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RA in Welt am Sonntag: Russia’s stability is a dangerous illusion

“The international community should not let itself being blinded by the Russian leadership and should resist of getting drawn into Russia’s narrative of democracy and rule of law – a story of “double standards”, an outdated conception of sovereignty, and posing as a victim of unfair suspicions,” argues Robert Amsterdam in a new op/ed article published today in Germany’s leading Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag. A full translation of the text follows below – original source article here.

Russia’s stability is a dangerous illusionRobert Amsterdam warns not to believe the myth of Wladimir Putin as Russia’s powerful savior. Behind the system’s scenes a brutal power struggle takes place.The result of Russia’s grotesque parliamentary elections had barely been announced when French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave his Russian colleague an early Christmas present: He congratulated him for his election victory. How heartening it was to the reactions of the German media and of most of the German politicians. They understood what had happened in Russia – not a democratic election, but just a parody, which did not even try to give the impression of openness and fairness.The international community should not let itself being blinded by the Russian leadership and should resist of getting drawn into Russia’s narrative of democracy and rule of law – a story of “double standards”, an outdated conception of sovereignty, and posing as a victim of unfair suspicions. The current Kremlin leadership wants the West to believe that this “strong” president, not high oil prices, personally “rescued” Russia from chaos in the 1990s, instilled stability and prosperity, and for this he is adored by all his subjects. If some soft authoritarianism comes along with this package, it is a small price to pay for the benefits, they argue.But Russia’s stability and Putin’s strong position are mere myths. Is it a sign of stability when the former KGB- and FSB-agents, which control the country now, are fighting each other vehemently? The so called spy war broke out in October. Drug control official Alexander Bulbov, who was accused of conducting illegal wiretaps while spying on other FSB officers believed to be corrupt, was arrested by the FSB. The actual aim of the attack was his boss Victor Cherkesov, who is a close ally of Putin. He reacted with an unprecedented letter published in Kommersant, in which he indirectly accused his adversaries, Igor Sechin and Nikolai Patrushev, of destabilizing the country through their power grab.The power struggle within the Kremlin continued at the beginning of November when Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak on implausible criminal charges, which was seen as a major blow to Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, one of last remaining civilian (non-siloviki) technocrats in Putin’s cabinet. Shortly following was the news of the earth-shattering interview with Oleg Shvartsman of Finansgrupp, which revealed his role under the direction of Sechin to conduct “velvet reprivatization” of assets, describing in detail the machinery of state theft to personally enrich government officials. In the meantime Shvartsman denied all of his statements – probably being pressurized – but the aim of discrediting Sechin had been achieved.Considering these events it is paradox when Gerhard Schröder and Klaus Mangold, Head of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, spin a tale of Putin as a guarantor of Russia’s stability. Instead we witness a dangerous instability in Russia and a growth of the shadowy political control of siloviki like Sechin. It is a system that in its essence is not influenced by its citizens – this had been demonstrated by the latest “elections”.The author is lawyer and international defense lawyer of the imprisoned Kremlin-critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.