Russia and Putin : A New Russian President Will be Elected March 2, 2008

Did you know that Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose 2nd 4-year term expires May 7, 2008, will be leaving office after his two 4-year terms, as required by the Russian Constitution – and that a new President of Russia will be elected on March 2, 2008, almost certainly to be Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s chosen successor and friend and a man who has otherwise never held an elective political office?

Did you know that Putin has been a phenomenally successful Presidentfor Russia:

Under the Putin administration the Russian economy saw increases in GDP (2000 – 10%, 2001 – 5.7%, 2002 – 4.9%, 2003 – 7.3%, 2004 – 7.1%, 2005 – 6,5%, 2006 – 6.7%, 2007- 8.1%), industrial and agricultural production, construction, real incomes, the volume of consumer credit (between 2000-2006 increased 45 times), and other economic measures. The number of people living below the poverty line decreased from 29% in 2000 to 15.8% in 2007. A number of large-scale reforms in retirement (2002), banking (2001 – 2004), tax (2000 – 2003), the monetization of benefits (2005) and others have taken place.

How well do you really know the world political situation? What is the CIS ?

At his Presidential page, Russian President Putin currently has the following quotation next to his portrait at the top of the page:

““The CIS is a clear and constant priority for Russia, not only by virtue of our common past and the need to maintain the historic ties between our peoples, but also because the development of the CIS is crucial in many ways for the future of all of our countries.”

Read about the basics of the CIS.

The Franco-German network ARTE (Association Relative à la Télévision Européenne) had a broad program about Russia and outgoing President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (Wikipedia) this past Tuesday, February 26, 2008, which we found to be one of the best political TV programs that we have seen in years. A part of that series can be seen in full on video:

1) as a positive documentary (40 minutes in German) – available until March 4
2) as a negative documentary (52 minutes in German) – available until March 4

The mainstream media and national presses misinform us regularly about the nature of world politics because they all view current events from THEIR OWN greatly skewed political perspectives (this CNN article is a perfect example of that).

But that is the wrong way to view the world – at least if you want to truly understand what is going on. To have a full grasp of the world political situation, you also have to be able to see current events from the perspective of the other guy.

Why is that important?

The most important lesson that we learned at Stanford Law School we learned on the very first day, when Dean Bayless Manning, welcoming the entering class in 1968, stated (and here we paraphrase): “If you learn nothing else here at Stanford Law School, please learn that in this world 99% of the people think that they are the ones wearing the white hats.

In other words, almost everyone, people and leaders, think that they are in the right in their actions and thinking and that they are doing what is best for themselves or for their country. It is a hard lesson to accept, but it is the only REALISTIC view of current events. Everyone thinks that they are good guys.

Russia and outgoing President Putin, whose denominated successor Medvedev will for certain be elected on March 2, 2008, can only be understood from this perspective.

The fact is that Putin is a beloved figure in Russia and has tremendous support among the Russian population. This is not the picture you see in the international press, however, which has their own personal axe to grind, whatever it is. Objectivity is most certainly not an important element for mainstream journalism.

But how should we actually measure the leaders of countries to get a true picture?

The most important thing is that we have to look at their job responsibilities. If you are an American, you do not judge the Presidency of George W. Bush by whether people in Russia like him or not, rather, you judge him by the impact he has made on the United States of America in the eyes of Americans. Similarly, the job of any leader in any country is to represent and defend the interests of his or her own country first, and that is what we must look at in the first instance in assessing leadership performance at the level of nations.

By that standard, Putin has been a superb President of Russia.

By that same standard, George W. Bush has been a controversial President of the United States, and has in fact been less successful both politically and economically than Putin has been in his country.

As someone whose parents originate from the Baltic country of Latvia, and who wound up in the United States to escape Russian Communist domination, please note that this author has no particular reason to applaud the Russians, whose mentality is not a Baltic mentality. However, precisely because of our own personal history, this author has learned to look at things objectively, because wishful thinking can find you on the wrong side of iron curtains.

We often make the mistake in the Western world of imposing our political system and our ideas about democracy on other nations, and we do so particularly when we assess political leadership in those countries. This of course is foolish.

It is impossible to establish the American system of democracy in countries which do not have the same basis for government that exists in the United States. It is a government based on English tradition and common law, as based on Germanic tribal law and also Celtic tradition, all of which reach far back into antiquity.

The American system of democracy has been in the making for over 200 years, and even we, the great democrats ourselves, abandoned slavery only ca. 150 years ago, gave women the right to vote in Presidential elections only about 90 years ago, and ourselves officially ended racial segregation only about 50 years ago. These democratic changes occurred only when the political times were ready for them, and not before.

In creating its documentary about Russia, the ARTE programs referred to above show an interview with a Russian artist who says that the problem with the West is that it thinks that the people in the East are all idiots, which he says is of course not true. In addition, he notes that the people in Russia, for example, do not really want the same type of democracy that exists in America because it is a system not suited to the Russian mentality nor to Russian tradition.

He is of course right on both counts. We can not assess countries like Russia only from our perspective. Rather, the most telling way to judge countries such as Russia is from the realistic standpoint of where are they now, how far have they come, and where are they going? Not from OUR point of view, but from THEIR point of view. We need not agree – but we need to see.

By any stretch of the imagination, Russia has made gigantic political and economic strides forward in the last 20 years since the dawn of Perestroika under Mikhail Gorbachev. But this does not mean that Russia will wind up with the same system as the United States, much in the same manner that the European Union has its own unique system of government. The Russian solution will be different, and we have to be prepared to accept and deal with that differing and unique resulting political and economic system.

President Putin has acted and will continue to act in the Russian interest. That is his job. Also his successor will do the same, as that will be his job as well. The job for the rest of the nations in this world is simply to accept that and to promote their own interests, whatever they may be, and to be conscious of the fact that the guy on the other side of the table is doing exactly the same thing. Then we will have a real Realpolitik.

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