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#14 - JRL 8426 - JRL Home
From: "Alexander Nechushkin" <javawork@rambler.ru>
Subject: View from the Ural Region [re: Putin Power]
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 2004

Russia Wars
The Lost Hope

By Alexander Nechushkin

The hope that Russia can some day become a powerful and lawful federative state seems distant, if not completely unobtainable. Instead of creating a new flexible political system that clearly distinguishes between national and regional interests, instead of promoting self-government, instead of promoting an independent judicial system, instead of strengthening the electoral process, Putin is using the political position of his party, United Russia, to try to install a powerful but ineffective system of vertical power.

Through state control of the national media, they have effectively suppressed the voice of most dissent. They have made extremely difficult the activities of opposition parties and human rights organizations; the Federal security agency (FSB) is actively collecting information on dissidents and anti-Putin minded people. This allows Putin to engage in what Orwell called "reality control." This is an extremely effective as political strategy. But as a strategy for governing it is a disaster, for when leaders live in an invented reality, they do a bad job of dealing with real reality.

Their proposed program is the cancellation of elections of regional governors and a new system of elections to the Federal parliament (Duma), which will make almost impossible for opposition to get any reasonable number of seats. The next step is complete control of the judiciary. These are the kind of third world actions; we expect to see in Zimbabwe under Robber Mugabe. In addition, if rumors of a constitutional change to allow an extended presidency are correct, Russians may also have the privilege of living under the rulership a North Korean style hereditary Dear Leader.

The Empire Strikes Out

The institutions, which hold together the 89 multinational regions under the Moscow umbrella are the federal bureaucracy, state owned corporations and large private companies. If the federal bureaucracy is the major stakeholder in the centralized state, then Putins actions are understandable; he is creating a new political regime state for establishment. Gorbachev tried similar things with his government in 1990-1991. He did not want to negotiate with former Soviet republics over the future; he tried to use power to keep status-quo. What happened? The Union broke. Local wars flared around former great state. The Soviet Union collapsed in two years after national movements in Soviet republics became strong and people realized benefits of independence. In the year 1989, nobody believed that the Union could face such a quick end. In 2004, the Russian president Vladimir Putin and federal bureaucracy are attempting to repeat that scenario.

At the same time, there are few strong national, philosophical, social or religious values remaining to keep the country united. There are many regional interests, including non-Russians, which have a strong desire to get rid of Moscows meddling in local affairs. National and cultural populations around Russia are so different now that some regions have less in common than probably Great Britain and Iran. Moscow residents are hated around the country for their perceived ill gained prosperity, corruption and insulting arrogance.

After Putin betrayed the hostages of Beslan (North Caucasus), only a feeling of survival makes Ossetins to stick to Russia. For the rest of Russia, all the people of the Caucasus are contemptuously called cherniye (blacks); they are hated and are being terribly discriminated against. It is easy to compare cruelty of South African apartheid to Russian nationalism.

In spite of all measures Putin can undertake, he cannot secure full dictatorship and keep the country united without extensive armed suppression of opposition and without wining the war in the Caucasus. That requires much time and extraordinary resources. Russias population is aging and the army is experiencing recruitment difficulties now. It will have an extreme shortness of young recruits in 2-5 years. In effect, Putin may well bring about the very scenario he says he is attempting to avoid.

Return of the Nukes

Should the country dissolve, will the many new small leaders of the regions get a stake in the former empires arsenal? If this is the case, the world will enter a new and unpleasant reality. Governments hostile to the West may then be able to get nuclear materials more easily and regional conflicts may become nuclear. Nuclear blackmail of rich neighbors may become a very profitable business.

Nevertheless, the most likely scenario is that the population will be further disengaged from the civil body and act out a passive sabotage or personal corruption. As example, today Russias rusting navy is being stripped of vital equipment by its officers, and border police are accepting bribes to pass terrorists. A report published by The Economist Intelligence Unit, a service produced by the Economist magazine, estimated that bribes amounted to 4 percent of Russia's gross domestic product in 2001.

Tomorrow, as the country falls further into the hands of Putins National Socialist cabal, and as its citizens are totally separated from ownership and control, there will be even less motivation to act responsibly. How much more likely, then, will it be for Russias dangerous treasures to fall into criminal hands?