Putin the Shrewd
To many still an enigma, Vladimir Putin, an ex-career official in the Soviet kgb, is starting to flex his political muscles both at home and abroad. So far what is emerging in Russia’s new leader is a picture of a shrewd man of inscrutable visage, who is prepared to get tough when and where the occasion demands.
Despite recent media hype about his seemingly poor reading of the sad events resulting in 120 Russian submariners being entombed under the arctic, Putin is proving resilient in consolidating his power at Russia’s helm. He has appointed a number of regional “enforcers” to impose the Kremlin’s orders to curb the power of regional governors.
One of Putin’s greatest challenges is to reduce the graft and corruption that grip the Russian economy at all levels. Here, the president is hinting at the enforcement of what he terms “the dictatorship of law.” In a July 10 speech before the Russian Federal Assembly, he foreshadowed the prospect of the state becoming sole arbiter on areas it chooses to control and where it chooses to intervene, in the interest of gaining control of the national economy. Shades of the old regime.
Perhaps most intriguing is talk of Putin unveiling a new document which will clearly outline Russia’s ongoing foreign policy and security strategy. It is over this that the West, the U.S. in particular, is most worried.
Putin has very clearly indicated that Russia’s principal foreign partner is Germany. This bodes ill for future relations between the U.S. and Germany. Having become Russia’s most significant trading partner, Germany now seems intent on helping to bankroll the reorganization and modernization of Russian industry. A group of German banks recently extended a credit line of around $100 million to the Russian International Industrial Bank for this purpose.
U.S. observers are concerned at the risk of a rise of tensions within the nato alliance, between the U.S. and Germany in particular, as the prospect of both Germany and Russia playing off their newfound strategic relations against the U.S. becomes a reality.