PART- 5/5 : The end of USSR & emergence of Russian Federation
PART-5/5 : The Legacy of Putin
Vladimir Putin’s legacy will be having attempted to restore some of the power and prestige of Russia, lost when the Soviet Union was dissolved in the 1990’s.But Putin, a product of former Communist and KGB networks, has clear ideas about what was good about the past. Unlike Boris Yeltsin before him, Putin did not turn his back entirely on the Soviet era. Putin is also, it seems, not as critical of Josef Stalin and his period in power from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, a time of dictatorship and repression, but also one of nation building and a victory at War.
The Putin government’s efforts to reappraise the Stalin era..to the horror of many historians and survivors of the Stalinist terror. Vladimir Putin is re-elected “president” of Russia, again in a landslide despite his poll numbers. He faces no serious competition from any opposition candidate. He does not participate in any debates. He wins a ghastly, Soviet-like 70% of the vote. Immediately, talk begins of a neo-Soviet state, with Putin assuming the powers of a dictator. The most public and powerful enemies of the regime start dropping like flies. Putin’s team of loyal dictators in Belarus and Central Asia are safeguarding his Eurasian dream.
Hungary’s friendship with Russia has been ringing ever more alarm bells inside the EU. Viktor Mihály Orbán the Prime Minister of Hungary , seeks closer ties with Russia while benefiting from NATO’s security protection and from the economic assets of an EU member state. When speaking to European diplomats, Orban claims, he has no love for Moscow and that he only reaps the benefits of Russian money and gas. In reality, it is Putin who is exploiting Orban in his effort to show the world that Western unity is no more.
Hungary is not alone in looking to the Kremlin. Russia has been making inroads in Central and Southeast Europe for years. With heavy Russian investment in their countries, the Czech and Slovak governments have consistently spoken against Western sanctions imposed on Moscow.
Russia is ruled by a narrow grouping around Putin ( Government Mafia), which has scarcely changed in its composition since his election in 2000. The presidential bias in the country’s 1993 constitution has been exploited to establish a highly centralized and personalized system with arbitrary characteristics. The internal security forces within the government machine have a particular weight. Neither the judicial nor the legislative branches of government have much authority independent of the executive. It follows that as in earlier Soviet and Russian history the prevailing system of government in Russia is based on personal understandings, mutual obligations and a fear of the personal consequences of a misstep which might threaten an individual’s position within that system, not accountability before the law. It further follows that there is a clear divide between the power structures and Russian society as a whole. That divide continues to widen.
Putin has introduced a qualitative change in the regime since his return to the presidency in May 2012 by more deeply entrenching this basic construct. Power is now even more centered on the Kremlin. By opting for restructuring the machinery of repression instead of adjusting to new realities, Putin has narrowed his room for manoeuvre and is pushing Russia in an increasingly reactionary direction. The risks of change, and particularly liberally tinged change, for him and his entourage have undoubtedly been heightened. Putin will want to continue to put off for as long as he can revealing his intentions for the 2018 presidential elections. A decision to try to stay on until 2024 would compound the already discernible risks inherent in gerontocracy. Putin’s chosen course since his return in May 2012 has given those wedded to centralized, top-down control an advantage. By downgrading and circumventing governmental structures theoretically answerable to the prime minister rather than the president but Putin has taken still more responsibility on himself for deciding issues both great and small.
Putin has control over the mass media. The Medvedev interlude was rule by proxy, not a real handover. According to calculations by the Independent Institute for Social Policy, investment in Russia’s Far East fell by 20% in 2013. The proposed Eurasian Union, if it ever comes about, will cost Russia financially. By tying the country to other authoritarian or would-be authoritarian personalized regimes, it would also further embed Russia’s present inefficient system of government. The perspective of rivalry with the West, which is mistakenly but stubbornly seen as being in decline, remains a constant for many Russians.
Russia is now a country that has lost its way, dominated by inner doubt as to what it will become over the next few years. Its root problem is its personalized political structure based on unstable intra-group understandings, not state institutions or law which would bind its rulers as well as its ruled. It is now even harder than it was even three years ago to foresee a change that would allow the emergence of accountable and effective institutions. Putin has shown no disposition to work for this. The transition to a more structured, transparent and publicly answerable system would now be hard to manage even for a leader who might come fresh to the issues A successor regime arising from within the present ruling group would be internally divided, with the available instruments of control further corroded over time. Such is the logic of the present system.
But it is also true that there is a real fear within the ruling group that Russia’s people have become unpredictable or, more accurately, that some considerable sections of it have become unreliable – and that this is a threat or may become a threat to the power and interests of the current authorities. Their response has been to restrict freedom of speech and to curtail independent social interaction. One unintended effect of that approach has been to foster the idea of civil society as something independent of the formal governing structures. The distance between the ruling group and sections of those it seeks to govern is dangerous. The risks inherent in such a gap are compounded by three factors. First, effective channels for potential evolutionary change have been blocked by the way in which a centralized and personal regime has developed under Putin and his colleagues. The Second, the further result has been to undercut exploration within the wider Russian polity of what a better system of governance for Russia might be, or a consensus on how it might be arrived at. The official opposition in the Duma has no cards to play. And third, neither the ruling group nor its critics are ready to cope with serious but unpredicted crises.
Putin has lost his former charisma, cannot dictate how to resolve his 2018 succession dilemma and is, it seems, finding it harder than it once was to arbitrate between the competing interests of his ruling group. His lack of a coherent and convincing strategic plan for Russia’s future further undermines his legitimacy. Suppression of critics is no answer. This opposition is divided in its instincts. Deciding how to reform the judiciary, the bureaucracy and the federal system, or how to clean up Russia’s contradictory and compromised statute book, or how to promote the development of a competitive economy are all for instances at present beyond it.
The Russian society is fragmented. The fragmentation of society means that there is no clear understanding of how an effective civil society should be organized, or what its aims should be. Despotic rule means suffering for the population, which is denied basic human freedoms and civil rights. Imperial conquests provide , an additional legitimacy for his rule. This same mechanism can be seen to play a role in Putin’s (partial) rehabilitation of Stalin. Stalin’s “ geopolitical genius” that is , his territorial expansionism, is used to legitimate his regime. And the population gives up its original freedom and enslaves itself for the sake of national Glory.
In Present-day Russia , where citizens , whose political freedoms are more and more restricted , long for “ national Glory. Stalin who ruled for almost thirty years, was a staunch an empire building. Putin’s attempt to rule possible for twenty – four years must be seen within this perspective. Putin considers this long personal rule as necessary precondition for his supreme geopolitical goal: the restoration of the lost empire. There exists , furthermore , a fundamental mismatch between democratic rule and imperial rule. Democracies are based on the principle of the fundamental equality of their citizens. Imperial rule is based on a basic inequality between the rulers and the ruled. The inhabitants of the imperial possession : in fact no one is a citizen. All are in the most literal sense, subjects.
Will Russia ever be a normal country?
Writer : Mashal Khan Takkar
Editor in Chief
THE VOICE TIMES