In his recent address, as interpreted by both his supporters and his opponents, Putin appeared to move “from militarism to socialism,” that is to focus more on domestic needs than foreign policy, “from belt tightening to generosity,” and “from repressive severity to liberality.” The truth is not in the middle, Shelin says. Instead, it must be sought where it is in each case.
And if one approaches the question in this way, the commentator continues, one sees that the Putin regime is not prepared to be all that much more generous to the population, all that much more tolerant to its complaints, and all that much less repressive to society as a whole or even to business which is what the Kremlin leader talked about.
The promised generosity to the population in fact amounts to an increase in social spending of about one half of one percent, a tiny shift in resources, Shelin says. The promised greater responsiveness to the people is even more meaningless. Yes, officials have been told to be less offensive, but the means the regime is using are more of the same.
Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin promises to shame deputies into avoiding outrageous remarks and proposals not by insisting that they consider the voters but rather further integrate themselves into the state administrative machine. For him and his bosses, the deputies are not representatives of the people but subordinates to him and them. In short, no change.
And as far as a reduction in repression is concerned, Shelin says, there is little to indicate that is happening. Businessmen continue to be arrested, although the Kremlin denies it is involved. But such denials are neither credible nor an indication of change, however much the regime’s propagandists suggest otherwise.
Consequently, Shelin suggests, the Putin system has put on a new face, but it hasn’t changed what is under the make-up.