The fraying of Russia's power vertical

Despite the American media's presentation of Russia as Putin's playground, the new reality facing the President of the RF is that the power vertical that he has built over the last (almost) two decades is starting to fray. First and foremost it is a battle over resources, with those who control the oil and gas networks being prominent. As Carnegie points out“Personal” ownership of a resource is becoming increasingly important: the Duma goes to Volodin, Rosneft to Sechin, and the Moscow suburbs to Vorobyev [and many other resource areas, such as non-O&G extractions of Siberia, are also getting increasingly complex]. Those who control resources are gradually becoming feudal lords, establishing new laws for their domains. As their fiefdoms grow bigger, their relationship with the state will begin to change—old checks and balances will disappear, and the constituent parts will begin to be able to have a say over the form of the whole." This is a highly important internal development that is being either ignored altogether, or simplified for purposes of propaganda and public consumption in the west. But the possible outcomes of this will have deep effects on Russia both internally, and outside.

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Do you believe that Putin is really popular? I realize that Russia has a history of loving powerful leaders no matter how evil, but just wondering. I see Russia as a fascist dictatorship that is failing. 

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3 hours ago, ronwagn said:

Do you believe that Putin is really popular? I realize that Russia has a history of loving powerful leaders no matter how evil, but just wondering. I see Russia as a fascist dictatorship that is failing. 

Ron, think of Russia as a kleptocracy, where the race is to see who can steal the most.  The looting has created these billionaire "oligarchs."

As to the O.P. Olga Tkachuk and the suggestion that these various oligarchs can start to set up their own fiefdoms, the caveat is that the oligarchs must stay out of politics, obey Putin, and pay tribute.  Failure to do any of that and Putin shows up with his personal Praetorian Guard, arrests you for tax evasion, confiscates the corporation, and either you get jailed, killed, assassinated, or exiled, with the customary death threats of assassination when you are walking over the London Bridge, and some hitman spikes you with a poisoned umbrella tip. 

Since Death has this funny way of being permanent, suggesting that anybody no matter how rich has the ability to start to fence with Putin is a dubious proposition.  Putin murders opponents, and has the means and ability to do so. Ask any journalist who tries to expose or embarrass Putin how that works out.  Plenty have simply disappeared, lying in a pit in the forest with a bullet hole in the back of the skull.  Realities of Russia.

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(edited)

Putin is indeed very popular among Russians, with no shadow of doubt - though the government is not. To understand why, one has to first understand the incredible difficulties of the 90s in Russia for the vast majority of the population, a decade when men's life expectancy dropped by almost a decade - something unprecedented in history without a major war, natural disaster or disease. Putin came to represent the stability and growth that replaced a very difficult period. Russia is hardly a fascist dictatorship - it is a once again an increasingly authoritarian kleptocracy, but it is still in numerous ways more 'free' than it has been over much of its history, and the constant hyperbole doesn't do anyone any favors in terms of understanding the place.

As for the arguments presented by Carnegie - an institution that is one of the more astute commentators on Russia in the English language, whose analysts understand the nuances that escape many others - their presentation does go beyond the usual 'Putin bad evil troll murderer' cliches, and actually helps in painting a realistic picture. There is uncertainty over what will happen following Putin's current term, and the three most likely variants of what will follow are indeed making those who control resources edgy, leading them to try and tighten their grip in an increasingly independent fashion, and not unsuccessfully so.

Edited by Olga Tkachuk
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