The genesis of a Russian president

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The genesis of a Russian president


Vladimir Putin’s pending return to power has prompted discussions about what he will do in the future. But before we speculate on that, it might be useful to go back in time.

In the beginning, Putin thought that it would be good to have power, and he saw there were many powerful men in the KGB. He was told that it would be easier to get into the KGB if he studied international law, so he did that and got hired. After 15 years with the agency, he ascended to the top position. But he craved more.

As it happened, there was turbulence in the world at the time, and Boris Yeltsin, who was an alleged alcoholic, stood on a tank and became a leader. So Putin laid low and bid his time and Yeltsin took him under his wing as his No. 2. Losing his struggle with alcoholism, Yeltsin resigned before completing his term and Putin stepped in. He was truly pleased. He won an election the following spring and was reelected four years later. Since then, he has accomplished most everything he wanted.

When Putin came to power, the country was nearly bankrupt. So he said, “Let the oil price rise.” And so it did. In the eight years while he was president of Russia, the stock price rose by 12 times, the foreign currency reserve increased by 10 times, the GDP grew fourfold and exports threefold. The people, who had been crying over scraps of bread, were greatly satisfied.

Surprisingly, Putin’s role model lived in Korea, and it was none other than Park Chung hee. Putin searched for every single book on the former president, no matter what the language, and read them all. And he learned everything he could about economic planning. He also tried to emulate Park’s charisma and aggressiveness.

Toward the end of his second term, people thought Putin would change the law and remain president for three consecutive terms. Instead, he gave his post to his right-hand man and became the country’s No. 2. He probably figured it looked better to come down for once. But he couldn’t stay out of the king’s chair for long.

Now, four years later, he is attempting to enter the Kremlin once again. And by law, he can remain president for 12 more years. That would allow him to be the leader of Russia for a total of 20 years. Putin would surpass the 18-year record of his role model as well as that of Leonid Brezhnev, whose own role model, Stalin, was likely shot to death by his security chief.

God only knows what path Putin will take in the future.

*The writer is the J Editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Lee Hoon-beom
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