Staunton, October 20 – Vladimir Putin’s increasingly vulgar language has attracted more attention – see some examples at lenta.ru/articles/2016/10/18/manners/ -- but a more important trend, Valery Koronevsky says, is the Kremlin leaders proclivity for giving the impression that he just came to office and must correct all the mistakes that someone has made in recent years.
Running as an outsider when you are not and running away from one’s record when one would like to avoid being held responsible for it are common features in Western democracies, but this shift in Putin’s rhetoric after 16 years in office is something new in Russia and in his reign and may thus point to radical changes ahead.
On the pro-communist portal Forum-MSK.org, the Moscow commentator notes that “Putin talks and talks and talks; and everything is correct and wide and really necessary, but there is the impression that he only just received power, only today, and intends that it is necessary to finally do something” (forum-msk.org/material/politic/12371581.html).
“Finally,” Koronevsky continues, “HE has received power and now is putting things in order. Optimism has appeared and hope is reborn and to listen to him is interesting and attracting, and his speeches inspire. Now, we will finally show progress … And only somewhere in the corner of one’s memory is the question – and where were you all these last 15 years?”
“What was [Putin] waiting for all these years? What did [he] process so wisely and confidentially every year? And what was done?” “Remember the doubling of GDP?” that Putin talked about. Now, Dmitry Medvedev admits that it is at the same level as in 1990 and that “a quarter of a century in fact was lost.”
“And where today is this ‘modernization of the political system’?” the commentator asks. And who remembers about these good intentions and the official plans and declarations of the President of Russia?” From one year to the next, the same promises, and at no time are there any results.
That Russians should begin to ask what after all Putin has in fact done for them over the last 16 years is interesting, but that he should begin to talk as if not he but someone else were in office and that he now must take action to correct everything is far more so.
On the one hand, it suggests that Putin in his alternative reality is increasingly losing touch with the world in which his own people are forced to live. But on the other, it may mean that he has concluded that the only way forward is to act as if the past never happened – or at least that he isn’t responsible for.
In the former case, such questions could presage a further erosion of Putin’s standing among the Russian people. In the latter, it could open the way for him to make truly radical policy and personnel changes, something that could send shockwaves not only through the population but through those who have been his closest colleagues in the past.