PART- 2/5 : The end of USSR & emergence of Russian Federation
Rise of Vladimir Putin
Putin was born on October 7 , 1952 in Leningrad , six months before the death of Stalin. According to his teachers , Putin was not a model student who did not always follow school rules. Basically he was a street boy. He hung out with a groups of hooligans , often getting into fights with others, much bigger boys. But joining the sport club , saved him to be hooligan. He is a good player of sambo and Judo. He was very fond of reading spy novels and spy games. After his graduation from Law school in St. Peterburg, KGB invited him to join forces. Putin was sent to the Andropov red banner institute in Moscow for additional training.
Then he was sent to Dresden ( the then East Germany) for economic espionage and the recruitment of spies. He was greatly disappointed by the reunification of Germany which happened when he was in Dresden. In 1990s , after the downfall of soviet union, Putin left KGB after 15 years service for it. He became an adviser to Anatoly Sobchak, the mayor of St.Peterburg. In 1996 , after Sobchak’s defeat in the mayoral election, Putin also resigned and moved to Moscow. Anatoly Chubais , the architect of Russian privatization , had noticed him and introduced him to Yeltsin. In 1998 he was appointed deputy head of management in the presidential administration. But he was always keeping low profile, never appearing as a threat to others.
Putin also earned trust of the drunken , tottering Yeltsin . Beset by corruption scandals, health problems ,and the threat of impeachment, Yeltsin also needed the guarantee of safe exit from political life. Putin was rewarded with the job of prime minister in August ,1999. In September 1999 , Putin orders a massive bombing campaign against the tiny, defenseless breakaway republic of Chechnya,a massive contingent of Russian soldiers is surrounding Chechnya . Hundreds of civilians are killed and tens of thousands are left homeless as civilian targets are attacked. From here the public opposition to the war evaporates.
On October 1st, Putin declares Chechen president Arslan Makhadove and his parliament illegitimate. Russian forces invade. On new Year’s Eve, 1999 Boris Yeltsin resigns the presidency of Russia, handing the office to Putin in order to allow him to run as an incumbent three months later. March 2000 Despite being the nominee of a man, Yeltsin, who enjoyed single-digit public approval ratings in polls, Vladimir Putin is elected “president” of Russia Between April 2000 and March 2002, Russia plunges into a nightmarish conflict in Chechnya. Chechnya became increasingly bloody. Suddenly, Putin begins to appear vulnerable, and oil billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky begins to be discussed as one who could unseat him. All hell breaks loose in Russian politics. When Yeltsin bowed out of politics , he appointed Putin his successor as acting president, Putin’s first decree as acting president was to grant Yeltsin immunity from persecution.
In March 2000, Putin was elected president and four years later he won re-election to the presidency for his second term. Putin is not a natural leader. He was a rather more efficient at executing orders than giving them. By nature he is very reserved and emotionally detached person. He avoids strong drinks. After Yeltsin’s wild years, most ordinary Russian citizens yearned for a measure of order and Putin took note of that wish , because he himself has a lot of hunger for control. His KGB experience , strengthened that belief in an orderly society. What ever his position – whether deputy Mayor, head of FSB, prime minister , or president – he acted in accordance with these internalized principles , trying to impose a greater sense of order on society. Putin’s desire to gain and maintain control was most obvious in his uncompromising stand on Chechnya. It was an opportunity for him to take the lead to show that he was in total control. He seems unwilling to accept that only a political solution can bring an end to the conflict. There is an upside to Putin’s desire for control but the major downside , from western’s perspective , is presidential control over the economy and the political sphere. Growing influence of the intelligence services has permeated all levels and agencies of the government , upping the intimidation factor.
As Putin has consolidated power , he has left very little room for organized action by anyone who would dare to challenge him. Putin’s desire for control dictates his team building as well. Loyalty and devotion to Putin seem to be the prime requirements for high office in his administration. Putin sees only one way to increase order in the fractured Russian society : by enlisting the help of those people with who he started his career and whom he trusts- that are , the state security services. Kremlin also controls the executive branch, the Duma and the Judiciary. The power holders are also responsible for a crackdown on the independent media, the scorch-earthed policy in Chechnya and the bullying of Georgia , the Ukraine and other neighbors.
Unfortunately fear has returned to Russia. The tendency of the Kremlin to persecute the opponents who do not share Putin’s worldview , contributes to these fears . Given Putin’s position of power and his history with the KGB, some one can assume that he no stranger to auspiciousness.
He is very proud of it that his grand father was a cook in one of Stalin’s Dacha for a long time. To attain the top position in the leadership, one must go through three stage of life cycle : a distinct period of entry, a period of consolidation and a period of decline. The entry period is a high degree of uncertainty to understand the new position and legacy of his predecessors and how to go ahead. Then he is starting to consolidate his position. It is his high performance period and build solid foundation for the future. And after having consolidated his position the next period starts “ his decline”, where he loses interest to do new things. But he does not want to lose his power too. Then he engages in paranoid thinking, fearful that others are trying to get rid of him. In this period the leaders are then real threat for the country. Now let us take the position of Putin. He has passed the first two periods, entry period and consolidating period. Let us take a look of these periods step by step. When Boris Yeltsin came into power after the collapse of Soviet Union , he had played through energetic speeches about the democracy and freedom that excited the Moscow crowds. But soon people had started to think about the humiliating withdrawal from Eastern Europe and Soviet republics , massive inflation, non-transparent privatization process , power full oligarchy, increasing corruption and unglamorous war in Chechnya.
The world community was also not happy with his unpredictable personal behavior and inconsistent domestic and foreign policy of Yeltsin. That’s why Russians welcomed young Putin on the top job of the president for better and meaningful life and the world community also wanted Putin a reliable partner in case of democracy and market economy. The world community thought that Putin would end the Russia’s imperialist and military ambitions and bring home the Russian army stationed in various countries. On the domestic front , Putin made progress to improve the shattered economy not through the developmental , manufacturing and modern infrastructure reforms but by the export of raw materials , high prices of gas and oil in the world market. So the structure of the Russian economy has not changed under Putin , its dependence on raw materials exports has only increased and its manufacturing sector is still shrinking.
On the other hand Putin always speaks with sincere bitterness about the collapse of Soviet Union. He called the event the’ greatest tragedy of the twentieth century. One Ukrainian politician once said that : Those who do not regret the collapse of Soviet Union have no heart but those who dream about restoring it have no brain. Putin has no vision of Russia’s future for its population. The international community had been expecting a lot from him but Putin became increasingly defensive and conservative in his international policy. His stance on Ukrainian and Georgia crisis , his anti-Iraq war stand and inflexible position at the WTO talks and to put Mikhail khodorkovsky in nine years prison , scared the international investors and made Western governments increasingly apprehensive. Putin keeps parliament weak, and make it hard for new parties to organize or cross the threshold of the 7% of the national vote required to win any seats.
His various presidential institutions condone the repression and intimidation – and sometimes the murder – of independent activists. Grigory Yavlinsky, of the social democratic party Yabloko, calls it bureaucratic authoritarianism, “in which everything is decided by chance and violence … everything is conditional”. Irina Khakamada, of the Union of Right wing Forces, describes it as ” an instrumental democracy” in which democratic institutions in Russia have no intrinsic value but are only designed to keep a narrow elite in charge. Neither politician expects any early change. Whoever succeeds Putin will follow the same line…… to be continued……………….
THE VOICE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD