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This House believes that Russia needs strong leadership
This House believes that Russia needs strong leadership
The figure of Lenin as the father of modern Russia and that of Stalin as the strong leader par excellence have remained an important part of the Russian identity and its vision of leadership. A nation that spreads over a territory of 1 million square miles with a diverse historical background and with a population of even more diverse cultural backgrounds, Russia is by no means an easy state to manage. The ability to lead is thus maintained in high regard by the people of Russia and perhaps the only recent leader to match Lenin’s revolutionary spirit and Stalin’s strong personality and stern decision-making style has been Vladimir Putin.
Since the famous Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and the emergence and rule of the Communist Party that followed, Russia has experienced both the highs of economic progress and revolutionizing politics as well as the lows of political purges, Great Patriotic War (WWII), the Cold War and economic collapse. With the introduction of the famous Gorbachev reforms of perestroika and glasnost in the 1980s, Russia began to open up to the capitalist system and to the idea of liberal democracy. Following Gorbachev’s reforms, Boris Yeltsin continued to lead Russia towards slow democratic reform until 2000 when Vladimir Putin was elected President. A former KGB officer who had kept a fairly low profile in post-communist Russian politics, Putin emerged as a quiet yet powerful leader who was not afraid to make bold statements and take swift actions. Riding on a platform of fighting corruption, secession and terrorist threats, Putin won the hearts and minds of disillusioned Russians. However, his political actions and powerful character risk turning him into more of an authoritarian leader than the elected leader of a democratic country. In 2008 Putin completed his second term in office, swapping roles with his former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Although nominally inferior to President Medvedev, Putin is widely considered to still be the real power in Russia and may well run for President again in 2012.
|Points For||Points Against|
|Stability is more important than reform||Proper democratic checks and balance are the only way to real problem-solving|
|A strong leader has more benefits than harms||Russia does not have true democracy|
|A strong leader is working in the state’s best interest||The status quo reveals that several powerful and influential people are in charge of the whole state|
|Russia as a state and Russians as a nation need strong leadership||Corruption, an essential issue in Russia, is due to the strong leadership|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
Stability is more important than reform
Since the fall of communism, Russia has plunged into a deep economic recession. The introduction of market reforms and privatization has led to a swift increase in inequalities coupled with an increase in corruption. The chaos of economic and political reform, along with the chaos of the break-up of former USSR, has left the majority of the population both disillusioned and distrustful of their government. In a period of such chaos, stability seems to be much more important than reform. A strong leader is the only solution to providing such stability, setting a clear direction and pulling a country at risk of falling apart together again. This is also proven from various polls among the Russian population – “…The most eye-catching statistic is the overwhelming majority of respondents who say that order is more important for Russia than democracy – 72 per cent, with 16 per cent responding conversely.” (1)Improve this
All periods of transition have been chaotic by definition and reforms are by their nature disruptive. At the same time, it is only through these reforms that a future of freedom and prosperity is possible. While a long transition process can certainly cloud minds and turn people into distrustful and disillusioned individuals, one must keep in mind that it is precisely at these moments that the risk of authoritarian tendencies re-emerging is highest. The people of Russia agree in polls over and over again that democracy is and should be their future. We must not let the immediate chaos of reform scare us into a fake stability.
Even if still Russians prefer stronger leadership the number of these people is decreasing and the tendency shows that more and more are starting to evaluate the true value of democracy - “…But that number is actually down from the last time VTsIOM conducted a similar survey in 2000, when 75 per cent of Russians said they favored order, and 13 per cent – democracy. “ (1)
A strong leader has more benefits than harms
Putin is the strong leader that Russia has been waiting for. His electoral success and consistently high approval rates show that the people of Russia are ready for someone who can rid their society of increasing corruption and restore a sense of calm and equality. His ability to maintain a high level of support despite what some have called authoritarian tendencies shows that people are ready to sacrifice a certain degree of freedom for the promise of stability. Enthusiasm for Putin among the young also shows that he does not only appeal to those looking back to past certainties.Improve this
Putin’s initial support was based mainly on strong promises, a series of arrests of corrupt businessmen and tough action towards Chechnya that at first seemed to give positive results. His support base, however, has been significantly damaged following his increasing tendencies to control the media and to replace elected governors with presidential appointees, and by scandals surrounding the disappearance and murder of several important journalists. He has lost the support of the NGO community and most of the intelligentsia and also the originally strong backing of the USA and President Bush.Improve this
A strong leader is working in the state’s best interest
Putin’s authoritarian style is not a threat to democracy but rather a requirement for a successful and quicker transition. Having Putin control the media is probably healthier than having it be controlled by a corrupt few that promote their personal interests rather than the interest of the state and thus those of the population at large. Democracy is a goal and while certain countries believe themselves to have achieved it, they are constantly struggling to maintain it. As a young democracy, Russia is still working towards defining its own version of democracy and finding what works best in its case.Improve this
Putting your hopes and trust in a single person can be fairly dangerous, particularly in a transition period. Putin is not the state and his ability to control and represent the state and the population at large is questionable. Putin is also not a saint and an example to be followed. His authoritarian tendencies do not have insignificant effects: at this point most Russian media is controlled by the state, decisions continue to be made behind closed doors without consultation, Russia has once again become the pariah of the international community, the Chechen conflict has spilled into new attacks against civilians resulting in the death of thousands of people including children (one only has to mention the horrible attacks in Beslan and the Moscow theatre), etc, etc. Putin’s stubborn refusal to accept international help in the case of the stuck submarine Kursk also resulted in the unnecessary death of tens of people.Improve this
Russia as a state and Russians as a nation need strong leadership
Historically, Russia has always needed strong centralised leadership for it to make progress. This was true both in imperial times under tsars such as Peter the Great (who made Russia a European power and built St Petersburg) and Alexander II (who freed the serfs), and since 1917 under Lenin and Stalin. Russia is too big, too diverse and too thinly-populated for western systems of representative democracy to be applied. Culturally its people are temperamentally suited to following the decisive lead of a strong ruler who can unite them in the face of great challenges. Without such a ruler Russia is likely to fragment with local strongmen grabbing power in the regions, religious fundamentalism dominating much of the Caucasus and Central Asia, and economic stagnation.Improve this
History is not destiny and a highly-selective view of Russia's past should not lead us to prefer authoritarian rule today. The Tsars and their communist successors killed millions of people through brutal rule and failed policies - made possible by the same lack of consultation and accountability that we see in Russia today. Only a vigorous multi-party democracy, fully independent legal system and free media can ensure that the disasters of the past are not repeated. Nor is there any reason why such a system could not take root in Russia - it is no more diverse than many other countries and modern communications mean that mere distance is not a problem. And there is nothing in the culture or temperament that makes Russians uniquely unsuited to democracy.Improve this
Proper democratic checks and balance are the only way to real problem-solving
There is a fine line between enough authority to fight corruption and enough authority to oppress a population. Many corrupt, authoritarian leaders have risen to power through the promise of social reform and of wiping out drug cartels and gangsters. A society living in fear and believing that all their problems will be solved by a powerful leader will never be able to overcome its problems. Empowering individuals and accepting risk is ultimately the only true solution to such problems. Even if Putin were completely pure himself, centralising power so completely gives great influence to those advisers and ministers around him and makes corruption in government inevitable. Only by building in proper democratic checks and balances, including criticism from a free media and legal system, can accountability be created and corruption or incompetence tackled.Improve this
The best possible way to tackle the corruption issue, which lets face it is one of the major problems in Russia nowadays, is through a strong leader. Eastern European democratic countries are the pure example that corruption spreads when there is no strong leadership. The corruption in these countries is an obstacle to their economic development. As a matter of fact present president Dmitry Medvedev has launched policies and new projects in order to fight back corruption – “ Fighting corruption has been a top agenda of President Dmitry Medvedev. An Anti-Corruption Council was established by Medvedev in 2008 to oversee the Russia's anti-corruption campaign. The central document guiding the effort is the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, introduced by Medvedev in 2010.” (2) In fact, increasing corruption might prove to be more dangerous than terrorist attacks since it would create powerful drug, oil and weapons cartels as well as human trafficking problems. Therefore a strong leader is necessary to cope with this critical matter.Improve this
Russia does not have true democracy
The status quo in Russia is highly controversial. On the one hand it is considered a democracy – it has all the structures and norms of a democracy. On the other hand there are many attacks and proof that the Russian governance is far from democratic: The joint observer team for the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe criticised the Russian elections as "not fair and failed to meet many OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and standards for democratic elections," with "abuse of administrative resources, media coverage strongly in favour of the ruling party". The polls "took place in an atmosphere which seriously limited political competition" meaning "there was not a level political playing field". The 2007 parliamentary election resulted in United Russia gaining 64.1% of the vote. (3)
Furthermore not only there isn’t election freedom, there is not academic freedom either – “The European University at St Petersburg has been forced to suspend teaching after officials claimed its historic buildings were a fire risk. This forced all academic work to cease. The University had been running a program that advised Russian political parties, including how to ensure elections are not being rigged. The project they are involved in called Interregional Electoral Chains of Support was to develop and raise the effectiveness of electoral monitoring in Russia's regions. The university has also been attacked for having close ties to the west, particularly US and UK universities” (4)
There are cases of murdered journalists, who were “inconvenient” to the authorities. This also raises the question whether a strong leadership is better for the people.
Basic freedoms are denied to the Russian population. In the 21st century this is simply unjust. Therefore strong leadership creates more wrong than it does good.Improve this
Russia has the attributes of a democracy. It is a federal state with a constitution. It has a two chamber legislature; the lower house is the Duma with 450 members elected from nationwide party lists based upon proportional representation. The Upper house; the Federation Council has two representatives from each of Russia’s 89 regions and republics that are chosen by the regional governors and legislatures. Elections for the President are every four years who then appoints the prime minister who in turn appoints the government. Russia therefore appears to have the necessary structure to be a democracy as each of the branches or government are independent.
What Russia is doing is combining the modern democratic governance with better control and management.
Shortly after one of the reporters’ death (which death is thought to be a political order) the head of the human rights organisation issued a strongly worded statement alleging the involvement of state authorities and the area's premier Ramzan Kadyrov in this particular death. This statement was not suppressed in Russia and means that there is freedom of speech. There maybe a strong amount of state control of the press similar to Italy which is a problem but the right still remains. (5)Improve this
The status quo reveals that several powerful and influential people are in charge of the whole state
What is occurring in Russia now is closer to dictatorship rather than to strong leadership. Many commentators of the Russian political stage share the opinion that Medvedev is just a pawn in the hands of the former president and current prime minister – Putin. “The leading role still clearly belongs to Putin. This reflects the unspoken agreement that was reached between Putin and Medvedev,” said Yevgeny Volk, an independent political analyst in Moscow. (6) Russia’s both external and internal policy have not changed after the elections in 2008 and are following the same path, which is another argument that Putin continues to pull the strings.
In fact, the more important question is not whether or not Medvedev is a pawn, but who is actually in charge – “Kremlin-watchers say this system of interlocking and competing clans that is managed by Putin comprises the core of Russia's ruling elite. The key players, the people with decision making power, number about thirty. The inner circle, most agree, comprises about twelve people… There are something like a dozen of the most influential guys in the first circle and perhaps two dozen who are less influential in the second circle. These are not only managers but also shareholders who are not that visible or public...Not only do they manage Russia...but they also enrich themselves pretty actively.” (7) This poses the debate is such a status quo in the best interest of Russia and its people or is the exact opposite.Improve this
All of these speculations are rather unreasonable and tend to create a public opinion which does not cooperate entirely with the truth. Such drastic conclusions can be made just about any other country. It is true that Vladimir Putin is a strong leader and a powerful figure in the Russian political life, but this does not mean that he is a puppet master, who decides the entire faith of Russia and the Russian population. The political life cannot go without political games, intrigues and deals, but this is just how the policy works and this is how it has been working for a long time. Political interests mix up with business interests and it is actually important to have a strong leader in the face of Putin, who, unlike a lot of politicians will not be influenced by big corporate players or at least will not be influenced as much. Putin’s political career has been successful and his rating among the population are the simplest proof - According to public opinion surveys conducted by Levada Center, Putin's approval rating was 81% in June 2007, and the highest of any leader in the world. His popularity rose from 31% in August 1999 to 80% in November 1999 and since then it has never fallen below 65%. Observers see Putin's high approval ratings as a consequence of the significant improvements in living standards and Russia's reassertion of itself on the world scene that occurred during his tenure as President.Improve this
Corruption, an essential issue in Russia, is due to the strong leadership
There is a link between the high levels of corruption and the strong leadership of Russian president and prime minister of Russia. – “Some of Russia's most prominent opposition figures have produced a report accusing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of presiding over a boom in corruption and enriching his inner circle over the past decade… Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev themselves have 26 "palaces" and five yachts, which in turn require costly state upkeep, according to the report.” (8)
Many argue that if it weren’t for the power of the prime minister and ex-president Putin, also his strong authority and management, corruption would have been minimized long ago.Improve this
The current president Dmitry Medvedev is working on and introducing policies toward corruption. Actually this is his main strategy. It is a well-known fact that Medvedev keeps close relations with the former president Putin and discusses Russian relations and policy with him. If the abolishment of the corruption was standing in the way of Putin, such a strategy would not have been undertaken by Medvedev. – “Speaking to a group of Russian experts and journalists, he said that corrupt officials ran Russia. "They have the power. Corruption has a systemic nature, deep historic roots. We should squeeze it out. The battle isn't easy but it has to be fought. I don't think we can achieve tangible results in one year or two. If I am a realist we could get good results in 15." “(9)
Exactly strong leadership can deal with the difficult issue of corruption in the Russian state. And the new policies of the current president clearly present that.Improve this
BBC News, “Monitors denounce Russia election”, 3 December 2007 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7124585.stm
BBC News, “Vow to catch Chechnya assassins” 16 July 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8153613.stm
Harding, Luke. “Russian university that advised on election monitoring closed as fire risk”, guardian.co.uk, 11 February 2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/11/russia.highereducation
Hearst, David. “Dmitry Medvedev announces 'vision' to clean up Russian corruption” guardian.co.uk, 15 September 2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/15/president-dmitry-medvedev-russian-corruption
Osipovich, Alexander, “Putin, not Medvedev, Remains Master of Russian Foreign Policy”, Eurasia.org, 7 May 2010 http://www.eurasianet.org/node/61010
RFE/RL, “New Russian Opposition Party Unveils Report On Corruption Under Putin” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 30 March 2011 http://www.rferl.org/content/russia_opposition_party_says_corruption_rose_under_putin/3541988.html
The Other Russia, “Nearly ¾ of Russians prefer order to democracy” 13 April 2010 http://www.theotherrussia.org/2010/04/13/nearly-34-of-russians-prefer-order-to-democracy/
Wikipedia, Corruption in Russia, accessed 15 September 2011 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_in_Russia
Whitmore, Brian, “Russia's Indispensable Man”, The Power Vertical, 16 August 2011 http://www.rferl.org/content/putin_is_russias_indispensible_man/24298918.html
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