Time to time, sophisticated Russia watchers bring up Winston Churchill’s famous calling Russia "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." The underlying purpose here is clear: if such a giant could not get it, what can we mortals do?
It’s therefore not surprising at all that Heritage’s Peter Brookes invokes Churchill’s quote when commenting on Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s surprising appointment of Victor Zubkov as a new Russia’s Prime Minister. To underscore the gravity of this threatening to the West event, Brookes aligns it with the recent decision by Russia to resume sending long-range bomber aircrafts on regular patrols beyond Russian borders.
Not to be outdone, a recent Washington Post’s editorial not only reminds of the resumption of the bomber patrols, but also draws attention to the testing by Russia of the powerful vacuum bomb. Never mind that the 100% civil financier Zubkov has nothing to do with either.
The Washington Post’s editorial board seems to have especially difficult time to comprehend the fact that the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, the Duma, took less than two hours to approve Zubkov by a margin of 381 to 47. So much so that an unnamed (!) Associated Press reporter is quoted who compared the Duma session with the "Soviet-era Communist Party meetings."
(I’m just curious whether the above-mentioned unnamed AP reporter had indeed attended any past meetings of the Communist Party? Or, he confuses them with the Republican/Democratic party conventions where wearing clown hats delegates enthusiastically endorse candidates whose programs they don’t understand?)
Sure enough, Anne Applebaum could not resist, either, the temptation of writing about something she doesn’t understand. Looking for a help, Applebaum picks up brains of "Russia expert Anders Aslund", who boldly forecasts that Putin will remain in the office indefinitely by "possibly following declaration of a national military emergency." How rewarding to hear such things from Aslund, who in the past, kept predicting that Putin will be out of presidency by the end of his second term!
It is easy to understand the frustration of the "Russia experts." For months, they’ve been predicting the "1999 scenario", whereby Putin will mark his "successor" by appointing him first the head of the government. The candidacy of Sergei Ivanov appeared so natural because of his KGB background — and because his last name is easier to memorize than Medvedev.
By elevating unknown Zubkov, Putin’s has yet again demonstrated the inability of Washington, DC’s "Russia experts" to understand — much less to predict — the complex events taking place in post-Communist Russia.
A smart parent won’t give a new-born baby a toy that is appropriate for a toddler. Likewise, the Washington, DC’s favorite toy, A Riddle Inside An Enigma, is too complicated for perennially immature "Russia experts."