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Putin Finds Expedient Hero In Four-Term U.S. President


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Putin Finds Expedient Hero In Four-Term U.S. President (Finn, WP)

Friday, October 19, 2007; A1

The Washington Post

By Peter Finn

MOSCOW, Oct. 18 -- The Kremlin, its political consultants and state-controlled news media have found an American to admire: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

FDR, according to a consistent story line here, tamed power-hungry tycoons to save his country from the Great Depression. He restored his people's spirits while leading the United States for 12 years and spearheaded the struggle against "outside enemies," as the mass-circulation tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda put it.

Translation: President Vladimir Putin rescued an enfeebled Russia from the chaos of the 1990s, banished or imprisoned dangerous billionaires and regained respect for his newly enriched country on the world stage.

And Roosevelt ran for a third and fourth term because his country needed him. Translation: Putin, too, should stay.

Putin used the Roosevelt analogy Thursday when he spoke to reporters after a televised question-and-answer session with citizens. Asked about his vision for Russia, the president invoked the New Deal, saying that "Roosevelt laid out his plan for the country's development for decades in advance" and that he often battled the elites, according to Russian news agency translations of Putin's remarks.

"At the end of the day, it turned out that the implementation of that plan benefited ordinary citizens and the elites and eventually brought the United States to the position it is in today," Putin said.

In a glowing 90-minute documentary on FDR that aired Sunday on RTR, a state TV channel usually given to growling at Washington, a narrator said that America's 32nd president "came to the conclusion that he was the only person in the country who could lead America in the right direction through the most difficult period in the country's history."

"He became the only president of the United States elected for a third time. Americans trusted him," the narrator said. "They believed that at a turning point in history he would not make a mistake."

FDR has long held a special place in Russian hearts. He is known here as the distant ally whose massive aid shipments helped Soviet forces turn back hordes of Nazi invaders in what people here call the Great Patriotic War.

His further elevation and newly forged links to Putin appear to be part of an orchestrated campaign to position the Russian president in the glow of historical greatness and to provide him with a compelling rationale for holding on to power. There have been numerous newspaper articles, a major conference and several documentaries on FDR's life, all of which, with varying degrees of subtlety, have drawn parallels with Putin's rule and future role as the end of his second term nears.

In the RTR documentary, Anatoly Utkin of the Institute of U.S.A. and Canada Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, says, "In 1939, Americans were facing exactly the same problem as we are now -- the third term."

The film cuts to black-and-white footage of street interviews with Americans:

"We want him to stay!"

"We don't need change!"

"He should stay!"

"Of course it's about the third term, and a fourth term, and I'm sure it's organized from the Kremlin," said Dmitry Oreshkin, a political analyst and head of the independent Mercator Group, a Moscow consulting firm. "Roosevelt is now very popular in Russia. It's very artificial because Russians do not understand the specifics of American history. But it's successful. It has created the myth, not only of a strong leader, but that state capitalism improves the fortunes of a country."

Putin has insisted that he will not run for a third consecutive term as president, which is barred by the constitution. But he has hinted that he may become prime minister and has agreed to run at the head of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party in December's parliamentary elections.

"For now I can say I want to be there, where I will serve the people of Russia," he said this week, while again declining to specify what role he will assume after his term ends next year.

In the early years of his presidency, Putin was most often compared to Peter the Great, according to a study by G808, a private media analysis group that often works for the government.

"Peter was great but severe, a harsh modernizer," Sergey Nikulin, deputy director of G808, said in an interview. "And until 2005, Putin was Peter."

According to Nikulin, Putin bested his opponents and consolidated the state's power, just as Peter the Great had beheaded his enemies and shaved off the beards of noblemen.

"But in 2006, Peter is pushed out, and there is a dramatic change," Nikulin said. "The image of Putin as Roosevelt took off."

"There is no need to pretend that we are not referring to Putin when we talk about Roosevelt," said Gleb Pavlovsky, the Kremlin's leading political consultant, at a conference held earlier this year to mark the 125th anniversary of FDR's birth, a date that passed largely unnoticed in the United States. "And then when Putin -- I mean Roosevelt -- when Roosevelt was contemplating the possibility of running for a third term, he chose to do this against his own wishes."

The conference, held at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, also featured Vladislav Surkov, Putin's deputy chief of staff and a leading Kremlin strategist on domestic politics.

"You could say that Roosevelt was our military ally in the 20th century and he is becoming our ideological ally in the 21st," Surkov told an audience that included the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, William J. Burns. "I think the ideas and emotions motivating our society today are amazingly similar to the ones that motivated the Americans in the era of Franklin Roosevelt."

Almost every line in the RTR documentary has echoes of today's Russia.

"Oligarchs refused to accept one simple thing: Businessmen should deal with business and politicians should deal with politics," the narrator said when the documentary was covering Roosevelt's clashes with big business. That almost exactly mirrors the message of a famous meeting in the Kremlin in July 2000, when Putin warned the country's tycoons that they could conduct business as long as they did not interfere in politics.

Or as Putin himself put it in his State of the Nation address last year, "The toes of some people are being stepped on and are going to be stepped on."

The line came from one of Roosevelt's fireside chats in 1934.

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That's great that they appreciate one of our greatest Presidents but I don't see the parallel to Putin at all.

Other than the fact that Putin may be angling to break with his nation's convention and run for another term, there is none.

The huge difference is that FDR was our 32nd president. Our nation's stability was not in question. Putin is Russia's second president. He has the resonsibility, like Washington and Adams and Jefferson, of setting the parameters of leadership. FDR did not.

The other huge, huge difference ... and this one is huge :) is that a Presidential term limit was not written into our consitution when FDR ran for a third term. It is in Russia's constitution.

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Other than the fact that Putin may be angling to break with his nation's convention and run for another term, there is none.

The huge difference is that FDR was our 32nd president. Our nation's stability was not in question. Putin is Russia's second president. He has the resonsibility, like Washington and Adams and Jefferson, of setting the parameters of leadership. FDR did not.

The other huge, huge difference ... and this one is huge :) is that a Presidential term limit was not written into our consitution when FDR ran for a third term. It is in Russia's constitution.

It's a good comparison between the two states when you break it down. Ultimately, its propaganda to keep Putin around.

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Other than the fact that Putin may be angling to break with his nation's convention and run for another term, there is none.

The huge difference is that FDR was our 32nd president. Our nation's stability was not in question. Putin is Russia's second president. He has the resonsibility, like Washington and Adams and Jefferson, of setting the parameters of leadership. FDR did not.

The other huge, huge difference ... and this one is huge :) is that a Presidential term limit was not written into our consitution when FDR ran for a third term. It is in Russia's constitution.

I was going to echo your last point and add one additional point. FDR didn't run for his third term. He was drafted by the party and the nation. FDR did not even attend the democratic convention which nominated him to the third term. It was felt by many in the country that with the world on the eve of war, we needed our most experienced guy in office.

I think you cut the comparison pretty nicely.

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How is the New Deal not a communist program?

I would classify the New Deal more as fascist (in its economic meaning). FDR and many of his advisors weren't shy about their admiration for Mussolini's ability to "run" the Italian economy. Bills like the National Recovery Act were closely modelled on the statist ideas of the Italians.

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No need for the name calling... Predicto is not as big a lib as you'd think, even if he is a pansy :silly:

I think you got that reversed.... right? :whoknows:

As to the thread itself, Putin and the former KGB are running Russia right now. I don't see them relinquishing power any time soon.

Not a chance in hell.

In an earlier thread we discussed, if you had to choose, who you would choose to be called to heaven tomorrow. Some said Bin Laden, some said Kim Jong Il, some said Bush :doh: ,

I said Putin. And I'm sticking with that. He is the most dangerous man in the world, and virtually the exact opposite of FDR.

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I said Putin. And I'm sticking with that. He is the most dangerous man in the world, and virtually the exact opposite of FDR.

This is an excellent read, if you're interested. I read it in an airport about a month ago.

http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9687285

Putin's people

Aug 23rd 2007

From The Economist print edition

The former KGB men who run Russia have the wrong idea about how to make it great

Magnum/AP“OUR pilots have been grounded for too long. They are happy to start a new life.” So said Vladimir Putin as he sent Russia's nuclear bombers back aloft on the world-spanning patrols they had suspended after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This comes hard on the heels of talk of reopening a Russian naval base in the Mediterranean, joint war games with China and the planting of the Russian flag in the polar seabed. The Soviet Union is dead and communism long buried. But Mr Putin wants you to know that the Russian bear is back—wearing a snarl with its designer sunglasses.

How has this situation come about? It is tempting to search for mistakes by Western governments, to look for the culprits who “lost Russia”. Yet as our briefing this week explains (see article), the role of outsiders has been secondary. The best way to understand both Mr Putin's ascent into the Kremlin and his rule since is to see them as the remarkable recovery of the culture, mentality and view of the world of the old KGB.

When Mr Putin was plucked from obscurity to become first Boris Yeltsin's prime minister and later his successor as Russia's president, few in the West had heard of this former KGB officer, who had briefly been head of the FSB, the KGB's post-Soviet successor. Just before he became president, Mr Putin told his colleagues that a group of FSB operatives, “dispatched under cover to work in the government of the Russian federation”, was successfully fulfilling its task. It was probably a joke. Yet during his two terms since then, men from the FSB and its sister outfits have indeed grabbed control of the government, economy and security forces. Three out of four senior Russian officials today were once affiliated to the KGB and other security and military organisations.

Why they do it

What motivates these so-called siloviki? In part, the wish for revenge on those who challenged them in the early 1990s, especially after the abortive KGB coup of August 1991. Greed may be the most powerful motive: some Kremlin insiders have hugely enriched themselves in the past decade, and corruption may be worse even than in the later Yeltsin years. But the new elite also has an ideology of sorts. They see the break-up of the Soviet Union as, in Mr Putin's words, the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. Capitalising on a widespread sense that Russia has been humiliated, they want to create as mighty a state as the Soviet Union once was. They see the West as a foe bent on stopping them.

In this, Russia's rulers have strong domestic support. It is hard to gauge Mr Putin's popularity in a country with such tightly controlled media, but his opinion-poll ratings are impressively high. That nobody doubts his ability to choose his own successor owes a lot to his suppression of all dissent, but it reflects also the fact that voters have little love for the tiny liberal opposition remaining. Thanks to GDP growth that has averaged almost 7% a year under Mr Putin, many Russians feel better off, even if a lot are still poor. And many share the desire to reassert Russia's greatness—and a deep-rooted belief that the West is Russia's natural enemy.

It is foolish for people in the West to deny that Russia is a great power and that, in some ways, its influence has increased. When Mr Putin became president, its GDP was the world's tenth-biggest and foreign reserves stood at $8.5 billion. Today Russia's economy is the world's eighth-largest, and the reserves are $407.5 billion. The Kremlin has played adeptly on Europe's dependence on Russian gas to enhance its influence. On issues such as Kosovo or Iran, Russia has used its seat on the UN Security Council to force the West to pay it attention.

To achieve true greatness, unclench that fist

Yet the siloviki's ambitions remain misguided. That is not because there is anything illegitimate about wanting a strong Russia. What is wrong is how they define that strength—in the Soviet terms of awe and anxiety—and how they pursue it. The economy, for a start, is heavily dependent on high prices for oil, gas and other commodities that may not last. Russia is weak in manufacturing, services and high-tech industries. Putting spies in charge of big firms is a recipe for failure: they know how to grab assets and jail foes, but not how to run real businesses. Foreign investors may still covet Russia's natural-resource sector, but a climate in which assets can be arbitrarily taken back by state officials and then redistributed to cronies is not welcoming. Both foreign and, more strikingly, domestic investment are very low compared with China.

Nor is it sensible to revive Russia's old anti-Western, zero-sum strategic thinking. The West tried to be a friend in the Yeltsin years, but has since been put off by Russian belligerence. A resurgent Russia can throw its weight around the neighbourhood and intimidate ex-Soviet republics such as Georgia, Ukraine and the Baltics; but by alienating its neighbours Moscow harms its own interests too. By dint of size and military strength, Russia is a power in the world. Yet today even the “soft power” that the Soviet Union once wielded through communism has mostly gone. In its place is only fear.

The biggest misreading of all is over Russia's own political future. The siloviki have shown they can squash opposition, suborn the courts and stay in charge. But, as in all autocracies, they are acutely nervous about the future. Mr Putin's popularity will not easily transfer even to a hand-picked successor. More generally, as ordinary Russians get richer, they may grow dissatisfied with their present masters, especially when they see them stealing and mismanaging the economy. Russia has huge problems: crime, poor infrastructure, secessionism and chaos in the north Caucasus, appalling human-rights abuses and a looming demographic catastrophe. To counterbalance these woes, the new elite may resort to even wilder forms of nationalism; and that nationalism could turn into a monster that even its creators cannot control.

In truth, the biggest threats to Russia's future stem not from its “enemies” but from internal weaknesses, some of them self-inflicted. For a Russian ruler, or ruling class, to accept that truth would take real courage—and real patriotism.

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