BEING READY FOR 2008

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Voters like seeing President Putin surrounded by military hardware

The last time Vladimir Putin flew on a military aircraft – an Su-27UB fighter – was March 20, 2000. Now we have seen an even more spectacular demonstration of the president’s valor: a five-hour flight on a Tu-160 strategic bomber, firing cruise missiles along the way.


The last time Vladimir Putin flew on a military aircraft – an Su-27UB fighter – was March 20, 2000. That flight’s destination was symbolic: Putin landed in Grozny, a city recently captured from the enemy. It remains uncertain how many extra votes that flight secured for him in the presidential election a week later, but the votes were clearly welcome.

Now we have seen an even more spectacular demonstration of the president’s valor: a five-hour flight on a Tu-160 strategic bomber, firing cruise missiles along the way. Later that day, Putin went out to sea aboard the nuclear-powered Peter the Great. The next day, he stood on the bridge to observe exercises involving a battle between “eastern” and “western” forces.

Clearly, it is impossible to explain President Putin’s activities by a love for extreme sports alone, although the natural inclination towards adventures has evidently had its effect too. This was at least a combination of useful with pleasant. The Supreme Commander-in-Chief fulfilled his duties with visible pleasure. After the landing of Tu-160 he shared his impressions with journalists, “This is a very pleasant feeling. I think it’s like flying in a dream.” With regard to the usefulness, several reasons can be seen simultaneously. To be more accurate, this is one but comprehensive reason that houses several accompanying meanings like a matryoshka doll.

If we accept as an axiom that a third term for Putin belongs to the field of fantasy, we need to bear in mind that conditions of the upcoming measures for transferring power will be absolutely different from those six years ago. It will certainly be impossible to play on the contrast between the agile successor and impotent patriarch once again: the “initial material” is too good and let well alone. This means that we will face not fresh blood but flesh of flesh, shadow, Putin No. 2.

At any rate, attack of this clone at the electoral bastions will be victorious only if popularity of the incumbent President is laid into foundation of his rating. This means that “flights in a dream and in real” are not an entertainment of the President but a part of industrious work aimed at provision of power succession. At the moment when continuer of the deeds of Putin appears from political nonexistence his own authority should be at a height unachievable for competitors. Judging by the ambitious new presentation of the warrior-president it is possible to say that the hour of announcement of “readiness No. 2008” is approaching rapidly.

With regard to the service need, presence of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief at military exercises is not obligatory. They could pass without him. What the President watched was a rehearsed show but not combat training implying improvisation and inevitable mistakes. This time mistakes were fully excluded and the role of not observer but the main hero was assigned to the President. Television cameras were looking at him first of all.

However, the accident with Priz bathyscaphe added a fly to the ointment of the planned “triumph of will” and revived pictures of five years ago in people’s memory. If Priz repeated the fate of Kursk in detail the exercises would have obviously been carried out without the President and without unnecessary noise or would have even been postponed until better times. Thank God, everything was OK. At any rate, nobody says that no problems remain. What was the most important, as the President put this, “radical changes occurred.” Putin said, “I remember quite a recent time when ships have been standing near the mooring line and airplanes have not flied.” Now everything – well, almost everything – flies and floats, which means that the Supreme Commander-in-Chief can partake of the fruits of his efforts aimed at revival of the Armed Forces.

New precision-guided KH-555 cruise missiles are among such fruits. The airplane carrying the President fired four such missiles – and, according to officials of the Defense Ministry, these missiles hit the target perfectly having flown nearly into a window of abandoned house of culture in the center of uninhabited northern settlement used as a shooting range. The President explained that the missile was developed practically in his sight, “About 18 months ago, we spoke about the need to develop new missile systems, that is precision-guided long-range missiles. Now we have tested it.” In the past, after the terrorist act in Nord-Ost, the authorities spoke about the need to deliver strikes at bases of terrorists with precision-guided weapons. The society was convinced that there was such weapon already and could not understand why such blows did not follow. It turned out that the state had no money. Now when there is money it is only necessary to hit the targets. We hope that in the near future we will hear a television report saying “great was surprise of Shamil Basaev when a missile flew to a window…”

The RSM-54 Sineva ballistic missile was another point for control of the President. The previous attempt to demonstrate it capability turned into a confusion. In February 2004, launch of Sineva failed. Navy Commander Kuroedov said than that this was the plan and there was “electronic launch without practical launch of the missile from the silo.” This time the President spoke the bitter truth aboard the Petr Veliky: “Everyone certainly remembers the unsuccessful launches in the Northern Fleet about a year ago. The relevant investigation was carried out according to my order.” The result of the President’s care is obvious again, “The previous launches and launches with my participation have demonstrated a high combat readiness of the nuclear deterrence forces.”

By and large, those who are not blind can see. What is more attractive for the voters – the sour faces of the constantly-complaining red-white opposition leaders, or Putin’s nice Gagarin-like smile as he wearily takes off a pilot’s helmet. It’s a rhetorical question.

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