|The Kremlin and Reality (1)
Adequacy does not come to mind often when it comes to contemporary Russian politics. One might suspect that the head of state Vladimir Putin and his closest allies live in a virtual reality, distant in every way from the one we live in. In March of 2014, during a phone call with US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel already expressed that Putin has lost his ties with reality. It seems that the situation got even worse from that moment.
There are many symptoms pointing out to the inadequate reaction of Russia’s political elite to global events. In this text we will try to explain those symptoms.
The death of politics
One of the most obvious problems in contemporary Russian political life is the disappearance of politics. What is left is an imitation of politics. The power hierarchy has finally frozen and lost any flexibility, so everyday the Russian ruling regime puts on a boring political show.
This is illustrated by the recent press-conference held by the Russian President. Vladimir Putin spent several hours answering journalists’ questions in the end of December. He did not give a direct answer to any provoking question, instead limiting himself to abstract ponderings without any internal logic.
Andrey Kolesnikov, who writes for the Russian portal ej.ru, thinks that this press-conference showed that the Russian leader had not even prepared for it. In his opinion, this shows how detached Putin is from actual problem-solving and actual politics.
Besides, during the press-conference the Russian President managed to lie more than once. Spurious Putin’s statements were debunked by medusa.io journalists, who counted six instances where his answers were at odds with the truth.
For example, talking about a new transportation tax, which spurred discontent amongst truckers, the Russian President stated that theowners of passenger and cargo vehicles pay the same transport tax (which is untrue). Furthermore, Putin was not entirely right when talking about the possibility that Moscow’s inhabitants have to use the payed parking lots near their homes for free, and so on.
Putin’sperhaps most interesting claim was about Russia not knowing about Turkey opposing the bombing of the positions of Syrian Turkmens (Turcomans). Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Russian leader a liar, claiming that he had personally informed Putin about Ankara’s position on this issue.
The political boredom during this press-conference probably faded once – when Vladimir Putin blurted something interesting about Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine. According to him, Russia never denied that its citizens, who “besides other things, deal with some military issues”, are present in Donbass. Later on, Putin’s press spokesman Dmitry Peskov had to clarify his leader’s words. According to Peskov, the Russian President was talking about “volunteers”, and not about advisors or Russian regular armed forces.
By the way, this is not the first time, when Putin blurts something about Ukrainian issues. Before that, in a propaganda film about the “recovery” of Crimea, he confessed that Russian armed forces were present during the conquest of the peninsula.
Living in a “virtual reality” also brings many problems to Russia. First of all, it is connected to decision-making. As we all know, an effective decision requires ananalysis of information and facts. However, when the information and facts stem from the virtual, and not the real world, the decisions themselves are unreal as well.
One can only guess where the system error that forms the contemporary Russian “politics” appeared. It might have something to do with the current authoritarian regime in Russia. Such a system leaves no space for alternative opinions or objectivity. It dictates its own rules. Information is divided into “correct” and “incorrect”, or into such that the government wants or does not want to hear. It seems that currently Kremlin has reached a point, whereonly “correct” information reaches the earsof the ruling elite.
Aleksandr Sytin, a former expert of the main Russian analytical center – the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), explains in his article, how Kremlin made decisions about Ukraine. He points out that the Russian government relied on the expert opinion, which is thoroughly faulty, because the Russian experts, to whom the Kremlin comes for opinion, are for a long time telling the government what it wants to hear. They support the stereotypes that the Kremlin lives by. For example, they convinced the government that the people of eastern Ukraine dream about unifying with Russia. This notion led to Kremlin’s venture in Donbass but eastern Ukraine appeared to be not as pro-Russian as they hoped it would be.
Kremlin was equally convinced that the Western world wasweak, lazy and thinking only in categories of realpolitik.The primary EU and US reaction to the Russian conquest of Crimea and events in eastern Ukraine only strengthened this notion. The reaction was indeed sluggish, but later on it became clear that economical pressure, chosen as the main tool by the West, cannot be ignored. However, Kremlin still believed that the West wasunable to act outside the linesof realpolitik, and tried to trade Ukraine for participation in the resolution of the Syrian conflict. The result of which wasa) The West declined Russia's clumsy“help” in Syria (However, after the Paris terrorist attacks France tried to convince other partners in the West’s coalition to accept Russia as an ally); b) The West made a clear distinction between the issues of Syria and Ukraine, i.e., no one is talking about a geopolitical exchange. It is obvious that Kremlin’s decisions are at odds with reality in this case as well.
There are no signs of Kremlin regaining an adequate understanding of reality. It is impossible with the current system. Thus, in the not-too-distant future we will probably seemore than one decision at odds with reality orbasic logic. Such decisions are first of all disastrous for Russia but their consequences might have an impact on Russia’s closest neighbors, and maybe not just them.
The situation is quite serious, because the current Russian government that itself believes and has convinced the majority of its population that it is “surrounded by enemies” resembles a turtle hidingin its shell when being attacked. However, this abstract turtle might be very fast and aggressive.
The consequences of living in a “virtual reality” and making faulty decisions threaten the current Russian government. However, the regime has chosen a strategy of blaming everything on mythical enemies (the West) and preparing to preserve the power by force (Recently the Russian Parliament amended the law in such a way that permits Federal Security Service forces to open fire during mass protests, even if there are women, children and disabled people in the crowd). This is the “objective Kremlin reality”, according to which the government rules over the country, and from which even Russia itself has no way out. This is the tragedy of modern Russia.
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