Skip to comments.Vladimir Putin's return ends pathetic charade
Posted on 10/05/2011 8:22:43 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
THE prevailing wisdom is that Vladimir Putin's return to the Russian presidency is bad news. That may be, but there is also reason to welcome his not-so-surprising Kremlin homecoming, because it will remove the fiction of Russian reform and modernisation that the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev represented.
This in turn should allow US and European policymakers to see the country as it is, rather than as they would prefer to imagine it.
For the past several years, Putin has served, nominally, as Prime Minister under Medvedev. Medvedev assumed the presidency in 2008 as part of a carefully choreographed process by which Putin anointed Medvedev as his successor.
In keeping with expectations, Putin then remained Russia's paramount leader while serving as Prime Minister, calling the shots on virtually all issues of consequence.
While the outside world became consumed with the Kremlin's theatre, the two principals were clear about the charade. In announcing his future return to the presidency on September 24, Putin said: "I want to say directly: an agreement over what to do in the future was reached between us several years ago."
Medvedev called the switch "a deeply thought-out decision".
This purposely ambiguous arrangement allowed both domestic and foreign audiences to project their hopes onto the Russian leadership.
The West, after years of dealing solely with Putin's assertive and often belligerent persona, welcomed a more friendly interlocutor in the form of Medvedev. This good cop/bad cop dynamic quickly took hold, with the youthful, soft-spoken, modernising Medvedev playing the foil to the stern, inscrutable Putin.
In July 2009, shortly before he was to meet with Putin for the first time in Russia, US President Barack Obama criticised him for his "Cold War approaches" to relations with the US, saying Putin had "one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new". While undoubtedly true, this comment was apparently designed to sharpen a distinction between Putin and Medvedev, with the hope of encouraging the latter's supposed ambitions to modernise. In hindsight, it is clear the distinction was illusory, and the US strategy was misguided.
Democracy watcher Freedom House's recent findings put the Medvedev era into perspective. Russia's performance on democratic accountability grew progressively worse during each year of Medvedev's presidency. Civil society and judicial independence were eroded. Rampant corruption continued unabated.
While Medvedev has routinely cited the need for dramatically improving the rule of law in Russia, no discernible gains have been achieved.
Meanwhile, despite much talk of creating a more hospitable business environment, Russia today ranks 143rd out of 179 on the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom. It ranks 154th out of 178 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.
The door is now open for a reset that focuses on the institutional realities - rather than the political stagecraft - of an entrenched authoritarian system.
The sooner US and European policymakers come to terms with the prospect of at least 12 more years of Putinism and devise policies to deal with this challenge, the better for everyone.
Broadly speaking, the democracies should end their self-censorship on the systematic abuses of civil rights in Russia. Their messages to Russia should include stronger backing for the democracies of central and eastern Europe - allies that have seen their interests overshadowed by Russia's relations with the US, Germany and other influential Western powers.
Putin's return threatens to consign Russia to a decade or more of political stagnation and growing corruption. If recent events in the Middle East are any guide, such prolonged decay could end in crisis and upheaval.
For Russians and anyone hoping to do business there under more favourable conditions, the next chapter of the Putin era will bring more bad news.
The West must now set aside its wishful thinking and confront the challenges of an authoritarian leadership whose only plan for the future is to dig in its heels.
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It's more alive now than ever; it's seeds are everywhere, even in the White House.
Put me on the list. The Cold War never really ended.
If you look at a picture of the “Leaders” at a UN summit you see phsycotic serial killers who hide behind the PC title of their cultures.
Because we have Erkel the PC Idiot as our current leader? Only the 2nd Amendment and the few people who understand it's purpose will save this country from the mad-men & fools who occupy the top seats of governments across the globe.
...love the handle.
Breshnev would have been, except for the extra 100 lbs, bad lungs, vodka thing, and being flabby.
What do you expect from Soviet Russia. Some days you eat the bear, some days, the bear eats you.
I do hope this doesn't screw up my trip to the aerodrome where they have all the old Soviet aircraft.
I am looking forward to that.
In Free America, redneck Texan urinates on your grave if you lose.
See, we have a basis for understanding already.
Communism totalitarianism just evolved into its next statist plane of existence, fascism. At least their trains are running on time.
Looks an awful lot like the Obama and the Democrat’s vision of Amerika Comrades!
Russia doesn’t have a dictatorship or a pure democracy. It is something in between. There a school of thought that says the advances in the West passed Russia by. That many of the reforms that swept the West entered Russia late. If so, it doesn’t explain why Russians today have so much more freedom than they have had since the 15th century. Russia’s one and half party system isn’t all that different from dominant parties that ruled Italy, Israel and Japan in the last century. The most Russia can hope for is a United Russia regime that keeps the Communists, powerless and picturesque, with no real prospect of ever controlling the government. It will like take a generation before a more pluralistic political party system finally takes root in Russia.