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By Ardain Isma

CSMS Magazine

Yes, it is official. What has been a rumor since 2008 was made a fait accompli yesterday. Russian president Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila are now going their separate ways. As master of manipulator, Putin staged his announcement through a Russian journalist who acted as if she just happened to catch them—by pure providence or a stroke of luck—as the country’s first couple walked out of Esmeralda ballet theater behind the Kremlin’s great walls.

By all accounts, it was a scripted question that received a well choreographed response classic à la REAL politic in Russia. “You show up in public so rarely, and there are rumors that you don’t live together. Is that true or not?” The reporter asked. The estranged couple then exchanged a mutually inclusive glance before Putin uttered his blunt reply. “Well, it is so,” he answered with his usually repressed smile.

The real reason behind this revelation may have been a response to a 2008 story in one of Russia’s independent newspapers Moskovsky Korrespondent, claiming Putin had left his wife to marry a 24-year-old Olympic gymnast named Alina Kabaeva, a member of the Russian Duma and also a member of Putin’s political party. Then Putin flatly denied he was divorcing his wife for a much younger chick, less than half of his age. But to camouflage the public announcement, the Kremlin leader made it clear it was his wife whose life in the spotlight has become too much to bear, even though it was He who ‘has always been the one to snap like a bulldog when journalists pry into his love life,” according Time World.

Polar bear or snow leopard?

As the king of Eurasia, Vladimir Putin rolls continuously on a grand stage, sitting at the driver seat of the world’s largest country, commandeering one of the world’s most sophisticated military and drawing from the wealth of one the world’s richest countries in diamond and in oil. The former KGB spy master turned politician never hides his lavish lifestyle, although he never publicizes his private life. The last time he went on a round of bravado and self-praise was when he was PM as part of a political arrangement with Dmitry Medvedev to rule Russia for ever. Then he claimed to have surpassed all Russian leaders as the tireless, efficacious, and hastily flowing  leader since World War II. In a daring and lengthy interview designed to position himself as the undisputed victor of the upcoming presidential election, Putin put himself above all Russsian heroes, including those who won the wars against Nazi Germany and elevated Russia to Superpower status.

The nationally televised display of bravado was stunning. It is true Vladimir Putin is well known for his extreme self-confidence, obsession with his public image and virtually unquestioned control over Russia’s most important institutions. But the way it was done clearly showed that Putin was not going stop at anything to reoccupy the Kremlin and tighten his grip there until 2024.

In his bitter struggle with Dmitry Medvedev, he emerged the unquestionable victor when Medvedev agreed to swap position by becoming once again Prime Minister. Already, he was acting like what he used to be just 4 years earlier.

At the end of Putin’s last presidential term, Time Magazine crowned him as the Man of The Year for resurrecting the Russian Bear. Somehow, Putin seems to think he is the true San Salvador for Mother Russia. He told the heads of Russia’s three national television channels that the Soviet Union’s Communist-era leaders were not physically capable and willing to run the country the way he does. “I can’t recall a Soviet leader after World War II who worked as hard,” the former KGB colonel said. “They did not know what to do because of their physical capabilities or misunderstandings.” But he could not resist the “prestigious” position of being the KGB boss in Leningrad—a position he held so loyally. Today, Putin seems to forget that he is riding off his loyal days as agent number one in the second most important city of Russia.   

The TV bosses took turns asking Putin a series of flattering obsequious questions. One of them compared Putin to a hawk — to which the prime minister replied with a condescending smile. “A hawk is a good birdie……But I am against any clichés,” Putin said.

None of the interviews questioned Putin’s favorable comparison of himself to the Soviet Union’s post-WWII leaders. Those leaders include Joseph Stalin, who turned most of Eastern Europe into a Communist bloc; Nikita Khrushchev, who provoked the Caribbean missile crisis, sent the first man in space and banged his shoe on the table in the United Nations promising to “bury” the Western world. Putin accused his Communist-era predecessors of making people feel unsafe and monopolizing ideological and economic power in ways that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. “This political force led the country to collapse and disintegrate,” he said. “People lost the sense of being protected.”

A nationalist anti-communist doctrine

Moving away from ideology and –to some extent—from his own country’s historic past, Putin compared himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected U.S. president four times during the Great Depression and World War II. Roosevelt “acted effectively, and the number of terms or the years he spent in power did not matter,” Putin said. “What does it mean? It means that when a country is in complicated, difficult conditions, on its way from a crisis, back to its feet, stability in politics is of extreme importance.”

In Central Asia, Putin has strengthened his position, reinforcing Russian bases in the former Soviet republics as preemptive measures designed to keep China and The United States firmly at bay.

Putin’s return to the presidency is likely to strengthen the “managed democracy” system he installed in his first stint as president. Under this system, opposition parties face high obstacles to winning seats in parliament; of the four parties currently in parliament only the Communists, whose support is dwindling, act as a genuine opposition force.

Opposition groups’ attempts to hold rallies are rarely approved by the authorities, and unsanctioned gatherings are quickly broken up by police. All major television channels are under state control and rarely present opposition views.

So, Putin’s doctrine is deeply clotted in an outright opportunism, where every major industrial and technological accomplishment is being ignored in order to make way for Putin to reign as the new czar for the foreseeable future.

Note: Dr. Ardain Isma heads the Center for Strategic and Multicultural Studies (CSMS). He teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at the University of North Florida (UNF). He is a novelist and also chief editor for CSMS Magazine. He may be reached at: publisher@csmsmagazine.org

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