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Putin’s Press Conference Reveals Him as an Authoritarian Democratic Socialist

Is the West missing the forest of effective government by obsessing about the tree of democracy?


This post first appeared on Russia Insider


The author is an independent political analyst whose work in French ‘Une autre Europe un autre Monde’ foresaw the reunification of Europe and the possibility of the Soviet Union’’s dissolution. Her blogs since 2006 are at, where her other books are listed, and she is a senior editor at

She wrote this article specially for RI.

Obama’s inability to outline a credible policy vis a vis ISIS, combined with a growing fear among thoughtful Americans that we could end up with a Barnum and Bailey Hitler as president illustrate the limits of democracy in the 21st century.

One man one vote has become a sham as governments answer to the hand-picked representatives of their most powerful backers. Though excoriated in the ‘civilized world’, authoritarian leaders who are informed, intelligent and caring of their people, can be more effective than those who must do the bidding of the 1% or pay the ultimate price.

In a world so complex that leaders almost have to be polymaths to understand the problems they face, Vladimir Putin is able to provide detailed responses to a broad range of questions, while Obama, knowing decisions are taken elsewhere, speaks in general terms.

The American press was only interested in the fact that the Russian President’s end of the year press conference this week lasted three and a half hours. Unreported, here is how the leader we accuse of responsibility for the crisis in Ukraine described the implementation of the Minsk Agreement by that country’s government:

“Has the Rada passed this law? Yes, it has. Under the Minsk Agreements, it should be “implemented within 30 days by having the Rada adopt a resolution to this effect”. Have they adopted the resolution? Yes. But how? They added an article, I think number 10, which stipulates that it can only be implemented after elections, which means more delays. I told them, “Listen, it says here that the law must be implemented.” “No, it does not. It says: the Rada must pass a resolution. We have done it. That’s it.”

Most Americans ignore foreign affairs until troops are being dispatched, but they are very much aware of their government’s reluctance to play a meaningful role in their survival, let alone their well-being, as its peculiar version of national security trumps all other concerns.  

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia was led to embrace American-style capitalism, however Vladimir Putin did not throw the socialist baby out with the communist bathwater. While a strong leader is invariably labelled ‘authoritarian’, the Russian President calls his government a ‘managed democracy’. I would call it ‘managed social democracy’, since the Russian government clearly considers it has a responsibility for its citizens’ well-being. Try imagining Barack Obama saying things like this:

“The Russian population is growing, and 6.5 million Russian families have received maternity capital since the program was introduced. Life expectancy at the end of this year will exceed 71 years, and in most regions 97% of children have access to preschool. In 2914 we adjusted pensions to inflation with an 11.4% increase. plus  10.3 percent this year.”

In response to a regional survey about pensioners being forced to choose between rent and food:

“Your question is a priority for millions. The Government adjusted retirement pensions for inflation last year.” While utility rates were increased, families who pay more than 22 percent of income for utilities can get subsidies. “There is no doubt that this issue deserves the most careful attention. It will be a priority for the Government and the regional authorities.”

There were no health care questions, as the President had addressed these during his end of the year address to the nation. Here is an excerpt that Americans will find particularly relevant:

“ Insurance companies must uphold patients’ rights, and not refuse free medical care without a reason. If an insurance company does not do this, it should be banned from the compulsory medical insurance system. I ask the Government to ensure stringent oversight in this regard.”

Noting that for the first time in Russia’s history, many high tech surgeries are carried out without a waiting list, but that financing is often a problem in public hospitals, he called for a special federal contribution through legislation to be adopted during the spring session, adding:

“But people must not suffer while we make these decisions. We must ensure direct support from the federal budget until this decision is taken.”

Imagine how different life would be in the US, if our President could utter such words!

The reader will object: But this is not democracy!  It is not early twentieth century representative democracy, but we no longer live in that world.  Today, only local government is small enough to be responsive to citizen input, whether direct or through representation.

When it comes to saving the planet from a climate meltdown, or from World War III, decisions must be hammered out at the highest level between national leaders who not only care about their citizens daily lives, but are able to knock the heads of big energy and big weapons together when they get home.

Although shamefully under-reported, Vladimir Putin’s governing style has impressed many Americans.  The danger is that they could end up with a Barnum and Bailey Hitler.


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