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.)