Outsiders tend to see Russia as divided between Kremlin forces and dissident forces, said Alexander Dugin in Moscows Vremya Novostei. Thats too simplistic. Under Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin has, in fact, been a kind of middle force between pure nationalists and pure liberals. The liberal, dissident camp wants to foment a kind of Orange Revolution that would create its version of true democracy: meaning loyalty to the interests of the West and the United States, with external management imposed in Russia. The patriotic, nationalist camp sees democracy as far less important than sovereignty and independence. If democracy can strengthen Russian independence, fine; if not, out it would go. Putin, though, is in neither camp. Hes not a harsh ruler, and hes not the leader of a nation rising up against American hegemony. He espouses a kind of managed democracy, in which Russia maintains democratic institutionsa parliament, elections, a multiparty system, civil society, liberalism, a free market, capitalism, human rights, and so onbut the Kremlin retains control of the processes. Those who portray Putin as a kind of Ivan the Terrible or Stalin are underestimating the wisdom of his compromise.
United Kingdom: Why no one is weeping for Tony Blair
Even as he leaves office, Tony Blair is shamelessly selfaggrandizing, said Lynda Gilby in the London Sunday Life. Having announced last week his intention to step aside next month, Blair is now marketing his farewell tour of Britain with such fanfare, you would think the man is a heady mix of Gandhi, Churchill, and Mother Teresa. As we all know too well after 10 years of his leadership, he shares only their confidence, tempered with none of their humility. Blairs final speech to the Labor Party displayed barely a pang at having dragged us into an illegal war in Iraq, making war criminals out of every last one of us. If he really thinks Britain will miss him, his capacity for selfdelusion borders on the pathologic.
Blairs messiah complex was on full show, said Fergus Shanahan in the Sun. In his best gulpy quaver, Saint Tony reminded us that ultimately he would be judged not by history but by a higher power. I half expected him to be borne aloft on a cloud. Its that holierthanthou attitude that has irritated so many of us for so long. The overdone piety led him to his worst mistake: Iraq, said Dominic Lawson in The Independent. Many people assume he supported the U.S. invasion because he was above all an actor looking for the biggest stages to display his histrionic talent. But thats not the whole truth. Blair was simply convinced he was morally right, in Iraq as in all things. As he said two years ago justifying the invasion, I only know what I believe. Most Britons would see that as backwards: We should only believe what we know. But Blairs was a faithbased politics in which the person we are being asked to have faith in is Mr. Blair himself; he, in turn, obeys the emanations of his own conscience.
Many see him as a mendacious, spinobsessed, manipulating fraudster, said Matthew Parris in The Times. In reality, he is a smaller, meaner figure. Its not the big lies that so disappointed us, but the grubby little halftruths. Remember the tragic case of Defense Ministry scientist David Kelly, who killed himself after being outed as the source who complained of political pressure to cook the intelligence on Iraq? Blair insisted he had not leaked Kellys name. Maybe not technically, but his office leaked Kellys job and title, and of course the name followed. Perhaps if Blair hadnt appealed so often to morality, we wouldnt have focused so much on the petty corruptionthe selling of peerages, the bribery in weapons sales. It is because Mr. Blairs work has been so unsolid, so bereft of any real sense of direction, that we obsess about the surrounding spin. When the pictures blank, you do tend to look at the cheap, fauxgilt frame.
Mary Ann Sieghart