Reactions and Outcry Against Putin’s Latest Surprise

Independent news outlets around the world have reacted strongly to president Vladimir Putin’s announcement on October 1st to head the United Russia party in upcoming Parliamentary elections. The move reveals Putin’s intention to retain his grip on power in the Russian Federation.

Bolstered by the propagandistic state-run media (which, among other things, decries Kremlin opponents as agents of the CIA) and sky-high oil prices, Putin retains a near 70% approval rating. By leading United Russia, Putin ensures that the loyal party will control at least two thirds of the Federal Assembly, allowing unfettered access to legislation and the majority necessary to change the Constitution. took a survey of the global media on what Putin’s decision spells for the future of Russia:

From the Oct. 3rd Wall Street Journal:

No doubt Mr. Putin will get away with this, given his control over the media and other levers of power. But he will still have to observe the formalities of a presidential election next year, and former chess champion Garry Kasparov has said he intends to lead the political opposition. The West needs to put Mr. Putin on notice that if Mr. Kasparov suffers some “accident” — if, say, he is hit by a car — the world will not look the other way.

Bill Clinton made the mistake of welcoming Mr. Putin into the G-8, and Western leaders lack the will to expel him now. But his current maneuvering to retain power should make clear beyond doubt that Mr. Putin has ransacked the hopes the world once had for post-Soviet Russian democracy. He is reviving Russian authoritarianism, and the world’s democracies need to prepare for its consequences.

From the Moskovskii Komsomolets (October 3rd):

The record of even a political genius such as Franklin D. Roosevelt shows very clearly that a state should be based on a political system, not an individual. Being in power will wear out anyone. A leader becomes less physically fit, starts thinking less clearly, starts developing habitual patterns in taking action.

From the USA Today blog:

The ultimate strength of a country is not in individual leaders but in the strength of institutions, laws and rules. …In the past few years as Putin has consolidated power, imprisoned critics, muzzled the Russian media and tried to blackjack neighboring countries into bowing to Russia… Now, little pretense is left. He seems intent on reinforcing a Russian belief that the country can’t thrive without him.

Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov:

Nothing will change. The prime minister will move to the Kremlin and every news programme will show what the national leader is doing, whatever his job is.

It means the current political course, which in my view is leading our country to collapse, will continue.

The move also spells long-term disaster for foreign investment and economic security in Russia. Garry Kasparov is quoted in the Moscow Times (Oct. 3rd):

“Unfortunately, the concentration of power in one person’s hands in Russia tends to crowd out everything else,” he said. Putin has overseen the consolidation of industry into state-run corporations, from arms sales to aviation to nanotechnology.

“All functions, both political and financial, have been gradually taken from state institutions [and given to] private state companies, which are controlled by Putin’s buddies,” said Garry Kasparov, who on Sunday was selected as the
presidential candidate of opposition group The Other Russia.

Kasparov criticized Western bankers for failing to register the long-term effects of Putin’s potential transition from president to prime minister.

“In the short term, the benefits can be significant, but in the long term the country is going to be destroyed,” Kasparov said. “Western bankers are looking for a profit, we’re looking [out] for the country’s future.”

And finally, from the October 3rd edition of the Guardian:

David Clark, chairman of the independent Russia Foundation, said that while the “cult of Putin” was in full flow, fatal flaws were apparent.

Mr Clark said: “Putin has been genuinely successful in responding to the disappointment and frustration felt by many Russians during the transition from the Soviet era. But he has manipulated the political system so that criticism of him is not heard. Russians have formed their opinions of him without free and open access to information.

“His image of strong man is built on clay. It is very fragile. Likewise, Russia’s strength is built entirely on energy, on oil and gas, nothing else. And that’s all going to unravel in the coming years.”

Read more from…
The New York Times
The Washington Post
The Guardian
The Wall Street Journal