Russian President Vladimir Putin’s national address last week grabbed headlines for its proclamations of new weapons systems, but as significant in his speech was its domestic policy implications ahead of a March 18 election, Gilbert Doctorow explains.
By Gilbert Doctorow
Several days ago, I wrote the first installment of my analysis of Vladimir Putin’s address to the two houses of Russia’s bicameral legislature on March 1. In that essay, I focused on the last third of the address in which the Russian President rolled out major nuclear weapons delivery systems which were notable for unparalleled technologies that may change the world power balance.
Putin claimed that Russia’s full parity with the United States in strategic weaponry has been restored. His blunt message to the United States to abandon its 16-year attempt to achieve a first strike capability and sit down for arms control talks drew the immediate attention of world media, even if the initial reading was confused.
In this second installment of my analysis of President Putin’s landmark speech, I will consider the address in its entirety within its other context, directed at the domestic audience and constituting his electoral platform for the election to be held on March 18.
The Russian President’s annual address is mandated by the Constitution. It resembles the State of the Union address in the United States. Normally it should have taken place more than a month ago, and Putin’s rescheduling it for this critical time in the midst of the campaign raised some eyebrows. The head of the liberal Yabloko party complained to the Central Electoral Commission last week about that very fact. However, such complaints were already dismissed previously by Commission director Ella Pamfilova as lacking merit since such speeches were said to be “standard practice in many nations around the world.”
Be that as it may, in actual fact the speech delivered by Vladimir Putin was not a simple summary of government activity in the year gone by and short term projection of future government plans. The speech took in a much longer time frame, looking back to the condition of Russia when Putin…