Behind Putin, Incompetence and Corruption
A stunning fact recently revealed by scholar Paul Goble is that no Russian ambassador earns more than $36,000 per year, less than the average yearly salary in the United States. And scholar Andrei Illarionov shows us that the men pulling the strings for these “diplomats,” (who in fact have no real freedom of action and act like puppets of the Kremlin) are nothing but a barbaric hoard of KGB thugs.
Goble says that the housing and living conditions provided by Russia to its ambassadors is what you would expect from such a salary (in fact, most ambassadors are paid far less), and one can only speculate about what sort of person would accept a position of this kind. Surely, it is not likely to be a person who can put Russia’s best face forward, or who can relay many insights about forieign psychology to the Kremlin which it can rely upon in making foreign policy. Little wonder then that Russia faces such a desperately bad image in the West.
But even if Vladimir Putin did have a competent, fairly paid staff of professional diplomats, how would the KGB clan they report to possibly be able to formulate a civilized foreign policy for the country? Reading Illarionov’s description, it is palpably obvious that they could not possibly do so. He notes: “According to a 2006 study by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, the head of the Center for the Study of Elites at the Russian Academy of Sciences, people with a security background filled 77 percent of Russia’s top 1,016 governmental positions. Of these, only about a third stated their affiliation openly.” That was three years ago. The situation has only gotten worse since then. They dominate every corner of the Kremlin, every aspect of policy. They win arguments with bullets.
These men behave like the thugs they are. Illarionov writes:
Since its outset, the siloviki regime has been aggressive. At first it focused on actively destroying centers of independent political, civil, and economic life within Russia. Upon achieving those goals, the regime’s aggressive behavior turned outward beyond Russia’s borders. At least since the assassination of the former Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in Doha, Qatar, on 14 February 2004, aggressive behavior by SI in the international arena has become the rule rather than the exception. Over the last five years, the regime has waged ten different “wars” (most of them involving propaganda, intelligence operations, and economic coercion rather than open military force) against neighbors and other foreign nations. The most recent targets have included Ukraine (subjected to a “second gas war” in early 2009), the United States (subjected to a years-long campaign to rouse anti-American sentiment), and most notoriously, Georgia (actually bombed and invaded in 2008).
In addition to their internal psychological need to wage aggressive wars, a rational motive is also driving the siloviki to resort to conflict.War furnishes the best opportunities to distract domestic public opinion and destroy the remnants of political and intellectual opposition within Russia itself. An undemocratic regime worried about the prospect of domestic economic, social, and political crises—such as those that now haunt Russia amid recession and falling oil prices—is likely to be pondering further acts of aggression. The note I end on, therefore, is a gloomy one: To me, the probability that Siloviki Incorporated will be launching new wars seems alarmingly high.
It’s barbarism, pure and simple, and it can’t lead to the development of a powerful, respected modern state.