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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin's Plan Is Hot (Just Don't Ask What It Is)

Putin's Plan is the talk of the country. Just don't ask what it means.

Since last summer, Moscow streets have been plastered with billboards declaring "Putin's Plan Is Russia's Triumph!" State television anchors mention the plan frequently in their news bulletins. United Russia adopted the plan as its campaign platform earlier this month. And the plan has even won praise in a rock song and ridicule in Internet jokes.

But ask anyone -- including United Russia -- to spell out the details of the plan, and the reaction is likely to be bewildered silence.

There actually are at least three separate documents titled "Putin's Plan."

The thickest is a book that includes Putin's seven annual state-of-the-nation addresses and three other speeches, including the sharply anti-U.S. presentation delivered at a Munich security conference in February.

The second is a United Russia booklet that contains a collection of patriotic appeals about Russia's sovereignty, economic revival and military might.

The third is the campaign program that United Russia passed at its convention on Oct. 1. Putin agreed at the convention to head the party's list of candidates for the State Duma elections Dec. 2.

The booklet and campaign program are largely digests of the book, said Lilia Kondratyeva, chief planner for United Russia's information policy.

"You should understand that Putin's Plan is in a broad sense an ideological doctrine that can be described in various forms," she said.

Indeed, the doctrine can be described in various forms, as proven by Koreiskiye LEDchiky, a rock band from Vladivostok that released a song titled "Putin's Plan" shortly after the United Russia convention.

The 14 nationalist verses of the song include the lines: "We are a superpower, and we will wash down Big-Blinis with Coca-Kvas! / Where is Europe? Give us first-class treatment! / The president is pleased. He sees Russia as a paradise, / Putin's Plan is top of the line. Isn't it hot?"

An MP3 recording and video clip of the song have been downloaded thousands of times from the group's web site.

But Putin's Plan hasn't stopped there. Jokes have flooded the Internet that make light of the fact that the word "plan" is also a Russian slang word for marijuana. One joke is a picture of a crumpled United Russia leaflet with a small amount of marijuana in the middle. Putin's portrait is visible on one side, with the headline "Putin's Plan."

Putin has not complained publicly about United Russia's adoption of his speeches for its campaign, but he expressed some discomfort with the practice during a televised call-in show on Oct. 18, noting that the speeches had been prepared by experts in the parliament and government.

"Someone decided to personify [the plan] and to tie it to the name of the acting president in the parliamentary race," Putin said. "This could be regarded as a PR tactic."

The president added, however, that "The plan itself is absolutely concrete and important for the country."

He said he had selected a main topic for each state-of-the-nation address, such as social development, a stronger military or an improved economy. "Each of these topics has [its own] midterm or long-term program," he said. "And I view all of them together as a strategic plan for the country's development."

The buzz generated over Putin's Plan has proved a perfect public relations ploy for United Russia, said Yury Korgunyuk, a political analyst at the Indem a think tank.

"Who will read the original 'Putin's Plan' of more than 300 pages?" Korgunyuk said. "It main value -- so cleverly exploited by United Russia -- is in its title. It tells voters, 'The Putin you like so much and who will never fail you is looking out for you.'"

United Russia jealously guards the strategy. Late last month, the party's branch in Ryazan filed a complaint with the Central Elections Commission over a billboard of another pro-Kremlin party, A Just Russia, which said, "Putin's Plan Is the Victory of Justice."

Documents and ideological cliches aside, Putin does indeed have a plan of how the country should develop, said Dmitry Orlov, an analyst with the Agency of Political Information. The plan, he said, envisions a two-party system dominated by United Russia, an innovative economy driven by big corporations, social justice and a sovereign democracy that blocks international influence from domestic politics.

While Putin's Plan may be the rage in some circles, only 6 percent of Russians feel they really know what it is about, according to a nationwide survey this month by the independent Levada Center. The other 94 percent could not explain the plan or said they had not heard of it. But -- in a PR coup for United Russia -- an overwhelming 58 percent of those polled said they believed Putin had a plan to make Russia strong and rich.

Ordinary Russians are far from alone in struggling to understand Putin's Plan. Even the television anchor who made the plan public for the first time in July strained to describe it.

"Vladimir Putin has been introduced to Putin's Plan," Pyotr Tolstoi, anchor of Channel One's "Vremya" news program, said as he began the segment on July 1. "This happened at his meeting with lawmakers from the United Russia faction. It seems to be a paradox, but there is deep internal logic to it."

Four months later, some United Russia officials still seem to be searching for the logic. A recent request to the party's press service to explain Putin's Plan led to frantic consultations between the press officers.

Finally, one of them said, "We can only tell you that there is no document called a plan and signed by Putin."