Streetwise Professor

March 18, 2020

The Banality of Vova

Filed under: Politics,Russia — cpirrong @ 2:19 pm

So forget all of that stuff about what workaround Putin was going to employ to remain de facto president for life: he has found a workaround to make himself de jure president for life.

It’s comical in a way. Start a process to amend the constitution of the Russian Federation. Get a respected Soviet-era fossil in the Duma, astronaut Valentina Tereshkova, to introduce an Orwellian Memory Hole amendment. Specifically, that anyone is eligible for two consecutive future presidential terms, thereby consigning Putin’s previous/current consecutive terms to the Memory Hole.

Then get Vova to address the Duma, and say (in effect): oh shucks, guys, I’ll accept if you insist. But only if the Constitutional Court agrees! Which is sort of like the organ grinder saying he’ll accept tips only if the monkey dances.

And, of course, yesterday the monkey danced.

The entire process has been completely banal, and lacking of the frisson that would accompany weighty constitutional changes in other countries.

This all transpired with a (predictable?) lack of response from the Russian populace. Likely because they know responding is worthless. If you know the game is rigged, what’s the point of protesting?

This raises only the question of why Putin went through such machinations in January. My conjecture is that those were mainly trial balloons. He clearly signaled that he was looking for a way to remain in power indefinitely. These signals were met with a collective shrug, except from a completely irrelevant opposition. Seeing this, Putin figured (IMO) that there was no political need for subterfuge: take the direct route and retain presidential power. Which also had the benefit of eliminating ambiguity about the distribution of power going forward.

So Russia shrugs, and Putin moves on: unlike an adage that Putin favors, he did not even hear any dogs barking. A further illustration of the maxim that nations get the leaders they deserve.

Insofar as the US is concerned, this is probably the best outcome. A succession struggle in a hostile nuclear power is not a happy prospect. And it’s not a bad thing when a self-proclaimed rival is in the hands of an aging man (in a country where men do not age well) whose mental powers will diminish and who will become more risk averse/conservative with age.

A banal Russia in the hands of a president who retains his powers as a result of an utterly banal process is not a good thing for Russians. But it is not a bad thing for the rest of the world.

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  1. Don’t you worry. The Husk of Joe Biden will make mincemeat of him. When he remembers to.

    Comment by dearieme — March 18, 2020 @ 3:00 pm

  2. It’s becoming a classic collective action problem. Any likely opposition leaders have been neutered ( financially if they’re lucky) so the populace has nowhere to turn. Unless he really screws up and creates the sort of economic conditions that led to the French Revolution or Mohamed Bouazizi to self immolation he’s on safe ground.

    Comment by Bloke in North Dorset — March 18, 2020 @ 3:48 pm

  3. How is being Pres. of Russia any different from being the mob boss? You can’t quit. Where would you go? You are likely to get rubbed out anywhere you go. It’s not like you’ve made a lot of friends shaking down the lesser bosses for the vig. He’s made the place into nothing but a big protection racket. Eff him.

    Comment by Donald Wolfe — March 18, 2020 @ 5:07 pm

  4. @Donald. No different. Michael Coreleone couldn’t leave the bizness. Neither can Vova.

    Comment by cpirrong — March 18, 2020 @ 6:30 pm

  5. Perhaps Putin will exit via a stroke and like Stalin not receive proper medical treatment because everyone is afraid to take the initiative.

    Comment by sabena — March 18, 2020 @ 7:36 pm

  6. @sabena–Looking forward to the comedy, “The Death of Putin.”

    Comment by cpirrong — March 18, 2020 @ 9:30 pm

  7. I don’t understand how Russian Constitutional Court can examine amendments to Constitution.Its role is supposed to consist of interpreting existing Constitution.While amendments change Constitution.

    Comment by mmt — March 19, 2020 @ 1:05 am

  8. Has there ever been a more pliant, dullard, bovine population that modern day Russia? Vlad* and his mates must be p*ssing themselves laughing at how easy this has been and how stupendously dim Russians are. All those years of communism, Putinism and vodka have rendered this once great nation the merest shadow of its former self.

    I occasionally go toe-to-toe with some Russophiles on other fora, and I always endeavour to ask what they believe Russia offers the world, apart from oil, a vast nuclear arsenal, and a bunch a incels trolls working in basements making mischief.

    * I prefer this diminutive name, as it annoys people who care. A bit like the Wuhan Virus.

    Comment by David Mercer — March 19, 2020 @ 5:08 am

  9. Incidentally you hinted in a recent post that we should fear a elderly Putin. Consistency please.

    Comment by David Mercer — March 19, 2020 @ 6:00 am

  10. ‘Looking forward to the comedy, “The Death of Putin.”’

    Ha! They got really p*ssed off about Iannucci’s film. I thought it was hilarious (as would have Russians of yore).

    Maybe it was the accents which set them off.

    Comment by David Mercer — March 19, 2020 @ 6:05 am

  11. “All those years of communism, Putinism and vodka have rendered this once great nation the merest shadow of its former self.”

    Fyi, Angelo Codevilla made that point in his book, “The Character of Nations,” in which he suggests that the nature of a country’s regime has a great impact (positive/negative) on the initiative, entrepreneurialism, etc., generally demonstrated by its population.

    Comment by ColoComment — March 19, 2020 @ 9:18 am

  12. @Donald Wolfe

    “How is being Pres. of Russia any different from being the mob boss?”

    More entertaining. You get to run costumed shows with Emmanuel Macron and other such clowns in supporting roles.

    Comment by Ivan — March 19, 2020 @ 10:14 am

  13. @David Mercer

    “this once great nation ”

    Yeah, kinda like “Brazil is the country of the future and always will be”, Russia is a concentration camp with glorious past and has always been.

    Comment by Ivan — March 19, 2020 @ 10:30 am

  14. Talking about Putin, is Joe Biden his preferred candidate?I was informed by such serious authority as Hillary Rodham Clinton that democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is Putin’s puppet.Now she dropped out and endorsed Biden.The conclusion is obvious.

    Comment by mmt — March 19, 2020 @ 10:31 am

  15. If he wants costumes, he should invite Trudeau. No doubt he would show up as a Don Cossack. Vlad should take the visit; Canuckistan is one of the few places that would take him if the Liberals are still in power and he brings enough money.

    Comment by Sotosy2 — March 19, 2020 @ 3:10 pm

  16. @Sotosy2–Rogozin the Ridiculous would be pissed if Trudeau showed up in Don Cossack garb. Rogo wears it regularly.

    Comment by cpirrong — March 19, 2020 @ 4:49 pm

  17. Justin would screw it up by coming as a White or Red guard, whatever is not appropriate.

    Comment by Sotosy21 — March 19, 2020 @ 6:11 pm

  18. See this for one theory how things happened:

    Comment by Bystander — March 20, 2020 @ 9:50 pm

  19. On average, people become more risk averse as they age. Sociopaths, not so much. More paranoid, and more angry in general, knowing they are losing their youth and vigour and can’t stay alive/hang on to power forever. And the more power they have, the greater the paranoia.

    This could get very ugly indeed. Perhaps the tendency of Russians to keep their heads down is a wise one. If an aging paranoid Putin feels reasonably secure, there may be somewhat less risk. Let’s all hope he doesn’t start thinking he needs to do something to make his mark on history, to prove he’s still strong, or just not to be forgotten.

    Comment by KarenE — March 21, 2020 @ 10:38 am

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