Tatiana Stanovaya explains why Putin won't go like Nazarbayev
In an article for the Carnegie Moscow Center, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya says Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s resignation won’t likely affect Vladimir Putin’s transition-of-power calculus in the way that many observers have speculated. She argues that Kazakhstan’s unique political traditions, elite structure, and society, not to mention the country’s fundamentally different geopolitical conditions, mean that Nazarbayev’s exit doesn’t work as a model for Putin, though the Kremlin will pay close attention to the response from local elites. Meduza summarizes Stanovaya's text below.
The announcement in Kazakhstan this week has re-energized questions in Russia about Putin similarly resorting to a radical government redesign after 2024, possibly allowing him to wield head-of-state influence from a modified State Council or some other remade agency. Political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya says this is unlikely, arguing that Nazarbayev’s approach is a poor fit both for Russia generally and Putin specifically.
For starters, Putin is probably reluctant to see himself as the Russian Nazarbayev, and prefers to view Nazarbayev as the Kazakh Yeltsin. In other words, Russia already managed its first post-Soviet transition of power, and Vladimir Putin is the happy result. Putin also lacks Nazarbayev’s enormous family, and his two daughters are largely hidden from the public eye, removing Kazakhstan’s family-dynasty component.
Most importantly, Putin’s “political coordinates” are totally different from Nazarbayev’s. The Russian president is a self-styled maverick and “geopolitical entrepreneur,” not a kindly “father of the nation.” Stanovaya has recently made this observation in other articles, as well, writing that the annexation of Crimea robbed Putin of “empathy” for his subjects, insofar as the Kremlin interpreted the decision’s popularity as a blank check to pursue foreign adventurism. As a result, Putin now largely ignores popular social demands and delegates almost all domestic policy. It is Putin’s achievements in foreign policy and his heroic role in the history books, Stanovaya argues, that he’s most afraid of losing in a mismanaged transition of power.
What about a collapse of the Putin regime at home? Stanovaya points out that the president has repeatedly rejected the “manual control” leadership foreign observers often attribute to his regime. It’s unlikely that Putin believes the Russian political system would collapse in his absence, which means he won’t resort to radical reforms before leaving politics. In other words, come 2024, the president will probably either amend his term limits or embark on another, new and improved tandem rule. In either event, reforms to the Constitution will be minimal, unlike in Kazakhstan.