Putin Wins: A Pyrrhic Victory?

In Shakespeare, Macbeth murdered the old king, Duncan, in order to obtain absolute power. But then he found that what he believed he had obtained was slipping away from him: “to have but not to hold”, in the bard’s immortal words.

Instead of solving the problem, Macbeth found that he had just changed the nature of the problem. He finds a rival who suspects him of the murder, Macduff, has fled to England to join the son of the murdered king. So now he murders Macduff’s family and the story ends with his own death at the hands of Macduff. In other words a simple solution to resolving the problem of power unravels a series of unforeseen complications that the protagonist is unable to overcome and which in the end overwhelm him.

This is an age-old problem that President Putin faces now, a day after  winning the vote to change the Russian constitution so that he can carry on indefinitely suppressing real opposition in order to win bogus elections to remain in office. Without effective opposition, Putin has no great incentive to set the country to rights (it is too much effort; why bother?) All the old hangovers from the Soviet period remain, since complicated by the introduction of partial privatisation of the economy under manifest corruption and, on the back of that evident injustice, the subsequent dominance of an all powerful state that rules arbitrarily.

Until the political system is liberated, the economic system will not be liberated, and until the economic system is liberated, Russia has no hope of reaching its full potential as a great Power let alone a Superpower. How long will this continue? Someone once said that that now they are ringing the bells but soon they will be wringing their hands. In case anyone thinks NATO should open the champagne, it is worth remembering that Western Europe lives next door and worth pondering the ghastly scenario of Russia imploding politically and experiencing a revolution even more destructive than that of 1917. As observers of the world over the past half century should know well enough, the far-fetched has an unerring habit of coming into being.