Russia’s “sultan” Putin

By Chrystia Freeland
September 30, 2011

The next Russian Revolution started this month. It will be another two or three or even four decades before the Russian people take to the streets to overthrow their dictator — and the timing will depend more on the price of oil than on anything else — but as of Sept. 24, revolution rather than evolution became Russia’s most likely path in the medium term.

That’s because President Dmitri A. Medvedev’s announcement last weekend that he would step aside next March to allow Vladimir V. Putin to return to the Kremlin was also an announcement that the ruling clique failed to institutionalize its grip over the country.

We have known since 1996 that Russia wasn’t a democracy. We now know that Russia isn’t a dictatorship controlled by one party, one priesthood, or one dynasty. It is a regime ruled by one man.

“The party doesn’t exist,” said one of Russia’s leading independent economists. “The politics is all about one person.”

“There is no such thing as Putinism without Putin,” Nikolas Gvosdev, a professor of national-security studies at the US Naval War College, wrote this week in The National Interest. “Putin must still remain personally involved and at the helm for his system to function.”

That new reality might seem to be a victory for Putin. But it is a flawed triumph. His resumption of absolute power is also an admission that he and his cronies have failed in the project they set themselves in 2008. And that failure leaves the future President Putin with an Achilles’ heel.

The project was to create a self-replicating institutional base for the regime Putin brought to power in 2000, when he took over from Boris N. Yeltsin and dismantled the fledgling democratic structures the first leader of independent Russia had either created or tolerated.

“In 2008, Putin’s message was, ‘We aren’t like a Central Asian republic, we aren’t going to build a personalistic regime, we will have institutions,”’ Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia and one of the most astute students of Russian power, told me. “This is all abolished now. The very idea of a governing party and party career, as you have in China, that didn’t work.”

Russia’s transformation into what political scientists call a sultanistic or neo-patrimonial regime is a break both with Russian history and with the global trend. The Kremlin has been home to plenty of murderous dictators. But the czars drew their legitimacy from their blood and their faith. The general secretaries owed their power to their party and their ideology. Putin’s rule is based solely on the man himself.

Russia’s shift to sultanism is out of step with the rest of the world, too. The Arab Spring was a revolt against some of the world’s most powerful neo-sultans; it is no accident that most of the remaining Middle Eastern dictatorships are ruled by dynastic monarchs, not strongmen. And among the world’s great powers — a group to which Russia is desperate to belong — only the Kremlin’s ruler need say l’état, c’est moi. China is certainly authoritarian, but it is a one-party state of precisely the sort Putin has failed to build.

One characteristic of paternalistic regimes is that they rule through fear and humiliation — remember the refrains from the streets of Tunisia and Egypt about people protesting to regain their dignity. That is being lost in Russia. One analyst, who has always spoken to me freely before, asked not to be quoted. When I asked a Russian businessman who was traveling in Europe what his friends back home thought, he was shocked by my naïveté: Kremlin politics, he explained, was no longer an issue it was safe to discuss on Russian telephones.

The sense of humiliation is even greater. “A lot of my friends are very disappointed that the private decision of two friends can determine the fate of their great and huge country,” one oligarch from the former Soviet Union told me.

Most humiliated of all was President Medvedev, who was required to announce his abdication from the Kremlin himself. “Medvedev is now the ultimate symbol of weakness,” Krastev said. “The liberals now hate him more than they hate Putin.”

Don’t, however, expect Western business to complain. When it comes to dealing with governments, especially foreign ones, chief executives love one-stop shopping, and that’s one thing a personalistic dictatorship provides. As one European chief executive told me, “We applaud this candidacy. Putin has been supporting industry in a way that is remarkable.”

Another thing Western chief executives like about dealing with dictators is presumed stability. That’s not entirely a myth — look at Ukraine to see how turbulent a post-Soviet state can be when it experiments with democracy — but it isn’t totally true either.

Paternalistic regimes can be very strong, but they are also very brittle. They have two great vulnerabilities. The first is money. Fear and humiliation are important tools for a neo-patrimonial strongman, but he needs cash, too. A Russian economist I spoke to calculated that if the price of oil were to fall below $60 a barrel, and stay there, Putin’s reign could soon be imperiled.

The second is succession. The central problem with a regime built on one man — and a reason Putin tried to institutionalize Russian authoritarianism — is that it has no mechanism for transferring power.

“For this type of regime, the only succession is that you clone yourself,” Krastev said. “In 2008, Putin wanted to convince us that he, like Yeltsin, could retire to the dacha. Now, there is no dacha for Putin anymore. He must die in the Kremlin.”

37 comments

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What is the difference between Russia in 1993, 1996, 2000 or 2008? It’s all the same constitution, the same institutional framework. So how it is democracy in the beginning and and a one-man-regime in the end? The only difference I find is that under Putin Moscow is against the West, while under Yeltsin the country was a humble student in the westernisation classes of the international community. But maybe the author has another opinion, which would be curious to be heard?

Posted by MrNemo | Report as abusive

I dont pretend to be a master of Russian psychology, but I do understand Russian history fairly well.

Why Putin will die a hero of Russia:

1. Russia’s 5 century love affair with autocracy. Whether it be czars, dictators, secretary generals, or presidents, Russians tend love and admire a strong moral head of state. This is not to say that there has never been backlash against overly violent dictators in the past, but Putin is popular, Russias elections are at least as fair as those in the US, and the Russian people idealize him as their leader.
2. The trauma of the post-communist period. We in America cannot realize how bad it was from ’91-’99. The Russian people survived because they were only a generation or so removed from an agrarian society, but the fall from affluence to poverty was painful. Putin was the leader that has raised them up again, and Russia does not falter now.
3. Putin’s cult of personality and the dominance of United Russia.

The negativity from the western press is suspect. Russia stands against interference in the internal affairs of most countries, would actively seek to remove the dollar from its pedestal as the international reserve currency,criticized Ukraine as a den of thieves who cannot solve economic problems (look who is about to go insolvent!). I admire Putin, while still recognizing that sadly, he would push Russia away from democracy if at all he could. Still, while looking at the “democracy” going on during this summers debt battle, a unified party with an intelligent long-sighted leader like Putin focused on fixing corruption and macro-economic concerns in the Capitol is not a terrible thought.

Posted by billt568 | Report as abusive

Too much pessimism in this article for it to contain accurate analysis. The Party FELL. If the entire Communist Party could not keep power Putin won’t either. Russians speak more freely now than they did in 1988, they travel more easily, and when they travel they speak to each other even more freely. I’ve no doubt that Putin is ridiculously corrupt, but he is not immortal, nor omnipotent, and it will take that. Ideas, in the end, have more force and greater power than any individual or group. They speak softly, but they do make themselves heard. He has five years at the outside, more probably around three.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive

The author is plain wrong. Those of us who lived in the former USSR through the 90’s know what “democracy” Russian style is: wanton disrespect for law, asset grabbing by the victorious side, privatization of government by the new rich, corruption, loss of dignity by people who cannot protect their basic rights. Just take a look at Russia’s “democratic” neighbor Ukraine. That country has become a failed state, privatized by business interest clans and utterly despised by its own people. Ukrainians voted with their feet about their privatized democracy: 7-10M emigrated from Ukraine during the so-called democratic experiment. IMHO, the country is ripe for a Libya-like scenario.
Fortunately for Russia, the majority of its citizens understand the importance of a strong state for the future of their nation. I know, this is a foreign notion for America, where most people are brainwashed to believe that government is their biggest enemy. Russia needs a long span of stability to put everything in order: rebuild infrastructure, re-start industries that were asset-stripped during the Yeltsin’s democratic 90’s, reform the army, law enforcement, etc. What Russia doesn’t need is a radical change of guard with yet another rush to redistribute, re-possess and redo.

Posted by Tyshkevich | Report as abusive

While Putin is cleared of one competitor, his fellow party member Medvedev he needs to win over the leaders of the two other strong parties, leaders of the less popular parties and groups and independent candidates to return to Kremlin for the third time. His major rivals are the Communists and the Liberals (who now fully adopted the nationalistic language and ideas). It is clear that with the current support of 40 to 50 % of the voters Putin has good chances to win in March 2012. Remains to be seen though are the exact list of his competitors and general political development in the context of the looming European recession.

Those who dislike Putin or Russia should not bet too much on the next Russian revolution or on the dwindling oil prices. So far the leaders of the country shown that they are ready to act to fend off unfavourable political and economic circumstances. Strong and large scale anti – crises measures adopted when Putin was the PM in 2008 and 2009 allowed the economy to withstand quite formidable economical difficulties already. Potential fall on the commodities markets will actually boost the diversification of the Russian economy which is sponsored by both Putin and Medvedev.
Many in Russia see the long term Putin’s political career as a difficult though an efficient instrument in coping with the extraordinary political, economical and security challenges posed by the demise of the Soviet Empire. The faster we manage to live through the legacy of the communist state the faster we have our strong man to retire to his dacha writing political memoires and concentrating on fitness.

Posted by Moscovite | Report as abusive

It’s the same in Spain: Felipe Gozalez and his friends in the Stalinist Socialist Party being in charge with a lot of corruption since Franco died.

Posted by thinkbeforetalk | Report as abusive

These are great thoughts, but there is one fact. That this country can only be governed by one strong man. Historically, russian leaders always had a great deal of power and they never had democracy of any cind, “western”, “eastern”, or any name-you call it. So, what the hell-history repeats itself, and russians like to feel that they are governed by someone strong. The last figures that governed that country that weren’t really strong, were Gorbachev and Yeltsin and one can see what happened in that time… near destruction.

Posted by leo77777 | Report as abusive

I”m not sure it’s the great surprise you paint. If, for 700 years, you have believed that the tsar is good and that the boyars are greedy and bad, you’re hardly likely to welcome the prospect of rule by the boyars. The people who believe that still are the people who love United Russia; the middle classes who might object seem to be totally disengaged from politics. For any revolution to happen, now or in the future, you need to find a reason for those middle classes to become engaged again: after the 1990′s simple poverty would appear not to be a good enough reason.

Posted by Ian_Kemmish | Report as abusive

Just call him Tsar Vladimir, but unlike the Great Leader he doesn’t currently have an heir to the throne.

Posted by willds | Report as abusive

To me, this opinion piece sounds like someone who just doesn’t like Putin. Could it be that it is because Putin almost single-handedly locked out the rich oligarchs out of control of Russia? At least, it appears that Russian resources are still owned by Russia, not something that appeared to be on the horizon with Yeltsin. I think Russians are to be congratulated for not having fallen under the thumbs of the rich elite of the world, and Putin was instrumental in achieving this.

We can hope for further growth of democracy in Russia, but the way events were progressing with Yeltsin, with our Harvard and Chicago school neoliberals, there was little chance on any else than a dictatorship of the rich. They were parting out the country to the oligarchs.

If oil were to fall below $60 per barrel for any significant amount of time, I would presume this means deep depression in the world, not a good time for anyone. In that case, everybody’s regimes would be imperiled.

Posted by xcanada2 | Report as abusive

As economies collapse and world governments and the global elite tighten their grip on the masses to try and pummel them into economic submission, the violent wave of protesting will spread to Russia as well. Like Greece and the Arab Spring countries, average people all over the world are figuring out their financial futures are very bleak, and they will probably have no way to support their families, and then they will revolt.

Posted by gruven137 | Report as abusive

Putin clearly was NEVER interested in shared power – whether with a puppet cohort, or a single national party, or through democracy.

BTW – Wasn’t there a Russian civil rights activist who fled to England but ended up dying a horrible death from drinking radioactive tea?

Posted by Parker1227 | Report as abusive

Putin? Qaddafi? any connection there…

Posted by nieldevi | Report as abusive

Your ideology is still boring when people continue to elect someone not approved of in the ivory tower. Difficulties and bureaucratic resistance to alternative counties ain’t much different between Moscow and Cook County, Illinois. And a politician running for office that the “democratic” United States dislikes – and Russians elect and re-elect – doesn’t give us the right to say he can’t run again.

Putin’s politics might suck. But, that should be a discussion separate from whether or not he can stand for office.

The discussion is as stupid and anti-democratic as term limits throughout the United States. Preventing voters from an opportunity to decide is not democracy.

Posted by Eideard | Report as abusive

Chrystia Freeland:
Russia’s transformation into what political scientists call a sultanistic or neo-patrimonial regime is a break both with Russian history and with the global trend.

But the czars drew their legitimacy from their blood and their faith. The general secretaries owed their power to their party and their ideology. Putin’s rule is based solely on the man himself.
————–

Is that really so?

Excerpt from Daniel J. Boorstin’s foreword to the book “Empire of the Czar” (1839!!) by Marquis de Custine:

“He [de Custine] was a firm believer in the social advantages of a true aristocracy – a class of people who were equipped, qualified, and trained to preserve liberties against a despot. He saw such a class in England. But in Russia, surprisingly, he found no aristocracy. For there all classes, including the “noblemen”, were equally slaves of the autocrat Czar. Russian courtiers did not deserve to be dignified as aristocrats, for they were nothing but fawning sycophants. He was appalled at this “moral degradation of the higher classes”. The Empire of the Czar, according to him, was already a truly “clasless” society. Below the autocrat himself there were no grades of independence or dignity, but a whole nation of fear-struck slaves.”

Nothing’s changed, nothing’s new.

Posted by jk178 | Report as abusive

The article is accurate, and the definition of “sultanate” might refer to Putin’s protégé Khadyrov and the latters way of ruling Chechnya. However what is true, is that by bringing to a closure the conflict in Chechnya, rebuilding Grozny, and bringing stability to the North Caucasus, Putin has proven to be an effective leader.
It is true that Russia is a great nation, both in size, in resources and in achievements. Russians are by nature fraternal and libertarian, however equalitarian, they are not, they do not see any merit or value in the “we the people” democratic, concept.

Posted by Aldy | Report as abusive

I see two major bugs in your research

1. “Russias elections are at least as fair as those in the US, and the Russian people idealize him as their leader.”

FALSE. Just study OSCE reports on Russian elections, not to say about media reports, Reuters’ ones for example. I am afraid to sound a bit rude but your comparison with vote in US is just ridiculous.

2. “Still, while looking at the “democracy” going on during this summers debt battle, a unified party with an intelligent long-sighted leader like Putin focused on fixing corruption and macro-economic concerns in the Capitol is not a terrible thought.”

FALSE. Even Medvedev himself admitted that corruption in Russia has become just more rampant during his presidency while Putin had had a real power in the country.

3. “the Russian people idealize him as their leader’

TRUE. An explanation of this phenomenon lies in strict Putin’s regime control over television which is – being a main information source for at least 2/3 of 143 mln Russian people, still – turned into a propaganda tool.

p.s. I am from Russia.

Posted by Dddyonis | Report as abusive

Isn’t it clear by now that our democratic political system is
incredibly flawed? We re-elected a president who had falsely led our nation’s into war, thereby causing the deaths of thousands of our young men and women but it was deemed impractical by the opposition to make this a central plank of their platform in the election that followed.
Second: Just look at the clowns lining up to become our next president–and realize that whichever one of them is successful, he or she has a decent chance of winning.
I would dearly love to see sensible candidates on both sides–but we don’t have them because the electorate doesn’t demand them.
Do we seriously want to see Russia go down this path too?

Posted by litrite | Report as abusive

Putin is a whole lot better than Obama. Putin is powermad just like Obama but Putin is pro business and Obama is pro shufflefoot. Who cares what kind of gov you have as long as its not liberals.

Posted by CashMcCall | Report as abusive

Los Angeles Times, October 2, 2011:

Vladimir Putin’s right to run for a third term as president of Russia is highly questionable.
Such an idea would have never visited Bill Clinton, since the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says: “No person shall be elected to the office of the president more than twice.” When a group of legal scholars was preparing a draft of the Russian Constitution adopted in 1993, they were looking at the 22nd Amendment as an example. As a result, Russia’s Constitution reads: “One and the same person may not be elected president of the Russian Federation for more than two terms running.” There was no doubt among the drafters that the provision had the same meaning as the 22nd Amendment, and that was later confirmed by Russia’s Constitutional Court. Now, no one dares remind Putin that he is going to run for a third term in violation of the Constitution.
Vladimir Bogorad

Chatsworth

The writer was Russia’s assistant minister of justice from 1987-92.

Posted by Attorshik | Report as abusive

The last ten years have seen one of the largest ever flight of capital in the West; esp US; thanks to a strange relationship between SEC, FASB, capital markets; lawmakers who allowed a ‘casino capitalism’; in which the losing end has been only and only the middle class of the US; the debt market been opened up; one of the stupidest thing ever doen in the history of mankind.

Unfortunately in the US the middle class does not have listening credentials. The media and lawmakers decide as per the capital market; The US has managed in just 7 years to transform itself from a feared superpower to the ‘best among the lot’.

I stand for responsible capitalism; while I may not support the Putin’s many many actions. One fact stands out.

Putin loves Russia much more than Obama does for the US.

Guys ; 13 years ago; Russia was in a pathetic state. Anyone would vouch for that. In the last 13 years , Russia has seen a transformation. a GDP per capita of 14,000 USD from 600 is really great.

Agreed, press freedom, many things might be compromised. But always comparisons should be relative to what it was. (1998-2011) .

Ditto for the US. Comparisons should be relative(1998- 2011).

Posted by DominicAntony | Report as abusive

Its funny how most of the British press continues a public relations war against the strongest man in Russia (elected by a overwhetming majority by his people…). using arguments furnished mainly by ex-oligarchs who would be convicted as crooks in any western democracy as they were in Russia (Yukos affair). Putin is revered in his country because he has given them back a functioning government, as well as their pride. Of cource Russia is not a democracy in the western model, but you have to consider that Russia has never experienced any better democracy than the flawed one they currently have. And regarding the economic dependence of Russia to oil, compare the situation with the UK economy in the, highly likely case, that in 20 years the City will not have any economic signifinance-UK will be worse off than Russia…

Posted by DimitrisTz | Report as abusive

Apparently the dictatorship is alive and well in the Russia. Putin has been workin tirelessly for years for his Putinisation of Russia. The hand writig has been on the wall for anybody with a clear vision to see. Only those that has not had a altruistic motives , does not acknowledge it. There will be certain elements that are glad for the Putinisation, but the majority of people is left out on the left field alone.
Putin has the ego the size of a football field. In his case, typical for ” Short Man’s Syndrome” HIs formed job at the KGB has given him leg-up on his quest for power, and I am sure, he uses it to full extent in his desire for the most powerfull man in all of Russia.
I predict, like all the other oligarchical persuasions, he will eventually succum to the nothingness, due to his “Lone Wolf’onism. That eventually will be his downfall, as he does not trust anyone to be as good as he is at his “Game”. Russian population may be faced yet with another “Revolution” in the future. It depends on how well they learned their lesson from the first “Revolution”.

Posted by CalGranny | Report as abusive

Hm-m… One important thing to understand about current Russia is that Putin (even with his power) cannot solve issues or make sure that his decisions are being executed. There are hundreds of smaller sultans everywhere below him. And these sultans have conflicling interests and they can “kill” any decision of Putin…
They have issues in building the City of Sochi infrastructure for the coming Olympic games even if Putin made it clear that this was one of his favourite projects.
They couldn’t legalize stealing of Yukos (the deal with BP was stopped because smaller sultans couldn’s agree on kickbacks).
So in the end of the day Putin is not that powerful… It shows how bad manager he is. Even with his status he cannot make the machine of personal power work.

Posted by exrussian | Report as abusive

Everything is clear about Russia. After KGB agents blew up several condo buildings in 1999 (several KGB agents were caught in the city of Ryazani) people elected Putin (former chief of KGB as their president). It says a lot about people of Russia and it’s ability to analyze and think.
What is more important is if West going to allow the thiefs to bring money and get legal status in the West. The Putin’s friend Timchenko (an oil trader) became a citizen of Finland.
Former mayor of Moscow Luzhkov brought his billions to Austria and got visa there.
This is a huge danger to the West. These guys know only one way to deal with issues – killing, stealing, corrupting…

Posted by exrussian | Report as abusive

After all, Putin is better for us, Russians, that all the kinds of the democracy of a western type. OK, Putin is evil, but still he is a fewer evil than Medvedev, and a far more fewer evil than Barak Obama in the USA or Nicolas Sarcosi in France. Mind your economies depending on the Russian gas and oil, guys!!

You want some more?))

Posted by Russianman | Report as abusive

Very good analysis. Completely agree. I can’t believe that all above comments are not jokes. Can people really be so blind not to see humiliation that Putin does by what he does? Unbelievable… and Sad.

Posted by Natalya | Report as abusive

The author tries to make a systematical analysis of what did happen that days in Russia. Good piece, real approach: ‘Russia’s shift to sultanism’. But can I add? The author’s ‘a sultanistic…regime is a break …with Russian history’ is not entirely true. IVAN GROSNY (The Terrible) of XVI c. – the Russian tsar once stepted the same personolised regime – he broke his legitimacy from his blood by appointing someone SIMEON BEKBULATOVICH a ‘legitimate’ ruler. That trick intied him from BOYARS and gave a scene to OPRICHNINA and Ivan gained all the power and, in mordern language, re-PERSONOLISE his regime or, using French, proclaimed L’Etat c’est moi.
The very difference of XVI c. and nowdays is that Ivan – at the end of the day a legitimete ruler – gave birth to Oprichnina, while Mr.Putin was born by ‘the ruling clique’ using Ms.Freeland expression. But the very question still stand: Who is more immortal – the Leader or the ruling Oprichnina? And for how long this time?

Posted by nasraddin | Report as abusive

The Russian people like Putin because he has transformed a bankrupt nation into an economic powerhouse.

I doubt if the Russian people will take to much notice of lectures from a nation ruled by elites and going broke.

Posted by Sinbad1 | Report as abusive

Anybody know what it’s about? Hint: http://www.ommrudraksha.com) Speaking of democracy versus sultanates versus one-party rule.

Posted by rudraksha | Report as abusive

To MrNemo

>>What is the difference between Russia in 1993, 1996, 2000 or 2008? It’s all the same constitution, …

My answer would be exactly the same question but with different set of dates:
What is the difference between Russia in 1936, 1953, 1967 or 1989?
It’s all the same constitution…
Well, not exactly (which is also true about 1993 and 2011 constitutions), but that’s just nuances.
The main point is that in Russia (at least from 1917 and on)
words and deads were always two completely different matters.
Russian (or Soviet Union) constitutions were just that – words.
The deads – judicial practices and law inforcement among others –
were and still are very little in touch with those constitutuions.
Stalin’s 1936 constitution was one of the most democratic and progressive at the time,
but behind the facade that it created were mass executions, unlawful imprisonment,
GULAG, staged elections, fear, etnical and religeous suppression, brainwashing, and pervasive poverty.
With some variations it continued to the mid 80-es and then began to tumble down under Gorbachev’s “perestroika”.
To refer to constitution and to “institutions” in the context of modern
and not so modern Russia is a typical example of westerners naïveté
(nothing personal – it is a wide spread phenomenon)

Posted by sitrd | Report as abusive

Russia is a young democracy and needs time to develop an awareness in terms of civil rights of citizens.

Maybe the big mistake has been done by Gorbaciov who was not able to slow the transiction from communism to democracy.

I’d like to read from you guys your opinion about a weaker goverment in Russia now.

Please, don’t misunderstanding: I’m pro freedom but I like to know the point of view of progressist russians who are protesting for an unacceptable situation.
Thanks

Posted by fmathew | Report as abusive

It is absolutely ridiculous to call Mr. Putin “sultan”. Just think, the “sultan” is actually British queen who is sitting on the throne since 1953, even longer than Gaddafi in Libya. How anyone can even talk about democracy in UK, when they cherish ancient mid-ages style of politics. British people do not progress at all. For centuries all of them just slaves of Her or His Majesty. Maybe people elect a prime-minister in GB? No. The words of people in UK mean absolutely nothing in the politics of England. So, the queen of UK is absolutely the same kind of the monster rulers as Gaddafi in Libya and Saddam in Iraq!
Mr. Putin, on the other hand, will be the new president of Russia ONLY if the majority of Russian people will elect him next year on the true and real democratic elections.
That’s a real big difference between true democracy in Russia and fake democracy in UK.

Posted by sparta888 | Report as abusive

“We now know that Russia isn’t a dictatorship controlled by one party, one priesthood, or one dynasty. It is a regime ruled by one man.” Ok, Putin is strong, but not only
Everybody knows the recently celebrated cases with Prokhorov’s exit from political party, managed by Kremlin and disclosure the name of Surkov, and Kudrin’s resignation. These show the very beginning of changes in Kremlin ideologies, so on one hand there are people who don’t want to be controlled by puppet masters, on the other hand, this regime is nit invulnerable, because more people will leave the council.

Posted by SamantaJones | Report as abusive

Isn’t it even more notable when you have the conservative branch of the GOP controlling the media here? There is a parallel strategy the GOP and Putin use to get control. Only Putin possesses the .38 special. Hold on loosely but don’t let go.

Posted by laguardia23 | Report as abusive

The other point to consider is the predictable European appeasement, from some of the Europeans who fail to recognize that there’s has never been sufficient cultural fraternity other than their own desires search for an equal political partner to influence rather than be part of NATO. These are the same Europeans that didn’t want Turkey to join the EU even though Turkey paid the price of admission all in advance by guaranteeing peace by providing their own backyard as another front to attack. It’s delusional. The Russians are only fond of the Serbs. They had their chance to build bridges with the former Soviet satellites and they only proved that they care about themselves.

Posted by Aguada99 | Report as abusive

Putin didn’t transform Russia’s economy…oil did. And when the price of oil drops again, Russia will face severe economic hardships. This is not a question of who is a better leader or which flavor of democracy is better. Russian people want real political competition, not competition against straw puppets approved by the ruling power. We want campaigning to be open. We want to hear real debate, not watch a boxing match between old guard politicians. We want a leader that is strong, yes, but also compassionate to the conditions under which his people are living. The degradation of social and economic programs in this period of supposed “riches” is well-documented, as is the increasing restrictions placed on our basic freedoms. Sure it is better than the Soviets, but for how much longer? The only viable alternative to 12 more years of Putin is Mikhail Prokhorov, but why should he return now?

Posted by Need4Debate | Report as abusive