Putin’s firm control over the political agenda makes the fast-approaching parliamentary election entirely nonsensical and the follow-up presidential elections into a preordained referendum on his peerless leadership.
Vulnerability of the Russian petro-economy to external shocks is well-known, but there is still a paradox in the fact that the high level of state ownership over major economic assets translates into very low ability to influence economic development. Putin portrays himself as a statesman on a par with Charles de Gaulle but his leadership style evolves more in accordance with the sentiment of Alexander II: “It is not difficult to govern Russia but utterly useless.” Counting on the elite and public preference for the sweetness of stagnation he would not want to reflect on the desire for change that overtook Budapest 55 years ago (Ogonyok, October 24). His role-model Yury Andropov, then Soviet ambassador to Hungary, panicked and cried for tanks, which made hopeful crowds angry, and it took 17 divisions to suppress the uprising. Putin does not have one division that would be ready to fight in the streets of Moscow, and his courtiers are preparing to fight in the courts of London for their spoils. By reducing politics to a farce he makes his own performance certain to end with a flop.