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Following Summit, Putin Must Confront Political Elite Over New Policy Toward US
Obshchaya Gazeta
15 November 2001
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Andrey Piontkovskiy about Putin's break with the policy of the political elite toward the US: "A Stolz in the Kremlin"

The readers of "Obshchaya Gazeta" will read this text when the main part of the first official visit of President Vladimir Putin to the United States is already behind him. That, however, is not creating any insurmountable difficulties in the scheme for prognosis--the results of the visit are quite predictable. He will consolidate the course he has taken in Russian foreign policy toward rapprochement with the United States, a turning-point which was emphasized in statements made by President Putin on 11 September and 24 September, and which was confirmed in his numerous interviews directly before [setting out] on the visit.

The most interesting events will develop after the return of Putin from Texas. A sharp clash with the numerous opponents of President Putin's [new] course in foreign policy is inevitable. He departed under the deafening criticism coming from the "left-patriotic" press, which accused him of betraying Russian national interests. He was accused of "Gorbachevism"; and "Kozyrevism" [Note: Andrey Kozyrev is the controversial former Prime Minister of Russia under President Yeltsin]. And he departed under the equally deafening silence--or suppressed discontent--of the traditionally pro-Putin mass media. All at once the talking heads disappeared from the screens. Usually, they are ready enthusiastically to praise any initiatives of the government, even the very controversial initiatives.

As the anchorman on one of the leading analytical television programs said last Saturday, V. Putin has significantly broken away from both public opinion and the state of opinion of the political 'elite". However, on the whole, the public opinion in the country, based on the ratings of Putin's performance [i. e., based on polls], by no means indicates that Putin has become isolated from [the views] of the public. But the anchorman, who of course, counts himself in the political elite, is absolutely right about Putin's break [with the state of opinion] of the political "elite".

The break, with respect to the approach to the eternal "Russia-West" theme, that has taken shape between President Putin and the "elite" is not so much political in nature as it is psychological. And here it would not be out of place to recall the book about Vladimir Putin by the German political scientist, Alexander Rahr, with its exceptionally successful title, "A German in the Kremlin". The book, as it is well-known, was liked so much by the hero [i. e., Putin], that he invited the author to a special supper for two in the Kremlin. I do not know how much Alexander Rahr had thought about it but, in the Russian consciousness, "German in the Kremlin" immediately evokes an allusion to that classical couple of Russian literature, Oblomov and Stolz, the Russian landowner [Oblomov] and the German [estate] manager, [Stolz]. [Note: Reference here is to two characters, with opposite traits of personality, in Ivan Goncharov's classic 1859 novel,. "Oblomov". The decadent landowner, Oblomov, avoided work and spent most of his time in bed whereas his childhood friend, Stolz, was a hardworking, business-like estate manager.].

It is easy [for a Russian] to imagine how an "Oblomov" would have conducted himself in the Kremlin (particularly since, in truth, the Kremlin corridors are packed with these Oblomov-types). For example, he would have talked for a very long time, with great feeling, about the greatness of Russia, about "the impossibility, even hypothetically, of imagining the appearance of NATO soldiers on the southern borders of the SNG [Commonwealth of Independent States] ". In his interpretation, moreover, the events of 11 September would be represented as a crushing failure of the model of a mono-polar world and as the victory of the concept of a "multi-polarity"; he would have said that the Americans [who were killed by the terrorists] are to be pitied but not America". He would have talked about the necessity of solidarity with our traditional allies in the Moslem world, etc. And then, when, without Russian support, the American operation in Afghanistan would have misfired and the Taliban and the terrorists of "Al-Qaida", inspired with success, would have dashed off to the north, the Oblomovs would have sent tens of thousands of poorly armed and under-trained Russian soldiers to plug up that hole with their own bodies, in the latest Russian war.

But then, that chilly, pragmatic person, Stolz, clicking the balls of the calculating device used in his bookkeeping, reasonably decided that it would not do to miss the opportunity of using all of the capacity and power of the military, economic, and political resources of the world's only super-power in order to carry out the most important task in national security for Russia, namely the liquidation of the center threats [and terrorism] in the south. Moreover, with the successful arrangement of this business, even broader prospects open up for also drawing of the United States into providing security for Russia in the area of the Far East.

But no, that shrewish old woman, the Russian political elite, is more angry than ever, brandishing her own "price lists" of national interests. Sitting around empty-handed, surrounded by the very Russian economy looted by her, she is demanding greatness, and, what's more, she is demanding immediate grandeur. It is not enough for her to be a member of a long-established family of the Russian gentry. She wants to become the mistress of the seas. And she wants Bush to run her errands and be at her beck and call.

But, in the first place, there must be a great deal of work before there can be greatness. And, secondly, after joining the global coalition, the Kremlin's Stolz [I. e., Putin. The German-speaking Putin, as a KGB officer, carried out extensive service in Germany and, according to Rahr, even thinks like a German manager.], skillfully taking advantage of the historical and geographical resources of Russia, is building up an essentially new defensive zone, in which the role of the country will be immeasurably more significant that its present, purely economic potential would allow. In the context of this structure, the status and role of NATO are significantly reduced, with NATO becoming an essentially peripheral, regional structure. Perhaps now, the nightmare of tiny Estonia joining NATO will even stop tormenting the ambitious Russian elite.

The establishment of a reliable structure of security for the XXI Century will take time. But the fate of German estate managers did not always turn out so well and they did not always have enough free time for this.

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