In the current crisis, President Putin is able to take a number of drastic economic measures, and it is possible that he can steer the country in a different political direction, Richard Sakwa, the The Guardian's expert says.
"The oligarch class is deeply opposed to the imposition of capital controls, but the government may well soon be running out of other options. Exchange controls would greatly restrict the options of the business class, who until now have used western banks and various offshore holdings to manage their Russian investments and to limit their exposure to political risks emanating from the Russian regime. Thus capital controls represent a fundamental game-changer for the Putin system," the daily writes.
The policy of offshorisation and nationalization of the elites is accelerated by the sanctions and economic crisis as a whole. "Putin is commonly used actions of opponents to advance to their own purposes," Sakwa writes.
In his annual presidential address to the Federal Assembly on December 4, Putin "outlined the key challenges facing Russia in his trademark confident manner. In a rather surprising move, he indicated that rather than intensifying state controls, the crisis would force Russia to liberalise and to develop a more dynamic small and medium business sector by removing the deadweight of the bureaucracy. Above all, he suggested that Russia would not turn to the past for models of its future," the author notes.
In his opinion, the speech was a quite coherent and measured response to the current challenges for Russia. However, the Russian system is designed to preserve the inertia and operates within the framework of maintaining a balance between several factions. "The crisis may precisely force a breakout from the economic dead end and political stalemate to achieve a meaningful rejuvenation of the polity and the economy. Putin is a master at the unexpected feint and démarche, and as a result of this crisis he may well surprise us yet," suggests the author.
The Putin system exists due to the use of the various "materials to hand." According to Sakwa, Putin will not yield to Western pressure, but also he will not repeat the mistakes of the Soviet Union, delaying reforms too long and spending a lot of money on defense in response to the exaggerated threat from the West.
Now there are no ideological obstacles to reforms that would meet the expectations of the middle class. "This would mean more competitive elections and a more vibrant and pluralist public sphere. Stranger things have happened," concludes his article Sakwa.
It is to be recalled that another expert from the United States suggested that President Putin would not stop aggression, but it will make the country even more dependent on China, and the Russian Empire will collapse.