Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Long Haul Drivers Converged on Russian Capital from Five Regions Last Weekend

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – Long haul truck drivers from Daghestan, Ryazan, Saratov, Orenburg and St. Petersburg converged on Moscow over the weekend only to be blocked near the Russian capital by the police and OMON forces, charged with failing to obey traffic officers and fined or remanded to the courts.

            Because the central government-controlled media have not covered this latest labor action, details are only coming to the surface now; but such reports show that Moscow’s claims that the strike has exhausted itself, is over and that there is no need for negotiations are baseless (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/303106/).

            The drivers had come to Moscow in order to support their union representatives who were scheduled to have a meeting with transportation ministry officials under the auspices of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society, but at the last minute as before, the transportation ministry refused to take part.

            The Council’s working group on the strike issued a declaration saying that the large size of the truckers’ strike and “the general worsening” of economic conditions in the industry are “the result of insufficiently thought-through measures carried out by the government and branch agencies.” 

            The group called for holding “in the immediate future,” a special session of the Council on the problems surrounding the resolution of the conflict” between the drivers and the government.  The transportation ministry has not yet reacted to this call, but it seems unlikely that it will agree to take part.

            Indeed, in the past 24 hours, there has been a general hardening of the government’s position against the drivers, with some media outlets seeking to blame the truckers for the absence of repairs to the roads (1istochnik.ru/news/33516) and others suggesting that the West opposes the drivers (gosnovosti.com/2017/05/европарламент-уничтожает-дальнобойщ/).

Russia Supplying North Korea with Ever More Coal and Oil, Moscow Business Paper Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – In the face of Western efforts to isolate North Korea, Russia has almost doubled its sales of coal and oil to Pyongyang during the first quarter of this year compared to the last quarter of 2016, delivering 26.7 million US dollars’ worth of coal and 1.2 million dollars’ worth of oil, according to Moscow’s Birzhevoy lider.

            The business paper points out that, media claims notwithstanding, these sales do not violate the international sanctions regime because oil is not on the list of goods not to be sold to North Korea but does say that Pyongyang is not able to pay for these deliveries out of current accounts (profi-forex.org/novosti-rossii/entry1008307946.html).

            During the first quarter of this year, the paper continues, North Korea sold Russia goods totaling only 420,000 US dollars. Most of these were either musical instruments or chemical products.

            Last week, Russia began direct cargo and passenger shipping between Vladivostok and a North Korean port (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/05/russia-opens-passenger-and-cargo.html).

Monday, May 22, 2017

Putin No Longer Executive Director of Russia Inc. But Rather Its Honorary Chairman, Pavlovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 22 – The Kremlin has long been “a certain board of directors of Russia Inc.,” political analyst Gleb Pavlovsky says; but Vladimir Putin’s role has now changed. Earlier, he was the all-powerful “executive director.”  Now, he is “more the honorary chairman of the board.” 

            In an interview with Fontanka’s Irina Tomakova, Pavlovsky argues that “honorary chairmen of corporations as a rule do not take decisions.” Instead, they serve as the public face of the unity of the company. This is the role Putin plays: He is the portrait over the entrance to the administration” (m.fontanka.ru/2017/05/19/154/).

            What is important to understand, he continues, is that Putin has not been replaced by anyone as “executive director.”  Instead, “the functions of the executive director have been split up and distributed among several groups.” Putin still sets the tone but others are making many of the decisions, Pavlovsky suggests.

            On various issues, different groups are involved.  “They unite in coalitions” which vary widely in terms of power. But “a single system of taking decisions has ceased to exist.” And because Russian officials are far from being apolitical.  They therefore take their signals from those who make the decisions given that they come from “the closest circle of the president.”

            In Pavlovsky’s opinion, this is good news because it shows that Russia is “moving toward the side of a normal society because politicization is a normal thing. What was abnormal was the many years of moving toward depoliticization.”  And that in turn is all coming out into the open, something that leads to the spread of politicization.

            “For us,” the commentator says, “this will become the norm,” and Russians will discuss the variety of views on offer from the various groups.  These various groups will attack one another even more than they are doing now, and that too is something that means that Russia is moving in a “normal” direction.

            In a comment on Pavlovsky’s remarks, Valery Savelyev accepts most of the former’s arguments and agrees that “the system of power in Russia is changing in a significant way and that Putin is no longer a dictator” but rather something much less powerful (publizist.ru/blogs/4796/18646/-).

            To the extent this is true, Savelyev says, “2017 is very important for us.” It represent the final crystallization of the power-political “construction which has been formed over the last 30 years since 1987.” And in the coming decades, he says, “there will not be any fundamental and radical changes in the construction of the system.”

            Pavlovsky, the commentator says, “wants an active, powerful and capable ‘executive director.””  But Savelyev says that “there won’t be any such director anymore.”  Instead, Russia will become a more normal country with no one person making all the decisions but rather decisions reflecting the struggle of interest groups with each other, sometimes behind the scenes and sometimes competing for public support.

            Russia “has had enough one-man rulers,” Savelyev says. “It is time to get accustomed to a situation in which power will take into account various opinions and interests.” There will always be a place “not only for Putin” but for many others, even someone like Aleksey Navalny and others not yet known.
            Russia will no longer be a place where one person makes all the decisions and everyone else obeys, even though it is likely to remain true for some time that the authorities will not trust the citizens and the citizens “will not believe the authorities.” Nonetheless, Savelyev suggests, “a dialogue [between them] nonetheless will occur.”

            “Putin today is not a dictator … and there will not be dictators in Russia in the next decades,” the commentator says. “We now have a different system of power, one that we must being to learn how to use and realize all its possibilities.” And to the extent that such a chance now exists, it is “an occasion for optimism.”