Putin is back in Kremlin as president: Issues
COL DR. ABUDL RUFF
Dictatorship has been the hallmark of all terrocracies of modern times. Russia has shown even after the fall of communism that it can never become a genuine humane state, come what may. Concentration of power in the iron hands of rulers at the Kremlin has enabled Vladimir Putin, a former KGB spy, to return to power for third term even with difficulty.
Vladimir Putin, after an absence of four years in which he served as prime minister, returns to the presidency of Russia in a ceremony in Moscow, even as thousands of protesters opposed to the inauguration clashed with police in Moscow. Putin, dreaming of turning Russia into an empire of totalitarian bosses, will take the presidential oath at the Grand Kremlin Palace, in a hall that was once the throne room of the Russian tsars.
Prominent opposition activists Alexei Navalny, Sergei Udaltsov and Boris Nemtsov were among dozens detained. The outgoing President, Dmitry Medvedev, who might take over as premier post once again, was widely seen as an ally of Putin.
Apparently moved to tears, he roared in triumph at the crowd and described the election as a battle for survival against a “dangerous foe” indoors and abroad like the USA and the NATO, that had now been “vanquished”.
Putin might now feel vindicated by his election win, reinforced in the view that what Russia needs is a strong leader, willing to impose order at home and lash out at “foreign enemies”.
Putin won a third term as president in controversial elections in March. The clearest indication that in the last few months Vladimir Putin was indeed rattled by the implications of Russia's burgeoning opposition movement came on election night. Putin addressed loyal supporters gathered at his open air victory party in a voice raw with emotion.
Putin's room for maneuver will be challenged from below if, as happened in December, more and more evidence of fraud trickles out through internet videos and testimony.
A disunited opposition probably won't be enough to undermine his legal victory though none seems to think Putin won less than 50% of the vote. Even then, the Putin regime faces the signs of more trouble to come. Official intolerance for street protests, protesters being roughed up and clamped in detention, etc would face stiff resentment from people.
Will he now be a pussycat or a tiger in dealing with policy matters?
Seeking less trouble from opposition parties, Putin was swift to invite all the defeated presidential candidates in for a chat. Only the veteran communist leader Gennady Zyuganov refused the invitation. Some opposition leaders, wanting less regime brutality, said they were encouraged by Putin’s gestures.
But Medvedev’s efforts to show flexibility have apparently been vetoed by his boss. In a separate and potentially highly significant move, his president and soon-to-be prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, announced he was giving the Russian prosecutor until April to review the case of the jailed oil tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and look again at the decision not to register one of Russia's small opposition parties.
The harsh populist language that peppered Putin's speeches during the election campaign do leave open an opposite possibility that his third time around as president will be more not less confrontational, and more intent on showing his core constituency at home that Russia is not a country to be taken for granted or pushed around by Western partners.
The foreign policy challenges in recent months have seen Russian vetoes at the UN blocking US led international attempts at exerting pressure on Iran and on Syria. On Syria, there are interesting signs of Russia's possible engagement with Arab and Western partners. Russia's bottom line is no foreign intervention, even by humanitarian corridors, and no external demand for regime change so the Syrians must themselves decide their course.
Russia may not be facing revolution. But over the next weeks and months, it faces choices which could determine its future direction. The indications may be in small subtle moves. But the implications could be enormous.
Dictatorial trends of the Kremlin, if continue, would propel outraged citizens on to the streets again to protest in large numbers at an unfair system.--------