Putin Presidency, Part Dba

(That’s “part two” fer all you furiners.)

Says The Telegraph, that fine British rag:

“Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he could run again for the Russian presidency next year, just one day after Dmitry Medvedev, the country’s current president, also made a renewed pitch for the job.

Perhaps he can borrow a slogan from President Obama, apply it only to himself, and say <<Да я могу!!>>
Fans of the Russian constitution, and/or people who have read this blog in September 2009 will know that the Russian constitution allows the president of Russia to serve two consecutive terms in a row. However, it does not explicitly forbid said president from serving again after another president has held the office for four years. In other words, it clears the way for Putin to nudge Medvedev aside.
Curiously, this would fulfill the “chrome dome syndrome” that has been seen in Russo-Soviet leadership for most of the past century. I’ve talked about that here before too. Witness:
Russian Chrome Dome Syndrome

Two two rows are the Communist era leaders: Lenin (bald), Stalin (not), Khrushchev (bald), Breshnev (not), Andropov (receded), Chernenko (not), and Gorbachev (bald).

In the bottom row showing the post-Communist Russian Federation. We have Yeltsin (not bald), Putin (bald, yet so badass), Medvedev (with a fine haircut), and presumably Putin (the badass baldy) once again.

History repeats itself…

More on the Russian spy ring

A few things:

• A total of eleven people have been arrested. They led seemingly normal lives in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia.

• Their neighbors thought they were average suburbanites, not spies. “‘They couldn’t have been spies. Look what she did with the hydrangeas,’ 15-year-old Jessie Gugig quipped to the New York Times after the arrest of the Murphys.”

• This case is showing the subtly with which the Obama administration is capable of operating. From The Guardian:

[President] Obama was aware of the investigation before he met with the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev at the White House last Thursday. The two leaders did not discuss the issue, Gibbs said.

• Obama knew about it, but he and Medvedev had cheeseburgers together one day in Virginia! Mr. Obama certainly is a cool-minded leader if he can pull that off.

• Curiously, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin is among those who have said this won’t have a real impact on the course of Russian-American affairs. A writer for The Guardian agrees with that. (It’s my sense, too.)

• Who knew—Medvedev’s a Mac user! And an iPad user. And Steve Jobs gave Medvedev an Apple iPhone 4G during his tour of Silicon Valley. Lucky dog…

(Compare this to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s tour of California in 1959, when there was still extensive train service, and Silicon Valley didn’t exist!)

• The FBI announced the arrests a few days after Medvedev returned to Russia. David Hearst argues that this spy scandal is the last thing that Medvedev needs as he seeks to bring Russia more fully into the modern economic systems.

• The good news? The spy ring was busted before it could do any real spying.

China and Russia explore future energy, political, and military partnerships

Although China and the Soviet Union were viewed by many as part of a monolithic wall of communism, their differences ran deep. In fact, Soviet Premier N. S. Khrushchev and Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong had such a fierce clash in 1959 that the cold silence between the two states lasted until some time after the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991.

Fast foward to 2009. According to the AP, Russia’sonce-and-future president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin “landed in China Monday in an effort to bolster energy, political and military ties between the former rival nations turned strategic partners.”

High on the agenda are a gas-for-loans deal, which is reported to be similar to a $25 billion oil-for-loan deal that the two states worked out earlier in 2009.

So then, Russia is certainly oil-rich, but not quite as financially boyant as they were when petroleum was around the $80/barrell mark. China, on the other hand, has relatively few mineral resources, but they are doing quite well for themselves under former Chairman Deng Xiaoping’s 1984 plan for “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” And really, who needs democracy when you can have socialism with Chinese characteristics?

Or it could be like Russia. There, Anders Åslund of the Peterson Institute for International Economics argues, market reform has succeeded, but democracy failed to take root.

(Note: The author is at this point extremely grateful that he is in a country where he can say that without fear of persecution from anyone except an occasional blog troller, and not the secret police.)


Anyhow. Russia and China teaming up. Huh! Wonder what could come of that. Putin looks out for his own, and I’m sure the infusion of cash will go a long way to help him when he runs for re-election as Russian president in 2012. Unless Medvedev tries again; he’s been doing all right, so it just may work out that he can run for reelection should Putin allow him to do so.

Another fair question is what it means for China. They already have an oil pipeline a deal for an oil pipeline in the works that would run from Siberia to China.* Their rapidly expanding industry needs energy, especially petroleum, and consumes it ravenously. And there’s the whole shipping aspect — all that cheap plastic crap has to get to Wal-Mart somehow. The mind can swirl in amazement at the scale of it until you narrow down your range of vision and focus on particulars within it.

* That’s such a big space, it’s like saying a pipeline would run from western Canada to somewhere in the lower 48 American states.

Update: No breakthrough for China and Russia on natural gas, apparently, but you’ve gotta start somewhere. Besides, how else do you get great pictures like this?

The above photo is of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reviewing troops with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. (Photo (C) 2009 AFP/Getty Images.)

Obama reaches out to Russia

I have yet to see much from the right bearing objection to President Obama’s trip to Russia, which has brought a tentative agreement between the U.S. and Russia to further reduce our huge nuclear weapons stockpiles. The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) expires in early December, which would technically leave both nations free to resume building nuclear missiles. According to the Arms Control Association, we in the United States have “5,914 strategic warheads[1], approximately 1,000 operational tactical weapons, and approximately 3,000 reserve strategic and tactical warheads.” That’s 9,914 more than we need.
The agreement between Presidents Medvedev and Obama will not instantly reduce the number of weapons on either side. But it may have restarted the arms reduction process that was halted under what I described as “the New Cold War” that was started by former White House resident George W. Bush. Although President Obama has not wholly moved away from Bush’s missile defense program, he has tried to tell Russia it’s designed to protect against missiles from Iran. I still find that a little suspect, but it seems to be a different stance from Bush’s cowboy bravado. (Até, anyone?)
The power of nuclear weapons and Reagan’s penchant for saber-rattling in the early 80s gave me a deep interest in just who these Russians or Soviets or whatever you called them were and just why we were so opposed to them. One reason I supported Barack Obama’s candidacy was that he represented the first real change from the Cold War mindset that we’ve seen in a major presidential candidate in the past forty years. I knew he could help lead us away from the Strangeloveian blindness that Bush and his cronies were pursuing in the first years of their reign. (Good riddance, Rumsfeld and Cheney!) Much more needs to be done, but Obama’s agreement with the Medvedev-Putin regime is a good start.
Also: The Guardian has a curious cartoon on the Obama-Medvedev agreement.