TCS Daily


Why Putin Does It? Because He Can

By Richard S. Williamson - November 30, 2007 12:00 AM

Vladimir Putin does not want to win the upcoming Duma Parliamentary elections. He does not want to win big. He wants an overwhelming victory. He wants to annihilate the opposition. And Putin probably will get what he wants.

Furthermore, Putin feels no need for any "seal of approval" from the West. He so circumscribed election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that they can't do their job, so they've withdrawn.

President Putin is very popular. Following uncertainty, confusion and unraveling in the 1990's, Putin has brought back stability to Russia. Symbolically, and on substance such as deployment of missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic, Putin has stood up to President Bush and the West, which earns him Russians' appreciation and admiration. And, most important, Russia's vast oil and gas reserves and skyrocketing energy prices have provided an enormous economic boom. For the first time there is a substantial Russian middle class and amply consumer goods available in Moscow stores.

Most Russians are content and they credit Putin for their improving situations. Polls have shown Putin's approval rating at over 70%.

While Putin cannot seek a third consecutive term as President, he fully intends to remain in "Control of Russia." And the powerful oligarchs who control so much of the Russian economy and are dependent upon Putin's favor, fully support these aspirations. So Putin is running for Prime Minister and will maneuver a puppet into the Presidency in next March's presidential elections.

So why if he is overwhelmingly popular and faces no serious opposition does Putin tilt the table in his favor and crowd out international election observers?

Part of the answer is simply and direct. Putin does it because he can.

Also Putin realizes that even if the mechanics on election day go perfectly that the elections are tainted by his tight control of nationwide television, restrictions on the right to assembly, and misuse of antiterrorism and antiextremism laws to quiet opposition voices. And Russia being Russia, the odds are high that some provincial authorities in efforts to curry favor will do a little ballot box stuffing. So why let international observers in to testify to such irregularities? The hubbub due to their exclusion will blow over.

The Duma election is just a formality. Putin's "Russia United" party will win overwhelmingly. He is looking ahead.

Text Box: CHI:2010555.1Putin is tired of being admonished and scolded by Washington. While Russia has gained financial and political influence in recent years, Putin sees America in decline, caught in Iraq's quagmire, facing a reversal of fortunes in Afghanistan, sacrificing moral authority in Abu Ghrab and Guantanemo, and the falling value of the U.S. dollar. Russia not only does not want Western election observers, Putin wants new rules of the game.

The OSCE, the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute and their instrumentalities to promote Freedom's March have crowded Russia's borders. They've helped the Rose revolution in Georgia, Ukraine's Orange Revolution, Kyrgyzstan's Tulip revolution and harassed Russia's client state of Belarus.

Through Russia's new NGO law, Putin has restricted the work of democracy advocacy groups. Belarus and Central Asian authoritarian regime's have enacted similar laws.

By turning his back on OSCE election observes, Putin diminishes the authority of that neddlesome organization dedicated to human rights and democracy. And, perhaps, he advances his agenda at the OSCE to further eviscerate its effectiveness.

Putin uses his oil and gas supplies as leverage to keep off balance the Near Abroad, former Warsaw Pact countries, and Western Europe.

And on North Korea, Iran and other issues of great consequence, Putin makes his presence felt, often in quite unfriendly ways.

Putin's Russia, increasingly is the old Russia, the Russia of the right.

Even as the hour glass is running out on the Bush Administration, America should reassess our Russian policy. For even as we hector and lecture the specter of a rising Russia hostile to our values and our interests is becoming an inconvenient truth.

A new Russian policy would continue to project America's values but less shrewishly and more shrewdly. Russia does not meet international democratic standards. She should not be allowed to carry that indicia of legitimacy. America should work more closely with our natural allies such as Europe, which means full consultations and buy-m by our friends before announcing proposals such as the deployment of missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic. And on troublesome issues of mutual concern such as nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, we must be consistent, persistent and respectful while, nonetheless, being forceful.

Whatever might or might not be found in Vladimir Putin's soul, the indisputable facts are that in recent years Russia's march of freedom has been interrupted, its power and influence has risen and its inclination to act contrary to U.S. interests is on the ascent. It's past time to recalibrate America's engagement with Putin's Russia.


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59 Comments

Steady encroachment
Putin's fairly easy to figure out. The Americans are putting military bases into every former Warsaw Pact country, all aimed toward Moscow. They have client governments in Georgia and sort of in Ukraine. And they never miss an opportunity to tell him how he must behave if he is not to incur our mighty wrath. He is obviously the target of a determined program of absorption-- by NATO, by the US, by the EU and by the OSCE.

Now the OSCE is telling him they must monitor his elections. In such a position, what would you be incined to do?

I would tell everyone to get the hell out of my private business. I would go to my border, drive a spear into the sand and say "You shall not pass this point."

Which he has done. Which explains his total popularity among the Russian people. Historically their greatest fear has always been absorption by a strong army of expansion.

Our militaristic approach to chastising Russia strikes a very familiar chord in their souls. Threatening more trouble will predictably not make them any more meek.

you can always count on roy
To come to the defense of any leftwing dictator. And do it by telling lies about the US.

Putin doesn't OWN the country does he?


Why have so many Russians have emmigrated?

Why are so many Russians living in the USA?

"Historically their greatest fear has always been absorption by a strong army of expansion. "

Their fears have been realized. It is called the Red Army.

Encroachment?
>"The Americans are putting military bases into every former Warsaw Pact country, all aimed toward Moscow."

Please provide the number of troops placed in every former Warsaw Pact country. It is hard to believe that he sees this as a threat.

I know you are not in favor of former Soviet satellites controlling their own destiny or adopting capitalistic systems but those countries have the right to determine who is their ally and who is not. I am certain you will defend the Soviet occupation of those countries. I don't expect you to see that the Warsaw pact was held together through threat of force. Unlike the Soviets, we (the US and NATO) were invited. Big difference.

>"Our militaristic approach to chastising Russia strikes a very familiar chord in their souls. Threatening more trouble will predictably not make them any more meek."

What "militaristic" threat? Missile defense systems? What "threats" have we unleashed upon Russia?

You are really reaching here Roy. I know who have a soft spot for dictators (Chavez, Saddam, Assad, the Iranian Dude, Putin) but perhaps, just perhaps, you can see that Putin is not some noble figure standing up for the Russian people. He is a thug that is using thuggish tactics to enrich himself and his cronies.

almost
roy doesn't have a soft spot for all dictators. They have to be left wing, and they have to be anti-US.

U.S. Evicted From Air Base In Uzbekistan
"Uzbekistan formally evicted the United States yesterday from a military base that has served as a hub for combat and humanitarian missions to Afghanistan since shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Pentagon and State Department officials said yesterday."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/29/AR2005072902038.html

We are really surrounding them!

Yearning to be free
Actually Putin governs with the consent of the governed. He's possibly the most popular leader on earth, with his own people. Back in 2004 he won with 71% of the vote, and it's only gone up since that time.

Look at this:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0119/p01s03-woeu.html

"Why have so many Russians have emmigrated?"

They were disappointed with Communism. That was back in the eighties, dill bird. Not a whole lot of Russians are coming over here nowadays.

Interesting that of those Russians coming over to escape Communism, about half of them returned after a year or two in America. The reason? No social safety net. They were used to being taken care of by the state.

Re your comment about the Red Army, it is only a problem in the borderlands, like Chechnya, where there is a truly bloody, awful occupation. The Red Army has little presence in Russia proper.

Funny...
>"Actually Putin governs with the consent of the governed. He's possibly the most popular leader on earth, with his own people. Back in 2004 he won with 71% of the vote, and it's only gone up since that time."

That you said the same things about Chavez. Too bad Carter isn't around to give his blessing to the Russian vote. Next thing you will tell us about Russia's wonderful free press and tolerance for dissenting opinions.

From the Russian public's point of view...
..Roy's description of the situation is basically correct.

And while the objections to that point of view raised by MarkTheGreat, Marjon and Tezcatlipoca are valid ones, the Russians live on Planet Scape Goat.

And when it comes to trying to convince them otherwise, it doesn't help either that the West lost a lot of credibility by pushing catastrophic IMF/Washington Consensu policies that let to hyperinflation and the looting of their country by the oligarchs during the Yeltsin era. I do believe that while Putin & Co.'s approval ratings are around 70%, those for the 'free market' reformers like Yegor Gaidar & Grigory Yavlinsky that the IMF/Washington Consensus pushed are just 3%.
Now granted, Putin's control over the media probably has a lot to do with that spread in numbers. But the reformers had a lot of already bad blood with the public for them to work with.

Above all, the Russian people are H-U-M-I-L-I-A-T-E-D by how the Cold War was ended. Like the folks in Weimar Germany who couldn't understand how Germany could lose the war like it did, they don't want to hear anything that contradicts the myths they have erected to help 'explain' that humiliation either.

None of this is appreciated in the West. We just don't have the common experiential reference points to 'get it'. Be glad that we don't.

In the meantime, we just have to wait this one out. And I refer to 'wait' as being a generation or two, if we're lucky. As flat tax Russia gets richer, that too will speed the process along.

After all, they are good allies when it comes to killing Islamofascists.

Interesting point
I foresee no real harm coming from Putin's Russia other than political gamesmanship and playing others against the West.

I do foresee a real harm to the Russian people. While it is true they feel the sting of being on the wrong side of history they should not back a man who was once a cog in that machine.

Slavs (slaves)
If the Russians have an inferiority complex it has been there for centuries and it was NOT caused by the USA.




Al Capone was popular too
Who would dare oppose the Godfather?

Putin's popularity
Personally I would never vote for Putin. He's done beastly things in Chechnya-- far worse than anything we've done in Iraq or Afghanistan. Plus, he took a lively and interesting free press and turned it back into very nearly a one-party house organ. Plus, of course, he allows people to be assassinated. Not cool.

Dissent is tolerated-- but within limits made clear to everyone. In this his Russia resembles our United States, with Bush's Free Speech zones located far from any event protesters might want to congregate near.

What I said was merely a FACT. That Putin is extremely popular. This does not imply an endorsement of the man or his policies. Although I do think he shows himself to be a sincere Russian patriot, and perhaps the kind of man they recognize a need for right now.

Interesting that SPS and Yabloko are now tiny parties, appealing to no more than ten percent of the public, combined. It would seem that economic liberalism is kind of a tainted subject in Russia right now.

True...
...but we did throw the gasoline onto that fire, no doubt.

And -- as the wealthiest and most powerful nation that defeated the roys/commies in the Cold War -- the US is a the most obvious target for the Russians' humiliation, regardless of actual blame.

Putin plays on both points and he does it well. I'd even say he makes Karl Rove look like a bumbling incompetent by comparison.

Not encroachment, containment.
When the objective is to contain socialist expansion, some call that encroachment.

When the objective is to promote individual liberty and prosperity, others call it encroachment. If that is what it is called, let's keep encroaching upon socialism.

Containing socialist expansion
You're losing it. No one has ever called Putin a socialist. If anything, he's more of a fascist. Communism ended in Russia back in 1991. And although the Communist party still gets to vote they are not particularly getting behind V. Putin.

Also, use of the concept of containment implies that Putin is expansionist. Clearly not so. His strategy is solely to not allow an inch of present day Russia (including the Islamic Caucasian regions) to become an independent territory. He has no designs on Eastern Europe or the Baltic states. The only extraterritorial beef Russians have ever engaged in were in the breakaway republic of Abkhazia.

Not that any of this will make any difference to you.

SDI
Since Reagan started SDI, the US has offered to share its missile defense system with USSR/Russia.

They, of course, and a system to defend Moscow, but the USA, by treaty, was not allowed.

Some encroachment!

Here we go again.
Fascism is socialism, state control of private property.



Pathetic smear job
What a disgraceful pathetic smear job. Rich in innuendo, devoid of verifiable facts -- you should join CNN.Putin is good leader. He put the oligarchs in their place, jailing and exiling those who wouldn't obey the law and forcing the remainder to follow the law -- but here you smear him with innuendo as if he is in collusion with them. In opposition to those criminals who controlled finance and the press, Putin's popularity is due to restoring law and order, governance, national pride and respect for the people. But he attacked the journalist class (a criminal, lying corrupt journalist class beyond even the worst ever seen in the West), which offends the hacks of the West -- Quel domage! He is trying to maintain law and order despite pathetic rabble-rousing riff raff like Kasparov (trying to leverage his microscopic popularity by fomenting public disorder). How little we in the West remember of history; the French and Russian revolutions were both initiated by mobs in the street. I think a lawfully instituted government has every right to control public order in such a delicate situation. But such understanding would be beyond the author of these smears.The sycophantic press of the West unquestioningly accepts every accusation by the corrupt classes of Russia, still wrathful at losing control of Russia's media -- which they never used to report truth or facts, only used to extort government of behalf of their Oligarch masters.Hail to Putin, worldly saviour of Holy Russia! Shame of the shallow ignorant Western Press that believes every slander against him made by these corrupt and avaricious snakes.

TCS preview ate my paragraph breaks...
TCS preview ate my paragraph breaks...

The good old days
"But the media have this one right. Both Chavez and Putin are attempting to reset the clock on the Cold War, and neither of them is terribly interested in promoting democratic institutions or ensuring a fair, transparent electoral process. And if recent history is any judge, come Sunday morning both Russia and Venezuela might very well be further down the path to the one party state."

http://www.reason.com/news/show/123712.html

Many seem to want a return to the cold war to curb the aggression of the USA and save the workers from exploitation.

You may get your wish. Too bad so many will suffer in the process.

Not so funny...
It is interesting that you off-handedly mention that Putin destroyed the free press in Russia and has assassinated several dissident reports and then in the next paragraph compare this to limiting rabid protesters to specific areas. Do you honestly believe them to be on the same level?

I am sure that you do. Such comparisons are your favorite tactic.

As for the FACT of Putin's popularity, I would wonder how much of a FACT it is considering the lock down on the press. Control of the media does wonders for one's image, the Democrat party for example.

Economic liberalism was hardly even in it's beginning stages before Putin clamped down on it. As Zyndryl pointed out, the Russian people feel humiliated after the utter failure of the Soviet Empire (a real use of the term Empire BTW) and perhas see Putin as the strong man to lead them into the new century.

"putin sees America in decline"
He should have really said, 'Putin, as well as the rest of the world, sees America in decline'. This would have been more accurate.
And where he also said, "Russia's march of freedom has been interrupted", he should have said: 'Russia's, like America's march of freedom, has been iterrupted.
Russians don't care about democracy as much as whimpy american liberals. They like strong government and are proud that they fought off the Tartars, and Napolean and Hitler, and got the Americans to wimp out after WW11. How naive to think they would give in to Chechen or any other kinda islamofascist terrorists. People should remember that when Ivan the Terrible abdictated, the people also begged him to come back again, and promised not to interfere with how he ruled, and he said OK, he'll come back but this time no more Mr. Niceguy. Russians are like that.

The danger of being weak.
It invites attack.

Do lions attack a healthy elephant?

Following the Jimmy Carter plan of unilateral disarmament could lead much more quickly to a complete nuclear exchange.

One small attack on the USA will so anger the US people they will demand swift and harsh retaliation, escalating to ....?

Preventing the small attack by maintaining a strong and vigorous defense posture will go far to prevent such escalation.

But if you don't believe Russia or China or Iran or some other tin horn socialist dictator doesn't want to rule the world, then you support the Carter plan (because you are a socialist, too.)

We don't need the Press
to interpret Putin's actions or character for us.

You clearly believe Putin's words. We only care about his actions. They speak with the louder voice.

Carter: a peanut
sized brain.

Remember the show "Man Builds, Man Destroys"?

How about "Republicans Build, Dems Destroy"?

The problem with the Republican Party is that it is fatally flawed. And it is fatally flawed because it has co-opted far too much of the Dems' platforms. It has done so since the 1930s.

Politicians do what it takes to get votes. We get the government we deserve.
Leaders and pioneers are seldom rewarded.

If we want better leaders, then we need to start electing them and supporting them.

Tyranny of the majority
"The elections monitoring arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, regarded in the West as the most authoritative assessor of whether an election is free and fair, canceled plans to send observers for the Duma vote. It said Russia had delayed granting visas for so long that it would be unable to conduct a meaningful assessment of election preparations.

Russia has criticized OSCE observations elsewhere in the former Soviet Union as supporting massive protests that forced leadership changes, but it denied that it was impeding operations in Russia. Putin claimed the pullout was initiated by the United States in an effort to discredit the elections and his government."

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/12/01/europe/EU-POL-Russia-Election.php

Assuming Putin IS popular, why must he be concerned about a fair election?

If he really IS popular, then, Roy, you must cheer for the Russian democracy in action.

The siloviki
Oh, I forgot you're a simpleton who doesn't know how to read. Sorry.

A fresh paragraph means that a new subject is being introduced. Thus

"It is interesting that you off-handedly mention that Putin destroyed the free press in Russia and has assassinated several dissident reports and then in the next paragraph compare this to limiting rabid protesters to specific areas. Do you honestly believe them to be on the same level?"

would not be correct. They are two different subjects, on two different levels, and were not compared.

Here is a third thing. Guess why the FSB killed Litvinenko? Because he write a book providing proof that they, the FSB, blew up two apartment buildings in Russia just so the Chechens could be blamed-- therefore providing the excuse to go back and destroy Chechnya, after a peace of sorts had been obtained. They faked a terrorist attack.

THAT is terrible politics. Far worse (so far as we know) than anything our own leaders have done.

So once again, let me offer that I'm not a total fan of Mr Putin and the people on his team. But he is popular with his people, so to the extent Russia is a democracy, he's their leader of choice. Long live Vladimir Putin.

A VERY interesting subject
You redeem yourself with this observation:

"As for the FACT of Putin's popularity, I would wonder how much of a FACT it is considering the lock down on the press. Control of the media does wonders for one's image, the Democrat party for example."

Edward Bernays wrote a very interesting book about the subject, when he explained the reason why the English speaking countries chose to go with a system of two party democracies rather than with straightforward one-party dictatorships.

They offer the public an inane choice, between the Tweedle Dee of the Liberals and the Tweedle Dum of the Tories, for example, and engage the popular press to so befuddle the actual issues that thoughtful people believe they actually have a choice of some importance to decide. Most men remain ignorant their entire lives of the real issues.

His book is called "Propaganda: the Manufacture of Consent". It was very popular among the ruling class when it was first published, although it has languished in undeserved obscurity today. You should pick up a copy.

BTW the popular media are all owned by our major corporations. They have led you to believe the kinds of things that happen under a Clinton are worlds apart from the kinds of things that happen under a Bush.

They're really not. Even though Clinton was a Rhodes scholar and Bush was a rich guy's legacy brat. Basic policy has continued in a rationally developed line since maybe the day of James Monroe.

Economic liberalism and War Communism
"Economic liberalism was hardly even in it's beginning stages before Putin clamped down on it. As Zyndryl pointed out, the Russian people feel humiliated after the utter failure of the Soviet Empire (a real use of the term Empire BTW) and perhas see Putin as the strong man to lead them into the new century."

No. The stage of economic liberalism was completed very swiftly, much the way so-called War Communism was accomplished at the beginning of the 1918 Revolution. Gorbachev wiped away everyone's savings overnight by "converting" the ruble-- which was the reason he is the most hated man in Russian history.

Then under Yeltsin the accumulated assets of the Soviet peoples were given away at only nominal prices, to insiders who bypassed any semblance of a bidding process. A dozen gangsters bought up everything in the USSR as it crumbled around them.

When the dust settled, this handful of very bright people owned everything. The ordinary citizens entered a period of stark poverty, insecurity and dislocation, as no provision had been made to allow them any means of making a living. Conditions, bad as they were under Communism, plummeted to a rock bottom not seen since 1922.

Putin is tremendously, and authentically, popular with the public as he has attenuated the influence of the oligarchs, and brought about the modern day equivalent of the NEP-- the New Economic Policy that saved the Communist party from being destroyed by the angry mob.

History can be a very useful subject.

Crossing the line
Putin and Chavez are both genuinely popular among the masses of their respective countries. But they are both going too far. And so, as the instincts of the tyrant rise to the surface, they understand that fair elections are actually the enemy. And neither wants any witnesses to the deed from outside their own circle.

That is why neither have invited election observers. We'll see what happens next.

If they are so popular, why be afraid of elections?
Because they are tyrants?

News from Russia
Everyone here has an opinion as to what's happening over in Russia. But I'll bet none of you have bothered to see what the Russians think about it. Here's something from Friday's Moscow Times:

"None of my friends knows what to do about the upcoming State Duma elections. Some think that it would be wrong to vote for United Russia since it has turned the campaign into a Soviet-style farce. Others understand that the ruling party's platform is vague, but they believe that the policies of other parties are even worse. Almost all of my friends who previously voted for Yabloko or the Union of Right Forces are now disappointed by those parties' leaders and consider them to be marginalized or outright clowns. Some want to vote for Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party, either because they are entertained by his scandalous statements or simply because they want to avoid voting for United Russia. Many die-hard anti-Communists are even planning to vote for the Communist Party as a protest vote against United Russia. Still others are planning to deface their ballots or tear them up.

"Many people are sick of the elections, perhaps even nauseous. And these are not the people who are typically apolitical in other countries -- the poorest and least educated segment of society. In Russia, political indifference is widespread and even fashionable among wealthy people as well as the so-called middle class.

"During my call-in radio show, I often wonder whether it makes sense to talk with callers about the elections and politics in general. They find politics boring no matter how it is presented. I have reached the conclusion that they don't want to hear anything at all except updates on traffic jams."

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2007/11/29/007.html

what the russians think about it?
What you just did would be like a Russian guy picking a few articles like from say the NTY and Paul Krugman, and saying that's what americans really think. bogus anecdotal

Just an anecdote
We live in a world of anecdotal material. But I think the host of a popular radio talk show has a greater depth of information available than do most people.

I also note that if the anecdote had favored your ideological position you'd have heartly endorsed it. So anecdotal information is therefore always good for your side, never good for anyone else's.

Since you're in such a disagreeable mood, here's the author's take on his finding: he reminds us of an old Russian saying, that if you are not interested in politics, politics will become interested in you.

Would you disagree?

When the government murders the press, what is left but anecdotal?
"The campaign of repression comes on top of a systematic effort since Putin came to power to cleanse the country's media landscape of independent voices of political consequence. All of the major national television channels, from which most people get their news, have come under state control during the Putin era. State-managed media now function as a propaganda machine slavishly touting the Kremlin's achievements, bringing to mind Brezhnev-era news standards.

The official inquiry into Politkovskaya's murder could have represented an important step forward, but it has seemingly fallen apart. Almost a year into the investigation, Prosecutor General Yury Chaika removed the inquiry's key investigator, an official who had won the respect of Politkovskaya's colleagues. "

"Meanwhile, the grim state of affairs for press freedom in Russia cannot be viewed in a vacuum. The ability of journalists and editors to freely and independently ply their trade tends to be a barometer for other fundamental freedoms. The crackdown on the press has wider implications for the country's capacity to normalize its politics, address rampant graft and develop effective, institutions based on the rule of law."

http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=72&release=573

Popular?
"Kremlin political analysts know that popularity in this managed political system is an illusion. For instance, Viktor Zubkov was virtually unknown to the Russian public when he was named prime minister in September. However, a poll taken just six days after his appointment found him Russia's second-most-popular politician, with 40 percent of Russians saying they expected him to become the next president. Putin's own popularity ratings, although they are consistently in the 60-70 percent range, must be viewed within this context."

http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/11/735935bb-a025-4a80-beaf-fed8a3e38e5b.html

Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

If they are so popular, why be afraid of elections? Loss of power.
"The administration of President Vladimir Putin seems genuinely anxious to have total control -- not merely near-total control -- over the current political transition. Western observers have commented that the Kremlin's actions verge on paranoia. Is the seemingly all-powerful Russian administration really afraid of something?"

http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/11/735935bb-a025-4a80-beaf-fed8a3e38e5b.html


Go back and look at history
It's not at all hard to become Russia's second most popular politician. Her third through tenth most popular politicians all have ratings below five percent.

Besides, this Zubkov would have had the advantage of being an unknown. All the politicians known to the public have earned deservedly low ratings. Other than Putin, who satisfies the Russian yearning to be protected by a strong czar.

Go back and look at history
It's not at all hard to become Russia's second most popular politician. Her third through tenth most popular politicians all have ratings below five percent.

Besides, this Zubkov would have had the advantage of being an unknown. All the politicians known to the public have earned deservedly low ratings. Other than Putin, who satisfies the Russian yearning to be protected by a strong czar.

Politkovskaya's murder
The Politkovskaya murder investigation fell apart for the fairly obvious reason that it was the army, or elements within the army, who had her killed. You wouldn't seriously expect an honest investigation, would you?

It is still more than possible to get accurate information from inside Russia. Try the Moscow Times. Of course, it involves reading from non-favored sources.

How do you trust the numbers...
when Putin controls the press and everything else?

What is your objective source?

anecdotal
This is reasonable, since everybody is biased one way or another, people pick the ones they like, some Paul Krugman, some Rush limbaugh, and guys like me freedom biases stuff like freedomainradio.com and other libertarian sources.

murdering people in russia
Sure Russia is a rough like tumble sort of place and softie westerners are so outraged. But i still maintain that normal russian people are not so shocked, they like strong government and don't have such cream-puff sensiblilities. Remeber a couple of years ago there was that guy, the spam-king, made a fortune from sending out too many spams. Everybody was pisssed about it but I guess not illegal so they couldn't do anything. So what happened to him? Somebody shot him instead. Nobody complained about it. Russia is like that.

Vote fraud and voter intimidation
This would be so much easier if you weren't such a bleating idiot.

Okay, so Putin controls all the media, and no accurate info can get out, and everything we know about Russia is false-- just lies and distortions.

So how come as of this morning we know that there was both vote fraud and voter intimidation? Vote fraud, as in counting errors as the votes from the Far Eastern time zones came in to be counted in Moscow, and voter intimidation as employers have been demanding that their employees show receipts indicating they have voted for UR before they can go back to work. (In Russia you get a recipt showing which way you voted.)

And how come we know that the tally came back much worse than the government expected despite the shenanigans? Putin's popularity has been up in the 80s, while the Parliamentary vote totals for the UR slate were only in the 60s.

And how come we know the reasoning behind this vote fraud? It turns out that the only significant lesser party in Russia is the Communists, and Putin wanted to limit Communist seats in the Duma.

How come we know all that? Isn't there an information blackout? Lord in Heaven.

I know. You'll choose to believe the part about voter intimidation and vote fraud, and not believe the rest of the details I've offered. You're pretty easy to read.

Why bother?
Why bother having a vote?

Why bother rigging an election if everyone knows it is rigged?

Who is Putin trying to fool and why?

The results are in
Anyone wanting to read the preliminary results and analysis of the election, here's your best link:

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2007/12/03/001.html

Read it fast. These people take the link down for nonsubscribers after a day or two.

BTW for those who refuse to read anything not from a "favored source", the Moscow Times is not United Russia. It's an independent e-paper, more along the lines of Russia's Liberal Democrats. In other words, capitalists put this web site out. So it's okay to read. You won't disappear into cookie dough.

Biases
My bias is toward hard news sources-- that is, sources who gather first hand information. I can provide my own interpretation, but I can't get all my own facts.

But thanks for the reference. It should be easy to use, since it's on audio. You don't even have to do a lot of difficult reading!

Another good article
This one's an editorial, entitled "The vote was neither free nor transparent".

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2007/12/03/005.html

In fact everything in today's edition is well worth reading, for anyone who's actually interested in what's going on in Russia. But again, read fast or copy it out and save it. In another day or two you'll no longer have access.

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