“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."
Thursday, December 04, 2008
The Mind of Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin has taken to the airwaves to assuage his people's fears over the country's rapidly accelerating financial crisis, acknowledging that tough times lay ahead but that Russia would survive with "minimal losses".
In a marathon session that lasted more than three hours, broadcast live on radio and television, Mr Putin took dozens of questions from around the country, in a tradition he started eight years ago as president. Only once did he mention the name of the current President, Dmitry Medvedev, fuelling the view that Mr Putin remains the country's most powerful leader.
Panel: questions put to Putin by Russians
Q: I have two questions. As New Year approaches, we need to know where to buy a tree. Second, will Ukraine pay for its gas?
Putin: "Every family who wants to have a tree, can have it, a natural or a fake one. More and more people are using fake trees. It's an individual choice. And our Ukrainian partners haven't settled their debt yet, $2.5bn, this isn't small money, for Gazprom or the country. We know Ukraine is having bigger problems than Russia, for example, as a result of the financial crisis. What to do? Trade doesn't happen for free, you have to pay ? If you go to Germany and say, ‘I want a Mercedes for free'. Who will give it to you?"
Q: Vladimir Vladimirovich, I would _really like a new dress for New Year. Please fulfill our wishes, thank you.
Putin: Little Dasha, I think that you and other children, not only in Yakutia but in the whole country, should see in the New Year well and adults should do everything to see these wishes are fulfilled. Regarding your dress and other presents on New Year's, I think it would only be right if you thought not only about what you needed for New Year, but what Grandma needs. I invite you and your sisters and Grandma all together to come to Moscow, to one of the New Year's trees, and we'll deal with presents here."
Q: Would you like to see Saakashvili hung by one of his body parts? [Mr Putin was reported to have told President Sarkozy of France that the Georgian leader should be "hung by the balls".]
Putin: "Why just one part? But seriously, we all know the tragic news in other parts of the world, in Iraq for example, where American troops went under the false pretence of weapons of mass destruction. They didn't find the weapons, but they hanged the leader. I believe it is up to Georgia's people to decide what kind of responsibility must be borne by those politicians who led to these harshest and tragic consequences."
- The Independent