NEWSWATCH Wall Street Journal/Edward Lucas: “Russian Roulette. The regime has replaced institutions with one-man rule and treats criticism as treason. But it could get even worse.”
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Edward Lucas reviews two books, Putinism by Walter Laqueur and Putin’s Russia edited by Leon Aron.
Lucas assesses Putinism, unfolding under the extensive reign of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a negative light:
Making sense of Putinism is rather like trying to analyze a Russian salad. Unappetizing cubes of meat and vegetables lurk in a sea of gloop. Eat it and you may be ill, which is certainly the effect of 15 years of the stuff on Russia’s body politic. The country may not be quite a dictatorship, but it is certainly no kind of democracy. Vladimir Putin’s regime is more than kleptocracy crossed with cynical populism – but what is it exactly, and what does it stand for?
Russia is said to be beset by structural economic and political challenges made worse by the incumbent regime.
A more rewarding read is a slim collection of essays by Russians, edited by one of America’s best Russia-watchers, Leon Aron. … The war in Ukraine is not the cause of Russia’s woes, they argue, but … has accelerated corrosive trends. The economy is stagnating because corruption chokes investment and … Russia has failed to diversify from natural-resource extraction. The shrinking economic pie heightens tensions between the center and the periphery [and] increases … rifts between different segments of Russian society – those that profit from crony capitalism or relish the anti-Western fervor and those disenfranchised groups worst hit by ailing public services and crumbling infrastructure.
Far from trying to assuage these problems, the regime makes them worse. It has replaced institutions with one-man rule, treats even constructive criticism as treason, and is inventing enemies at home and abroad to distract attention from its own failings. But centralizing power in a country as big as Russia creates the seeds of its own destruction. …