Friday, December 08, 2006

A friendly aside...

Lest it seem I'm too rough on my good friend Mr. Putin, I want to make it clear that for me, the simple judgement of him as a tyrant yearning for the old Soviet days doesn't fit any more.

Oh, I think he's got a bit of that up his sleeve, but more to the point, I'm not sure he has as much control over the whole situation that is "Russia" as western countries would like to imagine.

Given the fact that his country experiences hundreds, if not thousands, of paid assassinations a year by government estimates, that crime is growing at a rate outpacing GDP growth, and that politicians, journalists, and public figures across the country end up dead in myriad creative ways, it's conceivable that there's a bit of a hissy-fit of power going on.

The old Soviets don't see the problem with "extinguishing" opposition; mobsters and ex-KGB have collaborated for years; billionaires occasionally try to wrangle some political clout out from behind their bucks.

It's a nasty, hostile mix. Add in the ethnic tensions (between Russians and blacks, Georgians, Chinese, etc.), the nationalist desires of the southern republics (Chechnya, anyone?), and the conflict of interests the military and intelligence-dominated bureaucracy has with their citizen-subjects, and I'm pretty sure you come up a bit shy of a pound cake.

A fruit cake, perhaps - and one well soused with the water of life, if you know what I mean.

So let's not be too hard on Mr. Putin - it seems entirely possible to me that he's doing his damndest to duct-tape and staple together a country together before it blows itself apart. If anyone doubts that Communism can produce these sorts of effects, take a look at the former Yugoslavia.

And given the murderous tendencies of some other elements in Russia, I'm not sure it's a bad thing.

For the record, Russia has nearly 3 times the per capita homicides annually as Zimbabwe and Zambia, neither nation which I'd think of as a safe tourist destination.

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