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[Opinion] Putin’s Winning Formula

Posted July. 15, 2006 06:22,   


Yesterday, oil prices hit a new record. With the ever-rising cost, one person who greets the news is Russian President Vladimir Putin. His approval rating as a president of the world’s second largest oil producing country is rising in line with the increase in oil prices. His approval rating is now hovering above 70 percent. Among leaders of the G8 Summit held starting today, no leader attending the summit exceeds his ever-soaring popularity. The secret behind his popular rating can be summed up as “a strong nation and strong leadership.”

The Russian economy has grown six percent per annum since his inauguration. With an annual wage growth rate of 10 percent, it might be true that Russians are willing to say, “We now enjoy the rapid increase of wage growth thanks to your leadership. Thank you so much.” Of course, it is largely thanks to the soaring oil prices. Without Putin’s great efforts to achieve political stability, however, it is likely that Russians would not enjoy the current strong economic growth and their national confidence. It seems that Russians will not pay close attention to big issues such as energy security and North Korea’s missile test-firing at the G-8 summit despite a growing demand to deal with such topics among world’s leaders. As for Russians, the theme is only one that shouts, “Look! The victorious comeback of Great Russia!”

Nina Khrushchyov, a great-granddaughter of Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchyov, called the charisma of the president, “Putinism.” It is a kind of combined idealism that consists of Stalinism, communism, the spirit of KGB and the market economy. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russians have disappointed democracy amid intense chaos and stark poverty. They started to miss the great Soviet Union and the Russian empire, as well as Stalin and their old-day emperor. The lack of freedom is just a private concern. Amid this kind of chaos, Putin emerged and started to win the hearts and minds of Russians. He has become Russians’ hero. As a result, Russia has distanced itself one step further from a free and democratic nation. Now, Kremlin wields significant influence on the State Duma, the legislature, and the press, as well as the economy. Corruption and inefficiency are rampant in Russia. The lack of industrial competitiveness due to its large dependency on oil money will cost Russia someday. Maybe, the world’s leaders at the G8 summit have good reasons to worry about the lack of appropriate ways on how to deal with Putin.

Kim Sun-deok, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com