The EU Observer reports that dissident leader Garry Kasparov has lauched another furious verbal barrage at the Kremlin, continuing his much more aggressive rhetorial stance begun after his detention prior to the Samara “Other Russia” action. Way to go, Garik! Keep it up! We’re right there with you all the way!
Russian chess master turned dissident Gary Kasparov warned Europe that its giant eastern neighbour is heading for a “political crisis” by the end of the year, while urging the EU and G7 states not to give Putin propaganda ammunition.
“The gap between rich and poor is growing…political instability is growing, as the Russian elite doesn’t know who will take power in 2008. These developments are pointing to a serious political crisis at the end of this year,” Mr Kasparov said. His remarks, made at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday (23 May), depict Putin’s Russia as an ideology-free “corporation” with policies designed only to enrich the nomenklatura, no matter what the cost to ordinary Russians or international relations.
The Russian president in state-owned media portrays himself as having 70 percent popularity, rebuilding post-Soviet Russia as a petro-based superpower and playing a positive, counter-balancing role to “unipolar” US imperialism in areas like the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Mr Kasparov says Russian oligarch capital is fleeing west amid fears of a redistribution of wealth after Russia’s March 2008 presidential elections; popular disenchantment is growing and Russian arms sales to Syria and Iran are fueling Middle East conflicts.
“If the US administration exercised the same [media] control, Bush would have 70 percent also,” he explained. “The regime needs high oil prices, instability in the Middle East is keeping oil prices high.”
“In 1989 there were a few hundred people on the streets. In 1990, a few thousand. In 1991 [when the Soviet Union collapsed] there were hundreds of thousands,” Mr Kasparov recalled. “On the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg [in April] we had a few thousand.”
The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected the Kasparov line, denying that it sells sensitive arms technology to rogue states. It has also highlighted the fact Mr Kasparov’s opposition rallies attract far-right and far-left groups, and questioned the chess genius’ political nous.
“He’s a better chess player than he is a politician,” the Russian envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, once told EUobserver.
But the Kasparov picture is also matched by other reports: BBC journalists talk of mansions being built outside Moscow while basic social welfare services lapse. The International Energy Agency says under-investment in infrastructure could see massive gas shortages hit around 2010.
The book “Putin’s Russia” by murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya also paints a sad picture of the Russian army: drunk colonels shooting civilians in Chechnya with impunity; nuclear submarine captains unable to feed their families due to unpaid wages.
“Russia is run on the basis of ‘output legitimacy’ – Putin is not interested in democracy, but he has promised energy rents will bring social benefits,” UK-based European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Nicu Popescu said. “If after 2010 there is no output legitimacy and no democratic legitimacy there could be a crisis.”
“It’s difficult to predict when this will happen, but economic and political trends are pointing in this direction. It might not be this year, it might be three or four years from now,” he added.
The G8 circus
Mr Kasparov – in Strasbourg at the personal invitation of European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering – noted the EU has hardened its criticism of Russia in recent months, with harsh words from EU leaders at the Samara summit last week.
“Those were not words spoken from abroad, those were words criticising Putin spoken in Russia, and that made them very valuable,” he said. “The EU must stand for democracy and human rights and not apply double standards.”
But with the G8 summit on 6 June in Germany fast-approaching, he also recalled the positive publicity given to Putin at last year’s G8 summit in St Petersburg – an event remembered for a flashy reception at a Czarist-era palace and empty promises on energy security.
“Kremlin propaganda tries to portray Putin as part of the global democratic environment,” Mr Kasparov said. “Ordinary Russians were puzzled to see him side-by-side with world leaders and at the same time hearing from us, that Putin violates basic democratic principles.”