This kind of reminds me of Putin in 2009 paying a last-minute visit to a factory in Pikalyovo after getting a note from a local trade union leader about a plant that had been closed down due to squabbling among the owners, leaving most of town’s residents out of work and with dysfunctional infrastructure. Putin showed up and reamed the owners of the factory, including Oleg Deripaska. Putin basically told the owners to get off their duffs and get the factory re-opened so the locals could go back to work, otherwise the factory would be taken out of their control. After a sheepish Deripaska had to be persuaded to sign an agreement promising he’d do what he was supposed to do, he started to walk off with Putin’s pen. Putin exclaimed: “And give me my pen back.” A video of the whole thing went viral on YouTube.
Putin recently flew out to the Irkutsk area of Siberia in the aftermath of terrible floods that destroyed many homes, leaving people stranded with complaints that local officials were making access to any assistance difficult and confusing. This video gives you a window into why Putin is still popular among many Russians. Contrast Putin’s taking the time to personally talk to dozens of local people who gathered to ask him for help (and having his aides take down everyone’s name and number for follow-up) with Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina or Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil spill or Trump’s handling of the hurricanes in Puerto Rico. I’m also thinking of a recent incident in which a poor homeless woman encounters New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio at a gym and tries to ask him about doing more to help the homeless. He refused to address her question and gave her the brush off.
Does anyone know of any western leader who would take this kind of time and show this kind of patience in listening to scores of citizens’ problems? I wish they would, but most would likely exchange a few words with a handful for a photo op and leave.
Of course, this was video-taped with a reporter shadowing Putin to get it all down for public consumption on the news. Putin will be happy for the PR points, but if that’s all he was after, he wouldn’t have taken this much time. And, like the results of Putin’s intervention with the factory in Pikalyovo 10 years ago, I imagine he will follow up with Irkutsk in September like he promised to ensure that there have been results.
Another point to consider is that bureaucrats lower down the food chain often serve as an obstruction to getting things done, whether it’s implementing reforms or discharging their duties in a conscientious manner. Either they are complacent or they intentionally obstruct for their own reasons. This problem has existed to varying degrees since the czarist era. This is a partial reason for why Putin has to periodically go out into the field and give local officials and business owners the equivalent of a swift kick in the pants by either publicly shaming them and/or threatening to take action against the footdraggers.
Note: I’ve been including a lot of videos of Putin’s speeches, interviews and activities recently to show readers original material so they can see and hear Putin directly and judge for themselves, since most of our media and politicians spin Putin as simply a “thug” and a “brutal dictator” with no redeeming qualities.
Siberia has also been suffering from an unprecedented number of wildfires. In a telephone conversation yesterday with Putin, Trump offered U.S. assistance in fighting the fires in Siberia. Putin said he would take advantage of the offer if it became necessary. He also said that he took the gesture as a positive sign that bilateral relations could potentially be re-built between the two nations.
At a recent conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Venezuela (I must admit I didn’t know that it still existed), the Grayzone’s Anya Parampil interviewed Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov. Among other interesting things, he discussed the fact that Washington, with its abuse of financial and economic sanctions, is actually provoking many nations of the world to find a way to supplant the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency. I think the phrase is cutting off one’s nose to spite their face. The remarks about the U.S. dollar are around the 15-minute point in the interview.