Painting The Kremlin Facade
(Article ©2017 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Oct. 9, 2017 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/daily-vertical-putin-65-brezhnev/28782055.html)
So Vladimir Putin turned 65 this past weekend, which, incidentally, is longer than 43 percent of Russian men can expect to live according to a new World Bank report.
Last month, he surpassed Leonid Brezhnev and became Russia’s longest ruling leader since Josef Stalin.
A whole generation is now coming of age that has known no other leader — and no, Dmitry Medvedev doesn’t really count.
The Putin show is getting old. Putinism is getting stale.
And the Kremlin seems to understand this as it gears up for the coronation and legitimization ritual — otherwise known as an “election” — that is looming in March.
The Kremlin knows this, but it doesn’t really have a lot of options for refreshing, resetting, and rejuvenating a stagnating regime.
Economic reform isn’t really an option as it would upset the corruption and the patron-client relationships that are the lifeblood of the regime.
And with the armed forces stretched in Ukraine and Syria, a new military adventure is probably unlikely.
So it appears they’ve decided to do the functional equivalent of painting the facade.
Since late September, Putin has replaced no less than seven governors as the leaders of Nenets, Krasnoyarsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Daghestan, Primorsky Krai, and Oryol have all lost their jobs.
This is the best they can do to give a decaying regime a false sense of freshness.
Putin has achieved Brezhnev’s longevity. And he now appears to be desperately trying to avoid the appearance of Brezhnev-style stagnation.