Thursday, May 15, 2014

Analysis of Russia under Vladimir Putin

Putin followed in the aftermath of Yeltsin, who had been the post-Soviet Western puppet leader that engaged Russia into debt with the International Monetary Fund and had allowed a privatization process to infiltrate Russia domestically which resulted in mass capital flight. Putin was able to solidify his power and the state government power through several methods and events. Putin originally solidified power as an “image as the Russian soldiers’ inspiration” (Pirani, p. 111, 2010) through the so-called war in Chechnya who “strengthened in the armed forces a sense of statehood that had been severely eroded” (Pirani, p. 111, 2010) by the infiltration of capitalist privatization that had occurred in the 1990’s under Yeltsin. While Yeltsin bowed to capitalism, Putin focused on the state. Putin reversed the anarchy of privatization and weakening of the Russian state caused by Yeltsin back toward more Soviet-era pogroms placing the state structure as top priority. The textbook actually compares Putin’s invasion of Chechnya in 1999 to the United States invasion of Iraq, stating that the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq was about strategic interests in the Middle East while the Russian invasion of Chechnya was concurrent with increasing power regulation and restrictions within the Russian state (Pirani, p. 118, 2010). Basically, the events comprising of the crackdown on Chechnya by the Russian state were either unintentionally carried over into the domestic Russian political power structure or the events were intentionally designed to bring about the domestic tightening of power within Russia. Either way, it strengthened the state while diminishing individual freedoms (which must be unbiasedly weighed by what is best for the current and long term). The process of Chechenisation, the “control by local leaders loyal to the Russian state” (Pirani, p. 114, 2010) within Chechnya, can also be mirrored in the domestic political structure of Russia under Putin as “the proportion of military personnel in the National Security Council grew to 58 percent in 2003” (Pirani, p. 119, 2010) and major percentage increases in military personnel were also noted in government and presidential envoys. The only counterargument on behalf of Putin for this increase in military presence within the government bureaucracy was that Putin had been prior military himself, and possibly wanted to surround himself with like-minds and people of loyal military character. The national polls announcing high levels of public support for Putin and his election victories have been targeted by western accusations of ballot box stuffing, especially in the territories of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia (Pirani, p. 117, 2010). There is probably some truth to these accusations, but also some western media promotion of those suggested accusations. Another political power consolidation process that took place under Putin was the creation of the Unity party and the “driving of opposition parties out of parliament” (Pirani, p. 121, 2010) through changes in election rules aimed to eliminate smaller political parties. Under Putin, the national television stations were also brought under state control and “indirect state influence is also realized through the dominant ownership share in many regional TV channels by Gazprom-Media, a subsidiary of the state-controlled natural gas company” (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 358). Despite western criticisms, Putin’s Russia today is considered a soft authoritarian state and “partial or complete state ownership has remained fairly intact or even been restored after earlier privatization was carried out. (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 357). A good question would be: What would Russia look like today if Putin would not have made the changes he has made and foreign investment (private capital exploitation of natural resources and labor) would have continued on in Yeltsinian fashion?

Resources

Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph. 2013. Introduction to Comparative Politics, 6th edition. Boston, MA: Wadsworth

Pirani, Simon. 2010. Change in Putin's Russia: power, money and people, London: Pluto Press.

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