Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, November 04, 2011

Picking role models

Evidently, Putin doesn't like the comparisons of him to Brezhnev that Western commentators have been making. He has his own choices for role models, according to a Reuters analysis published in The New York Times.

Analysis: Putin Invokes History's Lions for Return to Kremlin
Vladimir Putin has an answer for Russians worried that his return to the presidency next year will usher in an era of stagnation: study the careers of Franklin D. Roosevelt or Charles de Gaulle…

The former KGB spy's history lessons… give a sense of how he views himself and could provide clues about what his next presidency will hold…

After praising Roosevelt, Putin went on to list other long-serving leaders including Helmut Kohl, who was German chancellor for 16 years. He also said he liked de Gaulle, France's president from 1959 to 1969…

Like Putin, Roosevelt, De Gaulle and Kohl rose to power in tumultuous times but used iron will and considerable popularity to gain almost complete dominance.

Styled by his ruling party as Russia's "national leader", Putin says his biggest achievement is to have saved Russia from collapse after the chaos and humiliation that accompanied the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991…

Heroes of their time to supporters, Roosevelt, De Gaulle and Kohl forged fiercely independent foreign policies but, like Putin, were criticized for accruing too much power.

Opponents say Russia's stability is a mirage because Putin's decision to stay in power makes a brittle and atrophied political system too dependent on one man.

By focusing on Western leaders, Putin is also underscoring to Russian voters his own image as the stout defender of the country's interests in the face of what is often portrayed as Western hypocrisy…

Even at face value, there may be other parallels.

De Gaulle put down dissent in Syria, Lebanon and Algeria. Under Putin, Russia has been accused of human rights abuses in Chechnya and other republics of the rebellious North Caucasus.

Kohl was criticized for turning a blind eye to party corruption. Putin's ruling United Russia party has been branded "a party of swindlers and thieves" by opponents…

Putin also admires Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore…

"The analogy with Brezhnev is being made... all such analogies are lame and senseless because we live in a different country, a different world," said President Dmitry Medvedev, who was swept into the Kremlin in 2008 to get round a constitutional ban on his mentor Putin serving a third successive term…

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