The Russian leader knows the “new guard” of veterans haven’t been tainted by a life’s worth of Western-leaning sympathies unlike most of the “old guard” political and economic elite, whose naivete about the West led to them misleading him about its intentions and thus played role in the events leading up to the special operation.
President Putin shared his vision of a new veteran-led Russian elite in late January when meeting with ministers and top St. Petersburg officials according to RT’s report about their conversation:
“The Russian head of state previously revealed that some 617,000 service members had been deployed in Ukraine. ‘I met today with students, who put their studies on hold, many of them, [and] went to the warzone,’ Putin remarked. ‘It’s out of these people that we should be forming the country’s elite in the future,’ he added. The Russian head of state described returning troops as those who can be entrusted with the country’s development. ‘Hence, they should be supported [and] assisted.’”
Here are five background briefings about the ways in which the Russian leader has sought to reshape his country’s domestic affairs by way of reforming its elite:
* 1 January 2020: “20 Years Of Putin: His Top Domestic & Foreign Policy Successes”
* 28 October 2020: “President Putin’s 2020 Valdai Club Speech Articulated His Vision of Populist Statism”
* 4 November 2021: “Is Putin’s ‘Healthy/Moderate/Reasonable Conservatism’ Really a New Russian Ideology?”
He basically wants to facilitate the rise of patriotic conservative-nationalists who’ll prioritize sovereignty and seamlessly channel the people’s will in order to continue safeguarding and modernizing the country.
The special operation, which has gone on for much longer than both sides expected due to each of them underestimating the other as explained here back in July 2022, led to over half a million Russians proving their patriotism by defending Russia’s national interests on the battlefield. These can be summarized as preserving its sovereignty, protecting its conservative–nationalist values, and promoting multipolarity. They’re accordingly the best crop of people to gradually replace the existing elite.
Up until the special operation, Russia’s political and economic elite privileged the West over the Global South, which was done for reasons of convenience and familiarity. Director of the Foreign Policy Planning Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alexei Drobinin shared his detailed thoughts on “The lessons of history and vision for the future” in August 2022 where he lambasted this class for their “ideological separation from the popular masses” over the centuries. All of that has now changed.
While most existing members of the elite were able to change their stripes by pivoting to the Global South in light of changing circumstances, it’s much better for them all to be replaced by proven patriotic conservative-nationalists who literally put their lives on the line fighting the West. The latter are much more politically reliable and can more easily adapt to everything than the “old guard”, who either fled or were compelled to change their ways in order to keep what they’d obtained thus far in their lives.
The “new guard” is just starting off with their lives, however, and have little to lose but lots to gain by growing within this new elite system. The Russian leader also knows that they haven’t been tainted by a life’s worth of Western-leaning sympathies unlike most of the “old guard”, whose naivete about the West led to them misleading him about its intentions. He’s responsible for his policy choices, but they were arguably influenced by Western-leaning advisors. Here are five background briefings on this:
* 8 December 2022: “Merkel’s Admission That Minsk Was Just A Ruse Guarantees A Protracted Conflict”
* 24 December 2022: “Putin Explained Why He Had No Choice But To Protect The Russian Population In Ukraine”
* 26 December 2022: “The Five Ways In Which 2022 Completely Changed Russian Grand Strategy”
* 20 December 2023: “Putin’s Admission Of Naivety About The West Signals His New Stance Towards Peace Talks”
The lesson that he learned is that he can no longer rely on the existing elite after their pre-special operation paradigm of International Relations was comprehensively debunked. That’s not to say that there don’t exist any patriotic conservative-nationalists within the elite whose previously fringe views were proven right by events, nor that some previously Western-leaning ones didn’t sincerely change their stripes, but just that he’s obviously uncomfortable with how few there are within their ranks.
President Putin couldn’t in good conscience hand the country off to whoever his successor may be without knowing that the “new guard” is actively in the process of replacing the “old guard”. To be sure, this is already underway, but he wants to accelerate it as much as possible and that’s why he explicitly said in late January that he envisages a veteran-led elite in the coming future. Just like Moscow wasn’t built in a day, so too will it take time to rebuild the Russian elite, but thankfully they’re off to a solid start.