What Goes Around, Comes Around

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Just at the very moment when it seemed that all of society was rallying around United Russia, carrying out Putin's Plan and rescuing Russia from disaster, a single renegade emerged on the scene from nowhere. He turned out to be opposed to all of this.

First, this renegade demonstratively refused to join the party.

Second, on all the television news programs, he had the gall to question whether United Russia's program should be called "Putin's Plan" and whether Russia's future should be associated with one individual.

Third, he brazenly criticized United Russia by declaring that the party contained "a lot of crooks" who are clinging on to the party just for the ride and for material gain.

This renegade turned out to be none other than Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Putin's criticism of United Russia could apply to many people and groups, including the Za Putina, or For Putin, movement that announced its support for United Russia, and irrepressible Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov, who recently declared that he was prepared to give up his post to Putin if necessary.

But can Putin rely on these guys?

Only a few days ago, Mironov demonstrated his deep loyalty to his friends when he threw a few of them out of his party, A Just Russia, because a couple of low-ranking Federal Security Service officials pressured him to do it. Mironov, it should be remembered, is the third highest-ranking member of the government and a personal friend of Putin. He could just as easily have told Putin, "I gave these people my word and I can't let them down." What is remarkable is that, afterward, Mironov did not look at all embarrassed or upset about his behavior, but cheerful as ever. Is this a person Putin can trust?

The second loyal person is Federal Drug Control Service chief Viktor Cherkesov, who has also experienced some unpleasantness. His right hand man, General Alexander Bulbov, was arrested during a bitter turf war with competing security groups.

After Bulbov's arrest, Cherkesov became very anxious, wondering if this was a signal that Putin was actually dissatisfied with him. Putin did give him a mild scolding, but that was the end of it. What a relief for Cherkesov that Putin did not have any serious issues with him. It must be great to have such loyal guys around like Cherkesov on whom you can always rely.

Several of Putin's offhand comments indicate that he knows perfectly well what United Russia and its people are all about. But the president drove himself into this trap by putting all of the levers of control in the hands of one person -- the president.

One of the problems facing Putin now is that he has no loyal friends who can keep his presidential successor in check. Take General Bulbov, for example. During the Tri Kita smuggling and tax-evasion investigation, he wiretapped high-ranking officials in the FSB and the president's administration. He may be a true-blue soldier and security agent, but this is not so important. What is most important is that this general, who obediently eavesdropped on the highest-ranking members of the administration, was clearly carrying out Putin's orders, not Cherkesov's.

In the end, the very people who were the subject of Bulbov's eavesdropping turned around and sent him to prison.

What does all of this mean? Two things. First, no one will now agree to carry out these types of orders from Putin. Why would they, knowing they could be easily betrayed and sent to jail?

Second, if a leader treats his subordinates like lowly toadies and is willing to betray and dupe them, he will never be able to build a group of truly loyal and devoted people around him. There is a steadfast, universal rule: People will not be loyal to a person who is himself disloyal to others.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.