“Consolidation”. In Moscow these days this is the word that most flavors discussions in political circles. The idea is that, thanks to President Vladimir Putin’s bold and risk-taking strategy, Russia has made a number of major gains on the international scene and must now act to consolidate those gains and reduce the diplomatic, economic and political price it has had to pay for them.
The analysis is inspired by Lenin’s famous “Two-steps-forward, one-step back” dictum that saw the founder of the now defunct Soviet Union abandon vast territories under the Brest-Litovsk Treaty in order to consolidate the then fragile Bolshevik hold on power in Russia itself. Later, Lenin used the same dictum to justify his New Economic Policy (NEP), a step back to confuse the growing opposition from the hated “bourgeoisie”.
Putin may appear an unlikely student of Leninism, having obtained his initial political education in the shadier world of the KGB under Yuri Andropov. Nevertheless, the man now cast as the unchallenged master of Russia’s destiny has always shown a talent for adopting a low profile when needed.
He did that as Boris Yeltsin’s right-hand-man, to the point that many regarded him as little more than a bag-carrier for the bombastic president while, all along, he was learning the ropes and preparing to ascend to the top of the greasy pole that is power in Russia.