for the dictator. We can observe the results in the Russian military and special service blunders during the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.
6. The ideology may erode, and myths and symbols of the system may become unstable.
Russian isolation due to the ongoing sanctions pressure, and domestic economic and social problems will have reached its peak by approximately 2025+. By that time Putin’s ideology will have also been eroded. Myths and symbols produced by Russian propagandists directors, artists, and writers and paid up by the state finances will have also been ruined as fakes.
7. If a strong ideology is present that influences one’s view of reality, firm adherence to it may cause inattention to actual conditions and needs.
Living in the bunker and experiencing hard limitations on the undistorted information input (Putin never uses the Internet and only a few people are allowed to visit him personally after being quarantined and tested) has implications for the dictator’s sense of reality.
8. Deteriorating efficiency and competency of the bureaucracy, or excessive controls and regulations, may make the system’s policies and operation ineffective.
Russia has an unprecedented level of corruption in all sectors that are cultivated and thoroughly secured by Russian public servants. The police and prosecutor violence is considered normal. The state managing system is vertical where civil servants are stimulated by fear and desire for profit.
9. Internal institutional conflicts and personal rivalries and hostilities may harm, and even disrupt, the operation of the dictatorship.
The closest aides to Putin and his personal friends are irreconcilable rivals for the dictator’s attention. Representing different financial and even criminal clans they are holding permanent hostilities and slandering each other. The consequences are seen in brutal mistakes and miscalculations made personally by the dictator.
10. Intellectuals and students may become restless in response to conditions, restrictions, doctrinarism, and repression.
In fact, they are leaving Russia right now. Those who prefer to stay participate in protest actions against the government and its politics. The others are afraid of punishment. The situation will drastically change when the dictator’s power finally weakens.
11. The general public may over time become apathetic, skeptical, and even hostile to the regime.
Domestic and foreign policy mistakes made by the dictator, and the ongoing Russian war of aggression against Ukraine will cause resentment and hostilities from the population of Russia facing a dramatic decline in income and living standards.
12. Regional, class, cultural, or national differences may become acute.
Russia with its 17+ million square kilometers is stitched of different nationalities that differ from each other more than have in common. Since they are not united by the well-being factors, the only thing fueled to maintain their integrity is an idea. No police measures are tough enough to keep the regime safe all over the enormously sized country. But as the idea (so-called «russian idea») dissolves with fatal mistakes of Putin’s policy, regional, class, cultural, and national differences will become acute.
13. The power hierarchy of the dictatorship is always unstable to some degree, and at times extremely so. Individuals do not only remain in the same position in the ranking, but may rise or fall to other ranks or be removed entirely and replaced by new persons.
The personnel policy of the Kremlin reveals the face of the dictatorship. Elderly and often addicted public servants are rather retained because of their loyalty and personal relations history than due to their professionalism. And sometimes they just disappear…
14. Sections of the police or military forces may act to achieve their own objectives, even against the will of established dictators, including by coup d’état.
In fact, it’s been already happening in Russia throughout the last few years. The failure of the dictator’s plans during the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine reveals the real goals of Russian generals that differ from the official Kremlin’s instructions.
15. If the dictatorship is new, time is required for it to become well established.
That’s the only point that the Russian dictatorship has already overcome. The construction of the dictatorship in Russia has been already accomplished.
16. With so many decisions made by so few people in the dictatorship, mistakes of judgment, policy, and action are likely to occur.
They do occur every day. According to the intelligence, Putin personally controls the warfare in Ukraine as well as did Hitler. Overconcentration of leverages in Putin’s personal hands on the background of his aged-related changes and suspected serious illnesses enforce significant miscalculations on the battlefield as well as in handling domestic social and economic matters.
17. If the regime seeks to avoid these dangers and decentralizes controls and decision making, its control over the central levers of power may be further eroded.
Facing the continued impact of the sanctions and total economic decline, amid arising social confrontations, the dictator may be forced to take some steps towards decentralization of his overall control. That will result in fatal consequences for the dictatorship. The same results are inevitable if further decision making will be concentrated even more brutally in the dictator’s hands.
We see that Putin’s dictatorship hit the jackpot: a total match to all the weaknesses of dictatorships described by Gene Sharp is revealed. Thus, the collapse of the dictatorship is predetermined and is only a question of time.