I am posting a multipart review of the book “The Forsaken, An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia” by Tim Tzouliadis that I recommend, and I decided I should do some research on what is happening in Russia today. Much of my reading of history tells me that Stalin’s Soviet Union was preparing to take on the United States as an enemy as we were supposed to be allies during World War II. Reading about current events in Russia leads me to the opinion that the Russians do not consider us to be an ally despite the efforts of the Obama administration to establish better relationships with them. Hillary Clinton famously delivered a “reset button” to Russia, but the televised event was embarrassing. The Russian word “Peregruzka” that was written on the button means “overcharged” and not “reset.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergi Lavrov informed her of the error. Perezagruzka (with an extra “za”) means reset, and peregruzka means over charged.
Recent events in Russia indicate that dealing with the Russians is likely to get tougher. A Washington Post article by Will Englund and Kathy Lally reports that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will step aside after his one term as president and has called on the ruling United Russia part to endorse Vladimir Putin for the post. The Huffington Post writes that Medvedev will be awarded the position of Prime Minster, the number two position in the Russian government, while Putin will undoubtedly be elected President in a carefully controlled election. Putin was former president Boris Yeltsin’s choice to succeed him when Yeltsin resigned the presidency in 2000. Putin then engineered Medvedev’s election in 2008 when term limits wouldn’t allow him to continue. The recent announcement means that the “managed democracy” policies that have been in effect since Yeltsin’s resignation will be continued in Russia.
Political freedom is not expected to return after Putin and Medvedev trade positions. Opposition groups are rarely given approval to hold rallies, and unsanctioned gatherings are quickly broken up by police. The major television channels are controlled by the state and rarely air opposition views. It is to Putin’s advantage that he is credited with the Russian turnaround from post-Soviet poverty to prosperity, although much of that economic success comes from higher prices for oil and natural gas. Some analysts think Putin will have to pursue reforms to move beyond a natural-resources economy. Putin believes wealthier Russians need to pay higher taxes. He has called for increases in consumption and real estate taxes.
Putin does have political opponents. Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has predicted that the government will fall after Putin returns to the presidency. “This government’s collapse is predictable and inevitable. This won’t take six or five years or the period of time until the next parliamentary elections.”
Putin is expected to continue the strict nationalistic stance that has been his signature from his days with the KGB and though his years as President and Prime Minster. His return to the presidency isn’t likely to ease relations with the United States. There are disputes over the building of a European missile-defense system, economic policies, and Russian support of Syria and Iran. According to an article by Joel Brinkley, Russia continues to sell arms to the Syrian government as protestors are being killed. The Syrian President, al-Assad Alawite is a Shiite Muslim, while three-quarters of Syria’s people are Sunnis. Ending his reign would probably result in a Sunni leader, which would isolate Iran’s Shiite leaders and the terrorist allies, Hezbollah and Hamas. Perhaps the Russian support to Syria and Iran is the reason the Obama administration seemed much less eager to file official protests about the treatment of protestors in Syria than they were in other Middle Eastern counties. I know foreign relations are incredibly complex, but I don’t believe that we should hold out hope that Vladimir Putin is going to become our friend.