Sunday, December 02, 2007
Russian Elections--Inside Story
--How popular is President Putin? 70 percent and higher, or is the figure lower, in the mid-40s?
--How well has the Russian economy been doing? Still largely driven by oil and gas exports or is it diversifying? Is prosperity really trickling down or not--and is there a real emerging middle class?
--Does the West have any real leverage on Russia's domestic affairs?
How these questions are answered in turn determines one's recommendations.
I tend to think Putin's popularity is genuine, even if a bit overblown, and that most Russians do give him the credit for the changes that have taken place. I think that the economy has shown clear signs of improvement and that this is more than just oil and gas--although Russia remains overly dependent on these revenues at present. I think that the West has increasingly limited leverage not only because of my answers to questions 1 and 2 but also because the West itself has needs--for energy, for Russia's cooperation in a variety of areas, etc. that limits the extent to which we can exercise pressure on Moscow because we don't like its domestic policies. So we are going to have to learn to live with these results.
if he's so popular, why are the elections so sketchy? (my words).
i don't know if public apathy is an excuse. but as long as there are no legitimate figures, there doesn't seem much the us can (realistically) do.
(Kommersant article: http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=832130)