Staunton, August 30 – Many critics of Vladimir Putin say that his pension remarks were a mistake and a failure, a speech of a manager rather than a tsar, and one that at the same time showed he doesn’t care about the Russian people or what they think (e.g., svpressa.ru/society/article/209339/, publizist.ru/blogs/26/26712/-and facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2013962935333342&id=100001589654713).
All that is true, but Lev Shlosberg, a Yabloko Party leader from Pskov, makes an valuable contribution to this discussion by suggesting that in his speech, intentionally or more likely not, Vladimir Putin made a number of “valuable admissions” that Russians should draw conclusions from (gubernia.pskovregion.org/columns/cennye-priznaniya-vladimira-putina/).
First and foremost, the opposition politician and commentator says, Putin in his speech “admitted the obvious: he is the real author of the plan to raise the pension age. That acknowledgement wasn’t planned, of course” but rather reflects just how out of touch with Russian realities Putin and his regime now are.
“In the mythical world of Putin and his party, public opinion is the result of elections which are organized in favor of the powers that be. One must be very limited in education, information, and field of vision to think that way. But that is how they really think the situation is.”
And that is why Putin gave this speech now, Shlosberg continues. He and his colleagues are aware that in ten days, Russians will go to vote and their main plan is to “vote for anyone except United Russia and its candidates. These attitudes have frightened the authorities,” and Putin’s speech was an effort to calm the situation.
“The real goal of Putin’s speech in justification of the pension reform was to preserve power for himself and his clan,” to deflect a threat to him and it rather than to explain to people why the authorities were proposing to take this step. That is why his 30-minute address was so “cold and didactic.”
But from his words, “several simple conclusions” flow:
· “The economy is in stagnation and cannot meet the social needs of people, including pensions.”
· “The state plans to use the funds of citizens to get out of the crisis and not those of the oligarchs and the bureaucracy.” The former will have to “tighten their belts.” The latter won’t.
· “Russia’s demographic crisis as before is to be blamed on World War II and ‘the cursed 1990s.”
· “The insane spending of the Russian budget on wars and support of the regimes of foreign puppets will continue: Putin does not intend to give up his ambitions.”
· “Early retirement for employees of the force structures is untouchable [because] the regime relies on their forces to remain in power.”
· “The authorities and in the first instance Putin have no understanding and vision of prospects for the development of Russia and boosting the well-being of people.”
· And “’the icing on the cake’” – “the people do not understand their happy state but ‘must be patient.’”
The Russian people really don’t understand all this because “society has gone far ahead of the president in its understanding of the needed quality of life. People aren’t satisfied of life in a Soviet-style system, but Putin proposes preserving exactly that.” He thus speaks “as an outdated leader of an outdated government.”
Putin ‘didn’t explain to people the reason for raising the pension age. Instead, he in an authoritarian way read out to the people a lecture about the correctness of the actions of the authorities and demanded understanding.” That represents “a confirmation of the political and economic bankruptcy of the government he heads” and of Putin himself.
Putin’s softening of parts of the pension plan and his offer of some new benefits only highlights how out of touch he is, Shlosberg says. All the new benefits could have been offered without an increase in the pension age; and so it is “amoral” for Putin and his regime to speak of them in this context.
“The main socio-economic problems of Russia are injustice and poverty,” the Yabloko leader says. “Putin’s political system is arranged so as to produce both” so that he can take even more from the people than before. His speech shows that “this system completely satisfies him and he has no intention of changing anything about it.”
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