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By Stanislaw Tarasov

Putin's Dead Souls

Vek, June 7, 2002

    The world respects the diplomacy of the Russian president more and more. Hundreds of articles are devoted to his confident and sometimes risky foreign policy moves. "He sacrificed what he never possessed - the light of a declined superpower," the Washington Post said recently. The paper continued, "He managed to sell the dead souls to Washington, and received in exchange the keys to NATO, the European Union, and the World Trade Organization." However, so far he only has keys to the anterooms, not to the more significant rooms.

     Russia has a long way to go before it will be able to enter the West's main apartments. That is why Moscow does not conceal its desire  to see real results of its policy in long-term prospects, meaning the results that the public and elite could undoubtedly interpret as inevitable progress.

     So far, foreign policy breakthroughs of the Kremlin are loudly applauded. What about domestic policy? Leader of right-centrist movement Yabloko Grigory Yavlinsky believes that Putin has given Russia a controlled democracy. According to Yavlinsky, all political institutions in Russia, including the presidency, are becoming empty labels. The president almost completely rules parliament: today a coalition of four centrist parties guarantees to the president the majority for passing any law. However, it is still a quantitative, not a qualitative issue. For instance, according to many sociologists, the small Union of Right–Wing Forces party is hardly likely to be able to win at the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Liberal Russia, which involved some renegades from the Union of Right Forces, is able to carry out a subtle manoeuvre and block the Communist Party - undercertain conditions of course. Unity has never become a real party and is also hardly likely to be able to change the political landscape of the country at the forthcoming elections. So far, there are no other pro-presidential parties in Russia, however, rumour has it that the Federation Council plans to give birth to another party, Life.

     Kremlin's techniques had a wonderful impact on the Communist Party, the force that was the most powerful strategic base for the president. Its wager on splitting the party with the help of Gennady Seleznev's Russia party is quite improbable, while the losses may be rather considerable: unlike other parties and movements, which are mostly products of political technologies, the Communist Party of Russia has real structures in the regions, and has influence among a considerable part of the population. Opposing Vladimir Putin, it will distance itself from the president more and more, thus pushing him to the right. As is well known, the right wing is identified in Russia with the ineffective activities of the federal government in Chechnya, the general situation in the country, crime, and corruption in various echelons of power, and even certain defects of presidential administrative initiatives.

     There is another problem. It may seem strange, but certain forces  interested in replacing the nation's political leader may also support the Communist Party. This has already happened in Russia, in 1917.

Vek, June 7, 2002

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