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May 16, 2013 By Joseph P. Farrell

Now I don't know the ins and outs of Russian politics, obviously, but I suspect this one is highly significant, especially given the way RT is reporting it, and especially since I've been saying "watch Russia, and watch Mr. Putin," very closely:

Top politician, longtime Putin ally Surkov quits Cabinet

Now, in the bad old days of Stalin, Khrushchev, Kosygin, Brezhnev, Chernenko, Andropov, and perhaps even Mr. Openness himself, Mr. Gorbachev, I doubt we would have read anything this forthcoming from the Russian media:

"The head of non-parliamentary liberal party Yabloko, Sergey Mitrokhin, speculated that Surkov’s resignation was the Kremlin’s attempt to shore up the unity of the ruling political elite, and that Surkov’s recent speech in London had undermined this unity. Mitrokhin claimed that Surkov’s departure was forced in order to demonstrate how dissent is intolerable, Interfax news agency reported.

"Other opposition and human rights activists also suggested that Surkov’s departure from the government was not voluntary. One of the leaders of liberal democratic party PARNAS, Boris Nemtsov, said that top Kremlin officials ousted Surkov because they now rely solely on law enforcement mechanisms to shape Russian politics.

"The leader of the ‘For Human Rights’ movement, Lev Ponoimaryov said that the resignation was a “warning signal meaning that the law enforcers have won,” and that Surkov was a victim of the system he helped to create.

"Political analyst Sergey Strokan has told RT that in his view, the resignation was a sign of changes that await Russia’s entire political structure."

I suspect that Mr. Putin has indeed been doing some "house cleaning" (in Stalin's era, we would have called it a purge), but the real question that I suspect is on everyone's mind is "why?"

Well, there is of course Mr. Surkov's call for a "two party" system in Russia, which sounds suspiciously like the "two party" system in the USA, a system that serves the ruling oligarchy very well, and also tends to polarize political culture into a fruitless left-right struggle. I consider myself, and wonder just exactly where in this bi-polar(yes I said bi-polar, not bi-partisan) system I fit: on many respects I am conservative, on many libertarian, and on many even progressive in a 19th century sort of way. The system leaves the political center, in other words, in a vacuum. It's utility to numerically inferior elites is thus quite handy, especially to elites trained in a long history of dialectical manipulation.  So when I contemplate the importation of such an inherently corrupt and dysfunctional system to Russia, I shudder; the Russians should too. (I mean, think about Russian versions of John Boehner, or Diane Feinstein, or Mitch McConnell, Harry whats-his-name, or Nancy what's-her-name: Ivan Behnerovitch, Diane Feinsteinovna, Mitch McConnellstenko, Nancy Pelosibichnev.... if you haven't run shrieking from the State Duma by now, you never will).

Ugh. Yuck.

Seriously, however, I think there is a geopolitical context in which this must be viewed. Recent actions by the BRICSA nations, including and especially Mr. Putin's Russia, have all the hallmarks of shoring up the domestic front for a long and protracted struggle, and we all know, I suspect, the target of that struggle. Indeed, if the Russian leadership is relying, as the article suggests, on "law enforcement mechanisms to shape Russian politics" (translation: FSB to round up dissenters), then I strongly suspect Russia is battening down the hatches.

I suspect, too, that this will be accompanied by more measures against the sort of covert operations and organizations that the West, and in particular America, has been using to sponsor "color revolutions" and other activities within spheres of influence that Russia has long regarded as its own. So once again, watch Mr. Putin's moves - domestically as well as internationally - very carefully. And again, beware the ever present temptation present in the West to view him or his ministers as merely neo-Stalinist throwbacks. If nothing else, the polish of the RT article alone should convince you otherwise.

See you on the flip side.