Popular (updated)

Why is Putinism so popular (over there and with Pat Buchanan)? Sergei Kovalev tries to explain and offers 5 possible reasons.

We also didn’t anticipate the high level of corruption in Yeltsin’s government from top to bottom, or the merging of organized crime and business in both the state and private sectors. Nor did anyone anticipate the degree to which the government would engage in criminal behavior; nor the “delays” for months at a time in paying salaries and pensions. Nor so much else! We could not imagine that some six to eight years later the words “democracy,” “pluralism,” “multiparty system,” and “human rights” would be used as obscenities by Russians.

In August 1991, who could have foreseen that by December 31, 1999, a broken, prematurely decrepit Yeltsin would say farewell and ask his country’s forgiveness in his New Year’s address and that his office would soon be occupied by a product of the very secret services that Yeltsin and the other “victors” of August 21, 1991, saw as the symbol and the center of absolute evil? And that the entire country, except for a handful of intellectuals and democratic politicians, would applaud this turn of events?

It’s interesting that he makes little mention of the vast inflow of wealth into Russia via oil revenues; the Warlord’s saber rattling only serves to make the Russians richer. Moscow, as you may know, Dear Reader, has supplanted Tokyo as the world’s most expensive city. A stunning development when one considers what the city was like even in the late 1990s. In fact, the grim old Intourist hotel just a couple of blocks from the Kremlin that served as a familiar coral for foreign visitors (and a convenient place to monitor them, etc.) is now becoming the most expensive and decadently luxury hotel in the world as well.

We are also struck at how little mention is given to U.S. actions — from the halting and inept ‘advisory role’ in the privatization scams that allowed massive corruption to create overnight billionaires to overt (ill-advised) U.S. efforts at geopolitical encirclement in the ex-Soviet Union ‘near abroad’ in Ukraine, the ‘Stans and Georgia. In the latter case, such efforts, no matter how papered-over by claims of being by so-called ‘velvet revolutions’ would only fuel what used to be called Great Russian Chauvanism or even Revanchism. Americans may also not understand how the average Russian feels so little sympathy for those instant billionaires — and why Putin’s campaign against them has essentially a populist vibe to it on the ‘street.’

We could go on at some length about Kovalev’s five points. Perhaps its better to see what you think.
(The BBC notes that the only viable electoral opposition to Putin isn’t viable.)


  1. Anon says

    We have some thoughts written down somewhere, Aldershot – We’ll let you know when we put it together. But not much from that book, in particular. Except as backround knowledge.

  2. Aldershot says

    “Interestingly – we re-read Tale of Two Cities last year to see if we could glean any insignts into the Conrad Black affair.”


    re Wilkerson on Colbert: Doc’s right, Wilkerson needs to shut the hell up. It was wicked good of Stephen to make Powell look a fool, and Wilkerson a hypocrite.

  3. Anon says

    “The fax was from the Swiss ambassador to Iran, which wasn’t unusual — since the U.S. had no formal relationship with Iran, the Swiss ambassador represented American interests there and often faxed over updates on what he was doing. This time he’d met with Sadeq Kharrazi, a well-connected Iranian who was the nephew of the foreign minister and son-in-law to the supreme leader. Amazingly, Kharrazi had presented the ambassador with a detailed proposal for peace in the Middle East, approved at the highest levels in Tehran. – A two-page summary was attached. Scanning it, Mann was startled by one dramatic concession after another — “decisive action” against all terrorists in Iran, an end of support for Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, a promise to cease its nuclear program, and also an agreement to recognize Israel. – This was huge. Mann sat down and drafted a quick memo to her boss, Richard Haass. It was important to send a swift and positive response.”
    How would this be critiqued by the Sun/WSJ/etc ?
    Ex: Imagine if you were a liberal reformer working inside the Iranian foreign policy establishment and you get a fax from some guy in the Congolese embassy telling you that he met with Bill Bush and Roger Clinton – two prominant relatives of regime leaders – and they promise to unfreeze assets dating back to the hostage days ….

  4. Anon says

    “But the important thing is that the Iranians agreed to talk unconditionally, [Hillary] Mann says. “They specifically told me time and again that they were doing this because they understood the impact of this attack on the U.S., and they thought that if they helped us unconditionally, that would be the way to change the dynamic for the first time in twenty-five years.”

    That’s from the Esquire piece above linked – Hillary and Flynt probably have all sorts of stellar qualities, but boy are they politically naive if they think they can muse out loud about shady Iranian operatives making verbal noises in secret meetings. Perhaps they were doing the right thing, but its so easy to caricature.
    The best part of that Esquier piece is (page 4) Rumsfeld trying to play headgames with Levrette in the situation room – What a weirdo!
    She believed them.

  5. Anon says

    By saying Cheney has a good sense humor is not a compliment – just a description. Lots of bad leaders have good sense of humor. Bush’s humor is limited to the blowing up frogs/fart joke variety. Anyway, we’ll drop it. But speaking of unintentional humor, Flynt Leverett sets himself in the trap of being seen as pro Saudi:

  6. Comment says

    Just a small passing note, then we’ll drop the topic. Ariel is kidding herself if she thinks Coulter does not know humor- Like Ann’s humor or not – it’s her stock in trade. Also, Cheney has a good dry sense of humor. Ariel says they would not know humor “if it sat on their face.” But poor Ariel doesn’t undertand that she just set up a dirty joke that they would make behind her back if they read the column. Also – Ralph Nader has a dry sense of humor too. Why trash Ralph? Mainstrean liberal publications reveal a weak mindset. Rudy will take advanatge of such a poor oppositional zeigeist

  7. Comment says

    We are no fans of Norm Coleman, but he could have a field day with that New York Mag column about Franken – It’s just an excruciating article, filled with painfull ironic lines. Poor Ariel has no idea that she is not doing Franken any favors when she praises some of his awful jokes, nor when she draws attention to Franken mocking (at this late stage) Elvis for his drug addiction and hypocracy. Elvis is the most popular singer in the world – Jez, at least Bill O’Reilly has the smarts to focus his hatred on hated gangsta rappers – Besides – Franken and other liberals have to learn some day that drug abuse is widespread in all sectors of society and people approve of public hyprocracy on the topic.
    There’s also an anecdote about Franken killing his dog – No matter how justified it was, Roger Stone could just send a mailing to every voter in Minnesotta explaining that Franken killed his own dog just like Vick killed his own dogs. Justified? No, but life’s not fair.

  8. Comment says

    re “the Franken canon” is vulnernable to attack – Perhaps more so than the Western Canon. But we liberals – we have our devasating satire. Just devastating!

  9. A Random Quote says

    “This used to be the charge against the left in general: that we’re all bleeding-heart, bellyaching babies—the people who brought you humorless feminists and Ralph Nader. But during the Bush years, Democrats have come to own funny. Our political discourse has been dominated by the hilarity of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and the Franken canon, while the right’s most prominent spokespeople—Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Dick Cheney—wouldn’t know funny if it sat on their faces … – The Franken campaign, of course, thinks it is effectively using the Al-ness of Al. His solicitation letters are marked, “Urgent Gram.” He sends thank-you notes that say things like, “Thanks for coming to my event. I thought I was awesome. Also I appreciated your money. Polls are looking up, things are going great, also didn’t you think I was pretty terrific? I’ve got this in the bag. I’m pretty sure we could quit now and win. Love, Al.” It’s a fine line—Franken has to simultaneously show voters he’s serious while staying true to the Franken brand he has developed over 30 years in the public eye.”
    ~Ariel Levy
    New York Magazine 11/4/07
    (irony unintended)

  10. Comment says

    Rudy could pull of such a stunt – Defending the honor of John McCain. Part of the trick would be to act as if McCain was not even on stage even if he was standing next to Rudy when Rudy was defending him from Romney/Weyrich smears. This would be a subtle bitching of McCain.
    Obama could never pull this kind of stunt – even though he is subject to the Osama-Obama smear. But Rudy is really good at this kind of thing – It’s too bad we don’t support him. We often find ourselves wishing we agreed with the neocons because they have the most fun.

  11. A Random Quote says

    “His lips appear particularly animated—the way he holds his mouth is often half of what makes his jokes funny … To some extent, Franken can’t really help but be funny—he’s just drawn that way. And he’s not exactly trying to drain the humor from his being for this campaign, which would be stupid, because politicians need to be entertaining. But not too entertaining.”
    ~Ariel Levy
    New York Mag 11/4/07
    (Irony unintended)

  12. A Random Quote says

    “During the Bush years, satire was one of the Democrats’ most potent weapons. But Al Franken’s earnest—sometimes tearful—campaign for senator raises the question: Can politics and comedy co-exist?”
    ~Ariel Levy
    New York Magazine 11/4/07
    (Irony unintended)

  13. Comment says

    Opportunity strike for Rudy – Rudy can make good use of Weyrich’s support for Romney. The media is missing the story – We hate to give tips to Rudy, but this all he has to do at the next debate: 1) Drag out all those old Weyrich email and blog postings from 2000 where Weyrich spreads the tale that St. John McCain was possibly turned by the VC in the Hanoi Hilton and may be a Manchurian candidate – Yeah, Weyrich was spreading that rumor – Plus, Weyrich belongs to an eastern Christian church – one that is arguably heretical as Mormonism in the eyes of the creationist baptist set – So Rudy should hold these Weyrich emails up in the next debate in defense of John McCain’s honore and make Romney denounce Weyrich (who also has some anti Israel statements that Rudy can use just in case) and pledge to fire him – Romney will have to say no — But this will also give Rudy and indirect way to make use of the residual power of the McCain smear – By defending McCain’s honor – he also spreads the smear. If Romney refuses to dump Weyrich, bring up Israel – If Romney does dump Weyrich, he’ll look weak. What say you Doctor?

  14. Comment says

    Rivkin on c-span in passing saying re torture “nobody takes this lightly, nobody jokes about this.” Then he flashes that inappropriate smile – Because he just uttered one of the most common transactional falsehoods going today – Rivkin knows damm well that a lot of people – perhaps including him – joke about torture all the time. Among the c-hawks, torture jokes are as common as dew drops in springtime – It’s like a mating call – a way of saying they’re ‘serious’ LOL – Then ofcourse the opposition – the netroots jokes about torturing the torturers (just to prove a point – wink wink). Rivkin’s casual falsehood about jokes remins one of someone like on FNC in 2002-03 going on Brit and saying “Brit, no one wants war,” when that is all the pray for.

  15. Comment says

    The Dems are bluffing on torture – most of them don’t care. These ‘enhance interrogation techniques’ may not provide useful information, in the traditional sense, but they are part of our culture -sad to say. False confessions are way of establishing power, of spreading fear. Diane Feinstein gives the game away when she prefaces her Mukasy commenst with non sequitors about Mukasy not being Gonzales – This non sequitor is revealing in itself. First of all – it’s obvious – Bores and snobes repeat the obvious. Diane is the latter – She’s not gonna rock any boat trying to hold Bush accountable. Isn’t she related to someone he gets weapons contracts?

  16. Comment says

    David Rivkin on c-span flashing that inappropriate smile that a lot of movement types flash when defening torture – and trying to parce, – This too cute argument he makes (‘we do it to our own soldiers in training so why not do it to ‘) is a joke.
    The sad reality is that Rivkin probably likes torture a bit – as an end in itself – It creates a community of violence, of practitioners. He may regret this advocacy some time in the future, but now he has lots of company. We suggest punishing Rivkin by sending him to Sante Fe to run errands for Joe Wilson.

  17. A Random Quote says

    “The army is broken … the army is short 15,000 Captains.”
    ~Lawrence Wilerson
    (JustSpinning His Wheels)
    The Colbert Report

  18. Comment says

    Feinstein and Schumer’s support for Mukasey just gives the game away – It reveals the sad fact that opposition to torture does not really exist in a meaningful way – Spare us the crap Judge about what you find repugnant. Bush has a instinct – sadly as Buchanan noted about the Corporal – for the squishyness behind the respectable fascade of mainstream liberalism. He has done the equivalent of dead legging the liberals – Feinstein and Schumer can now join Powell and whine about all they did to put a break on things.

  19. Anon says

    We like the falling dollar for exactly that reason – We bought an HDTV a few months ago and we’ve been pleased to not see cheaper versions of the same model since we bought. In fact, we just stopped by PC Richards and notice the same set we bought was even more expensive now.
    Btw: Petraeus+Noun+Verb divided by Nobility multiplied by thehttp://harpers.org/archive/2007/11/hbc-90001574 square root of COIN equals:

  20. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Keith needs to focus on issues Americans care about: the price of beer is going through the roof, the falling dollar makes high definition sets for the Super Bowl more expensive, SUVs are harder to fill up. That’s William Jennings Bryan of the 21st century . . . the Constitution? Other than Ron Paul supporters no one has even read it. And Keith after a while just needs to STFU.

  21. Comment says

    Olberman is too wordy but he is finally taking up what Comment discussed a while ago – Namely Bush’s fear of personal culpability for war crimes – He has not brought up the Gonzales memo yet – but is focusing on Daniel Levin and the specifics of waterboarding.

  22. Comment says

    re:Putin /// It was sort of strange to see Mushareff making the rounds on Stewart and Colbert a few months ago before heading back to Pak with his ‘second skin’ on and throwing judges in jail. So maybe Putin will move to the coast after his term is up and start a reality show – Kind of like a KGB version of that Survivor show that former UK soldier started up. Or maybe he could get XFL football going again.

  23. Comment says

    Carlson just called Mushareff a “little creepy.” We laughed because he tried to do this in a condescending context – But Carlson is such a transparent wus – he would never call Mush a name to his face

  24. Comment says

    We think it would be wise for HRC to bait the far right even if she takes a hit in the news cycles. Comment was never a Clinton fan in any real sense – but we were always abit amazed how Clinton was able to rise in poll numbers when he was under attack. But we think swing voters and borderline voters will swing to her if she get seem to be under attack from the dark side and the media.

  25. Comment says

    Rudy’s line “you’re not ready for Ahmadinejad” if you can’t take a question about drivers license is , in reality, totally ridiculous conflating of lies with an over hyped threat.
    But try explaining that to the media – Tweety nearly reacted violently when Ezra Klein suggested McCain was on the wrong side of the Vietnam debate – but if you look at Tweety’s own personal history you would assume that he would agree with that – But like many media boomers, he wallows in self shame.
    On an intellectual level – Tweety knows that Iran is not a true threat yet – But will he mock Rudy? Will he attack Rudy for twisting an already dishonest

  26. Comment says

    Ofcourse – what Rudy is ridculing is less what HRC said than the the semi bogus narrative that Tweety and Group Ireland have inserted into Master Narrative. HRC will have to disrupt the decision making cycle at some point .

  27. Comment says

    Comment has noted we will not support Rudy – for the same reason you noted plus our concerns going back to 99-2000. But we have always respected him as pol and think he has an excellent sense of humor and he will employ it to devastating effect in the campaign. Rudy is excellent at ridicule and sarcasm – Hillary is learning to be more at ease and to rock and roll, but she’s gonna have to be prepared for Rudy ridicule = which is tailer made for Tweety types to replay in clip after clip after clip.
    If Romney got the nomination it would be different –
    However and Romney V. Edwards would be a funny campaign – in the sense that people will laugh at them together (will they have backup dancers at the debates?) on stage.

  28. Comment says

    Russert on Tweet tonight – there is a reason for this. Afterall Russert did hate him. This is definately in response to something and there is also anecotal evidence seeping out that Comment’s intuition was correct about Williams clunky SNL performance being partly in response or in anticipation of something. Group Ireland are getting their game face on. Tweet’s show is merely pretext to show anti HRC clips from the gamed debate while Russert – in a Brit Humean style – plays ringer.

  29. A Random Quote says

    “[T]here was considerable preshow discussion {On SNL} about whether his [Brian Williams] appearance would compromise his journalistic integrity …”
    Katherine “Kit” Seelye
    (Irony unintended)

  30. A Random Quote says

    “Oh sure. I follow and I’m interested. I’m fascinated by rap and by hip-hop. I think there’s a lot of poetry in it. There’s a lot of anger, a lot of social energy in it. And I think you’d better listen to it pretty carefully, ’cause it’s important. I’m still listening because I know that it’s a reflection of the street and it’s a reflection of life.”
    ~John Kerry

  31. A Random Quote says

    “Being exiled to opulent Palm Beach is not exactly hard labour — though I do prefer landscape with a little more dirt under its fingernails. Still, the Atlantic Ocean is just outside my window and it is a moody sea. They found a man under our stairs to the beach a couple of years ago, emaciated and dead in the midst of all this luxury. He was Haitian, I think. A dead would-be-immigrant starving under some expensive wooden stairs on a Floridian beach. Now that’s exile.”
    ~Barbara Amiel
    Macleans Sept 24, ’07

  32. Comment says

    “Hubris is not my only problem. An essential prerequisite for Jews at this time is to forgive all those who have wronged them. I want to be honest here: every year my list becomes longer and forgiveness more difficult, and now I’m close to the point where it’s simply not on. I’m inclined to bargain and ask if it’s all right to stop wanting to disembowel with my own hands those who have wronged my husband and offer to let them be disembowelled by others…”
    ~Barbara Amiel
    Macleans Sept 24, ’07

  33. Comment says

    Putin’s non bumbling is definately an asset – Comment differs with most of the opposition in that we think Dubya is pretty smart, if shallow, ill informed, obtuse, and anti intellectual. Yes – we seperate those things. But that’s just comparing him to the general population. That being said – he is no where near as smart as Putin. Condi is also weaker than many of her counterparts. Weaker in the mind.
    Remember when Gee Dubs was a do nothing Gov of Texas, he used to talk about the glory of high oil prices = Indeed, some say he once blamed the conservationists for low oil prices and his biz failure.

  34. sglover says

    Aw hell, I overstated… Gorbachev wasn’t senile or an oaf, but he isn’t exactly remembered fondly in his homeland. An admirable guy, though.

  35. sglover says

    I’ve read of another ingredient of Putin’s popularity that any English speaker who’s endured almost seven years of the Idiot Prince can easily understand: Putin is articulate, and he speaks an educated Russian. He’s used some pretty coarse slang, but he doesn’t need to, and usually doesn’t. Unlike Krushchev and Brezhnev, he doesn’t speak with a heavy regional inflection. Unlike Yeltsin (and Andropov?), he doesn’t slur. It’s another facet of the most obvious difference between himself and **all** the “leaders” that Russians have known for the last 40 years — he’s not senile, and he’s not an oaf.

    I don’t doubt that Putin is a first-rate ruthless SOB. I also note that, as far as I can tell, he isn’t doing anything with all that oil money to retard the decay of the health and educational systems — systems which used to be admirable in many ways. But even taking all these into account, life in Russia seems to have greatly improved since the traumatic days of “freedom” and “capitalism”.

    When they don’t make me grind my teeth, the WaPo’s periodic cluckings about Putin and Russian “liberals” always give me a mordant chuckle. In another context, guys like Yegor Gaidar were called “quislings”. So whenever Fred Hiatt sheds public tears over his former buddies from the Moscow hotel lobby circuit, I’ll bet Putin’s propaganda apparats give thanks for fresh manna from heaven. But then, anybody who’s watched the steepening decline of the WaPo doesn’t need to be told that Fred isn’t exactly the sharpest blade in the drawer…..

    Caveat: I traveled a bit in Russophilic (as opposed to the more Russophobic west) Ukraine in 2001. I actually had great hopes for the Orange Revolution — despite what I knew about Yulia Timoshenko. Also despite what pretty much every Russian I know told me, that it would just be the substitution of one gang of oligarchs for another. They’ve been too courteous to say, “I told you so” — at least in English.

  36. Comment says

    Oh, back to Putin – Sine Ron is anti Putin, we’ll have to reconsider our own anti Putin stance –

  37. Anon says

    Rosenbaums ridiculous Sydney Carton/ Charles Darnay comparison is so stupid that one suspects Larry David is sitting next to him as he writes it and they are both playing a joke on the slobs.
    Interestingly – we re-read Tale of Two Cities last year to see if we could glean any insignts into the Conrad Black affair. There is a lot of anti Seinfeld sentiment out there – especially among people who consider themselves edgy. But Rosenbaum is like a hundred years old by now – when is he gonna grow up?

  38. Anon says

    Rosenbaum doesn’t realize how silly he sounds – It’s bad enough when young intellectuals pretend to be ito rap or other anti bourgeosi stuff – Seinfeld is laughing his way to the bank (to use a Rotary-club ready line) and we have no intention to bother checking out Ron’s risky comics. We have to reconsider our interest in some of Rosenbaum;s Shakespeare writing in light of this.

  39. Comment says

    We ‘get’ Buchanan’s support for Putin, but sometimes we think the neocon opposition is misplaced – Then there is Kasparov makes an excellent case against Putin – we admire him and want to get his new book autographed for some chess fans. But we cannot help but think that our listening to him is absurd to the average Russian. He’s just not popular and when we listen to his case against Putin we think that the average Russian likes all these things he says Putin is doing.
    We were saddened by the death of Politkovskaya – like Bush she saw into Putin’s soul – Bush and Politkovskya saw the same thing – Bush liked what he saw, Politkovskya did not like it – Such is the way of the world.

  40. Anon says

    One of the reasons the neocons win is that they still have no opposition – Consider this critique – Karen seems like a nice woman and she made a real contribution as a leaker and dissident early on – But she tries to jam too many allusions into her ‘Philipics’ (j/k) and risks resembling Newt in the pseud dept.

  41. Comment says

    Comment’s never been to Russia – but may be going next year. However, in this new era that should not stop us from holding forth on Russia – In fact, we can call ourselves experts – Spasebo!

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