Monday, October 30, 2006

Russian President Putin Sends Mixed Signals On His Role After 2008

Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent this week offering mixed signals on his intents after 2008 in which he claims that he will nor seek a third term as President. Now he claims he intends to have influence over the Russian government after 2008.

After years of consolidating power and clamping down on many press freedoms, eliminating many elected government positions and elevating many old Communist figures from the former Soviet Union era to high government positions, Putin on one hand seems willing to step back from his steady trend towards becoming just a little short of a dictator in Russia. However, Putin could hand pick a successor in a tightly controlled election in which other parties have little real fair opportunity to field candidates. Putin could also have himself named to the powerful government run oil monopoly, Gazprom, which would give him great power in Russian society and with the government.

Technically Russia is not a Communist government system anymore. Yet with so many former Communists and a sharp curtail on many press freedoms, the nation is hardly a real democracy either. Many wealthy interests find that the Russian government runs solely for their benefit, while many of the working people of Russia are effectively locked out of real political clout in this new post-Communist system. Cheap rent and many other Communist programs that used to benefit the working class have given way to a system that works to profit the wealthy interests of Russia.

Several things do seem likely for the future of Russia though. They will continue to have more than 2,000 nuclear warheads. They will continue to act as something of a power tival to the U.S. And U.S. and Russian frictions will likely continue over former Soviet states that attempt to pull closer to NATO or the West. Putin will likely have a near kingmaker role in choosing some leader to continue these goals. Vitaly Churkin has been a long time player in both the old Soviet system and also in Putin's government. Churkin has always seemed like the ultimate company man, without any real opinions of his own, sort of like a Communist Andrew Card. A candidate in this vein will be the likely personal choice of Putin. Real democracy in Russia hardly seems likely in the near future as Putin has put the entire press and political essentials for a free society under his tight controls.


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