Opinion

Chrystia Freeland

Russia’s “sultan” Putin

Chrystia Freeland
Sep 30, 2011 15:50 UTC

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.”

What happens when citizens lose faith in government?

Chrystia Freeland
Aug 5, 2011 14:32 UTC

Tolstoy thought unhappy families were unique in their unhappiness.

But when it comes to countries, these days the world’s gloomy ones have a lot in common. From Fukushima to Athens, and from Washington to Wenzhou, China, the collective refrain is that government doesn’t work.

“2011 will be the year of distrust in government,” said Richard Edelman, president and chief executive of Edelman, the world’s largest independent public relations firm.

For the past decade, Mr. Edelman has conducted a global survey of which institutions we have confidence in and which ones are in the doghouse. In 2010, the villains were in the private sector — from BP, to Toyota, to Goldman Sachs, corporations and their executives were the ones behaving badly.

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