Putin The Dictator


I don’t know about you but I have been worrying about the direction of Russia for some time now. I figured it was time to start posting a bit on the subject and get out some information.

First things first. I want to direct your attention to a opinion piece written by a Niall Ferguson, a professor of history at Harvard University and a senior research fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. It’s a great article and really runs down the list of things we should all be worrying about.

I seldom agree with the New York Times, but Nicholas Kristof was pretty much on target the other day. ”The bottom line,” he wrote, ”is that the West has been suckered by Mr Putin. He is not a sober version of Boris Yeltsin. Rather, he’s a Russified Pinochet or Franco. And he is not guiding Russia toward free-market democracy, but into fascism.” Correct – except that Russia is not Chile or Spain. Neither of those countries was ever in a position to pose a serious threat to our security; indeed, there were many conservatives who thought it preferable that they should be fascist rather than communist.

Wanna just stop here to note his statement that he seldom agrees with the NYT makes him even more credible and intelligent in my eyes.

But Russia is different. According to Goldman Sachs, its economy could be bigger than Britain’s and even Germany’s by 2030. It remains the world’s number two nuclear superpower. If Mr Putin’s government is indeed turning it into a fascist regime, we should look elsewhere for parallels.

In 1997, I published an academic article – co-written with the Russian economic expert Brigitte Granville – entitled Weimar Germany and Contemporary Russia. I can still remember being teased by one of my brightest undergraduates – himself a German – that this was excessively pessimistic, at a time when Russia’s economic recovery appeared to be gathering momentum. I had to remind him just how long the Weimar Republic took to dissolve into Hitler’s dictatorship.

Born in 1919 in the wake of Germany’s humiliating defeat in the First World War, the Weimar Republic suffered hyperinflation, an illusory boom, a slump and then, starting in 1930, a slide into authoritarian rule, culminating in 1933 with Hitler’s appointment as chancellor. Total life: slightly less than 14 years.

Born in 1991 in the wake of the Soviet Union’s humiliating defeat in the Cold War, today’s Russian Federation has suffered a slump, hyperinflation and is currently enjoying a boom on the back of high oil prices. Its slide into authoritarian rule has been gradual since Putin came to power in 1999. Is it going to culminate – 14 years on – in a full-scale dictatorship in 2005? That is beginning to look more and more likely.

Hitler’s power was consolidated after 1933 by the emasculation of both parliamentary and federal institutions. Putin has already done much to weaken the Duma. His latest scheme is to replace elected regional governors with Kremlin appointees.

Hitler’s regime also rested on the propaganda churned out by state-run media; Putin already controls Russia’s three principal television channels. And Hitler believed firmly in the primacy of the state over the economy. The Kremlin’s systematic destruction of the country’s biggest oil company, Yukos – like its effective renationalisation of the entire energy sector – suggests that Putin takes the same view and that, like Hitler, he regards both private property rights and the rule of law with contempt.

His comparison’s between the two fascists is startling. The Yukos affair was huge, and it showed the world that Putin is slowly consolidating his power into a state run government. I wont paste his whole article but if this subject interests you at all this piece is a must read. I will paste his ending paragraph tho

The question that remains open is whether Putin is just a more successful version of one of these authoritarian warm-up acts, or a fully fledged Russian f?hrer. Either way, he is fast becoming as big a threat to Western security as he is to Russian democracy.

The Moderate Voice wrote recently about the firing of Andrei N. Illarionov.

According to the Times, Illarionov had dared say that the country was heading in the wrong direction and was in danger of becoming a third world country.

Now, this isn’t to say it’s unusual for a leader to want to dump people who aren’t 100 percent loyal to the administration line. There has been a little bit of that going around Washington these days. And an argument can be made — for any leader in any country — that while varying opinions are critical for policymakers, unity is, too.

So policymakers have to balance the often-conflicting values of people around them who may disagree with them, and those who agree. And then there’s the question of airing differences in public, something that can irk a U.S. or a European leader as well. Which option to choose is a serious administrative, versus strictly political, issue.

BUT in the case of Russia, the stakes here are supremely high: the solidification of the young democracy. That’s why details like this are one more reason to fear — let’s just say it — that under Putin Russia may evolve into a new style of democracy…democracy KGB style. And what implications will that have for the U.S.?

Then there is the recent announcement that Russia will no longer transport American astronauts to the space station for free.

Russia’s announcement this week that U.S. astronauts will get no more free rides on Russian rockets to the International Space Station was not motivated by cash concerns alone: It reflects the beginning of what is likely to be a rapid and alarming freeze in U.S.-Russian relations.

From 2006, we will put U.S. astronauts into orbit only on a commercial basis, Anatoly Perminov, head of Russia’s Federal Space Agency announced Tuesday.

The announcement certainly did not come as any bolt from the blue. Ever since the American Columbia Space Shuttle disintegrated in flames during reentry over Palestine, Texas, two years ago, Russia’s reliable, old Soyuz-booster systems have been the only way U.S. astronauts could reach the $95 billion International Space Station.

A Step At A Time has a recent post out about the marking of Stalin’s birthday.

December 21 2004 saw the 125th anniversary of the birth of Josef Stalin. In the Russian Federation, it was marked by public and widely reported statements from prominent politicians advocating a more positive assessment of Stalin’s historical role. Boris Gryzlov, Speaker of the Russian State Duma, proposed that the anniversary now be observed as the birthday of “an extraordinary man and politician”. At the ceremony at Stalin’s grave, KPRF officials spoke of the dictator as “one of the most outstanding personalities of the 20th century,” who “dedicated his entire life to struggle”, a RIA Novosti report commented….

He goes on to describe the similarities between Stalin’s Russia and Putins. Now where does that leave Russia for the future? A blog post by Untimely Thoughts has the some opinions

The Yukos affair dominated Russia’s politics and economics last year. Will there be a “Yukos II” in 2005? Most likely not. However, it should be fully expected that the Kremlin would continue its drive to capture Russia’s vast and lucrative export energy sectors for itself. This year will be about forced deal making, instead of forced nationalizations.

Vladimir Putin has publicly stated he regrets the privatization of Russia’s energy sectors during the 1990s. As this year starts, this regret has begun to be something of the past. The Kremlin’s energy portfolio at present includes, among other assets: the largest single shareholder in natural gas monopolist Gazprom, sole owner of the Rosneft oil company, and sole owner of what was Yukos’ largest production unit, Yuganskneftegaz. Collectively, these assets make the Kremlin hegemonic in Russia’s energy sectors. However, there is every indication that being the hegemon is not the Kremlin’s ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is direct ownership and/or control of most major companies in these sectors.

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