Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sympathy for Vladimir Putin

From Steve Lendman's Blog:
Currently he's United Russia's Prime Minister, serving with President Dmitry Medvedev.

From May 7, 2000 - May 7, 2008, he was Russia's second President, succeeding Boris Yeltsin, a man known for destructive "shock therapy" that created shocking levels of poverty and social inequality.

After he resigned on the last day of 1999, Putin became acting president, knowing 1990s policies were no longer acceptable. As a candidate, he promised corrective measures, saying:

"I am convinced that the defining feature of the new century will not be a battle of ideologies, but a sharp competition over the quality of life, national wealth and progress."

His agenda included:

rule of law principles under which corporate and private interests no longer would get special privileges the way oligarchs did under Yeltsin. Perhaps not as much, but social inequality is still extreme.

reawakening "national dignity," wanting Russia to be "a self-confident (potentially) great power; and

economic recovery, including elimination extreme poverty and economic crime; calling Russia "a rich country of poor people," he said "there (cannot) be a superpower where weakness and poverty reign."

Russia has a long way to go, but Putin's eight years were noteworthy. Living standards doubled. GDP rose 70%. Nearly all Russia's foreign debt was repaid. About $402 billion in foreign currency reserves were accumulated.

In 2008 dollars, GDP grew from $200 billion in 1999 to $1.26 trillion in 2007. Russia rose from the world's 20th largest economy to seventh ranked. Trade increased from 17% of GDP in 1990 to 48% in 2004.

Being the world's second largest oil producer and largest for natural gas contributed greatly, especially because of skyrocketing energy prices since 2000.

Compared to Yeltsin, his economic record was impressive. Russia was transformed from a basket case to a magnet for foreign investment. Nonetheless, much unfinished business remains, including raising the standard of living for left out millions in society and dealing Russia's deep-seated corruption.

In October 2008, Medvedev said:

"Corruption in our nation has not simply become wide-scale. It has become a common, everyday phenomenon which characterizes the very life of our society. We are not simply talking about commonplace bribery. We are talking about a severe illness which is corroding the economy and corrupting all society.”

It's one of many problems Russia faces, challenging him and Putin to address more aggressively. Prosecutions were pursued earlier. Much more needs to be done to combat a problem estimated by some at around $240 billion annually, involving business and bureaucrats.

He and Medvedev may get six more years to do it.

On September 24, New York Times writer Ellen Barry headlined, "Putin Once More Moves to Assume Top Job in Russia," saying:

His presidential candidacy announcement brought "a wave of applause" from 11,000 party members.

During United Russia's Moscow Congress, Putin officially announced it in elections to be held on March 4, 2011. A September Levada poll showed 41% of Russians prefer him compared to 22% for Medvedev.

On September 24, Medvedev proposed him, saying:

"I think it would be good for Congress to support the candidacy of the party chief, Vladimir Putin, for the post of president of the country." He added that he's "prepared to lead this government (as Prime Minister) and work for the good of the country."

Putin called running again "a great honor for me" adding:

"I want to say directly: An agreement over what to do in the future was reached between us several years ago."

Medvedev added:

"What we are recommending to the convention is a deeply thought-out decision. Moreover, we really discussed this possible turn of events at the time when we formed our comradely union."

Putin served two consecutive four-year terms, but was ineligible for a third consecutive one. If elected in 2012, he'll have six years and may run again in 2018, making him eligible to remain President until 2024.

At age 59 in October, he'll be 72 if elected two more times.

If Putin's popularity stays close to current levels, he, Medvedev and United Russia will govern Russia for another six years with likely Federal Assembly support...

Putin in 2012
Stephen Lendman
Monday, September 26, 2011

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