Gaia Community

compassion, collaboration & cooperation iN transistion



In the vaulting confines of St Ekaterina’s Hall in the Kremlin, they sat like guilty children in detention as Putin, ensconced behind a desk, called on them one by one for their views. Everyone knew there was only one right answer. Not even the hawkish security officials close to Putin seemed at ease. No wonder: foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin was treated to a demeaning public reprimand when he became flustered. When he said he “will support” recognition (of the independence of the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk), Putin curtly pressed him: “Will support, or do support? Tell me straight!”

After all, for the best part of two years, Putin has been kept in a biosecurity bubble of such severity that people scheduled to meet him spend a fortnight in guarded isolation, and even then have to pass through a tunnel fogged with disinfectant and bathed in ultraviolet light. Beyond a relative handful of his closest aides and friends, everyone has become a two-dimensional figure on a screen to him, his country a foreign land experienced through the TV news. No wonder he seems more isolated, even paranoid. Even without Covid, long-serving leaders don’t age well, and it is becoming increasingly clear that – like so many autocrats – Putin is becoming a caricature of himself.

I was once told by a former Russian spy that they had learned you “do not bring bad news to the tsar’s table” – and, certainly, the scope for him to be presented with inconvenient truths has shrunk, the circle of those to whom he listens has narrowed, and the gap between him and his closest officials, let alone his people, has widened.

After 20 years in power, he is less willing than ever to be disagreed with and appears to believe himself indispensable. He may occasionally flirt with the idea of stepping down, but that seems to be becoming less, not more likely over time. In part, this is a matter of trust. In a system without true rule of law, it would mean handing power over his and his friends’ fates and fortunes to a successor.

Putin is not a man to trust easily, at the best of times.



Views: 68

Comment by Michael Grove on March 2, 2022 at 11:33

Russia may have drastically reduced its nuclear arsenal since the Cold War, but Vladimir Putin can still boast the biggest stockpile of nukes in the world. The Russian president put his nuclear forces on high alert on Sunday, raising fears that the war in Ukraine could escalate with horrific consequences.

Comment by Michael Grove on April 8, 2022 at 11:08

This is a man who grew up running with street gangs in the post-war ruins of Leningrad, and who was so eager to join the KGBthe biggest gang in townthat he tried to apply when he   was still a schoolboy

Having made it, he was in East Germany when that state collapsed, nervously trying to face off against a crowd besieging the KGB offices in Dresden. Then, he returned to the Soviet Union just in time for that country to dissolve, and found himself no longer a member of a sinisterly powerful elite but desperately looking for work. He seems to have internalised the belief that to be weak is to be vulnerable; to trust is to be weak. He was presumably reminded of this in January.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the dictator of neighbouring Kazakhstan, had granted himself a position that gave him status and immunity from prosecution for life, while he handed over the actual running of the country to a hand-picked successor, who then turned on him, forcing him to step down. That was a lesson Putin would hardly have failed to notice.

There is also the question of legacy, something that seems now to obsess Putin. His public appearances, like this week’s television address announcing the recognition, are larded with simplistic and often downright inaccurate historical parallels, all intended not only to justify his actions but to place him within a pantheon of Russian ‘greats’.

Yet even he must know that this is a hard sell now.

Comment by Michael Grove on June 19, 2022 at 13:13

An oligarch accused of buying a palace for Vladimir Putin is the secret owner of a £60 million apartment in London’s most prestigious development which he purchased at the same time, it has been claimed.

Alexander Ponomarenko, who is on a UK sanctions list, purchased a whole floor at One Hyde Park in 2011, through an offshore company, it is understood.

A second oligarch, now under sanctions, bought an apartment registered through a UK-registered company, for his then teenage son amid inevitable questions over how a 19-year-old could afford a property costing £29 million. The block was developed by Nick Candy, a Conservative Party donor, and his brother Christian.

Mr Ponomarenko, 57, who made his fortune in banking and shipping and is the joint owner of Moscow’s biggest airport, was placed under UK sanctions in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The asset freeze prevents Mr Ponomarenko visiting the UK and bars any business here from dealing with him.

Comment by Michael Grove on March 23, 2024 at 10:43
Putin had to contrive a ‘landslide’ – because he knows cracks are showing in Russian society. Several opposition figures, including the well-known blogger Maxim Katz, and barred candidate Boris Nadezhdin, publicly stated they would vote for him. According to Vote Abroad, Davankov gained the majority of votes at Russian polling stations in other countries. With such a “subversive” candidate on the ballot sheet, nothing other than absolute victory would have allowed Putin to sleep at night.

It was clear for some time that the Kremlin saw this election as a test of the regime’s legitimacy. It is reported to have spent close to €1bn on the election campaign, with funds overwhelmingly devoted to ensuring a large turnout. It was not enough for the Kremlin to win the election – it also had to demonstrate public engagement. There was a push for early voting, especially in the occupied territories in Ukraine, where electoral officials accompanied by armed men in uniform knocked on people’s doors and politely asked them if they would like to vote early. Those who did not yet have Russian passports were allowed to use their Ukrainian IDs. In Russia there were the usual raffles, discos and canteens at polling stations to entice people out.

Samantha de Bendern • The Guardian
Comment by Michael Grove on March 23, 2024 at 11:23
The west’s derisive reporting of Vladimir Putin’s election victory this week was a mark of his success. It was described as an abuse of democracy, “rigged”, “fixed” and “a sham”. The other candidates were shadows, while Putin’s true opponents were imprisoned, exiled or dead. According to this narrative, the 87% who voted for him were mere victims of coercion, the queues of silent protesters were the stars.

Putin’s vote had nothing to do with democracy. It was a rerun of his 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, a global dressing-up, a rallying of support. As he celebrated his win to an adoring crowd in Red Square on Monday, we saw Putin as the new Ivan the Terrible against a backdrop of Ivan’s St Basil’s cathedral. He even made an offhand quip about his murdered rival Navalny. The image was of absolute power smilingly defying the enemy. Two years ago, he was supposedly crippled by western sanctions. We don’t hear that now.

Simon Jenkins • The Guardian
Comment by Michael Grove on March 23, 2024 at 11:28
There are not many people who can be said to have changed the shape of the age they lived in, but the American diplomat George Kennan, who has died aged 101, was certainly one of them. Virtually singlehandedly, he established the policy which controlled both sides of the cold war for more than 40 years.

The irony of the US "containment" approach towards the Soviet Union, which Kennan proposed in 1947, was that it assumed exactly the opposite shape to that which he thought he had recommended. The concept emerged from a tiny seed planted when an unknown US Treasury official sent a message to the American embassy in Moscow asking why the Russians were being difficult at the World Bank. The official could never have anticipated the page-upon-page response which clattered into the state department telex room on the afternoon of February 22 1946.
Comment by Michael Grove on March 25, 2024 at 10:19
US had warned Russia ISIS was determined to attack | CNN

Gunmen stormed the concert hall near Moscow on Friday, opening fire and throwing an incendiary device in the worst terrorist attack on the Russian capital in decades.

Isis has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Experts said the scale of the carnage – some of which was captured in video footage obtained by CNN showing crowds of people cowering behind cushioned seats as gunshots echoed in the vast hall – would be deeply embarrassing for the Russian leader, who had championed a message of national security just a week earlier when winning the country’s stage-managed election.

Not only had Russian intelligence services failed to prevent the attack, they said, but Putin had failed to heed warnings from the United States that extremists were plotting to target Moscow
Comment by Michael Grove on March 25, 2024 at 10:30
Did Ukraine war lead Russian security services to neglect Islamist threat?
Shaun Walker, Pjotr Sauer and Andrew Roth -THE GUARDIAN

As Russia observes a day of mourning for the victims of Friday’s terror attack, along with the sorrow comes the hard question that follows most similar incidents: how could this have happened?

Rooting out determined and well-trained terrorist cells is not an easy task for security services in any country, but there are numerous signs that failing to prevent Friday’s attack was in large part down to a catastrophic security failure on the part of Russian authorities.

First, there was the public warning from the US government earlier in March that it had learned of “imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow” by terrorists. The warning, also shared privately with the Russian government, suggested Washington had picked up some fairly specific intelligence relating to an upcoming attack. But Putin, three days before the attack, brushed off these warnings, calling them an “attempt to scare and intimidate our society”.
Comment by Michael Grove on March 25, 2024 at 10:35
Meanwhile as Ishaan Tharoor reports in the Washington Post ...

The U.S. and Israel have a ‘major credibility problem’ • In a testy exchange earlier this month, a senior U.S. official warned Israeli counterparts of the reputational “damage” as a result of the ongoing war in Gaza. The internal memo of the exchange involving Assistant Secretary of State Bill Russo, obtained by NPR correspondent Daniel Estrin, offered yet another illustration of the rift between the Biden administration and Israel, driven largely by growing American horror at the humanitarian toll of the conflict and Israel’s role in making it worse — even as the United States shields Israel in international forums and helps replenish its war machine.

According to NPR, Russo said in his March 13 call that Israel — and the United States, as Israel’s security guarantor and close ally — face a “major credibility problem” because of the war, the astonishing Palestinian death toll (now more than 32,000 people), the man-made famine gripping ravaged areas of the Gaza Strip, and growing global frustration with Israel’s insistence on prolonging the war to fully eradicate militant group Hamas.

“The Israelis seemed oblivious to the fact that they are facing major, possibly generational damage to their reputation not just in the region but elsewhere in the world,” the memo said. “We are concerned that the Israelis are missing the forest for the trees and are making a major strategic error in writing off their reputation damage.”

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Gaia Community to add comments!

Join Gaia Community

© 2024   Created by Michael Grove.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service