Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Putin’s Capacities Have Declined Because He Doesn’t Face Competition, Nemtsov Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, January 25 – The intellectual capacity of Vladimir Putin and his top aides has “continually fallen” over the last decade because of the lack of political competition and the theft of resources, Boris Nemtsov says, and consequently those in power often do not recognize what they are doing.
“If everything were right with them in the head,” the Russian opposition leader told the Ukrainian UNIAN news agency, “they would never in their lives take such decisions” as trying to intimidate the opposition by arresting the leadership. “But the problem is that [in their heads] everything is not in order” (www.unian.net/rus/print/417559).
Nemtsov told UNIAN’s Roman Tsimbalyuk that “the powers that be thought that [by arresting the opposition leadership at the end of December] they could demoralize and fright us. But we were not demoralized and not frightened. On the contrary, we became more certain in the correctness of our approach.”
Nemtsov said he “cannot retreat” because behind him are “millions of people” and “to defend the Constitution is a task not simply important and noble but one that is absolutely necessary for the country.” At present, people in Russia in general have no rights and o possibilities to defend themselves.”
Putin has “destroyed the court. There is no such institution in Russia already. And in this situation,” Nemtsov said, it would be wrong to sit at home and drink beer.” Consequently, he and other members of the opposition will press ahead whatever Putin and his team try to do in response. “There is a threat [against the opposition], but it will not stop me,” he added.
Despite everything that Putin and his regime have done, Nemtsov continued, nearly one in every five Russian adults support the opposition, according to Levada Center polls, and he implied that were there a freer media and a freer political climate, that share would be significantly higher.
Asked about relations within the Russian tandem, Nemtsov said that “Medvedev for almost three years has worked as president and has not become one. No one takes him seriously.” He says one thing, but if Putin says something else, that is what happens, a pattern that “for him is a personal tragedy.”
“Medvedev could become president if he pardoned Khodorkovsky, eliminated the censorship, and fired Putin. He doesn’t even need a parliament for this. But so far, he gives the impression of a very weak man.” Putin is thus very likely to return to the presidency. Indeed, Nemtsov assessed his chances as “90 percent.”
The reasons for that are clear, Nemtsov said. “Putin controls the special services, businesses, the major media outlets and the governors. That is, Putin takes all the serious decisions including the incarceration of Khodorkovsky and our arrests,” he added. “Medvedev at that time was skiing or twittering or conducting his blog.”
To his great regret, Nemtsov said, “Ukraine is moving in this [same] direction, and much more quickly than {he} had expected. God forbid that you reach the Putin-Lukashenka level of the state. This would be a catastrophe for my beloved Ukraine.”
At present, Ukraine is “moving toward the side of Russia,” something Nemtsov said is “mortally dangerous for Ukraine,” and he said that “the patriots of Ukraine and people of good sense must oppose this Putinization of Ukraine” before an even greater tragedy occurs there than has so far.
“I understand Yanukovich,” Nemtsov continued. “His main goal was to seize power at any price and to hold it as long as possible. He is not doing this with great intelligence and will end badly.” The Russian opposition figure urged the Ukrainian president to reflect on what has happened in Tunisia and the attitude of the world toward Lukashenka.
Nemtsov pointed out that “it is more difficult to run a democratic country” than a non-democratic one. “One has to consider the opinions of those around, to make compromises, to listen to extremely unpleasant people and to follow the rules.” That is hard for Yanukovich because of his own biography.
But Ukraine needs democracy in order to become a flourishing country, and Nemtsov added that “Ukrainians will live better than Russia if we retain a dictatorship. For some reason we do not learn from the mistakes of others and repeat them. [But] it isn’t necessary to do this” and Ukrainians must not.
And for those Ukrainians who think that the current Russian leadership is made up of their friends, Nemtsov urged that they remember that Putin for example “considers all Ukrainians to be Banderites,” hardly the attitude of someone who wishes Ukraine and its people well.

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