Your link to Roosevelt-admirers still falls short of the mark, Alexis.
There's a nice story in the current Der Spiegel
about some fringe elements in the cult of Putin, did you see it? The 'mother superior' praying to Saint Vladimir every day has a criminal record of fraud, herself.
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An article in the New York Times today, giving some idea of the continued disillusionment on the part of sensible Russians, and the unending
brain drain that results:
MOSCOW — “Time to shove off” is the name of a Web site for people who are fed up with life in Russia, and it is becoming a catchphrase for those dismayed by the newly announced plans of Vladimir V. Putin to keep a grip on power for perhaps two more terms as president.
“There will be a dark and depressive mood in society,” Mr. Gudkov said. “The situation is uncertain, there is a growth of anxiety, a feeling of stagnation and degradation.”
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Here's a good interview today, with Luke Harding, the first western journalist to get kicked out of the country since Gorbachev's days:
Expelled Moscow correspondent claims Russia is mafia state.
And what small world it has become - see the scurrilous rumor that pops up yet again (in bold) !
LUKE HARDING: Well it's a kind of a KGB state now actually. The Russian government won't thank me for saying that. But if you look at the kind of people who are the top echelons of Russian power, a lot of them are Putin's friends, a lot of them are former KGB operatives from military intelligence, from foreign intelligence and so one. And obviously Putin feels comfortable with these kind of people.
And they share a similar kind of world view, which is essentially xenophobic, it's reflexively anti-Western, and the big project, I mean if Putin does have a big project, the project is to get back the sort of prestige and the international clout that the Soviet Union once enjoyed.
I mean what he really wants to be is to be taken seriously as a sort of, for Russia to be taken seriously as an international player and for people to be a little bit scared of Russia as well.
MARK COLVIN: It's difficult to know what's going on because, on the one hand, you say that he wants Russia to be great again, and I suppose that's a sort of ideological goal, but on the other hand, you say that it's really just about money, that it's a cleptocracy?
LUKE HARDING: It's more of a, I mean the more important project of course is to get rich. I mean the ideology is definitely there but the primary goal, I think, for Putin and his team is to make money and to, essentially, to hang onto that money and to off-shore that money. And so the Russian…
MARK COLVIN: How much money?
LUKE HARDING: Well we're talking billions and billions of dollars. The problem is, as a reporter in Moscow, it's extremely hard to get to the bottom of this. I mean you would need a thousand years and an army of lawyers and you'd need people to leak. But I mean, there have been some leaks, and about three or four years ago one source I spoke to said, I think rather convincingly, that Putin was worth about $40 billion. So in other words …
MARK COLVIN: That's billion …?
LUKE HARDING: … one of them …
MARK COLVIN: … not …
LUKE HARDING: … one of the richest ..
MARK COLVIN: … billion not million?
LUKE HARDING: … men here. That's billion $40 billion. In other words, one of the richest people in the world.
I mean, bear in mind that this is an extremely corrupt state. It's the world's largest exporter of oil and gas, so there are enormous revenues. But, where do they go? (Laughs). I mean if you wander around any city outside, you know, if you wander around the Russian countryside it's clearly not going there, or look at the infrastructure. A fantastic amount is being stolen via intermediary companies, via off-shore schemes, via sophisticated financial mechanisms.
And the evidence of that you can see in the streets of London. I mean, just walk around West London or Chelsea or Belgravia, very many of these properties are Russian owned; or Biarritz or New York or Spain.
So there's this, some people under Putin have become extremely rich, I mean really wildly rich. Far richer than you possibly imagine really. And far richer than in Soviet times when, if you were at the top of the Kremlin, you could expect a big, swish Zil limousine and maybe a holiday in Bulgaria and a nice dacha or cottage somewhere.
MARK COLVIN: The $40 billion figure came from guy called Stanislav Belkovski and he's published it pretty widely, it's interesting that he's never really been sued or it's never been properly denied has it, by the Kremlin, by Putin?
LUKE HARDING: Well that's an interesting question. I published this story with some trepidation about a year after I arrived in Moscow. I wasn't, I mean I was careful of the way I wrote the story, I wasn't saying definitely Putin is worth $40 billion. I was saying that there were leaks coming from the top of the Kremlin pointing to his secret assets abroard. And this was part of a wider power struggle between different Kremlin factions.
Now, what was interesting was that last year, before I got expelled from Russia, I spent a lot of time going through the WikiLeaks cables, these are secret US diplomatic communiqués that were never meant for public consumption. And what really quite kind of confirming in a way was the fact that the US diplomats, the US ambassador in Moscow, privately makes reference on many occasions to Putin's alleged assets abroad.
This isn't just about venality, I mean it's important to understand Russian politics because there's one, I think quite credible, school of thought which says that, actually, Putin is rather tired, he would like to retire, he would like to go and relax on Sochi on Russia's Black Sea coast, that he doesn't want to be Russia's leader anymore.
But the logic of his system, this corrupt system, is the only way he can guarantee that he and his friends hang on to all of their money, is by carrying on in power. Because the second he steps off the throne he faces the real prospect that there will be law enforcement prosecutions against him and that he could end up in gaol.
Here's the blurb in the Guardian
for Harding's book: Mafia State is our Book of the Month for October