‘Golden age’: Philippine and Russian versions

 ‘Golden age’: Philippine and Russian versions

At the recent Ukraine Defense Consultative Group Meeting in Germany hosted by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III, NATO countries and their allies resolved to provide heavy armaments to enable Ukraine to push back against President Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression.

NATO believes that Ukraine could win the war against Russia. NATO now accepts that what is good for Europe is for NATO to enable Ukraine, not only to push the Russians back across the border but to degrade the Russian armed forces to the point they cannot invade another country. For the long-term peace of the world, the Russian armed forces must be degraded, so it could no longer invade another country. NATO also seems to have taken Putin’s repeated threats of the use of nuclear weapons in stride.

After the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union disintegrated internally, until in 1991 the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian Soviet Republics declared the expiration of the treaty creating the Soviet Union.

Smaller as it was, the Russian Federation that emerged nevertheless had the seeds of a promising state formula for ending dictatorship, economic stagnation, and ethnic strife that had debilitated the Russian people for decades. Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin presided over the transition to a fledgling new democracy that appeared to have a sufficiently liberal and democratic core of advocates and practitioners to make it a progressive and peaceful member of the world community. But the champions of democratic transformation did not protect the fledgling republic against the sleeper KGB termites that gnawed at its vitals.

It was too naive to think that the Soviet mind, a collective as well as an individual operating system, was extirpated automatically when the Soviet Union folded. It lived on unrepentantly in the minds of Soviet artifacts like Vladimir Putin who needed, as a matter of personal significance, to bring back the golden age of the Soviet Union.

Reversing democracy, it turns out, is not difficult to do. All that has to be done is to capture the pinnacle of power, using the very processes of democracy like elections and public opinion to get close enough and use the clinching techniques and resources carried over from the Soviet state to deliver the coup de grace.

This might look so esoteric to Filipinos watching a seemingly irrelevant and novel drama on the international stage. But Putin’s rise to degrade Russian democracy is no different from the return of the Marcos dynasty in the Philippines. Putin and his instant billionaire cohorts in the former KGB used their state offices and personas to sell off and privatize the state enterprises, facilities, and assets of the Soviet state, laundering and repackaging them as the instant capital of a new crony elite camouflaging under the new democratic dispensation.

The reversal of the 1986 People Power Revolution started when Imelda Marcos and her children were allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991, on the pretext that, in death, the old dictator was no longer a threat. The stewards of the newly restored democracy allowed the state to be corroded by the return of a queen that has fed, multiplied, energized, and marshaled the termite army to retake the country in the name of the illusory Marcosian golden age.

Only state coffers raided for private purposes can create the asymmetry in power and resources that can dislodge a democracy from its moorings. That is exactly what has happened since the birth of the Russian Federation in 1991. That is exactly what has been happening since the Marcoses were allowed back into the country.

It was naive to think that the people power revolt had instantaneously restructured Filipino patronage politics and strengthened Philippine political institutions. The Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary, along with the constitutional commissions, did not have the strength, resolve, and purpose to prevent the Marcoses and their allies — present and aspiring — from parlaying the Marcos hidden wealth into new blooms of a golden age from the half-burnt ashes of the Marcos dictatorship.

Many Russians, marinated in fake news, are cheering Putin, as their Filipino counterparts are cheering Marcos Jr. Vladimir Putin’s quest for the Soviet golden age, unless terminated by a caring world, will destroy both Ukraine and Russia. Filipinos, are lucky to have, on May 9, a shot at avoiding a similar path toward a discredited golden age. But will they take the shot?

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