Soundtracking the Resistance - To Russia With Love | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, October 1st, 2023  

Soundtracking the Resistance - To Russia With Love

Vladimir Putin, the Russian Election, and Donald Trump's "Congratulations"

Mar 23, 2018 Pussy Riot Bookmark and Share

This week we head over to Russia for a bit before returning for negotiations of various kinds, tariffs, election protesting, and classic rock.

The Big Event

The shock of the year occurred last weekend when Vladimir Putin overcame all odds to secure another term as Russian President. It seems like he’s been in that post forever, largely because he has. Certainly all of this millennium if we treat his 2008-2012 spell as Prime Minister for what it was: a barely concealed ruse that saw him maintaining absolute power while nominally letting someone else have a go at President to get around pesky term limits.

Vlad got himself up to 76% of the vote, which seems like a nice number for someone who is always going to win. Why despots insist on undermining the system they are pretending exists by declaring they’ve won 99% of the vote is beyond me. If you’re going to make a mockery of the system, the least you could do is pretend not to be making a mockery of the system.

Not Vlad though; he had a vote. Independent observers said afterwards that “the Central Election Commission administered the process efficiently and openly.” However, the restriction on candidate registration and other freedoms meant that it “limited the space for political engagement and resulted in a lack of genuine competition.”

When your main rivals are barred from running, forced into exile, or simply dead, it makes it an awful lot easier to win. Plus, Putin is a popular man in Russia; a leader more than capable of creating an us against them mentality tying the Russian people to him to fight foreign threats. He has to do all that international meddling to distract from mass corruption and woeful mismanagement at home.

As he starts his fourth term as President, he’s moving into uncharted territory now though. It was easy to summon up a villain when Barack Obama sat in the White House. Or any other US President really. The same cannot be said for the patsy currently loafing around the Oval Office, gathering all his information from Fox News and firing misspelt tweets that strike fear into the hearts of allies and English teachers alike.

Luckily for Putin, the US system of government continues to whir away, slapping sanctions on the misdeeds of his government even if Trump wants nothing to do with it. America also joined allies to support the UK after the recent poisoning of an ex-spy in an English city, an action many believe to be the work of the Russian state in one way or another. That’ll allow him to keep playing the martyr at home.

Not that Trump’s new-found solidarity with traditional allies lasted long. Now he wants to hang out with Putin again, much to the surprise of advisers who weren’t expecting that outcome from his recent congratulatory call to Putin. He also broke ranks by making it a congratulatory call. Many other leaders had decided to steer clear of offering congratulations. It later emerged Trump had a note in front of him explicitly reminding him not to use the word congratulations.

That kind of behavior makes it really hard not to view him as a wayward child surrounded by a bunch of minders constantly shaking their heads in despair. Or it would be hard if many of the minders didn’t come across as just as bad in their own ways.

Exactly what Trump is up to with Putin is hard to say. If we disregard the idea Putin has some hold on him, then he could just be acting contrary, refusing to follow the norms everyone else in his position has obeyed.

Perhaps he genuinely admires the man and his style of governing that sees power cemented with one fist while the other hand empties state assets. Trump is not exactly the kind of guy to crack down hard on corruption after all. Impossible to untangle business dealings that come with an unpleasant smell are his bread and butter.

Or maybe he’s just an idiot who doesn’t realize what he’s doing and how it causes chaos around the world. It’s not possible to discount that one based on his blundering approach so far. He’s the very epitome of a bull in a china shop.

It could be all or any of that, or an entirely different reason that explains his remarkably lax approach to Putin’s Russia. If we’re lucky, the President is playing a superb long-game here, to be revealed in due course, though it would be wise not to hold your breath. And of course this was all hedged on the proviso we disregard the idea Putin has some hold on him. Let’s leave that one to special counsel (or is it council) Robert Mueller to look into for now.

What’s Going On

As another government shutdown looms, congressional negotiators have worked out a deal to keep the wolf from the door. They might have managed it, reaching agreement on a $1.3 trillion federal spending bill that’s made it through Congress. Broadly speaking, the plan chucks a load of money at the military to keep Trump and Republican allies happy, while also giving the Democrats more for domestic spending. There is funding for immigration enforcement, but restrictions on how it can be spent, and an allocation for border fencing that seems to go to existing areas of fencing and can’t be used on any design not already in operation i.e. no giant Trumpian behemoth on the border.

Speaking of Trump, the man must have trade war on the brain. China is going to face his wrath in the shape of $60 billion worth of tariffs to punish them for various misdeeds, some of which they have indeed been committing to be fair. Given how he won’t shut up about the world’s preeminent economic power apparently coming out second best in every trade deal, the only surprise is how long it has taken him to start going to the mattresses on this.

Trump has also shuffled his cabinet yet again, H.R. McMaster out as National Security Advisor and former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and Fox News contributor John Bolton in as the third person to hold the position since Trump took office. Bolton is known for being very hawkish, advocating regime change in Iran (and being anti the Iran nuclear deal), making a legal case for attacking North Korea, and still continuing to argue that the Iraq War was a good idea.

While America has Trump, the UK continues to grapple with its own rightward swing following Brexit. This week a transition deal has arrived to set out the rules for the period before the UK formally leaves the EU. After negotiators thrashed it out, the hardcore on the right have been kicking up a fuss, moaning it isn’t everything they dreamt in their impossible dreams.

Speak Up!

You can always rely on Pussy Riot not to sit idly by. For the Russian election last Sunday they put out another song making fun of the process and the people involved. There’s no shortage of things to attack there either.

Song of the Week: The Who - “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

When you’ve got a guy in charge who sold himself on a bunch of lies he has no intention of fulfilling, and likely couldn’t even if he wanted to, it’s worth taking a moment to look at what tipping the world upside down can do. Revolutions have their place, but they can go wrong.

That’s why we’re ending with The Who this week, and their skeptical warning over the danger of upsetting apple carts for the sake of a few pretty (in the case of Trump, incredibly ugly) words. Be careful what you wish for, because it might not be what you get.

Support Under the Radar on Patreon.


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.