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How the Coronavirus Is Testing Putin’s Leadership—and the System He Created
Many of Russia’s official reactions are similar to those in the United States.
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Russia is on the front line of the coronavirus crisis in that it shares a very long territorial border with China/Asia. Nonetheless, many of its official reactions are similar to those in the United States.

Citizens are being told to self-isolate. New responsibilities, authority, and public prominence are being devolved to regional governors and mayors of large cities, particularly Sergei Sobyanian, the already accomplished and widely admired mayor of Moscow. And leaders at all levels are suddenly relying heavily on, and deferring to, the expert opinion of medical authorities and other specialists.

But at this moment in Russian history, something else is being tested: not only Vladimir Putin’s personal leadership but the efficacy of the political-administrative system he has created since 2000—the “vertical” stretching from the Kremlin to all of the regions and cities of the world’s largest territorial country. Though Putin and his evolving system have faced previous crises—in particular, the Chechen War—this is the most serious and ramifying.

The health crisis also comes amid a national discussion as to how—not if—Putin will remain the No. 1 leader after his constitutionally permitted two consecutive terms as president expire in 2024. Various solutions are being discussed, including constitutional changes that would eliminate such limits or create a new position for Putin and whether such changes would require a national referendum—and indeed whether one could be held given the health crisis.

Larger, long-term issues are also involved. How, for example, would further empowering Putin impact plans to democratize the political system by transferring more power from the Kremlin to the parliament (Duma). One proposal, apparently made with Putin’s support, had been to give the Duma the power to name Russia’s president. Whatever the outcome, it is notable that no public figures, including oppositionists, seem to be able to imagine an alternative to Putin himself at this time.

Nor is the role of the United States missing from the discussion. Increasingly, Russian public figures are drawing a parallel with the World War II US-Russian alliance against fascism and calling for such an anti-viral alliance today. But Even if President Trump understood this necessity and sought to act on it, as he should, it is not clear he would be permitted to do so in Washington.

Part One:

Part Two:

(Republished from The Nation by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Coronavirus, Russia, Vladimir Putin 
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  1. Dan Hayes says:

    Prof Cohen,

    Welcome back to both the UR and the John Batchelor Show with 21 February being your last appearances! I hope that the new ownership of WABC, your flagship radio station, will not impede your broadcasting. I hazard a guess that the new owner hopes to use it as a springboard for his future mayoralty ambitions. If so, play along since he (or almost anyone) would be an improvement over the present occupant.

    Again, Ron Unz is to be commended for presenting your views outside the parochial confines of The Nation magazine.

  2. It seems unlikely the pandemic will produce a détente between the global powers. It is already being politicized to create scapegoats and demonize rivals. More likely it will contribute to mankind’s entropic decline into nuclear war.
    https://www.ghostsofhistory.wordpress.com/

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
  3. swamped says:

    “Nor is the role of the United States missing from the discussion. Increasingly, Russian public figures are drawing a parallel with the World War II US-Russian alliance against fascism and calling for such an anti-viral alliance today. But Even if President Trump understood this necessity and sought to act on it, as he should, it is not clear he would be permitted to do so in Washington”…nor is it clear what he should do, with or without such permission. Would it be an “anti-viral alliance” or an alliance against “anti-viral alliance” scaremongering? Does anyone in Russia (or anywhere) truly believe that the present moment factually parallels WW2? That another 25 million or so lives hang in the balance in the CIS alone today & maybe twice that many or more throughout the rest of the world? What the U.S. & Russia really need is an anti-nuclear alliance and an anti-climate-change alliance, each of which is exponentially more important than the doubtful distraction over the current “ramifying” corona “crisis”. Nonetheless, nice to hear from (or about) Russia again. Don’t forget to write!

  4. derer says:

    We are constantly reminded by our “tunnel vision” media and the political establishment that Russia is an undemocratic dictatorship. A dictator’s leadership is never tested (see the headline) by minor thing like Covid19. Who is lying here?

  5. JR says:

    Russia population ~140 million vs US 340 million

    Check out disparity in total deaths…..

    https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/russia/

    https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

  6. Russia is both a dictatorship and being tested by the fake pandemic: there is no contradiction. It’s also failing miserably, as is nearly every other nation that caught the emotional contagion.

    They took early action which was laudable, but it seems this only delayed the spike; so this gives the Kremlin the precious illusion that it’s happening now, rather than it simply manifesting now, i.e. they think quarantine is more than ever needed to prevent infection.

    Of course, the early action and the freedom to ride the metro and go shopping is what got everyone infected, so there’s nothing to be done about it now. But because they’re venal liars totally absorbed by propaganda, theirs and the West’s, they’re starting to do what Russian government do best in a crisis: crack down on the citizenry with total irrationality and impunity.

    It’s just the beginning. They will probably drag it out til summer, impose mandatory vaccination if one becomes available, and arrest or at least fine you for not wearing a mask & gloves. Probably doing that now, but I’m not in Moscow at the moment. The pigs, or trash as they’re called here, are already arresting people for walking around even with “PPE”.

    Two critical facts about the situation in Russia:

    1) It is now Kremlin mandate to classify all cases of respiratory trouble as COVID-19
    2) In nearly all statistics available about Russian cases, the ages are not listed at all, nevermind the totally predictable “comorbidities” – this, the better to scare Russians into “оставайтесь дома”; as everywhere, media are having a field day, heedless of nuance and fact

  7. @peter mcloughlin

    Russia is not however, a global power. There are 3, The US, China and the EU with wildly different configurations. The EU is about to surge forward due to the collapse in the oil price. Russia thought it had a future as a Chinese gas station. Turns out it will be a European farm. Turkey already has the cheap labour role sewn up with its future annexes in Syria and Iraq.

    • Troll: bluedog
  8. polistra says:

    Putin blew it. He spent 20 years fighting Soros and all the Soros tentacles, with tremendous success, then he surrendered.

    Why? Who exerted enough pressure to force him to sacrifice 20 years of HARD WORK?

  9. Patagonia Man [AKA "PTG Mann"] says:

    I disagree. Putin knows he needs a long period of peace to modernize Russia’s infrastructure. So he’s ‘going along’ with the ‘plandemic’.

    For much too long now Russians have told the joke ‘in Russia there’s no roads – there’s only directions’

    As an aside, there may be some happy side effects of ‘playing along’ to wrangle some more social controls / reduction in civil liberties – to make it easier for himself and his successor to rule into the future.

  10. anon[230] • Disclaimer says:

    Russia is on the front line of the coronavirus crisis in that it shares a very long territorial border with China/Asia.

    Minor quibble, most of the Russian land mass is in Asia so this is a non-sensical statement. It would be like saying that the United Stated shares a long border with Mexico/North America which leaves the impression that somehow Mexico or the US aren’t in North America.

  11. GMC says:

    Actually , I think President Putin is taking this virus pandemic and testing his people in the administration. He is delegating responsibility and checking the depth of his colleagues and countrymen. He wants to know, that things can run without him being there 24/7. He wants to be just a normal retired Russian , a man that can get out and do whatever he wants. I can’t blame him one bit. Thanks Professor and Unz Rev.

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