The Death of Russian Democracy
Our January 2004 Trumpet exposed the emerging power of Russian President Vladimir Putin. A year has since passed. Here is a shocking progress report.
Democracy in Russia is gasping for its last breaths, yet no one is prepared to stand up to the autocrat who is violently strangling it. It seems President Putin’s actions in Russia are being condoned by world leaders. This will prove to be a deadly mistake.
As Putin squeezes the last vestiges of democracy from Russia, there are two critical trends to watch. First, look for Russia to undermine America’s global influence. Second, and more importantly, look for efforts from Europe to curb Russian power—and for competition between Russia and the European Union to increase.
Putin’s 2004 Conquests
Last January, the Trumpet showed that President Putin had won the trust of the majority of his people and gained overwhelming control over the Duma—Russia’s law-making body. Throughout 2004, radical changes continued within Russia.
One of the most notable changes was initiated in September, when, using the tragic hostage crisis in Beslan as his excuse, Putin proposed the incorporation of a new “vertical” system of power in Russia. This resulted in a draft law, approved by the Duma in December, under which regional governors will be nominated by the president (Putin)—not voted in. Putin argued that this “single chain of command” system is critical to fighting terrorism. Under this system, Putin will have the power to dissolve local parliaments. Pending consideration of the new law by the Federation Council, one man will have virtually unchecked control over the politics of the entire nation.
There is also a pending amendment in Russia that will allow the Kremlin to directly control the appointment of judges across the country. This would additionally give Putin judicial control!
Analysts at think-tank Stratfor wrote, “In effect, Putin is capitalizing on the Beslan crisis … to firmly entrench his personal power and ‘re-Sovietize’ Russia …. Putin is becoming a traditional Russian ruler; one who desires no institutional blocks on his power” (Sept. 13, 2004; emphasis mine throughout). Democratic checks and balances in Russia are being systematically destroyed.
The Wall Street Journal outlined further conquests of Putin in 2004: “… Mr. Putin has waged a brutal war against the Chechens …. He has tried to retake control of Moldova by stealth. He has threatened the government of Georgia …” (Nov. 30, 2004). Most recently, Putin has been intensely involved in the Ukrainian election debacle, congratulating the pro-Russian “winner” before the Supreme Court scrapped the election results.
But that is not all that happened in Russia last year. Putin also gained tighter control over the nation’s great oil and gas reserves, as we predicted in last January’s issue.
When Putin came into office, the rich oligarchs who controlled Russia’s oil and gas companies were given two options: They would submit to and support Putin’s rule, or they would lose their company and perhaps even be arrested. The latter happened to Mikhail Khordorkovsky, ceo of the giant Russian oil company Yukos. Khordorkovsky is currently in jail and his company, Yukos, is fighting to stay out of bankruptcy. Here is where it gets interesting.
On December 19, a subsidiary company of Yukos (called Yuganskneftegaz) was auctioned off by the state at a fraction of its real value. The state-controlled company Gazprom, which was expected to win the deal, did not make a single bid. Instead, a previously unheard-of company, Bailkalfinansgroup, stepped in and took Yugansk for $9.35 billion—just $1 billion over the starting bid and about half what the company is worth. Many Russian experts believe Bailkalfinansgroup to be a front company for Gazprom, one calling the sale “scandalous.” Yukos has long denounced the auction as illegal, state-sponsored theft. In November, Putin’s own economic adviser called the sale “daylight robbery,” stating that it was unnecessary because Yukos was paying its tax bills.
With Russia’s vast oil and gas resources under his control, Putin will have gained considerable global influence. Russia is the second-largest oil supplier in the world, and with the current global energy crisis getting worse, President Putin has a lot of leverage over other nations.
Throughout 2004, Putin also seized further control of Russian print and electronic media. “Independent-minded journalists increasingly risk losing their jobs, and some have lost their lives” (Wall Street Journal, op. cit.). The Russian media has essentially become a conduit for Putin propaganda! It is interesting, then, that at the November trade conference in Santiago, Chile, it was reported that President Putin was seen lecturing U.S. President Bush on democracy—even complaining that Westerners don’t understand Russian politics.
You can be sure that Europe is not going to tolerate Putin’s power-consolidation much longer. Europeans have not forgotten their history with Russia; the Battle of Stalingrad remains in their memories.
Bible prophecy foretells that Europe will become a superpowerful military machine. While Europe might be nervous at the direction Russia is heading, that direction gives Europe a perfect excuse to more speedily unite and consolidate its own power. For more information, request our free booklets Russia and China in Prophecy and Nahum. These will clearly explain to you the future of Russia and German-led Europe.