Putin betrays Russia’s Future

Paul Goble reports:

All the problems Russia had in the late 1990s remain unresolved because Vladimir Putin failed to use income from the rise in oil prices to address them, preferring instead to enrich himself and his friends and to pretend that the existence of such wealth, even though kept abroad, was by itself sufficient to pull Russia back from the brink.

But now, a decade after “the miracle” of the rise in oil and gas prices propelled Putin to the stop, Moscow commentator Maksim Kalashnikov says, “the Putin zigzag” in the ongoing decline of Russia is coming to an end, and Russia faces a terrible reckoning, one highlighted by but not limited to technological disasters.

Tragically, however, he continues, “the inadequacy of [Putin’s] regime to deal with the challenges” Russia continues to face is matched by intellectual and political poverty of the country’s opposition groups, a situation that makes any move forward more difficult and the fate of Russia far more difficult to predict.

In 1999, Kalashnikov notes, Russia lay in ruins. Its state budget was “less than the American state of California.” There was a full-scale war in the Caucasus. And Moscow was “paralyzed with fear” as a result of the apartment bombings. Russian and Western analysts were predicting that Russia was rapidly approaching its end as a unified country.  But then “a miracle happened: World prices for oil jumped upward, just as they did after the October 1973 war in the Middle East.” As a result, “the Putin era began,” but neither he nor those around him really changed course: Instead, they went in “a zigzag,” first to the side and then along the former route to the bottom.

As a result of the oil money, it was able to put down the separatists in Chechnya but only in a “superficial” way. And its increased resources led Americans, already at the end of 2006, to begin to talk “about the real danger of the imperial ambitions of the Russian Federation.” But “in reality,” Putin did little or nothing to turn the country away from the abyss. Now, even new oil revenues will “not save the Russian Federation. “More than that, they have begun to accelerate the disintegration of the country” because of the way in which they have not been used, a trend that was not immediately recognized since “psychologically” Russians have been much more confident than they were in 1999.

However, because the flood of oil and gas earnings was not directed appropriately, Kalashnikov continues, “not a single one of the problems which threatened the final collapse of Russia was overcome.” Russia remains “a poorly developed country,” its economy backward, its people dying off, and its infrastructure decaying. How did Russia manage to survive so long without these problems being addressed? “Thanks to the great Soviet Union which left ‘the post-Soviet country’ thousands of plans and factories, a developed electrical grid, and an enormous amount of housing.” But today, he says, this inheritance is “exhausting itself.” Living on it in the future is “impossible.”

According to Kalashnikov, Russians have thus become as it were “heroes and actors in a grandiose catastrophe novel,” one in which “civilization is being destroyed and people are being transformed into new barbarians.” As a result, the Moscow commentator says, Russians are “entering into the last stage of their revolution, the fourth, which no one in the world has yet passed through.” In his vision, there have been “only four Great Revolutions:” the English in the 17th century, the French in 1789, the Russian in 1917, and “the Great Criminal Revolution of the 1990s.”

Each, as Pitirim Sorokin pointed out in his study of the first three, has passed through three stages: one of great hopes, one of destruction and one of reaction and restoration, the last of which is always led by a dictatorship of one kind or another than puts down those who oppose the revolution as such. In the current Russian case, “Putin has embodied that phase.” But now and for the first time, Kalashnikov continues, Russia is entering the fourth stage because it, unlike the places where the great revolutions of the past took place, is not a largely agrarian and pre-industrial state. Instead, it is a place where most people live in the cities and where agriculture cannot feed the population.

Consequently, the current Russian revolution has entered a fourth stage: “the struggle with infrastructure catastrophes,” where the systems that support life in the cities and the country as a whole are “physically falling apart” because those who have seized power in the earlier stages have no interest in supporting the infrastructure.

Because such a revolutionary stage has not happened before, “no one knows” what may happen, Kalashnikov says. But five things are certain: First, if Russia does not meet its challenges, the country is “kaput.” Second, the existing infrastructure cannot simply be restored; it must be modernized. Third, this will require “destroying part of the currently ruling elite” because that group has “no taste” for this innovation. Fourth, there are external forces which will try to prevent Russia from such modernization. And fifth, “while fearing the fourth wave of the revolution, [Russians] must by a leap catch up and surpass the rest of the world.”

These challenges are immediate, Kalashnikov continues, because “the collapse and degradation of the Russian Federation under Putin has passed a certain qualitative boundary,” one beyond which even “a generous infusion of money into industry and science” will not solve the problem. Earlier, in the mid-1990s, that might have been sufficient to address the problems, but not now. Russian enterprises are in a state of collapse. Recent graduates are poorly trained. “And the most important thing is that people are gone.” As a result, there is no one to take up the challenges that the country faces in this or that sector.

If the country is to avoid disaster, Russians at all levels will have to work “from nothing” as people did under Stalin. That means they must “for years forget about yachts and sky slopes and work like the damned up to 18 hours a day. Day and night be in their offices.” And do everything necessary to get the country up and running. Unfortunately, that is not what the current powers that be want. They only want to get money and continue to rest. That means that they must be pushed out of the way if the country is to prosper again. And the population must recognize that the grandiosity of the government’s current programs is simply a pale return to the approach of the late Brezhnev and Gorbachev.

Once again, instead of addressing real problems, he says, the powers that be in Moscow have simply turned to “public relations schemes,” even as the gap between rich and poor widens, as Russia loses control over Siberia and the Far East, and as the earnings of the country continue to go abroad. In short, Kalashnikov says, “the state has finally been converted into ‘an East India Company’ for the colonial exploitation of the local population,” although he insists that “Putinism is in truth a ‘people’s power’” with Putin “the leader of the beer-soused and stupid electorate” which does not read or think for itself.  The Putin system, Kalashnikov continues, must be “thrown on the ash heap of history,” but unfortunately the question is how is that to happen. “The degradation of the opposition is obvious” as is the slavish behavior of the business community, the military, and the clerical hierarchy.

“Under these conditions, “a national revolution, the replacement of the regime by force, is impossible. The degraded people will not rise,” because “its passion” on display in the 1990s has disappeared “once and for all.” At the same time, “one must not say that Putin is evil and that Medvedev is our new all, our light and hope.” Moreover, “one must not count on changes as a result of the collapse of the Russian Federation: that ‘medicine’ is more horrible than the illness,” Kalashnikov insists. But those who care about the country must recognize that “the Putin zigzag has exhausted itself” and that “Russia is again on the path to catastrophe.”

5 responses to “Putin betrays Russia’s Future

  1. “Maxim Kalashnikov” is a pretty hardcore name.

    • I was thinking the same. He definitely has the issue in his ‘sights” doesn’t he.

      This guy has come the closest to finding the “solution” to Russia’s problem. However, it seems to be an idea no one wishes to even whisper.

      But it is going to take more than 18 hour work days. Russia is going to have to regain her “soul”. Where and how that comes about can be argued. But without any form of “morality” or what some may call “law & order” this country will just be doing slave labor. And “morality” can not be placed upon anyone without those in charge having to exist under the same expectations. Putin or Medvedev can not suddenly start calling for such, while they merrily keep raping Russia and exist as if they are above it all. If you think my using the term “rape” is too strong, I would ask anyone to look hard at what has become of this country. Just some thoughts!

  2. Putin and his arrogant cronies have been a total disaster for the Russian people. Hyped up by over inflated oil revenue Putin set Russia on a path of confrontation with the west. This was insanity, over the last decade any green shoots of friendship and cooperation have been pulled out by the roots.

    Powerful companies like Shell and BP who invested billions of dollars brought state of the art technology and the best trained experts in the world to help develop Russia’s oil industry have been rewarded by state interference threats and the breaking of agreements.

    Now the international community have woken up to this despicable regime I cannot see a return to the flood of investments Russia enjoyed in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.Most investors are now looking to the new wave of emerging economies for instance the Ukraine which is a WTO member and Vietnam. Russia is not seen as a reliable partner and over the last twenty years has done little to curb its systemic corruption and bureaucracy.

    Russia has a strategic asset and that is energy. And has used this to bully and threaten not only its long suffering neighbours like the Ukraine and Belarus, but has made the fatal error of dragging the EU into its twisted geo-political game and now will pay the price.

    Thanks to the great technological knowhow of the USA gas can now be produced from shale sand and coal thanks to US technology this is a clean product the US already satisfies 50% of its gas need from this source. The EU has leapt onto this innovation and currently three countries have begun their own projects including Great Britain. The EU has stated that it wants to produce 100 billion cubic meters of shale gas by 2025.

    Russia’s gas strangle hold will be broken, they know this and are seeking markets in the east, problem is china will only pay peanuts.

    Even with oil Russia has proved to be an unreliable partner for fellow producers, during the crisis oil producing countries reduced production to stabilise prices OPEC by 12% the opportunistic Russians actually increased production by 1.5% making themselves the world largest producers even though they have only the 9th largest reserve. Russia’s actions have not gone unnoticed and there is now a seething upsurge of resentment from the other oil nations.

    Putin has made Russia virtually friendless in the world when the implosion begins no one will come to their aid,

  3. “Among other countries, Russia underwent declines. This was a year that saw Kyrgyzstan go from [an overall rating of] ‘partly free’ to ‘not free.’ It also saw some of the few positive spots, including Ukraine, hold steady over the course of this calendar year, coming into Ukraine’s elections in early 2010.”

    Russia continued a long-standing trend in crackdowns on accountability and transparency, Walker says, despite pledges by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to restore public debate and a more liberal political atmosphere in Russia after eight years under Vladimir Putin.

    “All in all, what we’ve seen is the continuation of the space that has shrunk over the past several years. And this last cycle is one where President Medvedev has been in control,” Walker says.

    “And there’s nothing to suggest that the policies he’s pursued have modified or altered the basic framework of governance that has been put in place before him.”

    Russia’s downward trend included voting abuse in local elections, growing state manipulation in the academic presentation of history, and the ongoing use of political pressure to intimidate human rights activists and journalists.

    Russia has steadily declined in the Freedom House rankings over the past decade, sinking from a “partly free” overall rating to “not free.”

    The ‘Putin Effect’

    Arch Puddington, Freedom House’s director of research and one of the authors of the report, says the steady erosion of political rights and civil liberties in Russia is a consequence of what he calls the “Putin effect.”

    “An important part of the Putin agenda was to consolidate centralized state control over as much of Russian society as possible. And the second part of the Putin effect is what happened in the [post-Soviet] neighborhood as well,” Puddington says.

    “We see a decline in political conditions in a number of countries in the Russian neighborhood, and we see that as having been in part driven by Putin’s diplomacy.”


  4. Tsar Putin the 1st is like a Post WWII German chancellor saying oh you want prosperity well you can pull the switch and commit genocide again I do not want to kill millions of jews! Its like Putin democracy in Russia equals poverty and rampant crime with putin now they can have poverty, crime and none of that stupid american democracy . Why would Russia want that America only has the largest Economy, Army, a long life expectancy and low murder rate , curruption is low as well and instead of having revolutions for a change its done with the pull of a lever so much easier but their are some down sides harder to steal from the people cant run the TV and radio stations no torture and killing and people have to car and work for this democracy . Siberia needs to copy the great state of alaska with its perment fund no taxs pay people for living their then kids will stay and others will come economy will grow and it can only do this by leaving russia mybe oin Canada or Alaska maybe even japan or South Korea!

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