On Saturday, Reuters reported (as noted by commenter "Simmons") that Kommersant claims, based on his statements to reporters at the G-8 summit meeting, that "Vladimir Putin, whose term as Russian president ends next year, does not rule out running again in 2012." Earlier in the week, Putin had spoken "in favor of giving presidents five- or seven-year terms instead of the existing four years." So in other words, the most likely apparent option for Putin is to return as "president" in 2012 with a Constitutional change allowing 7-year terms, and thus to rule Russia until 2026 or a total of 22 out of the 30 years between 2000 and 2030. The remaining time would be filled by "a handpicked transitional figure whose main mission would be to allow Putin to reset his political counter and stage a comeback." By proceeding in this way, Putin could cut the legs out from under criticism of his anti-democratic nature, keeping his power technically within the bounds of the law. In fact, he'd be a neo-Soviet dictator, of course.
On Sunday, the Times of London reported an analysis of Russia which contains the following paragraph, neatly summarizing the central Russophile-sponsored myth which must be dispelled before any real progress can be made in Russia:
Most people in the West expected the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to usher in a new Russia, one that would become free, democratic and capitalist, just like them. Instead, robber oligarchs seized assets and power without much care for democracy’s foundation, the rule of law. The result has been deep disillusion and suspicion of the West, reflected last week in the views of Maxim Andreyev, 59, who lives in a tiny, crowded flat in St Petersburg. “When communism fell there was a sense of euphoria,” said Andreyev, a former factory manager who now survives on odd jobs and a pension of £50 a month. “Fifteen years ago we thought democracy meant that soon we’d live better. And we looked at the West in awe. “But for people like me life only became harder. I don’t crave the repression of the Soviet Union, but democracy and freedom are luxuries when you have to worry about surviving amid rampant corruption, crime and injustice.” The physical hardships have had a deep psychological impact, says Vladimir Pozner, one of Russia’s most respected political commentators. “Many people lost everything and they thought the West would help,” he said. “But there was much talk and little action.” Putin became president in 2000 and responded to the chaos by centralising power, both economic and political.The central organizing myth of modern Russian life is that (1) Russia tried democracy and (2) it was harder on them than Communism. There is not one iota of truth in this statement. It's pure neo-Soviet propaganda, exactly the same kind that destroyed the USSR. Those who care about Russia's future must do everything in their power to lay this mythology in its grave.
First, Russia didn't try democracy. At no time since Communism ended has Russia held a true contested election for president. At no time has a "president" been elected after participating in televised debates and who was not previously a significant functionary of the Communist party, and in all four of Russia's elections the chief rival to the winner was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. Even if a real democrat had ever been elected, the Communist system was given a "trial" of nearly 75 years. Giving democracy less than ten before anointing a proud KGB spy as dictator hardly constitutes a fair "trial."
Second, trying democracy involves more than having elections. Russia's presidency has been invested with far too much power, and the leaders of its legislative and judicial branches have been far too pusillanimous, for there to be anything like a proper democratic division of powers in Russia. Not one judge or legislator has stepped forward to assert themselves effectively, and those who have made partial efforts, like Galina Starovoitova, have been summarily killed with no public backlash of any kind.
Third, Russia isn't suffering more now than it was during the Communist dictatorship. The Soviet government was the number one civilian murderer in all of human history, brutally killing at least 60 million of its own citizens. China is a poor second at 35 million. Josef Stalin murdered more Russians than Adolf Hitler's armies. What's more, under the Soviet regime, Russians lived on the brink of total eradication through global thermonuclear exchange with the United States, and they were clearly suffering massive public health issues that only became apparent to the West when the Iron Curtain collapsed (how could it be otherwise, when the USSR was devoting such a huge share of its GDP to weapons, a share perhaps four or five times greater than what the U.S. was shouldering).
But most important, even if Russians did become worse off when the Soviet dictatorship fell, the idea that life for Russians was supposed to become immediately, magically, "easier" after the fall of Communism is sheer unadulterated garbage of a kind that could only be generated by Russophile propagandists, the lowest form of human existence. Life didn't become much easier for the American or Indian colonists after they undertook their successful revolutions against Britain seeking freedom. To the contrary, life became much, much harder. One should properly see this suffering as necessary to earning the privileges and benefits of freedom. The Russosphile attitude the life should have become instantly, magically better once Communism fell is simply childish and ignorant, and it's doubtful that it reflects the true beliefs of most Russians, who are far more intelligent than that. Did Russians think life would get instantly better when they decided to fight the invading Germans rather than surrendering as the French did? Of course not. But they believed fighting and suffering would gain them something, just as the Americans did in their revolution. Russians seem to have forgotten this lesson, and they are paying dire consequences for that forgetfulness.
The Russian people took no active steps to bring down the USSR, they simply watched it fall (much in the same way that most of them simply watched it rise). They did not demand accountability on the part of Soviet criminals, nor did they make a public acceptance of their own guilt as the German people did concerning Hitler. Instead, they lapsed into denial and sought to blame their troubles, caused by Communism, on the institution of democracy. That's blasphemy, and shows that the people of Russia fully and richly deserved the suffering they experienced after Communism fell.
It's an even more outrageous form of blasphemy to compare what Russians suffered in the 1990s to what they suffered, say, during the invasion of Napoleon or Hitler. If Russians of the past had adopted the same childish, cowardly attitude towards suffering that today's Russians have embraced, Russians would now be speaking French or German.
Yet, one can't blame modern Russians entirely. The fact is that while Russians stood up to Hitler and Napoleon bravely, those very same Russians showed exactly the same kind of pathetic, reprehensible cowardice towards Stalin that they now reveal in regard to Putin, and Stalin's uncontrolled barbarism brought the USSR to ruin, giving rise to the so-called "suffering" of the 1990s.
The fact that a single person in Russia, much less a majority, can imagine there is any hope for a decent future to be found in being ruled by a malignant little troll who spent his entire life serving Stalin's KGB in secret proves conclusively that Russians are simply not prepared to take responsibility for their own actions, their own futures. Their impulse when confronted with such accountability is to spurn it, and to place their lives in the hands of others so that someone else can be blamed when suffering and failure comes.
Russia is a house divided against itself, and as such cannot stand. Time is quickly running out for Russians to rectify this situation before dissolving into the mists of history. Those who care about them should tell them so at every opportunity.