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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

#14 - JRL 8403 - JRL Home
SOURCE: FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE (http://www.fednews.ru/)

Satarov: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to set an example. And I invite you to follow my example. I am switching off my mobile phone. Thank you for your response and for taking part in this discussion. I must say that it was some time ago that we last had such an all-star assembly. The reasons for this were many. Tight schedules, clash of ambitions, whatever. But when a situation arises when all these things must be set aside, we understand that we should be all together, we should take joint decisions.

Basically there have been a lot of publications and a lot of discussion recently about what is really happening, what is the nature of our administration, what it is doing and so on. And we have done our share of work on that. But now the time has come to think forward, to think about trends, prospects and scenarios and what we should do together.

And I would like to latch on to my last word, "together". Today as you know is the birthday of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and we offer our sincere good wishes. We are not supposed to stand up because they are not playing the national anthem.

And now regarding "sincerity". I think I have "cracked" the substance and the goal of his actions. I think that Vladimir Vladimirovich, who repeatedly spoke to me about building democracy in the country and who repeatedly had occasion to see that this building is not proceeding all that smoothly. This was especially manifested by the results of the elections. And he has decided to go about it in a different way. And during all this time a kind of special operation was underway to bring democracy back to Russia.

What is the meaning of that operation? I will use a metaphor. Imagine that you are walking about, even in Moscow where the air is pretty polluted, but still you are used to breathing air and you practically don't notice it. But if they have you put on a gas mask and shut out the air supply, you immediately remember about air. This is what has been taking place all this time. People had gas masks put on them and the supply, not of air, but of democracy, was shut down. And everybody suddenly remembered about democracy and forgot that in the past few years it has been almost a cuss-word.

And this is something that can be expressed in numbers. For example, you know that Levada's center regularly conducts surveys and it invariably includes the traditional question, what party would you vote for if parliamentary elections were to be held the following Sunday? And just for fun, he includes among the parties a non-existent "virtual" party called something like this: "the party which unites all the democrats." During the past month the number of those who said they would vote for such a party has doubled to 30 percent of the electorate.

These are the 30 percent I have been speaking about all my life and people didn't believe me when I said that the democratic constituency is 30 percent. The supply of oxygen was cut off for people and they immediately remembered about democracy. And I could cite another example. The latest elections in the Tula guberniya where SPS got double the vote that it got in the parliamentary election. Again, a doubling of the vote.

I naturally don't think that SPS can claim any credit for this. Sorry, nothing personal. This is the effect of shut-off oxygen supply when people suddenly remembered about democracy and realized that after all there is something to it and they should hold on to it and that there is a shortage of it.

In short, this is a pretty unusual situation for the last five years and this is one of its specific features. If my hypothesis is true and the essence of this special operation is to jolt the democratic flank of our society into action, we should be concerned not only about this, although it is very important and it would be a sin not to take advantage of this opportunity that presents itself to the representatives of the parties sitting here -- but unfortunately there are some side effects.

The side effect consists in this, that it is incapable of carrying out anything but special operations and the management of the problems connected with social interests is not very effective, ranging from the social sphere and ending with the defense of the country and its citizens against the threat of terrorism. The results on both counts are about the same.

The actions of the authorities convey a sense of nervousness, fussiness, improvisation. And there is a general impression that the shell is falling off the virtual image of the incumbent administration, the picture of a powerful -- imagine a person wearing a kimono who, without bothering to take off his skis, climbs into a fighter plane cockpit. This is the obviously favorable picture of our rulers which is beginning to crumble. Naturally, it makes the authorities nervous. Nervousness and hysteria are not conducive to the taking of balanced decisions.

The overall result -- including of the building of the vertical power structure -- is anything but rosy. We know for example that the government has been inactive for six months. Now imagine that this vertical power structure has been built and that this effectiveness or otherwise of the federal authorities is percolating from top to bottom. While up until now, in spite of the fact that the government hasn't been working, Russia has been muddling through because the governors and presidents in their fiefdoms or whatever you call them were solving the problems, their own and those of their regions, the mayors of cities were solving their own problems, but in the process solving some of the problems of their cities.

And now imagine that the bedlam and inefficiency that have reigned at the top over the past six months are spreading down the vertical power structure and we get a possible image of the future of Russia. This is crystal-ball gazing.

I think that as long as the authorities do not display particular intellectual brilliance that lead to well-thought-out decisions, I think this should be done by the civil society in all its forms, be it social organizations, parties, the media, business and so on. Under Article 3 of the Constitution, power in Russia arises from us, we must think about what is happening in the country and fill the gaping gaps in the thinking of the authorities, we must think not only about what will be but about what is to be done.

This is how we see the overall task of this conversation. Naturally, we understand that this is only one of the possible conversations. You all understand and you are involved in such discussions in many forums. The discussions are fantastically intense and this is prompted by the situation. But it fell to me to urge you to think not about how unhappy we are, but about what is to be done under the circumstances.

I would like to end there and we begin our discussion. The format will be as follows. Because there are very many people who want to speak and all of them are worthy people with interesting and anything but trivial thoughts, plus a heavy media presence and there are other participants as well. So, I suggest the time limit of 8 minutes for a contribution and 1 minute for each of two questions, one question from the participants and one question from the press.

Once again, I would urge the press because I cannot, with my poor eyesight, immediately tell a participant from a journalist. So, for the first question participants should raise their hands. For the second question, members of the media raise their hands. That's for each speaker. Adopted? Okay. I am sorry but I will have to enforce this format. And I invite Vladimir Alexandrovich Ryzhkov who needs no introductions, to open our discussion.