By M D Nalapat
President Dimitry Medvedev of Russia declared at the United Russia Party Congress on September 24 that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will be the party’s nominee in the 2012 Presidential elections. Given the immense popularity that Putin enjoys in Russia, the expectation is that he will once again become the Head of State of the world’s largest country, four years after stepping down in favour of Medvedev.
The NATO powers define “democratic leaders” as being those who obey their orders.Those who refuse to surrender their independence are referred to in NATO media such as CNN and BBC as “authoritarian”, even if they have been legally elected by huge majorities.Thus,Vladimir Putin is almost always referred to as being less than a democrat, even though he has won three national elections in succession. In 2008, he could easily have got his supporters to change the Russian Constitution and permit a third term for himself, rather than surrender the presidency after two terms, in the way that takes place in the US and China as well. However, he refused to tinker with the Constitution just to give himself a third successive term, and stepped aside in favour of Medvedev. Now that the latter’s term in office is almost over, there is no legal bar to Putin once again contesting the presidential elections, the way that has just been announced. Of course, it needs to be borne in mind that in those other large countries, China and the US, the convention is that the leader who completes two terms does not take up any other office, but takes on the role of Elder Statesperson.
However, there are strong reasons why Putin did not retire in 2008 but took over as Prime Minister under his former subordinate, Medvedev. The reason is the fact that the period in office of Boris Yeltsin led to unpredented chaos in Russia, and to a collapse of living standards and future prospects. It needs to be remembered that US diplomats such as Strobe Talbott and others were open about the fact that both Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin in effect followed policies that were recommended to them by the US. As they point out, then President Reagan made suggestions directly or through assistants to.
Gorbachev, who adopted them and told the Soviet politbureau that they were his own policies, concealing the fact that they had been formulated in Washington and New York. When Boris Yeltsin took over in 1993, not only did he listen to policymakers in Washington and New York. He also adopted the suggestions of those in London, Paris and Berlin. As these capitals were interested only in their own objectives and not in the welfare of Russia, it was no surprise that the externally originating policies of Yeltsin led to much misery for the people of Russia.It was only after Putin took over at the beginning of the 21st century that matters began to improve.
Although for about two years (till 2003),Vladimir Putin thought that France and Germany would allow Russia entry into Europe on the terms that the great nation of Russia deserves, he finally accepted that this would never happen, and that the intention of the major EU powers was to push Russia into a subordinate and dependent relationship. He, therefore, changed Moscow’s policy from the total adoption of US-EU advice that had characterised Gorbachev and Yeltsin and changed to an independent policy that placed the interests of the people of Russia first, the way any government ought to do. He ignored pressure to allow religious fanatics in Chechnya to form their own state, aware that if this were to happen, they would export fanaticism and terror to other parts of Russia, beginning with the moderate, peaceful province of Dagestan. While Yeltsin failed to subdue the Chechen fanatics (who were being given hundreds of millions of dollars from inhabitants in countries in the Middle East to set up a Wahabbi state that would break away from Moscow, President Putin resisted NATO pressure until he had broken the back of the fanatics and ensured that the spectre of terror was weakened rather than reach the proportions of a monster.
The seeds of the decline of the Soviet Union were planted during the time when Leonid Brezhnev was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Unlike in China, where major changes in policy were brought about, chiefly the Deng Xiaoping economic reforms of the 1980s and the global rise of China in the first decade of the 21st century, the Brezhnev-led CPSU converted the administrative machinery into an inefficient nightmare that caused severe shortages of consumer goods in the country. Even in the field of defense,the approach of Brezhnev was timid and oriented to the status quo, so that the vast military power of the USSR was never used to defend its interests. Even in the rare instances where the military was used, it was subjected to limits on its functioning that robbed it of success.This can be contrasted with the US, which has never backed away from using military force vigorously,even in situations where peaceful means would have yielded greater rewards.
When Mikhail Gorbachev took office in the mid-1980s, he publicly gave up the use of the military in any situation. As its defense forces were the strongest component of the state, the USSR very soon fell under attack both internally as well as in East Europe, leading to the collapse of itself and its allied regimes by the close of 1992. This was followed by Boris Yeltsin, who is hailed by the NATO media as a great democrat, even though he used artillery against the Parliament soon after taking office, in order to silence his critics in that venerable institution. Far from being a democrat,Yeltsin functioned through a small clique of individuals,many of them with external linkages,and followed a policy of always doing what the US, France, Germany and the UK wanted him to do. This, he withdrew all military assistance to President Najibullah in Afghanistan, thereby condeming him and his government to death against a forces that was created in Pakistan and assisted by the US, the Taliban. He broke an agreement to supply India with cryogenic rocket engines after Bill Clinton personally called him to block the transfer to a country outside the charmed circle of NATO powers but still the world’s largest democracy. By the time Yeltsin retired towards the close of the last century, Russia was in a chaotic state, with popular misery reaching levels last seen during World War II.
Under the eight years when Vladimir Putin was President of Russia, the average monthly income of citizens of his country had gone up by ten times, and the Gross Domestic Product rose by more than six times since 1999. Religious extremism and terrorism were suppressed, and once again, Russia became a major force in world affairs. Once he understood that France and Germany would never permit Russia to challenge their hegemony in the EU, Putin began a policy of concentrating not only on the NATO powers (the way Gorbachev and Yeltsin had) but on Asia in particular. Relations with India and China improved substantially, as also ties with important blocs such as the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Within Russia, the Yeltsin policy of surrendering Russian interests to foreign companies based in the NATO countries was reversed, so that Russian companies were given preference, and unequal deals signed in the past were re-negotiated. Of course, all this has made Putin very unpopular in the NATO group of countries.They seek leaders who will obey them and smooth the path for their companies to dominate local markets.
However, this very nationalism of Vladimir Putin will accelerate his drive to bring Russia closer to the rest of the BRICS bloc. To India, China, Brazil and South Africa. It will lead to closer diplomatic and economic cooperation with the entire globe, rather than just a section of it. Putin has shown that he is strong enough to ensure the independence of Russia,and to resist pressure designed to push his country into a subordinate position.This is good news for Asia,which can look forward with confidence to a return of the Putin Presidency in 2012.