Another Russia Does Exist


During Vladimir Putin’s tenure, some form of political upheaval has always seemed to precede elections to the State Duma, writes The Power Vertical’s Brian Whitmore:

This year’s elections are no exception. They will come in the wake of a massive reshuffling of the elite and a clear culling of Putin’s inner circle. State Duma elections in Putin’s Russia have also been watersheds that herald the birth of a new political reality. And if this holds true, Putin’s rule is about to enter a new phase. 

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia failed to live up to its commitments to democracy and economic freedom, notes Andrei Kozyrev, a Distinguished Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. who served as Foreign Minister of Russia from 1991 to 1996. What the old guard could not achieve using tanks, they did by sabotaging the new government’s reforms, he writes for Real Clear World:

Entrenched bureaucracy paved the way for crony capitalists who preferred spending the proceeds from oil and other commodities exports in the comfortable West over undertaking hard reforms at home. They left ordinary people to face the hardships of the transitional period in the custody of an unreformed security apparatus and a resurrected anti-Western propaganda machine.

The Russian economy got caught between the free market and state domination, with officials reasserting control over media and rigging elections. An ailing President Yeltsin tolerated this backsliding while his appointed successor, former KGB lieutenant-colonel Vladimir Putin, has benefitted from it, especially after his return to the presidency in 2012. No wonder that in that same year, gross domestic product growth stagnated and domestic political tensions worsened.

“In response to these difficulties, Putin has doubled down on the anti-reformist course, blaming the United States for stirring up trouble in Russia by supporting the pro-democracy opposition, and for opposing Russia’s freedom of action abroad,” adds Kozyrev, who insists that an alternative Russia will emerge. RTWT

All shock, no therapy?

Critics of the Wild ‘90s are correct that Western partners offered copious economic advice during the period—but most of it was simply ignored, notes Kirk Bennett, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer who has written extensively on Russia and the post-Soviet space. The policies pursued in Russia prior to the 1998 financial crisis bore at best only a superficial resemblance to Polish-style shock therapy or neo-liberal economic orthodoxy. As a result, Russia received, to paraphrase Strobe Talbott, all of the shock and virtually none of the therapy, he writes for The American Interest:

Soviet citizens grew up imbued with the conviction that capitalism is a hellish system in which a handful of fabulously wealthy individuals ruthlessly exploit and pauperize the toiling masses, who have no rights and no legal recourse. Perceiving after 1991 that they would need to build capitalism on the ruins of socialism, Russians evidently proceeded to create it based on their Soviet-era understanding—and it had little to do with any actual Western advice or practices.

On August 20, leading liberal Russian journalist Yulia Latynina (left) was showered with excrement on her way to the Echo Moscow radio studio, MEMRI reports:

The attack was captured on the attacker’s GoPro camera and later uploaded to YouTube. Interviewed shortly after the attack by the Russian Ren-TV channel, Latynina, who serves as an anchor for the radio station and as a “Novaya Gazeta” columnist and who is often critical of Russian authorities, said that this attack was reminiscent of recent attacks against political activists who were on the “enemies of the nation” lists, posted on the Internet. This video-clip shows the footage of the attack and the interview.

Click here to view this clip on MEMRI TV

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