Friday, December 24, 2004

Seriously Now

I think Russian President Vladimir Putin could have tried a little harder to disguise the recent state seizure of a major private corporation. Said seizure entered its final stages last Sunday, when a mysterious Russian front company "registered in a grocery store and cafe in the town of Tver" purchased the Yuganskneftegaz oil fields for $9.4 billion. But since the government-controlled energy titan Rosneft purchased the holding company on Thursday, bringing it one step closer to total state consolidation of Russian energy production, I'm left wondering: why bother with the holding company ruse in the first place?

Far more troubling have been Putin's past efforts at media consolidation. Intellectually honest arguments can be made for the nationalization of energy production (although I think energy extraction is a slightly different case). I might not agree with them, but they don't really undercut basic principles of democracy. The same can't be said for media nationalization, which Putin has pursued with surprising vigor. I can't really claim to know what's going on in Putin's mind, but his actions since taking office have been depressingly consistent with those of a man trying to return Russia to permanent one-party rule.


At 2:51 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Also, for those who weren't aware, Yushchenko was poisoned with Dioxin a few weeks back. Dioxin, incidentially, cannot be obtained commercially and must be manufactured in a very specialized process. While Yanukovych may deny involvement in the poisoning, a lot of people in the media have hinted that Putin may very well be behind it. Of course there is no solid evidence to back that up, and I don't mean to be posting conspiracy theory conjecture here, but it certainly wouldn't be a surprise considering the authoritarian tilt Putin is on.

At 2:36 AM, Blogger Kyle said...

In some ways I find it hard to believe what is happening in Russia right now. I mean, our generation has grown up with most major nations either remaining with the governments they've had for decades or in some cases progressively becoming more open. China's economy became (and is becoming) more liberal, Russia went through a period of democratization, India has been slowly improving, etc. We haven't really witnessed a major nation descend from a liberal society into an illiberal one, but now it's actually happening to Russia. I think that this actually is causing a kind of problem in that people are deluding themselves into thinking that Putin won't take this any farther only to see time and again that he is more than willing. I still can't imagine such a populous Western nation descending into autocracy after so recently casting off the shakles of a communist dictatorship, but the facts speak for themselves.

I'm curious. Does anyone else share this feeling of disbelief or perceive that other people seem to have it? Or am I the only one still hoping that Putin just took Fareed Zakaria a little too seriously and is still somehow planning to undo all of this at some point?


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