Cri­sis state

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

Rus­sia is get­ting weirder and scarier by the day.

Gov­er­nance in that coun­try, of course, is so opaque that the dis­ci­pline of Krem­li­nol­ogy had to be cre­ated to study it. Teams of Rus­sia watch­ers have for decades pored over of­fi­cial news­pa­pers, jour­nals and gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments to pick up a hint here or there about what to ex­pect next from the Krem­lin.

But a re­cent string of bizarre events in Rus­sia has left ex­perts scratch­ing their heads about what is now go­ing on be­hind the Krem­lin’s red walls.

For one, there was the odd dis­ap­pear­ance of Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin for 11 days in March. It ap­pears Putin’s ab­sence had been planned ahead of time, as photos of some of his ear­lier meet­ings were pre­sented as hav­ing taken place dur­ing his ab­sence. State TV chan­nel Ros­siya 24 aired a re­port, in the past tense, about a meet­ing be­tween Putin and Kyr­gyz Pres­i­dent Al­mazbek Atam­bayev that hadn’t even taken place yet. The sta­tion re­tracted its re­port as “a mis­take” when the dis­crep­ancy was no­ticed, and Putin duly showed up for the meet­ing, look­ing strangely ill-at-ease but def­i­nitely alive. No of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tion for his ab­sence was ever given.

More re­cently, the world has been sub­jected to far­ci­cal im­ages of three frozen geese be­ing “ar­rested” by of­fi­cials in the Rus­sian re­pub­lic of Tatarstan, who then or­dered that the birds be run over by a bull­dozer. The birds’ crime? They were im­prop­erly pack­aged and il­le­gally im­ported from Hungary, one of the coun­tries that has sanc­tioned Rus­sia for its in­va­sion and an­nex­a­tion of Ukraine’s Crimea in March last year. Putin has signed a de­cree or­der­ing the “ex­ter­mi­na­tion” of food im­ports from coun­tries that in­dulged in “anti-Rus­sian” sanc­tions over the Crimea is­sue. Of­fi­cials ea­ger to please their Krem­lin master then launched a “War on Food” in Rus­sia - a coun­try sadly fa­mil­iar with famine - that has seen tons of cheese bull­dozed, ba­con in­cin­er­ated and as­sorted veg­eta­bles buried.

Ac­cord­ing to Ivan Krastev, writ­ing on Aug. 13 in the Fi­nan­cial Re­view, the odd events are a symp­tom of Putin’s with­drawal from day-to-day de­ci­sion-mak­ing. With Putin “ab­sent,” the rest of the Rus­sian elite, trau­ma­tized by mem­o­ries of the col­lapse of the Soviet Union and wracked with anx­i­ety over the tur­moil that might fol­low once Putin goes, are in cri­sis mode, im­pro­vis­ing pol­icy as each new set­back oc­curs, and po­si­tion­ing them­selves against ri­vals in a com­ing war of suc­ces­sion, Krastev writes.

Add to that the stok­ing of Rus­sia’s para­noid na­tion­al­ism in the wake of the Krem­lin’s mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in Ukraine, com­bined with Rus­sia’s in­creas­ingly brazen dis­re­gard for in­ter­na­tional law, and the world can only ex­pect more bizarre be­hav­ior from Rus­sia’s rul­ing elite. It could hit fever pitch again ahead of the Dutch Safety Board’s re­lease of its re­port on the crash of MH17 in Oc­to­ber.

Mean­while, Krem­li­nol­o­gists risk scratch­ing their heads bald be­fore the un­cer­tainty and cri­sis man­age­ment end and Rus­sia set­tles back into its pre­dictably enig­matic state.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ukraine

© PressReader. All rights reserved.