Russia’s President suggests reviving a historical tradition of sacrificing everything for the sake of the unity and strength of the country. The elite is not ready for the sacrifice
People were right when they said that Putin's State of the Nation speech voiced last Friday was addressed to the electorate, not people sitting in the Marble Hall of the Kremlin. The State of the Nation speech was emasculated to the utmost, contained a minimum of criticism and s maximum of statements following which the country can catch up with the USA and leave it behind in the next ten years. This can certainly be done only under the guidance of Vladimir Putin, not otherwise.
Vladimir Putin is looking ahead, but the political elite of the country, at least part of it, is blind to this distant future. Parliamentary elections are to be held this year, and the outcome of the elections can hardly be predicted now. So, as soon as the presidential speech was over, deputies immediately plunged into criticism (from rightist and leftist forces) and admiration (from centrist forces) of the State of the Nation speech.
As the following comments of Russian parliamentarians reveal, a majority of them still hear what they like to hear, even in the presidential speech. Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky says the days of the government headed by Mikhail Kasyanov are numbered. Duma Vice-speaker Irina Khakamada responded to Putin's criticism of the Duma's legislative activity and said that the President should better focus on his team, which develops poor laws. First Vice Chair of the Russian State Duma Lyubov Sliska said that the president's plans concerning formation of an effective government as based on the parliamentary majority of the United Russia party.
As for the leftist forces, Vasily Shandybin was the most ardent critic of the presidential speech. Right after Vladimir Putin's words, Vasily Shandybin cried out that "only thieves will be sitting in the State Duma soon." And this criticism arose despite the fact that Vladimir Putin was rather cautious with making troubling conclusions and generalizations; the President didn't mention the exact names of governmental officials in his speech. That was probably the main reason why some critics of the presidential speech mentioned no particular names as well.
Although consolidation of society was the cornerstone of the president's State of the Nation speech, it is unlikely that the appeal will make for consolidation of the elite. There is a deep gap between the people and the elite, which is why the presidential appeal for consolidation may become absolutely vain.
It is highly likely that the population of Russia will not prove to be ready to once again "sacrifice everything" for the sake of the illusive strength of the country and for "GDP doubling" (the objective of which is not clear to the people). The situation will actually be very serious if it turns out that everything mentioned in the President's State of the Nation speech was merely part of a pre-election campaign launched with a view to bringing indifferent people to election centers and to vote for the party of "selfish and incompetent" bureaucracy.
In general, as the text of the presidential speech and all comments on it reveal, it is necessary to replace the old political elites. The problem is that the present-day elites are very much estranged from the people and cannot understand their problems. If the situation remains the same, it may become the main obstacle for consolidation of society.