每日英語跟讀 Ep.823: How Powerful Is Vladimir Putin Really?
After 19 months in a Russian jail awaiting trial for “extremism,” Dennis O. Christensen, a Jehovah’s Witness from Denmark detained for his faith, received an unexpected lift from President Vladimir Putin at the end of last year.
The president, speaking in the Kremlin in December, declared that prosecuting people for their religious affiliations was “a total nonsense” and had to stop.
But instead of curbing a campaign across Russia against Jehovah’s Witnesses, Putin’s remark has been followed by more arrests; a conviction and six-year prison sentence for Christensen; and, in a new low, reports late last month of the torture of believers detained in Siberia.
The gulf between what Putin says and what happens in Russia raises a fundamental question about the nature of his rule after more than 18 years at the pinnacle of an authoritarian system: Is Putin really the omnipotent leader whom his critics attack and his own propagandists promote?
Or does he sit atop a state that is, in fact, shockingly ramshackle, a system driven more by the capricious and often venal calculations of competing bureaucracies and interest groups than by Kremlin diktats?
The belief, widespread among critics of President Donald Trump, that Russia propelled him to the White House by colluding with his campaign is premised in part on the first view of Putin’s capacities and reach. The Mueller report, if ever released to the public, may help Americans better understand how Russia does or doesn’t work in reality.
But to some of Putin’s fellow citizens, the Russian president’s grip looks less firm than often imagined.
Ekaterina Schulmann is a political scientist in Moscow and a member of Putin’s Council for Civil Society and Human Rights who challenged the president over the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the December meeting in the Kremlin. She said Putin’s grip on the country had been vastly exaggerated by both supporters and opponents.
“This is not a personally run empire but a huge and difficult-to-manage bureaucratic machine with its own internal rules and principles,” she said. “It happens time and again that the president says something, and then nothing or the opposite happens.”
A plethora of bureaucratic and political forces both reinforce and sap the president’s power: the security services, the Russian Orthodox Church, billionaire oligarchs, local officials and others, each with its own sometimes competing and sometimes overlapping interests. Putin has to manage them as best he can, but he doesn’t control everything they each do.
Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/339151/web/