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Once Again, Putin Spits on Democracy

Filed under: Russia

stalin.jpg In a flurry of the repulsive, neo-Soviet, cloakroom-style political activity that has come to be the norm in today's Russia, the country's dictator Vladimir Putin has summarily purged his government, taking the "resignation" of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and replacing him with Viktor Zubkov, director of the State Financial Monitoring Service -- roughly analogous to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (except that it's probably at least as corrupt as the shady companies it purports to regulate, as are the Russian markets themselves). Zubkov has close ties to Putin that date back to their involvement with the government of the city of St. Petersburg under Anatoly Sobchak. Like Fradkov, he is a virtual unknown at the highest levels of Russian politics, essentially a glorified accountant drawn out of the ranks of the tax services and lacking firm connections to any of the warring "oligarch" clans that dominate Kremlin politics. In essence, then, Putin has replaced one cipher with another.

It's wildly ironic, of course, that Russia has just spent weeks railing against the alleged lack of qualifications of Europe's choice to head the IMF when in fact not only Fradkov and Zubkov but Putin himself were totally devoid of any credentials or qualifications to be prime minister when they received their appointments -- that is, other than slavish obedience to the "president."

As Interfax reported, Fradkov issued a convoluted, insane-sounding statement claiming that he wished to give Putin "full freedom in making decisions" in light of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. The Russian newspaper Vedomosti, that country's version of the Wall Street Journal, reported earlier in the day that Sergei Ivanov, currently First Deputy Prime Minister, was about to be elevated to the position of Prime Minister. Ivanov is widely seen as the most likely successor to Putin, and it was conventional wisdom that Putin might seek to elevate him to the post of Prime Minister in order to give him a higher profile and a smoother pathway to power. The attitude gained special credence when, meeting with Fradkov to accept his resignation, Putin had stated: "We all have to think together how to build a structure of power so that it better corresponds to the pre-election period and prepares the country for the period after the presidential election in March."

In the event, however, it turned out that Putin felt no such compunctions. Putin's actions appear to send a clear message in advance of parliamentary elections due to occur in December that it is the presidency, not the prime ministry, that matters in Russia where power is concerned, and above all that it is he, Putin, who calls the tune the nation dances to. It is almost as if Putin specifically wanted to show that the conventional wisdom as to how he would announce his successor was wrong no matter what it was, that only his decisions matter, that nobody is safe except behind the veil of his personal "protection." In other words, Stalin would have been proud.

Russian analysts widely believe that Putin will only hand over his authority in a nominal manner next year, to achieve technical compliance with the constitutional edict, and will return in four years -- perhaps with a longer presidential term having been secured by constitutional amendment. Stepping away from the forefront may offer Putin the chance to affect an even more far-reaching crackdown on civil liberties without being personally blamed for it, and Ivanov is just about the perfect person to carry out such a strategy.

On the other hand, it's obviously risky to surrender the reigns of power to anyone for any period of time, much less to a strongman capable of carrying out such a crackdown. So it may be that Putin will opt for a mere figurehead, or he may ultimately choose not to leave power at all. That is not necessarily a bleak option for Russian democracy, since it would indicate Putin believes there is enough opposition to his rule that he cannot trust anyone else to resist it.

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Franjo says:

Putin not appointing Ivanov or Medvedev to replace Fradkov surprised everyone. The down side of naming the successor now is that it would weaken Putin's position as everyone would look to curry favor with the new man. It seems that Putin's fears of becoming a lame duck are preventing him from using this opportunity to solidify his successor's position.

This may tell us a lot about what is going inside the Kremlin. Maybe the infighting between the clans is so intense that Putin is worried about slackening his grip on the reigns just yet. This may also be backed up with the goings on over Rusneft, where factional differences seem to have scuttled the the Kremlin's attempt to sell the company to Deripaska.

But what I don't get is why change PMs now? Why not just let Fradkov carry on if you are going to be replacing him with another Fradkov type anyway?

Lujack Skylark says:

Putin as dictator will now increase military arm shipments to Israel's enemies.
Palestinian leader Abbas met with Putin in Moscow for three days no doubt talking about war stategy. All Israel's enemies are waiting for a US pullout in Iraq to implement a Holy War against Israel. Russia has even built a submarine base at Tartus,Syria in expectation of helping the Moslems when their Holy War lead by Iran moves on Israel. Putin is in the Quartet which Abbas expects will give him Israel's West Bank in November. May 2008 Great Britian's queen signs British independence away to the EU. The EU constitution is a Marxist doctrine. Putin won't have any fear about Great Britain. Jihadist arrive in Great Britian everyday as like in every other English speaking nation. Putin smiles. The Moslem serial killers are Putin's 5th column. A USA pullout in summer of 2008 will please all Israel's enemies. September 1, 2008 is possible date of a Russian-Iranian attack on Israel Why? 1) Islamic Fascist Mohamad went to heaven-they say on September 1, (632 A.D.) 2)Fascist Adolf Hitler attacked Poland and started World War II on September 1, (1939 A.D.) 3)President George Bush pushing his "New World Order" okayed the invasion of Mexican truck drivers to enter the USA to lower union wages on September 1,(2007 A.D.)North American Union is a violation of America's Constitution. USA people are not in favor of it. 4) September 1, 2008 is two months before US elections. Democrats will be yelling "Peace Train" Cat Stevens song-(he is now a Moslem) so loud, Putin will think he can waltz through the Middle-East with no opposition.

Russ Mitchell says:

Kim, you know better:

1. It's not like the government was *actually providing* democracy.
2. The Russian constition as written allows for the move.

But you already *know* this stuff. Why the post?

If you're hot for democracy in Russia, why not report on the Party of Regions folks, or something that actually makes sense?

Sorry to be so direct, but the "phobe" in your pen name is really starting to show.

La Russophobe says:


Try to read a bit more carefully, dear. I didn't say the move was ILLEGAL I said it was repulsive and anti-democratic. Slavery was perfectly legal until 1865 -- does that mean there was no point in criticizing it?

I consider this move to be a significant escalation in Putin's furious assault on democracy in Russia. You're free to disagree, but you've offered no substantive basis for seeing it as insignificant.

You're quite right if you are suggesting that there are other ways in which Putin is expressing his contempt for democracy, including his crude manipulation of political parties. However, that's rather old news. The parties were destroyed a long time ago, and do not operate now as a force of any significance in Russia. If you would like to suggest our reviewing a particular development in the news that you think is significant, by all means feel free to link to it. Even better, stick your cowardly neck out and actually write it up yourself and submit it for publication. Come out from the shadows! Show us how much better you can do it yourself! I doubt you will.

Frankly, your comment seems quite bizarre to me. This is a major story all over the world and has been covered in all the major press, so it's perfectly sensible that we should have our say about it.

Also, you might want to try to set a better example. From the arrogant, supercilious tone of your remarks, it seems to me that you've got just as much "phobe" in you as I do, but lack the guts to say so. On the other hand, I'm sorry you haven't noticed my "phobe" enough, obviously I've been remiss in failing to display it properly in its full glory. I'll work on that.

Russian says:

Russ is right and LR is not.
What Putin's new appointment has to do with the issue of democracy? It did not change tha level of democracy in Russia. Yes, all world media commented on this event but mostly about what Putin was up to by that. And nobody knows. And why the article is illustrated with Stalin's picture?
I always said that LR was better in gossiping about Russian tennis babe Maria Sharapova than when she was trying to be a political, or even worse,- military analist. She is that kind of analists which name is derived from the word anal.
Putin is the head of the executive branch and according to the Russia's Constitution, he has the right to change the prime-minister. Does anybody here question the right of President Bush to replace the State Attorney Alberto Gonzales?
Same thing.
Zubkov credentials and experience seem not to be good for LR? Well, it is to early to judge. This is a managerial post, and the guy knows finances and he is very knowledgeble about Russian oligarhs.
Putin was unknown too when he became the president, but he is one of the most succesful Russian statesmen.
Russians are very talented people. Once upon a time Lenin said: "We are going to educate the public so, that every women who is a housewife or a kitchen-servant now will be able to work in the government."
And Russians achived that.
Unlike they in the USA, where housewives and former kitchen workers are able, well, may be at most to run some blog like La Russophobe.

Artfldgr says:

Zubkov credentials and experience seem not to be good for LR?

Could it be because she doesnt try to look at that system by looking at our system. even in our system a person coming from no place to win is a fix... but in the world of soviet apologists, the same fix, is just a neat plan.

what are you using to judge his competency? why the fact that he went to a KGB school.

take a look where he went to school, and who was ruling then. going to school in russia then was NOT like going to school in the west. schools were and are not open to everyone, and certain schools were only open to the party/kgb, or gru... (they had other names then)

putin is the head of the executive branch but the soviet system is not the same as western systems. his appointment of someone also carries different weights and meanings as theirs is a system that has purges and such to change things... (they eat their own is a understatement)

your arguing that bush appointing a supreme court judge is the same thing as putin putting someone in place.

is it? lets see... bush is not the ex leader of a organization who has been killing people since 1917... these killings go far beyond any incidental story that you can tell in the US... (whole branches of the state were elimintated over and over and over).

and the level of offices are not the same in your coamparison... the office that putin put him in is a precursor to leadership... how many supreme court justices leave the bench and become state leaders?

you talk as if you know "Zubkov credentials and experience", do you? you speak very highly of someone that has had a long successful career in the deep of soviet intelligence and you know nothing. in fact, that may not be his name as they often have several, and that usually explains the blank spots in their histories.

also when bush appointed his pick the whole of the cabinet didnt step down!!

what can we glean from what little we know of him?

first thing is his age... he is 66

this means he was born just as wwii was kicking it. and that he had entered school in the late 50s...

this means that he spent his childhood through stalin, and his family was not outed...

the school he went through is one that only the connected get to go in (what? you think that lumpen proletariat can go to school where they want like in the US? no, school in the east was often a way of guaranteeing linage sucess)

he went to school for economics... a dangerous subject in a soviet era... in fact, a VERY dangerous subject, and one that only those who hade generational represenatation could get. in other words, his family was WELL connected...

and was well connected duing the stalin era, and later. which meant that his parents and such were acceptable to lennin.

so being an unknown has a lot more meaning in a system where unknowns are not nobodies who went to school like in the west, but the relatives of somebodies, that went to special schools.

putin puts him in place since assastination and such is common there, and so its hard to figure out who your freinds are and who you can trust, often not the same thing!

if you think that the wests 'in' get help, you should look at the soviets... lets see, he is married... and who to? the daughter of russias defense minister...

now what would happen if the judge was related by marraige to someone high up? so much for unknown...

he is unknown to the outside, but very well known to the inside... an inside that is more nepotistic than any capitalist system ever was...because they inherit power, not money... like kings and lords and ladies.. not like elected officials and such.

also, such an appointment by bush, doesnt lead to the next president being who he appointd, but in russia it most likely will.

in the same article i read discussing that his wife is the daughter of the head of defense... i get this quote..

Pavel Felgenhauer, a political and military analyst, told ABC News, "Viktor Zubkov is another technical prime minister. He has no connections inside the Kremlin. He doesn't have visible connections to the most powerful people in the government. He's a political featherweight.

so its easy to see how a leftist useful idiot may even select what they want to hear within an article..

if this was the past in the US, would you think that being married to general pattons daughter would mean you have no connection to washington? so its a joke really...

that a western pundit can say he has no connection, yet be married to one of the highest peoples daughter.

bascially he wanted a finance expert so that he can control the money that he and his silviki are making!! that he is not going to stop the money laundering, but will need a way to make it look like he is stopping it, while increasing it. since its a major revenue stream.

your points are like verbal crap being flung around... you just make snoballs and throw them... you have no idea of what your talking about... you dont even know the history...

and this is the most important part... your trying to know them by knowing the other systems. you cant...

their system is VERY different than others, and its nasty... it has the same intrigue going on in it that you read in middle ages texts!! the three major parts of the state act independently and war against each other. (party, kgb, gru)... each needing to deal with the other, and each trying to wrest control over the others (with putin, it may now be clear that the party branch has been taken over by the kgb and the gru, and that the gru has now taken a second place. only time will tell, then we might figure it out in the next century).

what you see as maneuvering that any western politican will make, is entirely different in that system. in that system, they murder and assasinate each other and play those games.

in the soviet system there is no such thing as a managerial post.. ALL major posts are held by something other than bean counters like in the US...

their system is concerned with keeping power over everything else. this is contrary to the west, where this is not done!

the top of that system is a bunch of sociopaths with no limits... the only limits they have is in their own intra group intrigue which is how lenin intended it.

from day one, these three legs stood and played their games...

and most people in the west have NO IDEA OF THE HISTORY... none of it...

you have no idea of the history... and so your assesments are made with your own history as proxy... this is a deadly mistake... for our systems are not sociopathic or psychopathic...

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