Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Putin's New Deal displays image of nationalism

By Aussiegirl

Putin is playing to the Russians ever-present and never-failing love of a strongman, who asserts Russian power overseas, and provides domestic security at home. The question is, how long can he keep this up, and how long will those oil and gas revenues finance his global ambitions for a new Russian empire before succumbing to the coming demographic implosion and the inevitable stagnation of the economy due to rampant corruption and the lack of a truly free market which prevents the average Russian from taking part in the new economy. This sounds like Soviet era rehash with a nationalistic overtone.

It also shows that the so-called "Soviet Union" was always in reality a Russian empire, with Russians feeling themselves the masters over the lesser countries that they dominated. There is something in the psychology of a nation that seems to be endemic to the population, either from the weight of history, the intrinsic psychology of the ingrained culture, or a combination of both. One thing is for certain, Ukrainians do not feel that they somehow have a manifest right to extend their dominance over their neighbors, either culturally, politically or financially. But Russians seem to feel threatened if they do not dominate all around them, and seem incapable of relating to the world except in terms of conflict and a win/lose psychology. In a nutshell, the concept of cooperation and coexistence does not seem to part of the Russian national character. Instead, a certain arrogance and sense of entitlement prevails.


By Igor Torbakov

Russian president finally delivers "state of the nation" speech The annual address Russian President Vladimir Putin gave to the Federal Assembly on May 10 has already been billed by some Kremlin spin-doctors as Russia's version of the New Deal -- the set of policies pursued by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the wake of the Great Depression. What is more remarkable, though, is that the long-term political course announced by the Russian leadership is markedly nationalist and non-liberal -- if not outright anti-liberal. It appears to be based on Moscow's deep disillusionment with the dialog with the West, formidable financial resources generated by the windfall energy revenues, and the seemingly broad public demand for policies inspired by "national egotism."

Most analysts agree that Putin's state of the nation address was rather skillfully crafted. The speech projects the image of a future Russia that is a strong country in which the powerful military-industrial complex coexists harmoniously with robust social policy. As a number of observers have correctly remarked, such an image embodies the average Russian's dream: a desire to see his or her country among the main world powers and, simultaneously, have the state take care of the citizens' growing social demands. Indeed, as polls conducted by the independent Levada Center demonstrate, the priorities set forth in Putin's speech quite neatly correspond with the priorities advanced by the majority of the Russian people.

[...]The very fact that Putin's speech all but ignored foreign policy speaks volumes regarding the degree of the Kremlin's displeasure with the West's treatment of Russia. Of course, he disdainfully mentioned "Comrade wolf" (i.e., the United States) and its high-handed international behavior -- a kind of "asymmetrical" response to Washington's annoying lecturing on democracy, most recently by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. Symptomatically, however, instead of giving Russia's detractors a tough riposte, Putin chose -- obviously seeking to appeal to Russians' nationalist feelings -- to pass the Western critics by in contemptuous silence. This tactic, some Russian commentators were quick to note, allowed Putin to make Cheney look "somewhat comical, like a man yelling something to a train that has long left the station." By all appearances, the Kremlin thought this would be the best way to demonstrate Moscow's geopolitical self-assurance. Indeed, the argument goes, why should the Russian president, who is presiding over a booming economy -- Russia earned around $113 billion from oil exports last year and a further $30 billion from natural gas exports -- stoop to react to the complexes of the Western policymakers who cannot adjust themselves to the newly assertive Russia?

But the presidential address made it perfectly clear that Russia will continue pursuing an independent foreign policy course. It will also continue to battle any possible infringement on what it perceives to be its sphere of "vital national interests."

That said, the one big question still looms large: whether Putin's ambitious nationalist course is feasible. Three aspects make it look questionable. First is the unhealthy nature of the current Kremlin management of the economy, where private and public interests merge in an opaque and, possibly, criminal way. Second, the ongoing centralization and the creation of the huge state-run conglomerates enhance the role of the bureaucracy, which is notoriously corrupt. Third, Putin's nationalist "New Deal" is effectively a race against time, as it hinges on the currently sky-high energy prices -- a foundation that could prove to be quite shaky.


At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seem to know a lot about this subject. I invite you to join several of your fellow bloggers in a debate over Putin's legacy at master-debaters.blogspot.com


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