Blackmailing Putin in Pikalyovo

Alexei Kuznetsov, one of CBS’s correspondents in Russia has written about Vladimir Putin’s emergency action in the struggling town of Pikalyovo – and what kind of sign this sends to the rest of the Russian population getting the short end of the recession stick…

But it is possible that Putin’s rage was caused by the understanding that by making Pikalyovo dwellers happy, he was doing himself and his government a major disservice. Inspired by the success in Pikalyovo, people may start hoping that Putin could be blackmailed into helping resolve their problems, too. The 7.7 million unemployed throughout Russia may pour into the streets, blocking highways and demanding that Premier Putin, who remains the country’s most popular leader, come and give them their money and jobs back. Russian experts are already talking of the “Pikalyovo syndrome” when protests may spread rapidly to over 400 Russian company towns hit hardest by the global economic downturn.

Russia’s national budget having enough money to pay all the disgruntled citizens is a moot point. But regardless of the answer, covering Russia’s 11 time zones with emergency visits is a tall order even for such a successful manager as Vladimir Putin.