Medvedev or Putin. Putin or Medvedev. Either way, Putin has been in control of Russian politics and treasury for 10 years of more. The truth is that Putin’s brand of grandiose nationalism appeals to a significant minority of the electorate, the electorate that need to believe that everyday life and opportunities accessible to the average Russian on the street are going to astronomically and magically multiply when Putin reassumes his role as President. Their belief is partially premised on the lack of any other viable political vision being presented to them – simply put: Putin’s vision for a return of the glory of Mother Russia is the best utopia or opium available to the economically frustrated masses in Russia.
This would not necessarily be true if Putin had not effectively decimated his political and popular (media; human rights; civil rights groups) opposition, either by manufacturing elaborate corporate and tax fraud vendettas against them or simply having them taken out of the public eye by having them arrest by his growing network of goons. Equally, any sign of budding leadership qualities amongst party cadres have been squashed, effectively setting up Putin to head a corporate party pyramid defining who is “in” and those that must continue to aspire to join the inner circle. Corporate because the Tzar has set up a number of corporate Ponzi schemes over the last 10 years that, while legally established, hard to detect and apparently serving a logical objective on the surface, all syphon off good percentages of funds from official government projects and public works, to support the Tzar’s visions and aspirations.
Western media has picked up on reports of Putin’s Versailles on the banks of the Black sea – his palace worthy of Neptune. But this is not the only evidence that Putin’s leadership is fast creating a hybrid society in Russia. Superficial investigations would reveal that Government contracts worth millions and billions, lucrative purchasing orders, state posts, governorships and posts in state-run corporate structures all are being designated by nomination by Putin. His friends, their families and a group of ex-KGB and Russian Army officers are being chosen to fill orders and take over ceremonial roles that give them key control over local and national corporate and legal structures, give them power and prerogative to initiate legal changes and rezoning of districts in key zones in Russia and around its major industrial and city areas. I am not talking Kamchatka! The Tzar is putting in place his people who will be able to legally restructure through civic procedures key zones to make rural and urban land lucrative to the Putin hierarchy. This is another way for Putin to control Russia and to ensure that only those that are loyal to him prosper.
It is true that such initiatives centralize power and initiative which could, if managed in a spirit of benevolence and democracy, create positive changes and economic miracles in the context of Russian industry and resource exploitation. However, Putin’s pyramid is restricted to a couple of hundred tried and trusted allies that all have one quality in common: they make the hairs at the back of your neck stand up and you instantly feel dirty – something is very wrong with them because, if I did not trust in Putin (ha!), I would say that they all resemble and remind me of Russian KGB and mafia goons. I want to believe that the list of appointments and government contracts were all misprints but they are unfortunately cementing and crowing the next Tzar of Russia, and his economic empire.
The implication is that a new class system based on power and economics has been established in Russia, in Moscow in which a majority of the middle class and youth would have no way to benefit from the Tzar’s empire – it might create 50,000 jobs or double that number but what it will not do is to spread the benefits of this empire evenly throughout society. Middle aged unemployed and those that are out of favor or don’t know how to access power brokers would largely be excluded from the new Tzar-stream. In fact after the elections when Russians uncharacteristically decided to demonstrate against the election fraud you could hear in their demonstrations, a commentary of panic drawing from a recognition of this very fact, of recognizing that there was little time for them to salvage their lives and livelihoods from the biggest corruption racket that was ever voted into government. The people of Russia had recognized the signs and voiced their concerns. Of course, their demonstrations were dismissed as propaganda and Putin patted Medvedev on the back for keeping the seat warm for him.
I write this in a spirit of understanding that Russia is still a great country and a world power with its people deserving to improve their socio-economic situation and their lives. What Russians needed now was a constructive economic program of recovery that upgraded their obsolete industrial structures and state companies and delivered some solutions for the century 21. They need good governance, health care and upgraded education curricula that would allow them to catch up and innovate and create commerce and industry to rival key competitors. They needed a savvy businessman or a real patriot to lead them on a 10 year program of recovery. As it stands, Russia faces a more divisive agenda then ever before. Putin’s agenda so far only promises to further polarize, divide and instrumentalise the Russian economy and workforce. High oil prices are providing temporary relief to the economy but that will not last long. In one year, Russia will face dire economic challenges that might have security implications for all of us. Traditionally war has been the salve to sooth the wounds of economic frailty but a war or conflict today means that we will all be implicated. Where is the Tzar heading and how will he manage to subdue growing criticism of his corruption?