Wednesday, 22 January 2014 14:10

Olympics only the first step for Putin and his goals

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In just over a month’s time the world’s attention is going to be fixated on the Sochi Winter Olympics and Putin’s Russia.
Much has been said about the Olympics and the controversy that has erupted in the West and in some quarters of Russia about the recent gay propaganda laws and how Russia’s gay community has been targeted by them.
Although in the West this law has been targeted by politicians and the media what’s really missing here is a condemnation of the Putin regime and numerous actions taken to silence critics at home as well as abroad.
People need to understand that the Putin regime is rightly characterized as one rife with corruption, theft and deceit. Corruption seems to be acceptable for certain highly-placed individuals while recent arrests for corruption only seem to target low level civil servants as well as those who have fallen out of political favour.
Even before the Olympic Flame is lit there is plenty of talk of corruption in the construction of the venues. Lost in this, the most expensive Winter Olympic Games ever, are literally hundreds of millions of dollars siphoned off and gone forever.
Despite Putin being “democratically elected” and his Party, United Russia, controlling the Duma or State Parliament, what’s really going on in Russia is a gradual dictatorship.
Certainly supposed “democratic” elections have taken place, but the key words are how democratic?
In its first rendition the Putin regime paid special attention in eliminating moderate or centrist parties. Gone is the center-right Union of Right Forces and the center-left Yabloko Party has been forced to the fringes through a series of well orchestrated election commission rulings eliminating many of their highly-popular candidates’ right to run for election.
At the same time as eliminating the centrist parties from the political scene, Putin and his cronies have manipulated the Duma in a way where the only opposition is the Far Left Communist Party or the Far Right Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR). Russians are left with very little choice. You either vote for the Opposition — extremists — or the political centre — Putin and his party, United Russia.
Sadly by stifling the centrist Parties’ ambitions Putin has bred a growing movement of what people in the West would call extremists on both ends of the political spectrum.
More alarming though has been a seemingly surreptitious campaign by the Putin regime to stifle opposition not only of recent immigrants but also of others in the Russian emigree or White Russian community.
Under the auspices of reclaiming properties owned by Imperial Russia the Putin government has set out to eliminate the last bastions of criticism from the once very powerful and influential White Russian community.
In Nice, France the Putin government launched a lawsuit a few years back not only designed to recover the local Russian Orthodox cathedral for the state, but also to evict and hopefully stifle one of the last bastions of Imperial or White Russian resistance to what’s really going on in Russia.
While in other instances Putin’s government has lulled former long-time emigree opponents of the Soviet and subsequent regimes by offering them legitimacy and a sense of final victory for their cause.
Members of the once-proud, but now literally dying-out Kadet Movement, have finally capitulated and taken Putin up on his offer to return to Russia as seeming heroes while reviewing a new generation of Russia-based kadets.
Such moves have a two-fold effect. Not only do they eliminate traditional critics of internal Russian affairs but at the same time it allows Putin and his cronies to claim an illegitimate Imperial heritage as people forget the schism of the Russian Civil War and what’s the true predecessor of today’s Russian government.
But how does Putin do it? How does Putin maintain a surprisingly resilient hold over the electorate despite a seemingly rhapsody of misdeeds and corruption?
Certainly some of it is through coercion, trumped up charges against serious opponents and laws designed to prevent political gatherings and traction by any populist centrist Parties, but there is a simpler reason for Putin’s success.
Domestically things have improved economically for many Russians and there is a growing middle class which is tenuously maintaining its grip on new found financial freedom. This helps Putin, but United Russia’s success can be distilled down to just one word. Simply put — pride.
Putin has wisely used the ashes of the Former Soviet Union to build his myth.
For many Russians, Putin has instilled in the country a new sense of restored pride. Putin has managed to restore some of the vestiges of the once-great Soviet Empire. Traditional Soviet friends have been re-embraced and in many instances the finances are flowing. Gone are the days where Russia was losing its grip on the world stage but it has now been replaced with one of a growing world influence.
Even the Sochi Olympics themselves have been typified as Putin doing what the Communists failed to do at the West boycotted Moscow Olympics and that is put on a truly successful Olympics.
Russia re-asserts itself on the world stage more and more everyday. In some cases Russia’s renewed emergence on the world stage has seemingly been beneficial for the West but at the same time Russia’s policies are straight out of the Cold War play book.
This leads us to the upcoming Olympics and how this fits into the Putin plan.
There are commentators who say the Sochi Games are the icing on the cake for Putin, they symbolize the pinnacle of his success. I disagree, the Sochi Games in my opinion are just the beginning. A beginning of acceptability for Putin and renewed moves on the world as well as domestic stage. Moves which will further cement Putin’s hold on power as well as assist him on the world stage.
None of this is good for those who speak out for true democratic reform and rights in Russia or abroad.
As you sit back and enjoy the upcoming Sochi Games I encourage people to cheer their favourite athletes, take in the breathtaking scenery and in the end give credit to ordinary Russians and not to Putin and members of his ilk.
Robert Thomas,
Swift Current

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