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From: Victor Kalashnikov <machinegun@online.ru>
Subject: Putin forever
Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2001

Russian public is largely unaware about the sort of activities Mr. Putin used to perform during his career at the KGB. Not much is known, in fact, about substance of his work in civil administration and business, too. Any additional piece of information is always welcome. It helps Russians to get, step by step, an idea on who Mr. Putin, whom they elected their president, really might be.

A source like Dr. Henry Kissinger deserves all attention, of course. In the Washington Post, Dec. 7 (JRL #5586) he wrote that Vladimir Putin was 'a graduate of the analytical branch of the KGB'. This finding is absolutely new to many people here and abroad. The facts available so far, connect Putin rather with a murky on-the- spot-activity of forcing East-Germans to work for the KGB.

At the St.-Pete university, Putin, as a KGB-supervisor, practised 'analytical' work, which Kissinger himself would hardly accept.

Meanwhile, Kissinger obviously considers that 'analytical branch' as the cradle for Putin's ideas like: 'imperialism (the Soviet one - V.K.) caused more tragedies than triumphs for Russia and is unsustainable by the reduced contemporary Russia, threatening it with isolation'. This, according to Kissinger, must explain 'why the thrust of Putin's strategy has been to strive for a kind of partnership with the United States, which is another way of saying that he is pursuing Russia's objectives by enlisting American power in their support'.

Experts, who cannot gain an overview Kissinger may have had, are inclined to see Putin's evolution in a somewhat different light. From a 'soldier of the Party' (as he liked to call himself) via quite an ordinary (in terms of skills and corruption) bureaucrat to the modern-style politician. The latest means both aptness and readiness to put the emphasis on the own image-building and media manipulation, rather than on the substance.

Putin's effectiveness appears twofold. There's an upswing career indeed. But observers say, Putin rather has followed interests and requirements of his masters, than has shown capability to develop and to implement his own strategies and visions.

In St.-Pete he became the second, or, as some researcher believe, practically, the first man in the city administration. When he left it to become the 'right hand' of Pavel Borodin in his embezzlement empire, the 'Neva capital' offered a view of economic ruin mixed with criminalisation overmatching even Moscow standards. Again, it wasn't necessary Putin himself, who designed and initiated plundering of state funds and contract killings. But he happened to be highly compatible with that environment, and useful for those maintaining it.

BTW, relations to America. It is sometimes overseen, that Putin's appointment to Yeltsin's successor was organised not only by the 'family' eager to secure its survival and comfort.

Not less significant motives are to be found in the US-led war against Yugoslavia in 1999, and in the impression that war made on Russian military and security elite. Putin was found appropriate to front a major endeavour aimed at regaining Moscow's power sway both domestically and internationally.

The first part ended up in the Chechen deadlock. As to the second one, it's worth mentioning that main exercises Russian military conducted up to mid-September of this year, have been based on clearly anti-US scenarios.

Putin wasn't chief designer of neither Chechnya war, nor of military preparations. He only 'sealed' and promoted both of them - just in line with his new function.

But then 11 September came. Shortly thereafter, the surveillance base on Cuba was declared to be shut down. The base, in concert with other means, used to project its capacities over the bulk of the US territory. Together with the downing of the space command centre 'Mir' several months earlier, all this marked the ultimate end to an era. The cold war seems to be finally over now. The US launched a new global strategy and Moscow has been offered a role in it.

Today, the West is, apparently, in difficulty with providing the situation with proper ideology and propaganda framework. For example, who is Mr. Putin in this new context?

Making him to a 'graduate analyst' can signify the way the thinking goes. Would we hear soon about the 'political researcher' and then, maybe, the 'critically-minded intellectual'? Hopefully, the upgrading process will stop short before equalling Putin to Solzhenitsin.

Some broader PR-efforts must have been engaged already. During his recent radio interview in New-York, Putin was, quite unexpectedly, of course, confronted with a question about Andrey Sakharov. So, he expressed his full admiration of that great person. It only remained unclear whether he came to praising Sakharov during the time at the 'research branch'. Or later, when he made promises like 'to spoil them in the loo'.

BTW, dissidents. Putin's closest friend, Gen. Victor Tcherkesov, now in command of the North-Western federal district, did personally arrest and interrogate political dissidents well into perestroika-time. As the Russian Northwest is leading in the integration into Europe, the media managers in Brussels will probably have to invent for his case something like: 'a long- practising scholar in applied behavioural studies'.

Putin's popularity rating, on various estimates, is falling meanwhile and would not exceed 20-30% nation-wide now. So his team starts coming up with the old Soviet/Russian idea to prolong the presidency up to seven years and even longer.

This quest for 'stability' (some Russian papers are talking about the good old 'zastoi' instead - with all reasons to do so) is met also by Putin's demonstrative religious self-profiling. He is a 'true believer' now and even attempted to make a pilgrimage to a holy place in Greece.

But the weather prohibited him from doing this.

The 'stability' option must silence the critics in the West who point at the too close linkage of Russia's 'bold turn' towards Nato to Putin's personality. What happens if Putin quits, and WHO is Mr. Putin, actually?

They should not worry. Putin is forever, and he is a true believer with a solid analytical background recognised by Henry Kissinger himself. Moreover, there'll be enough time to upgrade Putin even further, so all the democratic feelings of the West will be satisfied.

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