Vladimir Putin, tyrant or visionary?
Wednesday, Sep 03, 2014 06:00 am
Vladimir Putin has become a royal pain in the neck. To us, his role in Ukraine’s civil war mirrors Adolf Hitler when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia. At the same time, Mikhail Gorbachev, who was president of the Soviet Union when Ukraine broke away from the U.S.S.R., believes that Russia is not interfering and is pleading for the Kiev-based government to stop military operations. Mr. Gorbachev has long been seen as a westernized politician.
Certainly the combined impotence of the UN Security Council and President Obama has allowed Mr. Putin to hit above his weight internationally. It’s time to look at the man, his life and his times.
Vladimir Putin was born in 1952 into a Leningrad working class family. He did well at school and at sports. He studied law as he fulfilled his childhood passion to be a government intelligence officer. By the age of 30 he was stationed in East Germany working as a KGB official when President Gorbachev led the first U.S.S.R. political revolution since the assassination of Czar Nicholas. Faced with an unsustainable military burden, Gorbachev introduced perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). He united socialism with democracy, holding multi-candidate elections for local Communist Party positions. Economically he allowed foreigners to invest in joint ventures with state enterprises, cooperatives and Soviet ministries. Unfortunately events got out of hand. In dismantling the totalitarian state, the Warsaw Pact disintegrated as democratic governments overturned Communist regimes, Germany reunited, Ukraine with Crimea broke away, and Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan. The Cold War ended. Putin returned to Russia.
Boris Yeltzin emerged when, as Moscow party chief, he put down a bitterly violent revolt against President Gorbachev. Gorbachev resigned and Yeltzin became the first publicly elected president of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Freedom of the press expanded and began reporting on government corruption. The expansion of the right to own property and a semi-free market system with the unfettered ending of price controls led to unpaid workers, strikes and civil unrest. Initially, Vladimir Putin was somewhat removed. He had been appointed assistant to the rector of Leningrad State University, in charge of international relations, and simultaneously advisor to the chair of the Leningrad City Council. He was then appointed deputy chair of the St. Petersburg City Council. While there, he earned a PhD in economics from St. Petersburg Mining Institute. He resigned from the KGB and moved to Moscow. Initially he was deputy chief of the Presidential Property Management Directorate, then first deputy chief of staff of the Presidential Executive Office.
Mr. Yeltzin resigned in disgrace and bad health and appointed Vladimir Putin as president of the Russian Federation in 1999. The next year he won the first of two terms as president. Barred from running for a third term he turned the presidency over to Dmitry Medvedev who in turn appointed Putin prime minister by presidential decree in May of 2008. Four years later Putin returned to the presidency in a hotly contested election.
Vladimir Putin has lived through political chaos and clearly is a forward thinker. He has a mission to unite the people of Russia. He is a masterful politician. He will have one Motherland. The U.S.S.R. will be reconstructed.
Alan Murdock is a local pediatrician.