Saturday, August 23, 2014


The Power Vertical

The Putin Show

He insisted he wasn't a dictator. He defended the Kremlin's crackdown on dissent. And he claimed to know when the world will end.
 
The Kremlin hyped President Vladimir Putin's annual press conference like a Hollywood blockbuster. It lasted more than four hours, and when it was (finally) over its contents were dissected and parsed like an ancient text.
 
But in the end, there were no spectacular announcements: no government shakeup, no new corruption targets, and really, not much major news.
 
The main take-away was the optics.
 
Opposition journalists spent a good deal of time patting themselves on the back for their bravery in asking the president tough questions. And tough questions were asked, at least by some: about the fate of those detained in connection with the May 6 protests on the eve of Putin's inauguration; about the wisdom of pending legislation banning U.S. citizens adopting Russian children; about what is really going on with the Kremlin's anticorruption campaign. There were also the usual crop of servile questions as well.
 
The Kremlin and its many surrogates spent the day praising Putin's performance -- insisting that he's back in top form. He certainly had his moments, quipping about how he's not afraid of the end of the world because it is inevitable (and noting that it won't happen on December 21, but in 4.5 billion years).
 
But as a relaunch of brand Putin, if that is what the Kremlin spinmeisters had in mind, it seemed pretty weak. He was the star, but he had to share the spotlight with at least a few real journalists asking real questions -- and they appeared not to be in awe of him.
 
A telling moment came when Putin addressed an adult journalist, Maria Solovyenko, by the diminutive, "Masha." She came right back at him, addressing the Russian head of state by his diminutive, "Vova."
 
Addressing Putin this way in public would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
 
Russian television treated the whole thing like the Super Bowl or the World Cup final. And in the post-game show, both sides were claiming victory.
 
Live from Moscow, the Putin Show was long, and at times it was even informative. But I'm not sure yet whether it tells us anything new about where Russia may be headed.
 
Those are my initial thoughts, which I reserve the right to revise.

In this week's edition of the Power Vertical podcast, I'll discuss all this with co-hosts Kirill Kobrin of RFE/RL's Russian Service and NYU Professor Mark Galeotti, author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows."
 
-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Vladimir Putin,Russian politics

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Comments
     
by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
December 21, 2012 11:44
Yeah yeah yeah,yeaaah!!! The show must go on-there is enough here for all russophobes and red dead heads to blah blah blah all day long,it is free and it would be almost perfect if we had some Natashkas giving away free moonshine and cans of selyodka!!! And all we were expecting was the end of the world,ha,bloody,ha!!! Forget it and lets just all go on dancing the Antic hay or Rigadoon!!!

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
December 21, 2012 14:25
I actually listened to most of this performance, and in all honesty, I was quite impressed. Putin was definitely energetic and engaging, and even with the tough questions, in full control of the proceedings. (In the telling moment you refer to, Putin came out looking better than the reporter.) He spent the first five minutes reviewing the successes from the past decade, and from a Russian perspective, sounded very convincing. He hammered home the point that the stability provided by his form of government has allowed many Russians to improve their standard of living. While some of his audience might have trouble believing this assertion, VVP was fully convinced of its truth.
In Response

by: La Russophobe from: USA
December 22, 2012 13:40
Despite how well you think Putin came off, that exchange hasn't made it onto the Kremlin's official translation of the interview yet.

But another exchange that is telling did make it.

In his opening remarks Putin stated: "I want to point out the stability of state finances despite the existing problems, of which we have many and I am sure we will discuss them later."

Then came this:

DMITRY PESKOV: Sergei Brilyov, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Sergei Brilyov, Moscow, Rossiya TV channel.

Mr President, at the beginning of the news conference, you spoke about stability.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Did I? I hadn’t said a word about it.

QUESTION: You did.

After calling Putin a liear, Brilyov then proceeded to grill Putin on the possibility that "stability" could turn into stagnation.

Think Putin came off the better in that one too?

About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or

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