Leonid Radzikhovsky: ''Putin adores when he is adored. Therefore, he loves and cherishes his rating''
But there are only two options: either to be a sacred dictator like Stalin and Fidel Castro or the rating falls
Russian political expert Leonid Radzikhovsky explained in the interview to Realnoe Vremya the importance of the World Cup for Russia, the world and the leadership of the country. Besides, he shared his opinion on whether we should take seriously the falling rating of President Putin and whether an abolition of the pension reform can become 'Crimea 2' for the president.
''The World Cup gave Russia entertainment. That's it, actually''
Mr Radzikhovsky, let's start with the main event of the recent time, which ended just a couple of days ago — the World Cup. How much has it given our country, in your opinion?
What can the World Cup give? A world championship – it is fun, and I don't understand all these exaggerated concerns about it: it's probably because nothing else is happening around, but they want it to happen. The World Cup gave us entertainment, and that's it, actually.
Let's recall — in 1957 Moscow hosted the World Festival of Youth and Students, which is still remembered as a great event. I think, it did not affect people of our country, but still then, for the first time after the ''iron curtain'', many foreigners came to the USSR, and it was the opening of the West for the Soviet people, and for the West — the opening of the Soviet Union. It was as if North Korea would be ''opened'' to the whole world today.
But what was special about the World Cup? The world has been open for us for a long time, Russia is an open country, millions of people go there. Therefore, the championship has given Russia nothing more or less than for any other country.
''Many fans believed, unfortunately, their media writing about Russia, but the media write ''the wrong thing'' about Russia not by evil calculation and not because there is a conspiracy — just if the media will write and transmit news that Russia is an ordinary country and nothing special about it, then who will read them?'' Photo: Maksim Platonov
But you still know the opinion that the championship has changed the attitude to Russia for the better in many countries, including Western ones. Isnt' it an achievement?
Yes, several hundred thousand fans came to our country (they say about almost two million of them, but it is unlikely). Yes, many of them will send their friends impressions about Russia on social networks, especially those for whom it appeared another, those who really believed that Russia was some terrible country where KGB agents are everywhere, where the ''Russian mafia'' is strong. Many fans believed, unfortunately, their media that write about Russia, but the media write ''the wrong thing'' about Russia not by evil calculation and not because there is a conspiracy — just if the media write and broadcast news that Russia is an ordinary country and nothing special about it, then who will read them? The media sells only ''spicy'' products — peppered, salted, if you want, and well, yes, they fulfill the order, of course.
That is why those fans who came with the fear that they would be attacked by Russian bandits, be recruited by Russian security officers, of course, they were shocked — they saw Russia free and open. But since the media around the world still continue to write about Russia in the same vein, mainly about Russian policy towards Ukraine and Syria, about the opposition and Navalny — they will continue to write these things. Yes, it is a distortion of the truth. Yes, it is a disproportion, but people in the West will continue to swallow what they are given. As well as people in Russia who will swallow the information that in the West there are only migrants, that people are often attacked by terrorists there, that white women are raped there, and there are many gay people, attacking people and endlessly holding gay parades, although if the Russians come to the West, they will see that it is not like this. Yes, in the West there are gay parades and harassment, but not only that, it is only a small part of it. The soup, after all, consists not only of salt.
Fans from abroad have discovered both Moscow and other cities, but their impressions will not change anything in the world — their media will transmit their own information, because such is their life; they need to be in demand.
''Vladimir Putin is the international showman number one, and although football is not one hundred percent of his show, because it is not his sport (as we know, he loves judo, hockey and swimming), but as far as he could, he participated in this show.'' Photo: kremlin.ru
Has the World Cup given much to the president of Russia personally?
Vladimir Putin is the international showman number one, and although football is not one hundred percent of his show, because it is not his sport (as we know, he loves judo, hockey and swimming), but as far as he could, he participated in this show. Yes, the meeting with Trump was much more interesting for Putin, but football has given him a lot — Emmanuel Macron, other heads of states came to our country. Besides, if hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors have become convinced that Moscow is the most typical European city, rich and comfortable, it is, of course, also plays into Putin's hands, it will benefit to his image.
''Emmanuel Macron, other heads of state came to our country. Besides, if hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors were convinced that Moscow is the most typical European city, rich and comfortable, it is, of course, also plays into Putin's hands, it will benefit to his image.'' Photo: kremlin.ru
''The power of the president does not depend on his rating''
In June, sociologists noticed a rather significant drop in the rating of Vladimir Putin — from 80% to 72%, for example, according to the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM). It is clear that many people associate this with the pension reform, and although it was not Putin who announced it, it was presented by members of the Cabinet of Ministers approved by him. How serious is this phenomenon for public opinion and for President Putin personally?
Let's ask the question, ''Why does he need this rating at all?''. Trump's rating has been around 20% recently, so what? Trump was elected by minority of votes, so what? Will some official, for example, given the 20% rating, receiving the order of Trump on his appointment or dismissal from the office, show him the finger citing his 20% rating? Absolutely not. The power of the president does not depend of his rating – it depends only on the laws. Forget about Trump, let's take Yeltsin. In the late 1990s you know his rating was equal to zero – justly or unjustly, but people hated him. So what? People hated Yeltsin, but Primakov was popular, and Yeltsin issued the decree on Primakov's dismissal. Did people take to the streets with slogans 'We will not give our favourite Primakov to hated Yeltsin?'. No. The power of the president is not divided into parts and it is determined by the laws, administrative traditions and so on, so the power of the Russian tsar, and Putin is a kind of tsar, is absolute. So, from the actual point of view, the rating does not matter at all.
But personally for Putin, it is of great importance, because, again, Vladimir Putin is a showman, he loves show, he adores when he is in the spotlight, loves to be popular, loves to shine and loves when he is adored. And he loves and cherishes his rating. Will there be rating fluctuations? Naturally, there will be, but will there be such a sharp rise like in 2014? No, if only some new, supernatural events like 'Crimea 2' happens. But I do not see such events in the offing, which means that the rating will continue to fall — it is natural and inevitable because Putin has been in power for almost 19 years.
''Yes, the reform can be cancelled, and of course, there will be a certain rise in the society: ''Putin — well done, he saved us!'', but the level of pensions will not grow — there is nowhere to take money for them from, but prices will continue to grow anyway.'' Photo: Sergey Afanasyev
If he has been in power for almost 19 years in a row, then two options are possible. One option – either in front of us there is a living god, sacred dictator such as Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, or the second option — his rating falls because people will get annoyed by this time. This is the first circumstance due to which the rating of the head of the state is doomed to fall. And the second — the rating can be kept despite the fact that many people are already tired of him, but for this, the level and quality of life should develop at a higher rate, the feeling of life should grow and so on. But it is not like this. I do not want to say that we have a crisis, fall, collapse of the economy — this is not even close, but according to statistics, the standard of living in Russia is growing, but it is growing so that it is not noticeable or felt. The growth of the standard of living is noticeable only in Moscow — at the beginning of 2000s in the capital there were a lot of Zhiguli cars, they were many in the streets 5-6 years ago, but today we do not see them at all. But there is also no feeling that the standard of living is growing in our country. The prices for utilities are rising, but the standard of living is not. Therefore, on the one hand, the fatigue from the leader, and on the other — stagnating economy, and therefore, the rating is doomed to fall — due to the laws of human perception and human psychology.
Putin's rating would have been falling in 2014 if the president had not risen it thanks to Crimea. Now this effect has been exhausted, and there is nowhere to take a new one from. So, the rating will fall.
Can a postponement of the same pension reform for about 7-8 years raise the rating? Can the president resolve on it?
Theoretically, this trick can be done, but it will give a smaller effect than Crimea did, and there will be no great delight — pensions for most people are a specific thing, unlike Crimea, and postponing the reform will not be so effective: Crimea is a kind of love, it is difficult to understand it, but pensions are measured in specific values. Yes, the reform can be cancelled, and of course, there will be a certain rise in the society: ''Putin — well done, he saved us!'', but the level of pensions will not grow — there is nowhere to take money for them from, but prices will continue to grow anyway. This means that the joy from the pension reform being cancelled will disappear quite soon.
To be continued