Addressing the congress of the Liberal Russia party on March 30, its ideological leader Boris Berezovsky clearly formulated its major tactical principle: “A policy of control without capturing is more effective than a policy of capturing without control” – quoted in the “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” paper. The paper noted that this was meant as a precept for the Russian government, “based on US foreign policy experience”. However, it is undoubted that Berezovsky’s many time checked the formula and, consequently, it should be paid the most rapt attention.
Besides, the Liberal Russia party is not a regular party, but “extraverted” and “sanguine”, as one of its leaders, Viktor Pokhmelkin, told his party associates. Moreover, the degree of “extravertedness” of the party, or the number of its supporters, is supposed to be rather large: Pokhmelkin suggested following as a pattern another example of party-building, which “was also connected with London”.
There are other similarities with the Bolshevik party, indeed: for instance, completed clarity in determining objectives and the ways to achieve them. According to Pokhmelkin, “We must remember that the aim of every party is to come to power.” Moreover, parliamentary methods of coming to power can be used along with non-parliamentary ones, “of course, without violation of the constitution,” “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” adds. Overall, the formula “to influence not to possess” is very easy to transform into “first influence, then possess.”
Anyway, it is likely to take a long time, and it is difficult to say where this current will take the party. The brand “Berezovsky” still attracts some Russian politicians, whose ambitions have not been satisfied yet. On the other hand, there are lots of anticipations: for instance, Berezovsky’s practical-minded supporters from Perm tried to clear up the situation with guarantees of stable funding the party, “if something happens to the main money-man”. That was a rather strange statement for this upbeat gathering of Liberal Russia, and it was explained to the Perm associates that “it is necessary to look for money not only in the party, but also in your region.”
Apparently, it makes sense to look for money, especially taking into account that, according to the “Vremya Novostei” paper, the Perm branch is the largest formation of the Liberal Russia party, with about 7,000 members. Viktor Pokhmelkin, one of the five leaders of the party, has been elected to the Duma three times from the Perm region.
On the other hand, the anticipations of the new “tough opposition” as the Liberal Russia party determines itself, have real grounds. As “Novaya Gazeta” notes, undoubtedly tycoons are “people who will survive under any regime, if they are not shot”. However, their multiple projects, especially political ones, often bring very unexpected results – by the way, Boris Berezovsky has already experienced this.
The press is still discussing the second anniversary of Putin’s presidency, and is paying tributes to the notorious Russian trend to disasters, which many of the Russian liberal analysts believe to be a basic feature of the national character.
Observer of the “Novaya Gazeta” paper Yulia Latynina doubts the possibility of the second presidency for the “nationally adored President Putin”, as despite all the changes in the country, no serious reforms have been carried out in the country.
At the same time, the regime is as it was planned to be from the very beginning, “It must be Russian with the same Gazprom, but the heads of Gazprom must take all not for themselves, but for the president. It must be Russian with same tycoons, but tycoons must not think mush of them, as Berezovsky and Gusinsky did, but to respect the power, which must be expressed by donating large sums of money to the power.” “Novaya Gazeta” notes, it is hard to consider such an approach public, it rather “resembles psychology of an insignificant cop”.
Meanwhile, in the present situation, two years lost for reforms are very much. All court fights, all local quarrels in the regions happen at the background of a disastrous state of the country infrastructure, which is not an exaggeration. It is senseless to hope that tycoons will start dealing with renewal of the so-called basic funds of industry. No wonder, as “investing in officials is highly profitable, while investing in basic funds, on the contrary, reduced the resource and makes a plant attractive for capturing,” “Novaya Gazeta” explained. Natural monopolies are even less likely to go into such expenses, “though they are supposed to fund the Kremlin, in fact they are being looted by their own managers.” As the basic funds of the country are over 80% warned out, pipes are to start cracking soon, and plants are to stop.
As is known, the economy of the country almost fully depends on enterprisers exporting oil and gas, which are destined to appeal to the government for help with the approach of the crisis. As is easy to guess, the government in turn will appeal to foreign creditors or to the gold and currency reserves of the Central Bank of Russia – by the way, this is the cause of Viktor Gerashchenko’s dismissal, who was a violent opponent of the latter.
“Novaya Gazeta” predicts that when the country is out of its reserves, another default is to happen in the country, more severe than the 1998 economic crisis, as it is to be caused by not financial speculations with the state long-term bonds (GKO), but with a “vast heart stroke of the whole state industrial infrastructure”.
According to the “Novaya Gazeta” observer, the only way out for the government after this happens will be to sell the remnants of the Russian industry to foreign investors, “for nothing and in pieces”. At the same time, Yulia Latynina states that the main question is hard to answer, “Will the embittered and destitute people allow the “motherland to be sold out” or the political outsiders, who are not allowed to the Kremlin, will initiate another “Pugachev’s rebellion”?”
The left-wing radical “Zavtra” paper suggests its own scenario of the coming disaster; according to the paper, Putin “combines in him the destructive potential of both Gorbachev and Yeltsin.”
Replacement of the Central bank leadership and the inevitable in the future “weak ruble” politics is to inevitably lead the country to the notorious GKO. After the US “liquidates Hussein and introduces its arms to Iraq’s oil fiellds” (according to the paper’s calculations, this is to happen by autumn this year), oil prices will considerably fall and Russia will have to revive its experience of large foreign credits and installation of another foreign currency rate limits.
“Zavtra” does not doubt in the least that by summer 2003 the situation in Russia is to repeat the 1998 crisis, right on the threshold of the next parliamentary elections. Another “shameful peace agreement” and a complete defeat of the Russian Army in Chechnya are also likely to take place by the same time. All this will raise a reasonable question in the country whether democratic elections and other democratic institutions are necessary at all. According to “Zavtra”, the possibility of such “large scale constitutional and financial crisis followed by break-up of Russia is extremely high.” that is why, all oppositional forces that “are able to do at least something” should “declare emergency situation, gather all, who are ready to fight for the territorial integrity of the country even within its present, cut borders.”
Moreover, the paper anticipates that “it will be impossible to win “putin’s” and “chubaises” with the help of elections, but the opposition must be ready to intercept the power at the moment of the constitutional coup”.
Overall, it is undoubted that in the near future the country is to expect serious trials as “Herr Putin is alpha and omega of Gorbachev and Yeltsin in their worst display,” this sounds rather vague, but ominous enough.
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, whom analysts consider to be a “pink communist” and almost social-democrat, states that of $55 billion President Putin received from oil exports over the two years of his presidency, not a single one was invested in modernization of the economy.
Zyuganov stated in the “Pravda” paper, that the first year of Putin’s presidency is the year of missed opportunity, while the second one is “the time of surrendering Russia’s geopolitical heritage.” The left wing does not grudge criticism for Putin’s personnel policy, “Incompetent people are brought to power… The Kremlin has always been a symbol of the sovereign power, all Russian lands and regions, while today it is a symbol of Putin’s confidants and compatriots of low qualification.”
Overall, according to the left-wing press, the president is “losing the sense of reality”. The “Sovetskaya Rossia” paper informs, “He does not have alternative informational channels and he can see only what officials of the presidential administration show him.” The paper also adds that “Stalin received information from seven competing sources, and Yeltsin used to have three of them.”
Besides, “Sovetskaya Rossia” states, the famous presidential popularity ratings are usual forging, “Genuine popularity ratings of the president are sent to FAGLI, and they are so low that they are labeled “strictly confidential”.
Not only system and non-system opposition criticize the authorities at present, but also those who are tightly connected with the power. For instance, Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prussak once again stated in his interview with the “Komsomolskaya Pravda” paper that it is high time to change the Russian Constitution, “It is the only way to preserve the state, otherwise Russia will fall apart.”
Prusak does not approve of the system of federal districts, “Creation of intermediate structures has nothing to do with strengthening the power.” Besides, Novgorod Governor reminds, the scheme President Putin realized was invented twenty years ago by Andropov. As it was expected, the scheme turned to be inefficient, “People who have no managerial experience even in a village or small town administration take leading positions in the country.” Overall, Prusak has a low opinion about the so-called “former KGB officers”, “Five percent of them really dealt with the security of the country, the rest wrote good reports in their offices to justify their salaries. Year after year, they made up stories and invented whom they recruited…. This lasted for decades! Is it possible not to have psychic problems after this?!”
However, Prusak seems to believe in the president’s competence, though at the same time he stresses that there is no development strategy in the country, “Even in Soviet times, deputies at party congresses discussed and passed five-year plans, while today the annual address of the president is not published before he makes the speech.”
Besides, Putin needs a reliable team to handle the situation, and this is an especially painful issue. The Novgorod governor has a long list of claims to the prime minister and the government, “If this year serious figures do not take the positions of prime minister and key ministers, the wish of the president to change the economy and the social area are to never come true…. It is high time to understand, state administering requires professionals.”
So far the president is alone and in between the old system, he was not allowed to destroy, and the new team, “that hardly differs from the previous one.”
According to Mikhail Prussak, the president could rely on the citizens, his voters, “but first people should stop listening to him spellbound and constantly repeat, “We will do as you say.”
Obsequiousness that overcomes all possible limits is not a fault but a trouble of the president, “The whole country tries to stand behind his back, as is saying: you are a flagship, show the course and we will follow you.” Some day Putin may get tired of pulling the cart by himself, especially when “there is nothing to mend holes with and Kremlin ideologists again tell the people stories about liberal economics, which is to start working very-very soon.”
The “Delovaya Khronika” magazine dedicated a special research to “growing capital” on closeness to President Putin.
In these terms success of the Unity is a classical example: at the 1999 parliamentary election popular Prime Minister Putin supported the newly established party, which won the elections.
In the course of that election campaign, popular Vladimir Putin helped not only the Unity, but also the Union of Right Forces, having publicly agreed with their program.
Naturally, every success creates followers. In the course of gubernatorial elections, many candidates appealed for presidential support, however, not all received it. In accordance with legislation, Putin has never openly supported this or that candidate, but he paid special attention to some of them, and local elites immediately fixed that. For instance, on the threshold of elections in the Kaliningrad region the president arrived there not to visit the governor but to celebrate the Navy Day with the Baltic Fleet commander Vladimir Yegorov, who was constantly taken pictures of next to the president. As a result, several months later Yegorov was elected the governor of the region. Sometimes, regional governors severely fought for the right to accept the president in the region. For instance, Chelyabinsk Governor Pert Sumin was lucky: the president visited the Judo Cup in Magnitogorsk, and Sumin remained the governor. Perm Governor Gennady Igumnov was much less lucky: in the end of 2000 he had almost adjusted the visit of Putin to the region with the presidential administration – however, the welcome guest did not arrive. Soon Igumnov lost the elections to Perm Mayor Yury Trutnev.
Still, “Delovaya Khronika” believes, there is no direct connection between presidential support and the success of a candidate at the elections. For example, Putin publicly wished Gennady Seleznev good luck in the course of the election campaign in the Moscow region, but the regional residential still preferred to vote for resigned general Boris Gromov. After this, the president pays attention only to obvious favorites. In the Kursk region, the Kremlin was interested not in the victory of former Federal Security service General Viktor Surzhikov, but in removal of Alexander Rutskoi. So, a communist candidate won the elections, as he was objectively much more popular that the FSB general.
Currently, many Ingush presidential candidates use similar methods at the elections. Besides, many of them used to be on close terms with Boris Berezovsky, when the latter held the position of the Security Council Secretary. However, there are also open forgery: Boris Berezovsky is hardly likely to have every heard of Lipetsk candidates standing in the local elections to the city legislative assembly. Nonetheless, Lipetsk papers regularly published photographs of local politicians next to Berezovsky on the threshold of local elections.
Such stories are a usual thing in the regional political life. However, closeness to the president is not always a guarantee of being a success, while contacts with presidential opponents reduced the chances of politicians.
The “Vremya MN” paper reminds in the article devoted to the 10th anniversary of the federal agreement that under the first Russian president, the relations between the regions and the center used to be different. According to the paper, Yeltsin’s phrase “Take as much sovereignty as you are able to swallow” saved the country from a breakup then.
The paper writes, Yeltsin reasonably reflected that the weak federal center was unable to force the regional Frond to calm down. That is why he preferred to “buy” regional barons on the condition of being loyal at least from the outside, and suppressing the radical-communist opposition. These conditions were observed, and Russia did not break up like the USSR.
However, according to the paper, the danger of disintegration of the country is not over yet. At the same time, Putin’s decree on federal districts that arose dislike of many regional leaders, creates some premises for overcoming this danger.
From the standpoint of “Vremya MN”, this decree first of all destroyed the gubernatorial monopoly on the power, “Introduction of the institution of presidential envoys created competition on the regional political market, and in these terms it is not a return to the authoritarian past, but on the contrary is an element of democratization.” Presumably, now ordinary citizens are able to find justice for the actions of local authorities without appealing to the federal center.
On the other hand, the paper does not deny that “strengthening of the power hierarchy” can resolve only tactical tasks. Besides, it causes a threat of appearance of another layer of bureaucracy, which has become a real disaster for Russia of late. No wonder, the people never supported presidential initiatives, as they support the president. As usually, the people keep silent.
Moreover, according to sociological researches, there is a new class of people in Russia, who keep silent “conceptually”.
The “Yezhenedelony Zhurnal” magazine writes that in Moscow, where the incomes are relatively high and the unemployment rate is relatively low, there are people, who are referred in the west to the “lower middle class”, or, according to pre-revolution Russia terminology, to “city bourgeois”.
Under Boris Yeltsin these people justified the thesis of “the end of the intelligentsia”. However, having eventually found their place in the new economic and social system, over the short time of Putin’s rule, the new bourgeois seem to have sensed their position is stable. Their main similarity with the traditional notion of a middle class is stable incomes; however, unlike the middle class, these people have been unable to radically improve their living standards.
This is what’s behind the curious aspects of their mentality: on the one hand, these people are unwilling to return to the hardships of the beginning of the reforms; on the other hand, they do not expect their position to considerably improve in the future. At the same time, they are not completely satisfied with the present. Another resemblance to the middle class is that these people strongly object to any attempts to impose anyone else’s opinion on them, though they do not assert their standpoint – it is just an unwillingness to accept someone else’s arguments. They have not a viewpoint of their own: “they preserve and cultivate the previously-unknown abstinence from having an opinion on the major issues of the day, from policy in Chechnya and Russian domestic issues to Russian political strategy in the Balkans, the Middle East and Central Asia.” The stability this group of Russians appreciates so much is “usually based on ideals of the past, either Soviet or pre-Soviet.”
So, “Yezhenedelny Zhurnal” concludes, it is senseless to judge this group of people from the viewpoint of the “old intelligentsia’s ethics”, it is more important to determine the possible future for it. The magazine writes, “Supposedly, such groups are to form in other large cities. Probably, their peculiar mentality will many times reflect on the picture of the Russian public opinion.”
Still, observer of the “Literaturnaya Gazeta” paper Alexander Tsypko believes that “the negative stability, the absence of widespread protest, demonstrates the public’s indifference towards the state and those who rule it: people cannot see the state, they do not believe it is possible to improve the present regime.”
In his discussion with political scientists Alexei Pushkov, the host of the Postskriptum television program, Alexander Tsypko comes to the conclusion that only the appearance of a national leader who will be able to mobilize the remaining resources of the nation and suppress the elites which are destroying the country can save Russia from disintegration and destruction. This should be a strong figure who would be able to lead the people along a new path. Could Vladimir Putin become such a leader? In fact, that is what the nation has been expecting from him.
Overall, it’s like a fairy-tale: Russia is still sleeping, spellbound, waiting for a prince to come and awaken it with his love.
It’s hard to refrain from adding the warning: although Russia is waiting for a prince, Boris Berezovsky might come along instead.