The Kursk and Russia’s Democracy

MOSCOW: Will the sinking of the submarine Kursk and the death of all its crew also sink the Putin revolution? Until now President Putin’s power was unique in Russian history – it was based on his vast popularity, one legitimized by the vote. He could browbeat Russia’s oligarchs into submission and recast the upper house of the Duma to make it bend to his will because he was universally popular and the other elements of Russia’s mostly discredited government knew it. His handling of the Kursk crisis, however, dented that democratic mandate because Putin seemed as contemptuous of human life as all his predecessors in the Kremlin. How well he recovers will determine whether or not Putin’s revolution will remain a democratic one, or whether he will revert to autocracy to pursue his goals.

I have no doubt that Putin will find people to blame for the failure to seek outside help for the Kursk in time. Indeed, the Kursk crisis may provide him with an opportunity to further clean house in the military. The first tests of his ability to recover are the looming regional elections across Russia. Between October and December over 40% of our country’s governorships will be up for grabs in new elections. As a restoration of Moscow’s authority over the country is a central plank in the president’s platform, he needs to restore his popularity fast.

Although Putin's reforms to the upper house of the Duma have already stripped the governors of their status as federal power brokers as well as of their parliamentary immunity, governorships retain wide powers in their regions. Few can now strut the national stage, or thumb their nose at the Kremlin, as they did during the Yeltsin era, but their powers are real and reigning them in won’t be easy.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/pd9PSHT;
  1. Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images

    The Summit of Climate Hopes

    Presidents, prime ministers, and policymakers gather in Paris today for the One Planet Summit. But with no senior US representative attending, is the 2015 Paris climate agreement still viable?

  2. Trump greets his supporters The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Populist Plutocracy and the Future of America

    • In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently sold out the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who brought him to power, while pursuing policies to enrich his fellow plutocrats. 

    • Sooner or later, Trump's core supporters will wake up to this fact, so it is worth asking how far he might go to keep them on his side.
  3. Agents are bidding on at the auction of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

    The Man Who Didn’t Save the World

    A Saudi prince has been revealed to be the buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," for which he spent $450.3 million. Had he given the money to the poor, as the subject of the painting instructed another rich man, he could have restored eyesight to nine million people, or enabled 13 million families to grow 50% more food.

  4.  An inside view of the 'AknRobotics' Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Two Myths About Automation

    While many people believe that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically, there is no evidence of either trend. In reality, total factor productivity, the best summary measure of the pace of technical change, has been stagnating since 2005 in the US and across the advanced-country world.

  5. A student shows a combo pictures of three dictators, Austrian born Hitler, Castro and Stalin with Viktor Orban Attila Kisbenedek/Getty Images

    The Hungarian Government’s Failed Campaign of Lies

    The Hungarian government has released the results of its "national consultation" on what it calls the "Soros Plan" to flood the country with Muslim migrants and refugees. But no such plan exists, only a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to help a corrupt administration deflect attention from its failure to fulfill Hungarians’ aspirations.

  6. Project Syndicate

    DEBATE: Should the Eurozone Impose Fiscal Union?

    French President Emmanuel Macron wants European leaders to appoint a eurozone finance minister as a way to ensure the single currency's long-term viability. But would it work, and, more fundamentally, is it necessary?

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now