Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned on Monday that political steps in the wrong direction could throw Russia back to the volatile 1980s-1990s.
Putin brushed off criticism of his tandem with President Dmitry Medvedev in an interview with three national TV channels seven weeks before parliamentary elections scheduled for December 4.
“I would caution against saying that things cannot get worse. If we take two or three steps in the wrong direction, everything that happened then [in 1980s-1990s] could return in the blink of an eye,” Putin said.
The prime minister described the situation in Russia at the end of the 1980s as disastrous and cited a popular joke to stress his point.
“For instance: some people invite their friends to come over for a visit. When they arrive, the hosts ask, ‘Would you like to wash your hands with soap?’ They say that they do. The hosts reply, ‘Then you’ll be having your tea without sugar.’ The idea is that one could not afford to have both. People could only get the essentials – basic food products. There was rationing for everything, to say nothing of the monopoly in ideology and politics,” Putin said.
In Putin’s opinion, the wrong steps taken by the Russian leadership at the time led to the downfall and collapse of the country and created the circumstances that were behind the country’s dissolution.
“It was in this way that we threw out the baby with the bath water – the dirty water of an inadequate political system and an inefficient economy. We allowed the country to collapse. This was also a time when people said that things could not get any worse,” Putin said.
“But then came the 1990s: a total collapse of the social sphere, when we saw not only single enterprises but entire industries grind to a halt, along with delays in pensions, all kinds of benefits, military pensions and salaries (which were delayed for months), and rampant crime. We truly came close to a civil war. We shed blood in the Caucasus, where we sent air power, heavy equipment and tanks. We are still dealing with the problems that remain there – crime and terrorism – but thank God, the situation has changed.”
Putin said that elements of stability in the political sphere were of vital importance for Russia which has been emerging from a deep political and economic crisis for the last two decades.
Putin and Medvedev have backed one another to switch roles after 2012 presidential elections. Medvedev proposed Putin for president at the United Russia congress in late September, saying he was ready to serve as prime minister in case of Putin’s victory.