Sanctions against Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine are likely already causing resentment among Russia's elite and, if left to unchecked, may lead to a change in policy by the Kremlin, former diplomat Harri Tiido says.
Russian society will weather the current sharp inflation sparked by the crisis and the collapse of the Ruble as the economic effects of sanctions start to bite, Tiido, a former Estonia ambassador to Finland, said, at least in the shorter term.
"Russian resilience is quite different from that in the West, where people come out on to the streets when there has been no hot water for two days," Tiido told ETV special broadcast "Ukraina stuudio" on Monday.
"They'll hold out for a while," he added.
However, even in Russia there comes a tipping point, he added.
"It will be useful if the Russian economy faces new difficulties [due to the sanctions], for example, especially in technology transfer. If the economy and living standards fall further, maybe a critical point will be met somewhere," Tiido said.
Many of the sanctions imposed on Russia are intended for the long term, Tiido added, and will take time to take effect.
"I would also put technological sanctions in place. If, for instance, Taiwan announced that it would no longer sell microchips to Russia, 90 percent of which are produced there, it could have quite a painful effect," he said.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin may not know what is really going on in the country, since he is being provided with selective information, Tiido added.
Oligarchs and other rich Russians' assets, at least in Europe, are already being catalogued, Tiido added, and if these get frozen, that segment of society could become restless; a danger evidenced by the act that Putin has his own "Imperial Guard", the National Guard of Russia, or Rosgvardiya, – 340,000 soldiers who would protect him personally, if things got out of hand at home.
At the same time, while middle and lower-class unrest can be staved off via the security apparatus, this is harder to accomplish in the case of the elite, Tiido added.
The fact that some oligarchs, such as Mikhail Fridman, have already spoken out against the war, could give rise to hope that cracks may start to appear in the facade, Tiido added.
Editor: Andrew Whyte