I read a very interesting article the other day about the current spate of demonstrations in Russia and like a lot of people (who don’t live up a mountain or in a cave) I am forced to follow Republican primaries, yes I could switch the TV off or change the channel but what the heck. Anyway, it occurred to me that there may not be that much of a difference between what the Russian protestors and the Republican candidate hopeful Ron Paul are clamouring for. (read more about Ron Paul’s manifesto)
Sounds a bit far fetched? OK I admit, comparing Russian anti-governmental protestors – even though they are, I read, well healed, middle class and have done relatively well out of the Putin and Medvedev administrations – with Ron Paul may, by over simplifying 2 radically opposite situations, be stretching things a bit but let’s take a look at what the antagonists want.
Basically both want 1) less federalism and central government “interference” in local politics – especially when the “interference” is judged out of synch’ with local life, 2) less oppressive, big brotherly state interventions encroaching upon their affairs (personal, business, or religious), with, here and there in Russia, a possible request for an “unofficial” government levy 3) both now resent and repudiate a, perceived as, misplaced presidential domination (benevolent and altruist for the one, historically controlling and destabilizing [aka divide and rule] for the other, and 4) both [still] want what’s best for their respective countries.
Ron Paul does, however, go on to prone, specifically, the revocation of the Medicaid program, more independence for the individual states, individual [state] liberty to legislate [i.e. state specific abortion laws, immigration laws, arms regulations, etc…], and more generally the dismantling of the central/federal government, which at the moment happens to be Democrat.
And thats where I’d say the Russians and Ron Paul diverge…
1) Ron Paul wants the revocation of the recently voted Medicaid program while in Russia social welfare, whatever its inefficiencies and whatever its origins, is a part of the system and is even being developed – thanks notably to revenues from Russian oil and gas exports – so there’s little chance of its revocation
2) Since approximately 2009 the Russian government has been strengthening its (federal) public sector, and have even been incrementing wages in the sector
3) The Russian government is modernizing the structure of certain of its high profile companies such as Gazprom, [i.e. by disengaging from day-to-day management while remaining an influential stakeholder*] to put them on a par with over multinationals (*examples such as France’s EDF or Ariva come to mind)
4) While the idea of autonomy for certain regions could be appealing to some Russians it’s not going to happen, for at least several reasons I see: The sheer size of the country; the disparity of its resources; a long and often turbulent history of the management of such resources; regional governors are generally chosen and sanctioned by the President.
5) In actions lead by Messrs Putin & Medvedev, Russia is a) reinforcing its presence in the far flung Kamchatka and Kuril Islands regions of far eastern Russian, b) working on strengthening or re-establishing economic and trade ties, beyond current Russian borders, with ex Soviet republics such Belorussia, Kazakhstan, notably by installing a CIS free Trade movement – I almost said Schengen-zone, and finally
6) No one could ever compare Vladimir Putin, conservative par excellence, or Dmitri Medvedev, reformist though he may appear to be, with an American Democrat.
Ethnics and cultures apart the respective countries’ histories are so different, but then again perhaps not. Didn’t the native Americans originate from Eastern Russian? But in any case it does confirm that politics is a matter of looking after number one and as such is universal.
photos appear courtesy of their respective owners; all opinions are personal.