Kolokoltsev’s Populist Lurch

Apparently these guys will save Russia from nasty "American-style democracy". Bless 'em

Apparently these guys will save Russia from nasty “American-style democracy”. Bless ’em

It’s sad to see a professional making like a populist, but presumably in a bid to fight back against the whispering campaign against him, and the efforts by hardliners to see First Deputy Interior Minister Zolotov fast-tracked into his position, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev has leapt on board the xenophobia bandwagon. Interviewed in RBK, he talked up the MVD’s successes in 2014, which was only to be expected, and then talked up the Interior Troops as a bulwark against efforts to implant evil foreign democracy, which was not. In his words,

“We see the tragic consequences that bedevil the country in which the experiment is conducted to graft on ‘American-style democracy’.. We see the collapse of their economies, a terrible social situation, the actual destruction of the state.”

Do I hear “Ukraine”? Of course no mention of the extent to which those terrible outcomes reflect not democratisation (and if “American-style democracy” is so bad, what about British- or German-) but the consequent active and armed destabilisation of said state by a malign and aggrieved next-door neighbour. In any case, as far as Kolokoltsev is concerned, “this will never, in any scenario, happen in the Russian Federation.” Why is that? Well, his main answer seems to be not because the Russian people wouldn’t stand for it, but because the Interior Troops are ready for rapid deployment to deal with any situation. Lovely: no democratisation here, because we have men with guns and sticks to make sure that doesn’t happen.

I honestly have no idea whether or not Kolokoltsev has always held these beliefs. He has essentially stayed away from wider political discussions, in keeping with his reputation as a serious and committed career policeman. I have never assumed he was some kind of closet liberal (let’s face it: very few senior cops anywhere are), but he has shown that he understands the need to reconstitute the social contract between police and the policed and has done nothing to prioritise political policing over law enforcement (that tends to fall to the FSB and Investigations Committee). These latest pronouncements are thus unusual and can only be understood as attempts to shore up his political flank and pitch himself as being a tough political enforcer. We’ll see not only if it works but whether it becomes more than just rhetoric, in which case the police reform programme is likely to become increasingly threadbare.

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  1. Good heads up ! Are there any metrics of his announced “Five Step” program visible? Is there actually a website with “sacked policemen”. ?

    • Mark Galeotti

       /  November 30, 2014

      No such website, alas. I understand that as well as a lack of enthusiasm within the MVD apparat, this also foundered on legal concerns, especially as often ‘sackings’ are handled by giving officers a ‘resign or be disciplined’ ultimatum. But the demilitarization process has continued and the quotas are being modified, so there has been progress. I honestly don’t know about the contracts.

  2. I wonder if this might also have a significance for the Russian Ultra-Right. Girkin recently claimed that there were orders NOT to take Mariupol–a failure far more easily explained by simple lack of experience on the part of Russian officers and conscripts. But it also puts Putin potentially in a bad, even traitorous light. Given the suppression of democratic forces in Russia, could the real battle soon be between a Putin simply trying to stay in power through the chimera of Novorossiya, and ‘true-believers’ who will accept nothing less than a Greater Russia?

    As usual, thanks for your excellent observations on these events.

    Here’s the Reuters link, BTW:

    • Mark Galeotti

       /  November 30, 2014

      There certainly is a competitive “race to the right” going on. I’m not so sure Putin himself is vulnerable (even Strelkov these days is careful not to criticize him), but certainly those below him are feeling the pressure…

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