Staunton, VA, April 25, 2017 – East-West relations are now “harsher” than they were during the Cold War, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says. Then, the two sides were involved in conflicts in third countries but “never on their own borders or directly. Even public rhetoric was softer. Then neither crossed the limits of the permissible. Today, there are no more rules.”
Lavrov’s comments came in the course of an interview with the Russian version of Esquire. They are the clearest statement yet of what has been true of Russian policy under Vladimir Putin: the Kremlin leader has been prepared to cross lines thought inviolate and has claimed that he is only doing what the West already has.
Yet another indication of this shift in Moscow’s approach was announced today by Izvestiya. It reported that Lavrov’s ministry has disbanded the office of human rights ombudsman and transferred its functions to a lower-level in the bureaucracy, a downgrading that certainly reflects Putin’s approach.
Staunton, VA, April 25, 2017 – Vladimir Putin’s statement yesterday that one must look around all the time so that “no one will eat us” shows, Russian commentator Igor Eidman says, that the Kremlin leader’s paranoia is “progressing,” an especially dangerous situation when the individual involved is head of a nuclear power.
Putin said that it is always useful to look at what takes place in nature, Eidman continues, because it is clear that “he considers that the entire world lives according to the laws of the jungle and that there are enemies all around seeking to each you. Therefore, one must always “’strike first’”.
The Russian commentator focuses on the foreign policy consequences of this paranoia, but there are domestic ones as well. They include not only the postulation of and search for an increasing number of enemies but also the inability to take in the big picture rather than be driven by one’s presuppositions and prejudices.
Thus, in yet another instance of his increasingly populist stance on immigration, Putin is calling for restrictions on it so that the interests of Russians won’t be harmed. But he is doing so even as the number of labor migrants is continuing to fall rapidly.
One reason for his doing so is the widespread xenophobia of Russians about Central Asians, a xenophobia he has promoted; but another and perhaps more important one is that Putin, like most Russian rulers, is myopic and worries about what he sees in Moscow rather than what is taking place elsewhere.
According to new statistics, something over half of all Central Asian and Caucasian labor migrants are ending up in the Russian capital where they form a sizeable percentage of the population, while elsewhere fewer than half do and where the form a much smaller share.
Staunton, VA, April 25, 2017 – A new Levada Center poll showing that more than half of Russians are tired of waiting for Vladimir Putin to bring them a better life — but that nearly three-quarters of them still trust the Russian president — has not surprisingly attracted a good deal of attention, commentary and speculation about the upcoming election.
But perhaps even more interesting than those global assessments are the listing and rankings Russians give to what they say are the Kremlin’s leader’s greatest successes and greatest failures, a set of figures that provides a more nuanced view of how Russians view Putin in the 17th year of his reign.
The rankings combine those who rated a particular action as a success and those who rated it as a failure. Putin’s greatest successes, in descending order:
– raising the country’s military capability
– strengthening the international standing of Russia
– resolving the Chechen problem
– restoring order to the country
– improving ties with CIS countries
– promoting optimism and hope
– improving international relations
– fighting crime and protecting democracy and freedoms
The last achievement had only one percent positive relative to the negatives.
Putin’s greatest failures, again in descending order from the most to the least, are, Russians say:
– fighting corruption
– improving the standard of living
– bringing the oligarchs to heel
– economic development
– strengthening morality
– improving ties with the West
– creating conditions for private business
– eliminating the threat of terrorism in Russia.
Again the margins for the last four are small, less than five percent.