At a March 16, 2022 on socio-economic support measures for Russia's regions, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the West was attempting to divide Russian society by employing those hedonistic Russian elites, who while resident in Russia had their hearts in the West, as a fifth column.
Some like the blogger Anatoly Nesmiyan aka "El-Murid" viewed Putin's outburst as a calculated and cynical attempt to deflect blame for the difficulties that Russia is encountering in Ukraine: " Putin, from his bunker, held another meeting with the TV. And he delivered a speech too. Everything is going according to plan, alas there is a 5th column that prevents its implementation. He didn't have to say anything. It's the same as always. The man is basically incapable of analyzing and admitting his own mistakes, miscalculations, and failures. He always has someone else to blame.
It was also a bit rich of Putin to excoriate the dolce vita of the elites. Putin himself personified the good life with his comprehensive karate classes and alpine skiing. His underling were merely copying him. Besides "You yourself set the example for them, it's you, who select such trash for state offices, so now all of a sudden to complain about the "mentally off" owners of villas and haciendas.Now you guys are living in what you've yourself created. You can only blame yourself, which you don't want to, we understand."
In contrast to Nesmiyan, Moskovskiy Komsomolets senior commentator Mikhail Rostovsky believes that the speech disclosed Vladimir Putin's long held beliefs that he hitherto had to soft-pedal and camouflage. Now he feels himself free to give his voice to his true feelings and set the tone for the rest of the country. The goalposts in terms of what is permissible and what is impermissible have been moved and Russian society has internalized the new reality. As for himself, Rostovsky intends to comply with the new standards, as he wants to continue as a journalist in Russia rather than emigrate and does not see himself as a Don Quixote. However, not as a challenge to Putin but in the realm of constructive advice, Rostovsky reminds the top leadership that the Soviet Union's defeat in the Cold War was not due to military inferiority, but to the fact that a closed system while displaying temporary staying power, eventually falls behind an open system.
Rostovsky's article follows below:
Putin addresses the leaders of Russia's regions (Source: Kp40,ru)
"The official titles of Kremlin events are sometimes deceptive. 'The Meeting on Socio-Economic Support Measures for the Regions' can one possibly expect to hear something truly exciting from an event with such a title? However, 'Vladimir Putin's Manifesto' was disclosed during the meeting. It was done in his new person as Commander-in-Chief of the active service, which has just defined the Russia's future for at least the next few decades.
"'The collective West is trying to divide our society using, to its own advantage, combat losses and the socioeconomic consequences of the sanctions, and to provoke civil unrest in Russia and use its fifth column in an attempt to achieve this goal...
"'But any nation, and even more so the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and will simply spit them out like an insect in their mouth, spit them onto the pavement.
"Let's face it, in the second half of March 2022 such presidential rhetoric is no longer perceived as something entirely new.
"Russia before February 24 this year and Russia after February 24 this year are two fundamentally different countries. Naturally, the people who reside in this state have remained the same. But the code of norms, rules, and traditions, which guided their lives has changed in the twinkling of an eye.
"As someone who desperately wants to continue working in his profession and within his native country, I feel this first and foremost by my own example.
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What topics are still allowed and should be talked about loudly, and what are no longer 'permissible, necessary, or useful,' were the issues of my reflection. Thinking over these issues I examine not only the official directives of Roskomnadzor, but also with a body of unwritten rules of conduct. This body has not yet been clearly defined by anyone, but on the instinctive level it already well understood our political and economic elite (and by the wider public as well).
"If such is the case: everyone understands everything without words, then why do I consider Putin's speech made during the meeting on socio-economic support measures for the regions to be such an important, one might even say, a watershed event? Because during this event, for the first time, the President's system of views on the further domestic political development of the country has been disclosed in its entirety.
"Putin now looks like a spring that has been tightened for a long time, then tightened still further (even though it seemed that there was no room for further tightening), and now it has uncoiled and burst out into strategic policy space. Putin no longer needs to restrain himself, to hide something lying in the innermost recesses of his soul. He is free. The moment for which he lived and ruled the country for the previous two decades has finally arrived.
"This fact is an explanation of the president's stunning frankness, both in terms of announcing the country's future course, and with respect to the terminology that he used.
'''Yes, of course, they will back the so-called fifth column, national traitors – those who make money here in our country but live over there, and "live" not in the geographical sense of the word but in their minds, in their servile mentality.' Well, I cannot recall that during the era before February 24, Putin openly used words like 'national traitors' in his public appearances.
"Certainly, in his own thoughts, he has been using such terms for a very long time (or even always). But externally they were all covered by various euphemisms for strategic reasons. Now the time for euphemisms and half-measures has passed. It won't be restored under the current president.
"' I do not in the least condemn those who have villas in Miami or the French Riviera, who cannot make do without foie gras, oysters or gender freedom as they call it. That is not the problem, not at all. The problem, again, is that many of these people are, essentially, over there in their minds and not here with our people and with Russia.' these are very interesting lines from the President's speech.
"These lines, which only at first glance resemble [Soviet poet Vladimir] Mayakovsky's famous words [in 1917] 'Eat your pineapples, chew your grouse, / Your last day draws near, you bourgeois louse!' and, in fact, have a completely different meaning.
"'I do not in the least condemn those…,' this is not just a figure of speech. Putin doesn't plan to liquidate the bourgeoisie as a class. He only intends to liquidate a part of it, the part that is commonly referred to as the compradorish, in other words, elite alien to the country's interests.
"Partially, the West has already graciously solved this problem for Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] by indiscriminately expropriating the notorious 'villas on the French Riviera'. Putin is dealing with the remaining part of the problem of 'nationalizing the elite' himself. The upper strata of the [Russian] society are openly put before the choice: do you want to renounce 'pineapples and grouse' (oops, excuse me, oysters and foie gras)? If not, be my guest! However, if you wouldn't enjoy the prospect of forceful change in diet, then don't you dare raise your hand and mouth off against the new strategic line of the 'party and government.'
"'Indeed, many countries around the world have long put up with living with their backs bent, obsequiously accepting all the decisions that come from their sovereign, looking up to it subserviently... But Russia will never be seen in such a miserable and humiliated situation, and the fight we are waging is the fight for our sovereignty and the future of our country and our children. We will fight for the right to be and remain Russia!' this presidential passage is quite important as well and replete hidden meanings.
"It outlines the parameters of what is permissible within the internal political struggle, for all those citizens of the Russian Federation, who have never owned a mansion in London, and, pursuantly, have no current reason to mourn such losses.
"The fight for sovereignty, for the future of our country and our children' implies a willingness to make sacrifices, to give up what was customary yesterday. And if someone is not ready to make sacrifices, he is either a whiner, a weak-kneed coward, or, worst of all, a 'national traitor.'
"Thus, I believe the detailed description of the principles on which Russian domestic politics will henceforth be predicated to be complete.
"On second thought, hold on. I still have one question. I won't repeat the platitudes about the utmost importance of democratic institutions, because I don't want to waste my time and yours. And, it is not my thing to play Don Quixote.
"Let me put it in a different wording that will be in the spirit of the very new Russian political era. The Soviet Union, as we know, lost the previous Cold War not because it was weaker than the West militarily. The Soviet Union was uncompetitive in the economic sphere and the internal political system.
"Closed systems can be effective for a certain period of time. But later they inevitably begin to lag behind. This statement is not a covert protest or a hidden criticism (as I stated earlier, I'm not Don Quixote). It is a statement, food for thought for the high levels of government."
Mikhail Rostovsky (Source: Mk.ru)
 Kremlin.ru, March 16, 2022, The citations in Rostovsky's article are taken from the official translation
 El-murid.livejournal.com, March 16, 2022.
 Mk.ru, March 17, 2024.
 The term arose in China to describe Chinese, who acted in the interests of foreign powers to serve their economic interests.