By Francesco Sisci, March 14, 2012 —
I would like to thank The Economist, si parva licet compenere magnis, for the article "How to rig an election",  expounding on all Vladimir Putin did in recent months to win last week’s presidential vote in Russia. . . .
Russia has no democratic tradition to speak of. . . . Glimpses of freedom could be seen in Russia only in the 1980s with Mikhail Gorbachev’s famous reforms, and those were just these: glimpses fading into costly illusions, as Moscow lost its empire by pursuing a dream of socialist amendments. . . .
The real issue seems to be, can Russia change its destiny and stop being a geopolitical threat? Can it give up on the old and dangerous idea of a Czarist or Soviet empire?. . . .
Here the destiny of Russia once again crosses that of China. As Russia needs greater economic reforms and then political improvements, China needs the opposite: political reforms and then economic restructuring. Two weeks ago, a thick paper released by the World Bank called for drastic economic restructuring while also attacking the excessive power and monopolies of state owned enterprises (SOEs).  It was very strongly worded and cosigned by the China Commission for Reform of the State. In his speech on March 5 at the National People’s Congress (NPC, China’s parliament), Premier Wen Jiabao mentioned the word reform 70 times.  He has been very vocal in calling for political reforms in recent years. . . .