LONG-TERM PLANNING. Charles Heberle has been conducting a training program in a region of Russia for a decade. Based on his successful school program in the USA, the essence is to train subjects to become citizens. As time went on it became clear to him that not only did Putin fully support his efforts, but that the whole thing had actually been Putin’s idea in the first place. Ten years ago a Russian NGO approached Heberle; convinced that the activities of Western NGOs would only create a new elite that used democratic slogans to disguise their rapacity, they had been searching the world for a better approach and had discovered his program. He accepted their invitation, arrived in Russia and instituted his training program in schools in their city and, eventually, their region. And there has been absolutely no publicity about it; I first heard about it from Heberle a year ago and was flabbergasted: I had no idea that Putin and his team were planning so far ahead. Putin has talked much about the need for a civil society but I did not realise that he a) understood that such things cannot come by government decree and b) was actually sponsoring an attempt to change the mindset of a new generation, individual by individual. I urge everyone to read Heberle’s account and his description of how he came to realise that Putin was behind the whole idea – it’s a vital insight into what Putin and his team are trying to do.
RUSSIA INC. Russia has weathered the international financial crisis reasonably well but its Reserve Fund has come down from about US$100 billion a year ago to about US$40 billion today. The money has gone to cover the budget deficit; but that was the reason for the fund: so that the fat years would cover the lean years.
PRE-TRIAL DETENTION. A woman, in one of Russia’s awful prisons on pre-trial detention since December, died last week. On Tuesday a deputy head of the Moscow Oblast investigation department was fired and his boss disciplined. As is so often the case in Russia, although the law now allows bail, the reality is slow to change.
PARADES. May Day saw parades, protests and demonstrations all over the country by every group imaginable. For the most part, they are reported to have passed off without incident. Another illustration of the reality that if demonstrators follow the rules (leaving aside the rules themselves and their application: but who allows anyone to march anywhere at any time?), nothing happens. Other Russia tries to make a big deal out of it. (By the way, what sense does the slogan “Putin is Brezhnev, Putin is Stalin” make? One is the senescence, the other the youth, of totalitarianism; how can Putin be both?)
PEOPLE POWER. Members of the ever-inventive Federation of Russian Car Owners are wandering around Moscow with blue buckets on their heads. The ever wooden-headed police, deciding that the inscriptions on the buckets made them posters, which made it an unsanctioned demonstration, arrested a few of them. This is something the police cannot win.
PIRACY. Today Russian commandos freed a tanker taken yesterday by Somali-based pirates. One was killed and 10 captured. Now Moscow has to figure out what to do with its prisoners.
THINGS YOU WON’T HEAR. Lyudmila Alexeyeva’s attacker was given a year’s suspended sentence at her request and with her approval. The attack was the occasions for some harrumphing about the condition of Russia.
NORTH CAUCASUS JIHAD. Several attacks in the last week: a car bomb in Dagestan; a bomb in Nalchik; and an attack on police in Ingushetia. With their usual indifference to civilian casualties. We go to Paradise, you go to Hell. Today the authorities killed another leader. It is quite absurd that the US State Department still refuses to recognise the “Caucasus Emirate” for what it really is: a node in the International Jihad.
BLACK SEA FLEET AGREEMENT. Last Thursday both Presidents signed off on the agreement. Putin grumbled about its cost while Medvedev spoke of its long-term benefits. Which, come to think of it, is an illustration of their roles: the President does the big strategic stuff, the PM has to figure out how to do it and how to pay for it. The agreement is opening the way for others: Moscow and Kiev have signed an agreement on the duty-free import of Ukrainian steel pipes into Russia.
KYRGYZ REPUBLIC. The interim government seems determined to have a trial: there have been some arrests; rewards are offered for capture of officials and it wants Bakiyev extradited. The country seems to be calming down but no one can say whether that will last.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)