Andrew Kuchins’ last Friday’s op-ed in the Washington Post highlights the level of desperation on the part of the so-called Russia "expert" community over their inability to understand, much less explain, the complex events taking place in Russia.
Kuchins is taking to heart a billboard he saw during his recent visit in Moscow: "Putin’s Plan, Victory of Russia." Instinctively sensing something sinister, Kuchins is pondering: "What is the plan? What is the victory? And over whom?"
What Kuchins neglects to tell his readers is that the billboard was put out by the United Russia party as part of its nascent Duma election campaign. One doesn’t expect too much substance — nor depth — from an election campaign hardware. After all, how the "Putin’s Plan" banner is different from the "Audacity of Hope", "Straight Talk Express" or, for that matter, "Compassionate Conservatism" and "Mission Accomplished"?
Like his fellow Russia "experts" such as Anne Applebaum and Anders Aslund, Kuchins cannot get over the fact that President Putin didn’t consult him when choosing the next Russia’s Prime Minister, Victor Zubkov. Adding to Kuchin’s pain is the fact that Mr. Zubkov has no connection to the KGB, and what else are the "experts" supposed to write about top Russian officials?
Refusing to be defeated by the "Putin’s Plan", Kuchins launches a counter-offensive:
"Putin may have convinced himself that he is the only one who could "save" the Russian nation, and the job is unfinished."
The implication here is that despite all the signs to the contrary, Kuchins is convinced — and wants to convince everyone else — that Putin won’t leave the Kremlin after his second presidential term is over in March.
The truth is that Kuchins is desperate to see Putin staying for the third term which would allow him to chew the same old gum of "democracy backsliding" for another four years. This will also spare Kuchins from memorizing the name of the next Russian leader, something he’s unlikely to look forward to.