„A gigantic embarrassment for Russia and Putin” – an interview with Slawomir Majman, deputy director of the BiRM InstituteKrzysztof Jaworski
Krzysztof Jaworski: How do you assess the situation in Russia, can Prigozhin’s coup attempt shake the foundations of the state and lead to a change of power?
Sławomir Majman: First of all, what is happening now in Russia is absolutely shocking. You can imagine a group of mercenaries couping some small African country, say Comoros, but it’s very hard to imagine It’s hard to imagine in a country as big as Russia. Imagine that under the pressure of a group of mercenaries, state structures crumble before the eyes, the army disappeared. Itself in itself, this means a gigantic embarrassment to Russia, regardless of how this rebellion or attempted coup ends (at this point, the march of mercenaries to Moscow has been stopped, but it certainly does not mean the end of destabilization).
Secondly, Prigozhin himself is an extremely disgusting figure, a brutal, extremely primitive warlord. It can be assumed that its popularity increased because that he openly said that the king is naked. He told the words of truth about the Russian army, about corruption, about real victims, but this is a man whose hands are wet up to the elbows in blood. He is the last person to stage a coup or attempted coup for a better Russia. His Russia would be even worse, even more cruel. Just fascist.
Thirdly, we do not know how this Prigozhin row will end. It’s as much of a shock to Russians as it is to Western leaders, but we find out it shows how clumsy the Putin regime is. Nobody did what he had to do. The generals thought it was a series of harmless quarrels with a simpleton. Putin overslept too, it’s hard to say why. The local authorities turned out to be completely passive and it would all be a grotesque, operetta coup if it weren’t for one small detail, namely that the Russian leader has a button to the black box with a nuclear arsenal.
What was the attitude of the People’s Republic of China towards the events in Russia?
The last thing the People’s Republic of China could wish for is internal chaos in Russia. Despite China’s great caution when it comes to supporting Russian aggression, Russia is China’s strategic and ideological partner. And China is not interested in weakening Russia, no matter what various experts say on the subject, who believe that China is trying to dominate the Kremlin. Of course, there is no official position from Beijing on the coup, but what can be read on Chinese social media is, firstly, total surprise, and secondly, expressions of sympathy for Putin. Some Chinese observers even compare Prigozhin to the Chinese communists of the period of Japanese aggression, when the then Kuomintang government fought with Japan, and at that time communist troops in the back room were initiating riots and established their bases.
Russia has been a country shaken by revolutions and coups for centuries. Do you see in the current situation (with the caveat that the picture is still unclear) analogies to past revolutions in Russia?
I don’t really know what tradition of assassinations and coups belongs to the historical specificity of Russia. Yes, the tsar was strangled, there was the February revolution that overthrew the Romanov dynasty, and there was the October coup. It is better not to talk about the grotesque conspiracy that hastened Gorbachev’s downfall. Not much for 250 years of history, but you never know in advance either. Sometimes all it takes is a small group of determined people to change the course of history. Let me remind you that the great Russian poet Alexander Blok simply did not notice the October Revolution. The fact that a few guys with rifles stormed into the telegraph station and a few others took over a couple of public buildings didn’t stop him from having a quiet coffee with his friends. Today it is difficult to say what the rebels really mean and what their future fate will be, but perhaps at the beginning the enraged warlord wanted to teach the minister of defense and the chief of the general staff a lesson, and with the passing hours the ambitions could grow. Or maybe it’s the result of a more complicated intrigue.