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Lifelong Putin’s Governance?

Published on March 14, 2012 by: in: Politics

I am not deluded by the allegedly changing social situation in the Russian Federation. Extraordinarily as for the Russian standards anti-rule demonstrations did not change anything. Putin easily won the elections in the first round, he lived through one of the biggest crisis in his career and established his position as the head of the country. Horrible news for everybody who supports democracy in Russia. That is why I do not understand, why Bronisław Komorowski was so eager to congratulate Putin on his victory.

Despite the unusual as for the Russian conditions anti-Putin mobilization organized by the middle class members in large cities, Putin realized all of his objectives. After twelve years of rule in Russia he returned as the President, he won the elections in the first round (the fact that the election was counterfeited is a different topic) and he does not have any institutionalized, ready to take over the reins, real opposition. Places where people gathered to protest after the elections were violently entered by the service. The FSB clan defended and strengthened its position. The system of fabricating results of the election once again worked really well. It is a fact that Putin impedes the development of Russia. But the question is whether it is only the history that will make him out a bill? I think some of the Polish comments before the elections in Russia were too optimistic. The disproportionate hopes, aroused by the anti-Putin demonstrations, overshadowed the real view on the situation. Putin’s aim was to show that there will not be a second round, which would be a symbol of the instability of his power. Whether in a democratic way, or by falsifying or bending the elections, Putin has achieved his goal, the second round did not happen. Unfortunately, once again he showed that he has absolute power in Russia today.

What does it mean for Russia and Poland? Putin’s words on the day his of victory can have incalculable consequences and show, that the Russian rule does not accept the existence of the real opposition at all. “We have proved that we can be reproached by nobody. We have shoved, that our people can easily distinguish the pursuit of restoration from political provocation, which has only one goal: to ruin Russian sovereignty. But the Russian nation has showed that such options shall not pass on their ground. They shall not pass!” According to Putin, opposition to his rule is “ruining Russian sovereignty.” Is it possible, that after such statement coexistence of a true but out of the system opposition with the authority will ever happen? What drastic measures can be used by Putin after his victory? Knowing from experience, we can expect the worst. Response of the West to Moscow in case of a possible repression will have to be verbal, but firmly negative. It can increase the intensity of the dispute. But I am afraid that this is what Putin is preparing for. His statements about Russia being a besieged fortress, or raising, probably for the internal use only, the subject of the missile defense are heading towards escalation of the Russia vs. the West conflict. Similarly the way in which Putin has reached his victory left much to be desired; the existence of doubts concerning the fairness of the election has to be pointed out. So why did Bronisław Komorowski ostentatiously call Putin to congratulate him on his victory? In my opinion, it was totally unnecessary.

Any changes one day?

Luke Jasin in his article: “Rosja Obecna – Rosja Przyszła” writes about the inevitable succession of Putin’s rule, the awakening of the middle class aspirations, that the Internet is a great weapon against authoritarianism, which gathers real opposition. I’m afraid he might not be right. Putin is sixty years old. For a politician, it is middle age rather than decline. Over half a century ago, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin while determining the fate of the world at the conference in Tehran in 1943 (!) were respectively sixty-nine, sixty-one and sixty-four years old. Churchill returned to power after the war in 1951. And life expectancy is longer now. If Putin is of good health, but we do not know that, he may successfully rule until he is seventy-six, it means for the next sixteen years. What by this time can unsettle his power and position? Protests of the middle class? It is not enough in the scale of the entire country. The Internet movements, unfortunately, are inherently unstable and most often they are one-time actions. We do not know whether on their basis a real opposition with a group of strong and independent leaders can be established. (It is worth to analyze the quality of the emerging opposition. Not all the signals seem to be clearly positive. The EastBook.eu portal cites statements made by Alaksiej Navalny- the leader of the new opposition, which are characterized by its strong objection towards the independence of Ukraine). And this is the key to success. Until now, Putin could efficiently eliminate any opposition, leaving only those parties which were dependent on him or which are concerned to be even more threat to the world peace the Putin himself (Zhirinovski, Zyuganov). Putin will not be removed from power by the middle class or intelligence alone. To create a really dangerous for the authoritarian state movement, an alliance “of labor and intelligence” needs to be created. We have the example from Poland – Solidarity. Russia’s problem is that the social group, which is conventionally called “working class” seems to be completely passive, and supports the authority. Why? Ms. Kurczab – Redlich cites statistics: “It’s strange, that 50-60 percent of Russia’s population lives at or below the poverty line (data for 2009), and 59.4 percent of poor Russians are working people. And that in Putin’s Russia they did not build flats (only 2.7 percent of the needed number) or roads (today, construction of one kilometer of a motorway is, as a result of fraud, three times more expensive than in Germany). “I think there are three key reasons. Firstly, the mentality fully subordinated to authorities is strongly imprinted in the Russian society. The first signs of rebellion are visible only among the young middle class. Secondly, Putin, in spite of his unjust distribution of the income from the raw material Eldorado, managed to raise the living standard of the “working class”. In western terms the situation is balancing on the edge of poverty, but in the Russian’s minds, who recall with horror the situation from the 90s, the situation has improved. Putin can also efficiently play Russian national pride and imperialism. Unfortunately, it seems that there will not be a coalition of “labor and intelligence” in Russia for a long time. The breakthrough can be only caused by drop in prices of raw materials (in exports), on which Russia builds her prosperity and satisfies the “working class” needs.

photo: Freedom House

photo: Freedom House

Thus, I do not expect any changes in this foreseeable future in Russia. People have to learn how to live and coexist with Putin. But it does not mean that he should be congratulated on winning counterfeited elections. Neither does it meant that Poland should give up on supporting European aspirations and aiming at independence of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova or in near future Belarus. It is still Polish reason of state. Warsaw should also have no doubts concerning the continuity of Putin’s team policy to expand the Moscow’s sphere of influence. This policy should be wisely opposed across the European Union in the area of building common energy policy, seeking and investing in alternative source of energy such as atom or shale gas. Post-democratic and pro-western forces in all members of the former Soviet Union should be also supported.

Translation: Kamila Kwiecień

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About Błażej Lenkowski

Graduate of International Relations at The Faculty of International and Political Science Studies of the University of Lodz; president of Industrial Foundation the publisher of Liberte!; entrepreneur.

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