Compelling as this plan may be, some would argue that by strengthening the Kremlin, Putin has made it exceedingly difficult to wrest power from his successor. In response to this critique, one must remember that Putin has not simply enhanced the power of the presidency as an office of government. On the contrary, he has amassed extraordinary personal power whereby his word is de facto law. A formidable man in his own right, Putin has created a remarkably loyal following and, by virtue of this personal authority, exerts influence beyond that which he has formally attained for the presidency. Transitioning into the State Duma would allow Putin to maintain this cult of personality even while another man serves as chief executive. Let us also not forget that Putin will likely be involved in the “democratic” election of his successor. This involvement would enable him to select a candidate who poses no serious threat to his return to power. An ideal successor would be a little known politician who rose to prominence as a result of Putin’s good graces. Naturally, such a man would be competent, but lack the extraordinary force of will necessary to fill the shoes of his eminent predecessor. As Speaker and head of the majority party, Putin could also exert influence over the new president, effectively governing through him from the chambers of the Duma. Thus, the rule of Vladimir Vladimirovich could last well into the next decade.
In a final evaluation, Russia has made an alarmingly rapid return to its totalitarian roots. Its president dramatically curtailed federalism by usurping powers heretofore exercised by the democratically elected governors of Russia’s regional territories. He restricted the practice of such basic rights as freedom of the press and assembly, while simultaneously preventing nongovernmental organizations from providing the oversight needed to bring such human rights violations to the attention of the global community. These trends are unsurprising given that President Putin considers centralized rule an inherent part of Russia’s “genetic code, its traditions, and the mentality of its people.”[xxxvii] Having amassed unprecedented levels of power, the Russian president could easily extend his tenure either through a constitutional amendment or by serving as Speaker of the State Duma until eligible for a third term in 2012. Indeed, the Russian president has stripped his nation of its checks and balances and left it with one choice in view of his extraordinary authority – “absolute prostration.”[xxxviii]
Naturally, the United States should closely monitor these developments simply because it is our stated goal to foster democracy throughout the world. One cannot help but sympathize with Russian citizens who are, once again, forced to bear the burden of authoritarian government. More importantly, these developments could threaten our national interests and security. As a major supplier of oil and natural gas, Russiawill play an increasingly vital role in American life as we search for alternative sources of fuel. After years of dependency on oil-rich dictators in the Middle East, the United Statesshould do its utmost to avoid replicating this scenario in Russia, lest its citizens be held hostage at the gas-pump indefinitely. Putin’s dictator-like tendencies have also prompted him to form alliances with leaders who are openly hostile towards the U.S., such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In fact, Chavez recently visited Russiaas a guest of President Putin and signed a $1 billion dollar weapons deal to “acquire Russian fighter jets and produce Kalashnikov assault rifles.”[xxxix] Thus, as Putin consolidates his power, he bolsters that of other dictators around the world, thereby contributing to a climate that is detrimental to our national security. Consequently, his actions cannot be ignored, but must be viewed as a direct threat to both American and global democracy.
[i] “The Rise of Putin: What it Means for the Future of Russia.” The Heritage Foundation website. http://www.heritage.org/Research/RussianandEurasia/BG1353.cfm, viewed20 July 2006.
[ii] “The Rise of Putin: What it Means for the Future of Russia.”
[iii] “Vladimir Putin,” Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Wikipedia website, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Putin, viewed19 July 2006.
[iv] “The Rise of Putin: What it Means for the Future of Russia.”
[v] “The Rise of Putin: What it Means for the Future of Russia.”
[vi] C. Ross, Putin’s federal reforms and the consolidation of federalism in Russia: one step forward, two steps back. (Berkley: Elsevier Science Ltd, 2003), 32.
[vii] “The Constitution of theRussian Federation,” Article 66.
[viii] “The Constitution of theRussian Federation,” Article 130.
[ix] “The Constitution of theRussian Federation,” Article 72.
[x] Ross, 30.
[xi] Ross, 34.
[xii] Ross, 35.
[xiii] Ross, 38.
[xiv] Ross, 39.
[xv] Ross, 40.
[xvi] Ross, 40-41.
[xvii] Steven Lee Myers, “From Those Putin Would Weaken, Praise,” The New York Times,15 September 2004.
[xviii] Myers, “From Those Putin Would Weaken, Praise,”15 September 2004.
[xix] Myers, “From Those Putin Would Weaken, Praise,”15 September 2004.
[xx] “The Rise of Putin: What it Means for the Future of Russia.”
[xxi] Ken Gewertz, “Journalists speak out at Russian conference: Harassed Russian Journalists get help from Harvard,” Harvard University Gazette website, http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2002/03.14/13-russian.html, viewed24 July 2006.
[xxii] “The Rise of Putin: What it Means for the Future of Russia.”
[xxiii] “The Rise of Putin: What it Means for the Future of Russia.”
[xxiv] “Russia: Attempts to Stifle Dissent Before Summit (G8 Meeting Should Focus on Human Rights,” Human Rights Watch website, viewed24 July 2006.
[xxv] “Russia: Attempts to Stifle Dissent BeforeSummit (G8 Meeting Should Focus on Human Rights.”
[xxvi] “Russia: Attempts to Stifle Dissent BeforeSummit (G8 Meeting Should Focus on Human Rights.”
[xxvii] “Russian economic miracle to stem from state-controlled capitalism,” Trans. Guerman Grachev, Pravda,18 June 2006.
[xxviii] “Profile: Mikhail Khodorkovsky,” BBC News website, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3213505.stm, viewed24 July 2006.
[xxix] “Profile: Mikhail Khodorkovsky.”
[xxx] Carl Mortished and Suzy Jagger, “Gazprom ally takes control of Yukos,” The Times,23 December 2004.
[xxxi] Mortished and Jagger, “Gazprom ally takes control of Yukos.”
[xxxii] Peter Finn, “Putin Says He Won’t Seek 3rd Term: On Call-In Show, President Hints at Continuing Political Role in Russia,” Washington Post,25 September 2004.
[xxxiii] C. Ross, 41.
[xxxiv] “The Rise of Putin: What it Means for the Future of Russia.”
[xxxv] “The Rise of Putin: What it Means for the Future of Russia.”
[xxxvi] “State Duma,” Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Wikipedia website, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_Duma, viewed21 July 2006.
[xxxvii] C. Ross, 45.
[xxxviii] Myers, “From Those Putin Would Weaken, Praise.”
[xxxix] “Venezuela’s Chavez to sign Russia arms deal,” CNN.com website, http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas /07/26/chavez.russia.ap/index.html, viewed26 July 2006.