Streetwise Professor

January 19, 2012

Speaking of S***, Putin Loses His

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 11:35 am

Vladimir Putin apparently cannot abide the thought that there is even one media outlet in Russia, no matter how marginal, that does not slavishly obey his dictates, and does not engage in only hagiographic coverage:

The attack may signal that the prime minister, all but certain to return as president after a vote March despite streets protests against his 12-year rule, has grown impatient with media criticism and could move to curb opposition outlets.

“I see that you are upset with me. I see it in your face. Why? I am not getting upset with you when you are pouring shit all over me from dawn to dusk,” Putin told Ekho Moskvy’s Alexei Venediktov, meeting media at his residence in Moscow’s suburbs.  [Another translation reported that Putin’s scatological word was “diarrhea.”]

Some commenters on SWP (Putinophiles, mainly) have ridiculed Ekho Moskvy as an irrelevance.  It probably is: so then why did Putin throw this public tantrum?

Putin also slammed the station for its coverage of US missile defense plans:

Putin said he had heard a radio show about U.S. missile defence plans while on holiday in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi that was “serving the interests of another countries at the expense of the Russian Federation”.

“I was lying in bed thinking: ‘This is not information. It is serving the interests of one country at the expense of another,” Putin told the audience of about 30 editors of Russian-based media outlets, in a typically earthy speech.

So again with the conspiracy theories.  No mention of Phobos-Grunt and HAARP, apparently, but the campaign is young yet.

This is not the portrait of a serenely confident Leader of the Nation.  Anything but.  Instead, this outburst is evocative of a man who is angry and stressed.

This is no doubt a result of the protests, although not because there is a substantial risk of him losing the election.  No, as I pointed out in the immediate aftermath of the Duma election, it is because the demolition of the carefully crafted myth of Putin the Universally Popular undermines his position within the elite.  This raises the prospect of considerable fighting under the carpet–fights that will damage Putin, and perhaps wound him mortally.

Robert Amsterdam recently wrote a very good post along these lines:

Are the protesters significant? Those who assess their influence by numbers or demographic percentages miss the point, a mistake made again and again over the past century of revolutionary upheavals. While the protesters may not constitute the arithmetical majority, they are setting the framework of the national political discourse, while by the hour Putin has been losing his ability to determine the national political agenda. He of course is perfectly aware of this precipitous change of his relative political standing.

So what is Putin’s strategy? Again, his most important steps have been largely ignored by the Western media. Although he has attempted to restore his position with the appointments of loyalists, the previous political configuration may be unattainable.

Big business has already lost faith in the ability of Putin to protect its positions abroad, as exemplified by the recent troubles of Severstal in the USA. On the other hand, internally, Putin has been unwilling or unable to stem the tide of corruption that has become the principle political issue for both the protesters and big Russian businesses, making close allies out of them.

In short, economic elites in Russia now perceive Putin as a significant strategic liability, and would be happy with most of the alternatives.

Thus, Putin moved to recruit the two constituencies for which the all-pervasive corruption is not a priority issue – namely, siloviki and siloviki-related nationalists.

In other words, what happens on the streets is important not because there will be a popular uprising or democratic repudiation of the government, but because of how it affects the dynamics in the back rooms, where the real action occurs.

As I noted long ago, Putinism is brittle.  It depends on maintaining an equilibrium between jostling factions.  Putin’s perceived popularity has been crucial in allowing Putin to play the role of maintaining the equilibrium, demoting those who get too big for their britches, and promoting the more biddable.  The fading of the aura of popular adulation–and indeed, its replacement with widespread ridicule–undercuts seriously his ability to play that role.

There are no doubt many within the elite with lean and hungry looks, who might be tempted to exploit this slippage.  And Putin no doubt knows that better than anyone.   This goes a long way to explain why he lost it in public, and apparently cannot tolerate anything but public obeisance.  He senses things are slipping out of control, and wants to reassert his grip.

Methinks it is too late, however.  Once the curtain has been pulled back, it is impossible for the Wizard to awe the masses.  Indeed, even the attempt invites more ridicule.  Which means that as much as Putin touts the importance of stability, and his pivotal role in securing it, there is likely little political stability in Russia’s future–in large part because Putin is going to win, but try to govern from a weakened political position.

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  1. Professor-I will let it lie but the miraculous conversion possibility relies on a bit too much fairy dust.

    I always wondered if Khodorkovsky was receiving certain types of support from US intelligence and that was part of the motivation for Putin’s reaction.

    Comment by pahoben — January 22, 2012 @ 10:59 am

  2. @pahoben-I tend to think that his conversion, such as it was, was calculated and money driven, not principled. That can be one of the benefits of the market system–it tends to economize on virtue. Insofar as the intelligence angle is concerned, no doubt that is part of Putin’s rationalization. But to think Khodorkovsky is the only oligarch that would have contacts with western intelligence stretches credulity beyond the breaking point. Putin’s reaction to Khodorkovsky is so obviously visceral that I think there’s something more to it than that. To extend the mafia example, I think it is that Khodorkovsky disrespected him, and exhibited that scorn, and that no capo di capi can let that happen.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 22, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

  3. Speaking of Putin’s relation to the media, here he is penning an article for the opposition Nezavisimaya paper.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — January 22, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

  4. My point was that some practices persisted after the 90’s. Ask the people of Nefteyugansk about the philanthropy.

    Comment by pahoben — January 22, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

  5. “I always wondered if Khodorkovsky was receiving certain types of support from US intelligence and that was part of the motivation for Putin’s reaction.” I suggest that like pahoben, ya’ll consider at least the possibility that yes, Khodorkovsky had some foreign intelligence ties, possibly through one George Soros, who like his idol Armin Hammer, was a sort of cipher, occasionally useful to both sides but always moving in a certain direction. Whether Hammer’s actions supported the thesis of the Hoover Institution researcher who produced The Best Enemies Money Can Buy (that early one-worlders like the Rockefellers build up Stalin’s USSR AND Nazi Germany’s war-making potential) is perhaps also an unknowable question. But it is crystal clear to me that Soros has acted, at least since the late 1990s, as an agent for certain agendas, most notably the installation of pro-Washington puppet regimes in Ukraine and Georgia, and like I’ve pointed out many times at this forum, one could not walk very far in Sofia’s old town ritzy areas without coming across NGOs like the St. Cyril and Methodius Foundation that owed their seed money to George Soros in the late 1980s when Bulgaria was still Communist. To believe that Soros did not at least have the CIA’s blessing for such efforts pre-1989 defies logic.

    Hence I suspect Putin’s rage has more to do with the belief that Khodorkovsky grew fabulously rich not only as his own agent engaged in all sorts of thuggery, but more importantly with a ‘kryshe’ of some sort from the West, which may have included Soros as an early provider of seed money. Ask yourself: where did even the pennyless Komsomol capitalists get the cash to win assets worth hundreds of millions for a few hundred thousand or a couple mil? Soros may have been an early godfather.

    Once again SWP, how in the hell do you explain Soros selling one of the largest steel mill complexes in Russia to Vladimir Lisin, who recently topped the Forbes Russia list? How did a foreigner with Soros well known CIA-friendly history hang on to such a juicy asset during Russia’s vicious ‘metal wars’?

    There is simply way too much here beneath the surface to accept the neat Robert Amsterdam packaged storyline, which SWP by and large does.

    Comment by Mr. X — January 22, 2012 @ 7:16 pm

  6. The biggest puzzle for me is how Khodorkovsky who came out on top in a dog eat dog world so completely misjudged the situation with Putin.

    Comment by pahoben — January 22, 2012 @ 7:44 pm

  7. @Pahoben–esp. after what happened to Berezovsky and Gusinski. He was always arrogant, and became more so, it seems.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 22, 2012 @ 7:54 pm


    Every historian and amateur history buff should watch this extensive interview with Prof. Anthony Sutton, ‘The Best Enemies Money Can Buy’. The role of Stanford Oil of New Jersey in building up the Luftwaffe, or of Lend Lease in creating the Soviet war machine as a high-mobility armored force with the trucks to sustain the Red Blitzkrieg of late 43′ and into 44′ with Bagration is well known (as is the fact that the U.S. spied on the Sovs with impunity until the early Sixties not only due to high altitude jets the Sov Air Force couldn’t touch, but also because the Sov radar sets were derived from ’44-’45 Allied models).

    This is not a crackpot but a highly respected researcher who was at the Hoover Institution for years.

    Comment by Mr. X — January 22, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

  9. And lastly, Andy Dzughashvili — and the (leave poor Ben Bernanke alone, support Mitt Romney) National Review — are still tiredly insisting that Russia doesn’t allow lethal equipment to be moved via the ‘Northern Supply Route’. Besides contradicting what I know firsthand about various NATO hardware being shipped via RUSSIAN chartered Antonovs well before 2009 (I just don’t have PUBLIC articles to prove this), this seems to be a very false talking point, that those putting forward know cannot be gainsayed without Russia speaking up and making itself an even bigger target for jihadists than it already is (da da, we just shipped a load of IED-resistant vehicles last week via Russian Railways, do you love us now National Review?). In other words, a lose-lose proposition that requires supplication and perpetual bowing to Washington, not merely quiet cooperation on common interests.

    I’ll let the awesome Mark Adomanis rebut what is ultimately an emotional, irrational desire for a policy that perpetually snarls at Moscow, regardless of the actual benefits to the U.S. as opposed to the sizeable NGO/Demintern complex and its numerous minions, from the Pravda on the Potomac WaPost to the Prague palace to Tblisi and back to the focus of Russophobic evil in the modern world, the Jamestown and Open Society Foundations.

    What is Vajdic’s actual criticism? That the Russians aren’t fighting shoulder to shoulder with us in Kandahar? That they’re not sufficiently engaged in part of some grand Western crusade against Islamic extremism? The Russian policy (helping NATO, but with restraint) makes perfect sense if you realize that, while the Russians certainly don’t want the Taliban to storm to victory, they also don’t want to have a permanent NATO presence in Central Asia.

    Vajdic is clearly unimpressed with the Russian contribution to our war in Afghanistan, but how would he change this? Would he offer the Russians concessions in their “near abroad?” No, that’s off the table. That’s appeasement. Would he agree to tone down US criticism of the Russian government? No, that’s also appeasement. Would he just yell at them a lot? Say really nasty things to Vladimir Putin until he agreed to offer more fulsome assistance? Maybe we could tell Susan Rice to bang her shoe on the gavel at the UN.

    The Russians, and Putin most of all, remember very clearly that, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when they enthusiastically signed on to the US war on terror it got them precisely zilch. [This was the heart of my argument with Andy Dzughashvili]. Putin’s support of the American campaign in Afghanistan, something which he took very significant political risks to deliver, didn’t get him anything: Bush still unilaterally abrogated the ABM treaty (less than a month after we had officially overthrown the Taliban government), imperiously dismissed any Russian concerns over missile defense as the mindless complaints of people still stuck in the Cold War, and, of course, fomented “colored revolutions” all throughout the post-Soviet space. So why would the Russians repeat their mistake? Why would they unreservedly support our campaign in Afghanistan when they have, in the very recent past, clearly seen that such a stance is foolish and self-defeating? Why would they give us something for nothing?

    Because SWP says they must, period.

    Comment by Mr. X — January 22, 2012 @ 10:19 pm


    Comment by Mr. X — January 22, 2012 @ 10:20 pm

  11. And to rest my case against SWP as an irrational Russophobe, only an oddball Russophobe would say he’d rather bribe Pakistan with hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars to keep the Khyber Pass open when their own tribesmen and substantial chunks of their Army are actively hostile to the U.S. (i.e. blowing up truck convoys even when they’re bribed to let them pass)…to the point of providing Osama Bin Laden a safe house next to their for YEARS.

    And I wouldn’t make such an issue of SWP’s throwaway line if it weren’t for the facts that:

    1) He clearly has ‘friends’ in the State Department who arrange meetings with the likes of Nemtsov — despite pretending he has no U.S. gov connections.

    2) Such a comment demonstrates a worldview that cannot distinguish between a government we don’t like (SWP’s main grudge being against Gazprom’s already declining monopoly) bitchin’ about U.S. policies but more or less going along (except when we’ve already demonstrated we’re hellbent on regime change, as in Syria) and a regime that demonstrates actual support for violent jihadist extremists to the point of giving them nuclear technology and safe havens from which to kill Americans.

    If you cannot distinguish between someone who merely doesn’t like you because you’re occasionally a pompous, hypocritica ass (D.C.) and someone who wants you dead, what does that make you?

    Comment by Mr. X — January 22, 2012 @ 10:26 pm

  12. I tend to think that his conversion, such as it was, was calculated and money driven, not principled.

    I think it might have been merely practical. Why try to reinvent the wheel when you can hoik the proven operation and management procedures from another oil company and apply them to your own? Laziness, if nothing else, would explain that one.

    Incidentally, that is another of the myriad reasons why Russia doesn’t develop as it should: they’re egos are too large to allow them to copy proven best practices from elsewhere. If you go into a Thai bank, you can see the model has been copied wholesale from one of the international banks in Asia, including the internet banking. In Russia, they haven’t even developed internet banking properly yet. Why don’t they just copy wholesale that of HSBC, or any other international bank? I can tell you, and I’ve seen this in so many areas of Russian business and industry: because Russians think they are too smart to copy somebody else’s practices and consider themselves unique so have to develop their own from scratch, meaning they forgo the opportunity to build on decades of somebody else’s work. I don’t think the Chinese method of copying everything without properly understanding it is the way to go either, but there are various systems and processes in existence which are transferable and have been proven elsewhere. Why not just copy them? I expect Khordokovsky thought “why not?” as well. It’s not as though he did anything particularly smart with Yukos, he just avoided idiotic Russian management practices and applied those you’d find in any well-run oil company.

    Comment by Tim Newman — January 22, 2012 @ 11:40 pm

  13. their egos…

    Comment by Tim Newman — January 22, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

  14. Mr.X, there was no shipment of lethal materials prior to 2011 by the northern supply route, the air transit over Russia only began in 2009 and was at first limited to non-lethal materials.

    There was no use of Russian air space for strikes on Afghanistan in 2001, the strikes were carried out by USAF bombers flying from Diego Garcia, and by USN aircraft operating from carriers. There was no need, and absolutely no reason to use Russian airspace.

    So Goebbels X, stop the lying, the reason you can’t find any public documents is because it didn’t happen.

    BTW, nice to see you support Russian crimes against humanity. Not surprising really.

    Comment by Andrew — January 23, 2012 @ 12:33 am

  15. Right Andy, it’s the La Russophobe principal — if you can’t Google it because it’s non public info or person, it never happened, and they don’t exist. But I know what I know, and my sources are pretty damn good. 🙂

    Comment by Mr. X — January 23, 2012 @ 1:35 am

  16. Whatever mr. tinfoil hat, so are mine, DOD, State department etc, UK MOD.

    They say that Russian “assistance” was actually mostly a hindrance rather than a help.

    Comment by Andrew — January 23, 2012 @ 2:25 am

  17. Oh and the US did criticize Bahrain over the crackdown on the opposition, they are also intending to move the US fleet based there as a response.

    Another epic fail from Goebbels X.

    Comment by Andrew — January 23, 2012 @ 2:29 am

  18. Another epic fail from Goebbels X.- immediate aftermath of 9/11, when they enthusiastically signed on to the US war on terror .

    Putin has embarked on a monstrous enterprise, next to which Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor seems like a country parson. European Russia is dying, and Muslims will compose a majority of citizens of the Russian Federation by as early as 2040.

    Putin … had as his major goal the gaining of Saudi legitimization for an policy in Chechnya and promises that Saudi charitable foundations would stop funding the Chechen rebels.

    To achive this goal he needed help from big false flag operations involving terror on US and Russian targets at the same time .

    Thanks to the Saudi -mafia for delivering what the Putin-mafia wanted .

    Comment by Anders — January 23, 2012 @ 6:59 am

  19. Interesting, Tim. Also interesting that in other ways, the Russians are great copycats. This article argues that the top 5 Russian web startups were essentially wholesale ripoffs of US ideas. So maybe there’s a dichotomy: the institutional sector has a severe case of the Not Invented Here Syndrome, and although the supposedly entrepreneurial sector doesn’t have that problem, it has the exact opposite problem: Can’t Invent Anything Here.

    Sort of the worst of both worlds.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 23, 2012 @ 11:43 am

  20. Her is a working link

    Comment by Anders — January 23, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

  21. Yes, and you can also see it in their aviation sector.

    Comment by Andrew — January 23, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

  22. And now Moron X the Saudies and EU have have double-crossed the Putin Mafia . By replacing Iranian oil Putins important importer and Anti-American partner.

    In sum, therefore, it can be argued that Russia has emerged, in the Putin era, not as a partner to the U.S. but more as a competitor. In that sense, it has adopted a position somewhat similar to that of France. However, there is one central difference. France is a liberal democracy with which the United States shares common values. By contrast Russia’s democracy is rapidly eroding. True partners tend to share values. In this sense not only has Putin’s Russia demonstrated through its behavior that it is not a genuine partner of the U.S., it has also done so through scorning the values of a democracy.

    Comment by Anders — January 23, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

  23. Question: Is The US Still A Liberal Democracy?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — January 23, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

  24. SO, nobody except your tinfoil hat wearing boyfriends read your dribble anyway, why do you bother?

    Comment by Andrew — January 23, 2012 @ 11:36 pm

  25. Sublime Moron Try tho lick the right boots and asses in Russia too make a good living for yourself there . Some arms sales to some Butchers IN SYRIA will help you a long way . What better way to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Syrian uprising?

    Comment by Anders — January 24, 2012 @ 9:04 am

  26. Anders, if you believe the Saudis, who is the naive dupe here? Go read Twilight in the Desert and get back to me. How do you know the Saudi princes are lying? When they say they love America and Norway.

    “72.And now Moron X the Saudies and EU have have double-crossed the Putin Mafia . By replacing Iranian oil Putins important importer and Anti-American partner.”

    Comment by Mr. X — January 26, 2012 @ 9:08 pm

  27. “66.Whatever mr. tinfoil hat, so are mine, DOD, State department etc, UK MOD.” Which belies your claim that you don’t work for any government, or haven’t worked for Western backed NGOs in Tblisi and thus have one hell of an incentive to keep the party going and poop on any candidate who wants you to find a non-U.S. taxpayer funded line of work, Andy.

    Comment by Mr. X — January 26, 2012 @ 9:09 pm

  28. No Moron X, they are friends, something I am sure you don’t have in this life.

    You know, people you meet, who you get on with socially, whom you respect and care about, and who reciprocate.

    I think we should start calling you Wes (Wes yo friends……)

    Comment by Andrew — January 28, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

  29. […] Professor discusses Putin's recent critique against the Russian independent radio station Echo of […]

    Pingback by Official Russia | Russia: Echo of Moscow Under Fire — February 3, 2012 @ 3:20 am

  30. They supposedly helped with that rocket that just fell into the ocean yesterday.

    Comment by Brandon — April 13, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

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