Cultural Revolutions

Avoiding a Crisis

Russia may have avoided a full-scale political crisis, at least temporarily, thanks to the Bush administration’s decision in mid-March not to pursue a U.N. Security Council vote on its latest resolution on Iraq. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin had appeared ready to accept Washington’s planned “regime change” in Baghdad in exchange for a piece of the post-Saddam oil pie and Washington’s recognition of the Chechen conflict as a part of the global “War on Terror,” but Putin surprised the Bush White House in February when he not only aligned himself with Paris and Berlin in opposing the war but threatened to veto any U.N. resolution that would have opened the door to U.S. military action.

The Russian president, a former KGB officer, was forced by threats from his political patrons—the Boris Yeltsin “family,” which apparently was considering forcing Yeltsin’s chosen successor into early retirement—to seek support from elements in the Russian defense/security apparatus (the siloviky, or “power boys” from the “power ministries,” especially the FSB, the KGB’s successor).  These siloviky, along with their allies in state-controlled oil companies who lack the American contacts of family-connected private firms and have maintained friendlier ties to Saddam Hussein’s regime, have mounted an internal...

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