Nov 24, 2007 2:49 pm


"If he does that (give up power), he will be the greatest man in the world," Said King George III about George Washington. The same can be said today about Vladimir Putin. If he steps down as he vows, he would create a new Russia. He seems to know that and vows to do just that. Yet to listen to him, it is clear that every fiber in his body rebels against the idea. He is sure his successors cannot be trusted to defend and nourish the Russia he constructed. Just read this excerpt from his November 21st campaign speech ( Translated by A. Ignatkin):

Nothing is preordained. Social stability, economic growth, even peace in Russia, and some improvement in living standards are not an unexpected windfall. This is a result of constant political struggle, sometimes a vicious struggle, both domestically and internationally. It is a result of a clash of interests. No battle can be fought without your participation.

Nothing would please our adversaries more than disruption of our plans, because they have other plans and designs for Russia.

They want it to be weak. They want us to be a disorganized and disoriented society, a divided society, so that they can line their pockets behind our backs and at our expense. Regrettably, there are still certain forces in this country who grovel before foreign embassies and rely on foreign grants rather than on support from their own people. . . .

The authorities do make mistakes. They deserve criticism when they do. . . .

And those who controlled the commanding heights in the federal parliament and government only a decade ago, in the 1990s, those who damaged our society and the state in pursuing the interests of oligarchic structures and looting our national wealth. It is these same people who are now trying to tell us what to do - the same people who made corruption the principal instrument of political and economic competition. It was those people who kept passing unbalanced and irresponsible budgets year after year, and who brought about the default and deterioration of living standards. . . .

I don't think anyone has any doubts as to what would follow their return to power. These people would once again rob millions of ordinary citizens and line their own pockets, in their typically cynical manner.

Everyone knows that Russia has accumulated vast resources. So there is once again a desire to confiscate it all, divide it all, and ruin everything again.

All our enemies would like to see us enslaved.

The fate of our country will be decided on December 2! Vote United Russia!

To watch the Russian people's enthusiastic response to his speeches, it is obvious that they too share his instincts. All evidence points to a major party victory. Moreover, the Russian people seem as nervous as he is about the passing of the presidential torch. The helm is certainly there for his keeping just as it was in the case of Washington. Yet Washington overcame his fears and potential hubris; he overcame the oh so flattering belief that he was irreplaceable. That"Apres moi, le deluge!"

Much depends on Putin's ability to do what no Russian leader ever did: Bow out at the height of his power because the Constitution demands it. It is one of the most important democratic pillars. A few years ago, I suggested to the director of the Nobel Institute that the Peace Prize be awarded to Julius Nyerere for stepping down voluntarily as Tanzania's president. Alas, they had other priorities. Fortunately, Egypt's Mo Ibrahim who knows all so well the consequences of the refusal of a president to step down (think Mubarak!) established a Foundation just for such a purpose. The first award of five million dollars went to Joaquim Chissano, the former President of Mozambique. Perhaps some wealthy Russian should do the same. Perhaps, a few million dollars would help convince Putin that their is life without power?!

Just a thought.

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