Project Firefly's picture

Putin's rise to power and international fame was tainted with many tough situations, to say the least. The drama surrounding the Kursk submarine, the second Chechen war and numerous terrorist attacks allowed Putin to both demonstrate power and gain a reputation as a ruthless leader. One recent Foreign Policy article (http://atfp.co/1mXJcXH) argues that Putin effectively broke the social contract he had with citizens. In your opinion, do you see "Putinism" to (succesfully?) govern the country for a prolonged period of time, or are Putin's latest actions in Ukraine and towards the West merely the last vital sign of an ailing autocrat?

Comments

An ailing autocrat? Possibly an ailing economy near-term. When a nation is threatened economically or politically from within, time and time again we see a leader find an external enemy. This is especially true when the ailing economy threatens regime change. The historical trend is disturbing when put in the context of Japan and China. Both countries are stirring the nationalistic pot strategically as domestic challenges build on debt fronts. Nevertheless, "Putinism" is essentially the disregard of a social contract with the people and instead one with power and growth. This power and growth should in theory 'trickle down' to the economy, people and government. Putinism is the Beijing consensus, just on a level bent more towards power over economic growth as per the cards Russia and China have been respectively dealt.

When put in the historical perspective, the real important question becomes whether this "Putinism" / "Beijing Consensus" will rise to threaten the existing global political structure. The people of the world are more likely to follow, adapt and accept the political system of growth above all else, regardless of the power brokers. This is not my personal opinion, but rather what history has told us thus far. Although Putin has broken a social contract with his people, as FP states, the country has nevertheless rallied behind him like never before and even sanctioned oligarchs ‘welcome’ the sanctions put upon them as if they were a badge of honor.

Can we say that democracy would have spread the globe in the 20th century if not for the opening of markets, private ownership and economic growth that it brought? What will the 21st century hold? Democracies are either (1) ailing with a 100 year old debt hangover that requires central bank action to control or (2) somewhat prone to corruption and/or disorganization and with a tired population. We can use Ukraine as a prime example here. Although the U.S. and IMF have pledged aid for Ukraine, will Europe grow and consume enough of Ukrainian exports to tackle a debt, growth and balance of payments issue? As a friend of mine in Moscow simplified beautifully, "Who will buy Ukrainian cheese? Do you want Ukrainian cheese?" Sixty percent of Ukrainian exports go to former USSR countries with one fourth to Russia. If we take the 30 year outlook where Russia shifts from an unsustainable energy export reliance and instead grows with China as commodity ties and opportunities finally open up, where will Ukraine benefit? The nation is a prime example of a country caught in the middle of these global trends. The young in West Ukraine favor ideals of the West, but the young in East Ukraine favor the East and they know who ‘buys their cheese.’

Disruptions of political nature often mask the true underlying shifts: the shifts in economic power and the structure that leads it. The question of whether “Putinism” can successfully govern a country for a prolonged period of time is not one for us to answer, but rather market forces and to what extent persons bear arms to fight it.

A really well structured comment and, by the way, supported by some evidence from the world history (though, its interpretation is still opened to discussion). Thank you very much for giving thoughts on this topic.

However, after reading it, one question arises which is somewhat essential for the conclusion: what is democracy in Your opinion? What are the criteria of it and if there any government now living according purely democratic principles (in both economic and political terms)? And has not been the world political structure threatened many times before in the history, including the most recent one (I mean, first of all, the USA actions in Iraq and Afghanistan)? And where is the evidence that the Russian governmet today is looking for an external enemy?

Again, I would like to thank the author one more time for his attention to the topic discussed.

Hi Maria. In terms of the definition of democracy, and aside from the generic definition, most importantly a democratic nation has free speech and a sound judicial system. Jefferson said, "an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people." In other words, a body of people in a democracy need to hold correct knowledge so that they may vote properly for the best man or woman. The more a society is subject to misinformation and corruption on the judicial front, the less likely the government functions for the general populous (the voters). Although no one nation can profess to perfection (there are always loopholes and mistruths), some certainly are farther ahead than others. You asked whether there is a government currently living to pure democratic principles in economic and political terms. I would argue that they are two separate matters. The economic system at hand is constantly shifting with sentiment, growth and necessity. The Chinese have found it strategic (and rightly so) to operate in a semi-capitalistic structure in a communist political system. It creates a new corrupt hybrid of capital accumulation as property rights and freedom are only guaranteed by how close you are to those in power, but provides higher living standards for the entire nation of over a billion people. The United States is democratic with property rights and a fair judicial system, but the democratic political system is now burdening the economy instead of being a force of sound growth. Russia is a multi-party representative democracy, but her potential output and living standards are burdened by corruption, a lack of governmental transparency and questionable state-owned media activity. In terms of Russia and her external enemies, a historical mistrust of the West is still embedded in public opinion and in state-owned media publications. Putin is a smart and strategic man and practices a Chinese style rule of global politics. It is no coincidence that his goal is to shift Russia's economic dependence to the East and seek to remove Russia from the 'Dollar world.' He his forcing Russia into a position where she is sanctioned in goods (agriculture, machinery) as well as services (financial). Since the sanctions he has welcomed Chinese financial institutions, signed a commodity trade deal with China and has sought to reduce dependence on the USDollar (dedollarization) whether it be in a reduced holding of Treasuries or Yuan swaps instead of USD with state owned companies. So although Japan and China are far worse offenders in seeking external enemies, Putin is using an opportunity to pivot East in a very strategic manner in my personal opinion.

Hello guys. In terms of historical events you are right, but I personally have a different interpretation and opinion about some of those. But the basic and the most fundamental idea to consider when talking about Putin, I think, is that not every country is the same, and if one country can be governed by an individual like Obama, other countries cannot (think about country like Afghanistan, China, Turkey, and any other). The opposite works too – I do not think that Putin’s way of ruling the country would succeed in the US (or UK, Germany, etc.). However, as long as both of the presidents are in their countries – both nations are quite happy with them, or at least the majority of the population. And referring to Thomas Jefferson: “The government you elect is the government you deserve”. Therefore I think it’s not really the best idea to assail somebody relying only on the knowledge gotten from the local media or local government’s books, because as Russian books (and TV) would advocate Russia’s interest, US, and any other country will do the same.