Russia vs. The World, Pt. II

The Myth of Putin

In this chronicle, I will deal with the World’s Most Powerful Man, Vladimir Putin. He is a man – who in recent years has acquired high admirations of nationalist-oriented people. What is not to like about Putin? He is tough, he saved Russian economy, and he stands up against the Islamic terrorism.

Let’s start with the first statement. Yes, Putin is tough. He could actually, to say the least, stand up for himself. Putin is the one who you think would fight and crush a grizzly bear and Siberian tiger bare-handed. Of course, you would look up to such a ‘benevolent’ leader. However, the dilemma with Putin is that he is tough for one reason: he lacks a democratic mandate. Democratic leaders do not have to be tough because their power is based on the people. No matter how headstrong they could be, the Democracy – which is by the people, from the people, and for the people – still tops the list of their concern.

If, on the other hand, leaders are ruling based on the fascist principle “Might Makes Right” – an aphorism for “I am stronger than you; therefore, I make all the rules” – then one has to cultivate an image that reminds people at one’s mightiness. In short, you must be ruthless and dangerous so that no one dares to muck with one, as one’s power depends on one’s ability to dictate the one who does it . Therefore, dictators seem to be tough, while democratic leaders try to appear as the kind of people you would like to have a beer with. However, Democracy is not based on toughness. It is based on people demonstrating their freedom, compromising and allowing everybody to speak. Hence democracy tends to choose leaders with the qualities, not a man like Putin who throws their political opponents into prison.

In addition to his robust image, Russians claim that Putin saved Russian economy. Yes, it indeed grows under Putin’s regime – but rather, it is despite Putin than because of him. Russia’s economy is growing and shrinking with oil (and natural gas). A high oil price means economic growth; a low oil price means economic crisis. Putin’s Russia’s economy is an economy of the Banana Republic: where bananas are black and sold in barrels.

The economist usually advises countries – where Russia is using the good times when the price of the commodity is high – to invest in the diversified economy so that they can get out of the dependency. We have not reached to the best part yet, Russia has failed to diversify the economy5 and now since the oil price has also fallen, the problems that existed before Putin – with wages and pensions not paid out – have returned. To sum up, Russia has invested its entire economy on a non-renewable resource, which also costs more bucks to produce in Russia than in the Middle East (its most significant competitor). Russian friends may like to explain how this is nothing but pure financial incompetence.

Furthermore, rumor has it that Putin shattered corruption in Russia. This is so ludicrous. Russia’s system is structured, so it is impossible to get your pocket loaded (even if you run a regular business) without breaking the law. The state might turn a blind eye as long as you do not criticize the government, but if you do, they will put you there for crimes that you have or have not committed.

This way, Russia Today (RT – television network funded by Russian government) can write thousands of correct articles about the corrupted businesspeople; without mentioning that Putin is also in questioned to allow corruptions as long as the businessmen stood by him. To the contrary what Pro-Russian propaganda claims, Putin has never stood up against the oligarchy. Putin had performed the short ‘process’ with some oligarchs those who opposed him – when he took power. He either made a fortune for himself from their assets or gave away to the oligarchs who were faithful to him. The fact that Russia is dominated by oligarchs today is no secret, and the difference is that today’s oligarchs do not have the same political power as they had before – but that power has not returned to the people, and yet it has just been transferred to Putin himself.

Finally, what about Putin and terrorism? Many nationalists – even those who have acknowledged that Russia is a corrupt dictatorship – believe that the world must face that despite the Russia’s flaws in democracy, it is still a vital alliance to combat terrorism. This is not entirely wrong; George W. Bush did not mind accepting Russian bits of help in fighting terrorist networks. At the same time, one must understand that Russia’s strife against Islamic terrorists is quite similar to the Soviet war against Nazi Germany. Admittedly, Soviet hatred towards Nazism was not for the same reason as the Western world. The Soviet hated Nazism because it had threatened Soviet’s leverage in Europe. Let us not forget that the Nazism was a totalitarian state who carried out genocide, Pogroms, etc. – in which all those things were shared with the Soviet Union.

If Russia, against all the odds, would defeat Islamism, it would just be replaced by Russian fascism. This is because Putin’s resistance to Islam has the same reason as the Soviet opposition to Nazism. Islamists are a potential threat to his power, and by fighting them he can expand his influence, not solely in Europe where his hard rhetoric against Islam gave him tons of admirations from nationalists like in France, Poland, Hungary, etc. who are now struggling to lift sanctions against Russia. To suddenly become critical of Islam, was the smartest move Putin has ever made and it allowed him to infiltrate the nationalist movement that is on the rise in Europe.

Yes, it is true that he has become critical of Islam recently – we are talking about the man who personally invoked a mega-mosque and allowed 7,500 others to be built, and also claimed that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. If Russia wants to kill Islamists, any closer cooperation with Russia has to be because of the security risk they make and motivates what they have, in fact.

Finally, the Putin fandom reminds you very much of a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl, who dazzled by the image of a boy and flattered when he shows interest in her too. The boy gives her a false sense of security. To her, he looks tough and frugal, strong and good. However, she has no idea that the boy behaves in the worst possible way. On the contrary, he is an incredibly insecure child who only wants to create an image based on lies and falsehoods.

Putin is the guy who your parents have warned you about. A man who cultivated an image of toughness to make you disregard his idiotic actions and in fact, somewhere underneath the surface, he has nothing to offer. The same thing can be spoken of Trump, and I will take on him on another occasion. If you fall in love in Putin, there is a chance that someday, you will be ended up just like that insecure schoolgirl: pumped and dumped.


Op-ed piece

Anggi Raymond Pardede

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