Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Russia is the enemy Part II

In order to continue let me add some adjustments and definitions. Also I would like to explain my personal feeling towards object of analysis.

Putin's instincts are not democratic as I said. It does not mean that I attached negative meaning to it and presume definite consequences. Democratic values is Western invention on basis of liberal ideology. It means Putin intentions are not Western naturally, that's all, nothing more. Another question is whether the ruler with undemocratic tendencies may actually contribute to transition of his country from communism to democracy. Historians were interested in Chilean and Spanish experience in XX century.

I also found in Part I one unsubstantiated statement about Lukoil, I just add it as a fictional example. In fact I don't know what exactly will happen with Lukoil owners, very probably nothing scary. Lukoil management was clever enough to survive in chaotic Yeltsyn era and under Putin regime. Lukoil was one of quasi state companies, the same as Gazprom, but its managers could privatize it fully. They showed deep loyalty to Kremlin and readiness to finanse various social projects and perhaps reelection campaigns. This feature of quasi state companies a la "blue chips" any investor in Russian stocks should bear in mind. The last and final owner of such companies is Kremlin, who can put on them unexpected burden any time. Though recently some investors convinced themselves that Kremlin (read Putin) ownership of blue chips is good for stock market.

Then I would like to explain my interest in covering Putin and Russian theme. My interests (and work) lie far from them, first letter was improvisation and caused a sort of embarrassment for continuation. From what angle I should write on this topic? I have not been collecting any relevant information and I have got only my memory and few academic articles like Putin and The Middle East by Robert O. Freedman. Run of the mill publications in press do not help much because of ideologically conditioned noises. So I would warn readers about my possible mistakes and misjudgments.

To start with let's return to his handling of crises. In NTV saga Putin wanted to reassert control over information channels (everybody knows that in modern world any ruler has to control information flows and in Europe and America ruling elites tightly control mass media). NTV had talented staff unfortunately misused by Mr Gusinsky for personal gains (the same applies to Mr Berezovsky who controlled ORT). Mr Putin tried to win journalists over but to no avail. He tried to convince them that his strategy is good for Russia, they did not listen, accused him in authoritarianism and even found protector in Mr Gorbachev.

After 6 years his strategy proved to be good for Russia (on the whole with some mixed results, more about them later), journalists in part emigrated, in part found new jobs and quarrel basically with each other.

Numerous crises like Kursk highlighted problems of Russian state but Putin can acquit himself they were not his misdeeds, most were accumulated from Soviet and Yeltsyn time.

Putin came to power on nationalist feelings and he suffers if he could not protect ordinary citizens. However strong pressure would be he did not bend as Nord Ost tragedy showed.    

If Putin won't change Constitution his rule will last till spring 2008.
Next comes perhaps questionable description of results of his rule from usual Russian point of view. Who are Putin's friends and rivals?

Oligarchs like Berezovsky, Gusinsky, Khodorkovsky were discredited, went into exile or jail. Kasyanov, Khakamada, Yavlinsky, other democrats copy party materials from each other trying to steal few left supporters. Communists in disarray, their leader Mr Zyuganov is simply unelectable like Mr Heyg (probably I mispelled his name) from Conservative party in UK.

Two critical voices today belong to Mr Illarionov and Mr Kasparov. About political acumen of former chess champion Russians don't know much, I've heard he was columnist in Wall Street Journal, American version of Financial Times. I have read some of WSJ staff and was surprised by highly ideological and propaganda content, useless for business executives.
Mr Illarionov credibility has suffered from his manipulation with statistics and doubtful comparisons (like correspondence between level of political freedom and economical growth).

Putin's friends and supporters we can range on three categories. Firstly come faceless siloviks from St Petersburg with KGB background. Secondly there are some liberals with imperialist mind. Thirdly there are armies of bureaucracy, eternal participants of fair-weather parties. There are rumours, speculations of turf wars between these groups but nothing came public. They know very well to what extent they can air disagreements and grievances.

Cultivated by Putin spirit of deep loyalty to ruling regime was complemented by mixed efficiency in use of supporters.

Take Yeltsyn era prime ministers. Mr Chernomyrdin was sent as envoy to Ukraine and successfully ruined Russian-Ukraine relations. Former vicepremier Mr Nemtsov famous for stupid outbursts like giving his mobile number to Japanese businessmen who would want to invest in Russia also found passion for Ukrainian politics supporting anti Russian forces.

Mr Chubais is sitting pretty in United Energy Systems. Mr Kirienko (who as 29 years old prime minister declared default in 1998) was given job as representative in Volga region then was appointed as Minatom head and now talk up Iranians. Mr Primakov retired flexing his muscles only for his old Muslim contacts. Yeltsyn and his family, Gorbachev and other failures turned into Hello celebrities. They were treated by Putin with respect. Even Lenin's embalmed body still lies in Mausoleum on Red Square perhaps left in the same place on unconscious spiritual reasons.      

There were some speculations that Putin's aides Mr Ivanov (defense minister) and Mr Medvedev (head of Gazprom) are contenders for 2008 elections with the former having upper hand despite mishandling of Sychev case and mixed results in reshaping Russian army. These were political up-to-date results of Putin's presidency.

To be continued

by FarEasterner on Mon May 8th, 2006 at 12:01:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Others have rated this comment as follows:


Occasional Series