Tuesday, September 14, 2004
** Russia and the War on Terror
In response to "Russia's 9-11", Vladimir Putin has issued orders that will basically overhaul Russia's political system to consolidate all power in the executive branch.
Under Mr. Putin's proposals, which he said required only legislative approval and not constitutional amendments, the governors or leaders of the country's 89 regions would no longer be elected by popular vote but rather by local legislatures - and only after the president's nomination. Seats in the lower house of the federal Parliament, or Duma, would be elected entirely on national party slates, eliminating district races across the country that now decide half of Parliament's composition. In elections last December, those races accounted for all of the independents and liberals now serving in the Duma.The ostensible reason for this is that he needs to unite the country to fight terrorism. He is using state-controlled media to push this message to the Russian people.
After reading this article, my first thought was that this is similar to Bush's response to the attacks in America -- i.e. enacting the "Patriot Act". The Patriot Act, of course, was simply a wishlist for authority, and the Bush Administration was able to ram it through with hardly any dissent while the public was still in shock from 9-11.
On further reflection, however, it is clear that America still has a long way to go before we reach Russia's level of totalitarianism. Can you imagine what the response would be if George Bush suggested that from now on, all state governors will be appointed by the President? I like to think that even our supine media and public would utterly reject this.
But what if there's another, worse attack? What will be the next step from the Bushies?
Putin is going to get away with this. At least for now, that is. Russia is in awful shape right now and once Putin has utter and complete control of the country, it will be hard to pin the blame for problems on other forces. On the other hand, this hasn't necessarily been problematic for other dictators (e.g. North Korea).
Could Bush get away with something similarly absurd if there is, say, a real bioterror attack?