The Danger After Putin

Exclusive: America’s neocons are lusting for their ultimate “regime change” destabilizing Russia and getting rid of President Putin but they ignore the likelihood that the leader after Putin would be a much more hardline nationalist, a prospect addressed by Gilbert Doctorow.

By Gilbert Doctorow

As in Soviet times, Russian taxi drivers remain among the best informed and eager interlocutors about the ins and outs of the country’s often opaque politics what we used to call “Kremlinologists” who would decipher who was rising or falling based on who was standing closest to whom at public events.

To show that “Kremlinology” is alive and well, the taxi drivers were speculating this week on the imminent removal of St. Petersburg Governor Georgi Poltavchenko because he was nowhere to be seen at the top shows of the Fourth International Cultural Forum, a major event in the old imperial capital which attracted the big bosses from Moscow who were everywhere.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But more significant to the West is the power line-up behind President Vladimir Putin if he were to leave office for whatever reason. For years now, American hardliners and particularly the neoconservatives have been lusting for “regime change” in Moscow, hoping that some malleable figure like the late President Boris Yeltsin would be put back on top.

However, as my well-informed taxi drivers tell me, the man one heart-beat away from Putin is Sergei Ivanov, who would make Putin look like a pussy-cat in dealing with the West.  And if not Ivanov, the next in line is likely Dmitry Rogozin, another fervent patriot and Kremlin favorite.

Despite what Russian dissidents Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Masha Gessen have been telling the readers of The New York Times, “regime change” in Moscow would almost surely not achieve the goal of a second Yeltsin era. Memories are still too fresh of the humiliating 1990s after the Soviet collapse when the West dispatched financial “experts” who prescribed capitalist “shock therapy” for the Russian system leading to a precipitous decline in living standards and an alarming rise in death rates.

What’s clear is that there are no “liberals” beloved of the West in Russia’s present Matryoshka doll of power, a message that Beltway insiders would do well to absorb. Not that there is any significant sign of public disapproval of Putin.

On the streets of St. Petersburg, the hoopla of the Cultural Forum was just a backdrop for the visit to the city by Putin, who has not been here for months, I was told. His expected appearance at opening ceremonies of the Forum was the talk of the town.

Russian media promoted the event to the domestic audience as the “Davos of Culture,” a reference to the renowned international business conference at Davos, Switzerland. There would be 9,000 visitors to concerts, dance performances and panel discussions led by curators, film directors and a lot of well-known art scholars.

The venues were concentrated in the General Staff building of the Hermitage on Palace Square but also spread out across the historic center of the city. The international dimension would come from diplomats and government officials from more than 40 countries.  If Europe would be woefully underrepresented (just Luxembourg was on the roster of participants), there would be a lot of Far Eastern worthies to make up the gaps.

Moreover, the biggest foreign presence was UNESCO-related, part of the 70th anniversary of that institution which just happens to be headed by a Russian-speaking graduate of the Moscow University for International Affairs, Irina Bokova from Bulgaria.

A vast number of little celebrities vied for an invitation to the closed events, while various “security organs” at local and federal levels tried to outdo themselves to ensure there were no incidents.

Some bright guys in these special services put so many hurdles in the path of issuing badges, with or without access to certain events (notably the ones with Putin), with or without holograms, that their computer system crashed, causing utter chaos in processing visitors from the general public, journalists and participants in the Forum.

The madness continued at the entrance to the Mariinsky-2 Theater, where the main opening ceremony was held Monday evening. Our printed invitations proved to be worthless. The end result was improvised violation of the system by the staff who were totally overwhelmed and pasted on the essential holograms to move folks along.

Once past the lines for re-accreditation, past the machine verification of access and the metal detectors, a surreal calm and note of elegant hospitality at the presidential level took over.  Flutes of champagne were distributed by radiant young staff.

Putin did not keep us waiting. He was first to speak on stage, delivering a brief salutation to the audience and making a quick exit. The two-hour ceremony was followed by a traditional Russian “walking dinner” as guests thronged and picked clean the passing trays of caviar and crab sandwiches.

For those who read into my account the suggestion that there are vulnerabilities in the presidential security, my best advice is to send in emails to the Kremlin urging Putin to yet again sack his security detail and bring in more clever folks. The last thing we all need is “regime change” in Russia.

Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator of the American Committee for East West Accord. His most recent book, Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015.


11 comments for “The Danger After Putin

  1. Not Ronald Raygun
    December 21, 2015 at 12:52

    To drive the article’s point home, here’s a brand new short video in which Dmitry Rogozin doesn’t cuddle with dolphins:

  2. Abe
    December 18, 2015 at 12:24

    Mein Führer, I can walk!

  3. Abbybwood
    December 18, 2015 at 05:39

    This is what I posted yesterday at

    “I was listening to Mark Levin today on his radio show (The Answer – AM) and he said the prime issue for the country is our DEBT ($70 TRILLION!!!). That is $70,000,000,000,000!!!! Of course, he is correct.

    And the ONLY candidate at the last Republican debate to bring up the DEBT was Rand Paul.

    Consider this article by Pat Buchanan:

    Rand Paul is the only real CONSERVATIVE who wants to stop with the stupid interventionist “regime change” quagmires and who wants to balance the budget, deal with the DEBT and who would actually be man enough to TALK WITH PUTIN and as a result he is the only candidate who TRULY gives a sh*t about the “security and safety” of the American people. AND he would take the oath of office VERY seriously: “To preserve, protect and defend the Constitution against ALL enemies both foreign AND DOMESTIC.”

    Rand Paul is not some “nuclear freakin’ cowboy” like Cruz “let’s see if we can make the sands in Syria GLOW” or Christie, “I would create a no-fly zone and shoot down Russian military jets that are flying in Syria (at the LEGAL invitation of Assad) and are creaming Daesh oil tankers flooding into Turkey” or Rubio or Bush or Fiorina who think along the same lines. (I should not forget Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders who also want to continue U.S. military interventions).

    If a presidential candidate truly wants to “preserve and protect and defend the Constitution” he/she will talk with Putin, will make sure ALL nuclear weapons are OFF hair-trigger and will STOP surrounding Russia with U.S. bases all around it in a quest for “full spectrum global hegemony/dominance!

    Rand Paul cares about the Constitution, the First Amendment, the Second Amendment and all the other Amendments! He is seriously aware of the DEBT. And he will be certain to protect the lives and security of the American people by dialouguing with Putin in order to PREVENT WW III which we can not afford with all our lives, our countries, our environment our economy and future generations!!! Duh.

    I am a registered Republican and have been one since 2007 when I wanted to vote for Ron Paul in the primary. If things continue as they are I will vote for Rand Paul (if he hangs in long enough to be on the ballot in California in June of 2016).

    If Mark Levine wants to harp about the DEBT and the Constitution, he should be singing the praises of Rand Paul!”

    Seriously. We are now talking about electing a president of the United States of America who is intent on bringing on nuclear war with Russia….(including Hillary Clinton and her Republican cohorts).

    This is freakin’ insanity folks!

    The question before all of the majority of us who just want to live in PEACE in a SANE world is…what can we do to stop the insanity??!

    Get the Republican candidates and the Democrat candidates and the entire U.S. Congress to go into THERAPY?!

    We are on the verge of global INSANITY! And Vladimer Putin is the most sane guy in the room?!

    I feel like I am living in some weird Stanley Kubrick movie!

    Make it stop! Make it stop!!!

  4. Dan Bushey
    December 18, 2015 at 00:34

    I well remember the “USA business experts” sent to Russia for purpose of show Russion peoples …how it’s done democracy and American Free Enterprise is”correctly done. But as I figured…it was a utter failure!
    Our government sent Ben and Jerry Ice creame to….”Show Russians how to make ice crea”… What a joke!!! I’m absolutely sure the Russian people know how to make ice cream!!

    Our Industrial captains….DESTROYED their manufacturing operations…sent millions of workers into financial despair and personal chaos.

    I wrote a letter to our State Department…send out-of-work American workers to Russia…work alongside them..But no American contract worker would displace a Russian worker. The idea was to one-on- one relationship to learn from an ordinary American CITIZEN…what we have as Free Men in the USA. Perhaps..our government doesn’t WANT the Russian people having American values.!!

    It is my belief…the ordinary Russian is alike us. As it is with our government, theirs has leaders that fail their citizen’s also. Sad, but true.

    During my job as a Over-TheThe-Road truck driver I met some Russian truck drivers. I liked them, and we had many good talks between us!! I drove in every lower 48 States, and eastern Provinces of Canada. Met many good people in my life.

    I’m rambling now….so should stop now.
    My Regards, Dan Bushey
    P.S. I just views the movie about Gary Stephen Webb. He las the man..lives on…in my memory, and his persistent will. I thank him… and his friends. Dan.

  5. Abe
    December 17, 2015 at 23:15

    Doctorow refers to notorious oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and irrelevant propaganda banshee Masha Gessen as “Russian dissidents”.

    It is doubtful that Doctorow heard that charming assessment from one of his “well-informed taxi drivers”.

    Back in 2011, F. William Engdahl reported on the true reason why Putin arrested and imprisoned the former head of Russia’s largest private oil giant, Yukos:

    at the tender age of 40 had risen to become the richest man in Russia worth some $15 billion by fraudulent acquisition of state assets during the lawless Yeltsin era. In an auction run by his own bank, Khodorkovsky paid $309 million for Yukos. In 2003 the same company was assessed as worth $45 billion, and not owing to Khodorkovsky’s management genius.

    In 1998, Khodorkovsky had been let free in a US case where he was charged with helping launder $10 billion with his own bank and the Bank of New York. He had very influential friends in the US it appeared […]

    But there was more. Khodorkovsky built some impressive ties in the West. With his new billions in effect stolen from the Russian people, he made some powerful friends. He set up a foundation modeled on US billionaire George Soros’ Open Society, calling it the Open Russia Foundation. He invited two powerful Westerners to its board—Henry Kissinger and Jacob Lord Rothschild. Then he set about to develop ties with some of the most powerful circles in Washington where he was named to the Advisory Board of the secretive private equity firm, Carlyle Group where he attended board meetings with fellow advisors such as George H.W. Bush and James Baker III.

    However, the real crime that landed Khodorkovsky behind Russian bars was the fact that he was in the middle of making a US-backed coup d’etat to capture the Russian presidency in planned 2004 Russian Duma elections. Khodorkovsky was in the process of using his enormous wealth to buy enough seats in the coming Duma elections that he could change Russian laws regarding ownership of oil in the ground and of pipelines transporting same. In addition he planned to directly challenge Putin and become Russian President. As part of the horse trade that won Putin the tacit support of the wealthy so-called Russian Oligarchs, Putin had extracted agreement that they be allowed to hold on to their wealth provided they repatriate a share back into Russia and provided they not interfere in domestic Russian politics with their wealth. Most oligarchs agreed, as did Khodorkovsky at the time. They remain established Russian businessmen. Khodorkovsky did not.

    Moreover, at the time of his arrest Khodorkovsky was in the process of negotiating via his Carlyle friend George H.W. Bush, father of the then-President George W. Bush, the sale of 40% of Yukos to either Condi Rice’s former company, Chevron or ExxonMobil in a move that would have dealt a crippling blow to the one asset left Russia and Putin to use for the rebuilding of the wrecked Russian economy: oil and export via state-owned pipelines to the West for dollars. During the ensuing Russian state prosecution of Yukos, it came to light that Khodorkovsky had also secretly made a contract with London’s Lord Rothschild not merely to support Russian culture via the Open Russia Foundation of Khodorkovsky. In the event of his possible arrest (Khodorkovsky evidently knew he was playing a high-risk game trying to create a coup against Putin) the 40% share of his Yukos stocks would pass into the hands of Lord Rothschild.

    The Real Crime of M. Khodorkovsky

  6. dahoit
    December 17, 2015 at 17:22

    I saw hints from the author that he was Russophobic,hinting at Soviet style purges of officials,and making Russian nationalists as a danger to US,when nationalists concern themselves with their own nation,unlike the true monsters US ,our proxies and masters,who wreak havoc globally.
    Americans have absolutely no business judging any modern nations mores,with the complete collapse of our own.
    Yankee come home.

  7. Anthony Shaker
    December 17, 2015 at 15:34

    The West (US, Britain and France) was delighted with a dancing, drunk clown like Yeltsin in power. Western leaders eased him into power and conferred amicably with him to show what a glorious future awaited East-West relations.

    To be sure, they should be very careful about what they wish for after Pres. Putin finally steps down. They may be hoping now for another Yeltsin ass to be Russian president sooner, but instead of an ass in Moscow they are liable to get an ass in Washington in the person of Donald Trump. Vladimir Putin is already grooming him.

    Putin really looked like he was enjoying himself at his state of the nation address today. The North Atlantic alliance has become a burlesque show that would put Yeltsin to shame. The signs of collective senility and fatigue are everywhere, especially in the United States. There are no more leaders.

    This is quite alarming, because the next natural reflex to the mounting instability may well take the form of brute force minus civil liberties. Brute force is what the fascist option gave the panic-stricken elites of Europe as an instrument of survival between the two world wars. European societies, we forget, collapsed twice in the 20th century, collectively speaking.

    Fortunately, the world is not the huge mess of peoples and lands that it once was under the heels of colonial empires.

  8. Bart
    December 17, 2015 at 15:00

    Readers should solicit balancing views from the NYTimes to counter the monthly op-eds from Masha Gessen.

    • incontinent reader
      December 17, 2015 at 15:18

      Nice thought, but I suspect that if the Times were to agree, it would use someone like Tom Friedman, David Shipler, Andrew Kramer or Neil MacFarquhar (or, god knows, how many other of its MAI (‘made as instructed’) pseudo-journalists as Gessen’s foil to spew out the same nonsense. Face it, the Times is beyond hopeless.

      • elmerfudzie
        December 18, 2015 at 23:14

        Incontinent Reader, aside from Mr Doctorow’s gab about Russia’s Nomenklatura, old or new, your Times comment could easily extend to the WSJ. Recent articles emphasize Putin’s sheepish response to Turkey and his so called “defeat” in the Ukraine crisis. The facts are these, Putin knows that Erdogans’ days in office are numbered and therefore, for both the sake of diplomatic and long term economic alliances, any rough stuff is clearly off the table. Secondly, I must interject something about the article’s completely diversionary statement regarding security vulnerabilities? total, clap-trap. Let’s get real, the Russians have a matchless, “all purpose” electronic jamming device that can block or interfere with every sort of radio frequency related to military communication between satellite and ground troops, aircraft to aircraft as well as weapons guidance systems. The battle readiness of a US naval vessel in the area and two Israeli fighter aircraft in Syrian airspace were subjected to it’s effects, needless to say, they left the designated Russian-Syrian operating theater zone, immediately!

    • December 17, 2015 at 19:10

      Readers would be better served by just ignoring anything her and her ilk say. That’s a lot easier on the brain, believe me.

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