[ROLEPLAY]The Rise of Zhukov Petrovich
"The Russian Federation is a stagnant nation. Capital comes flowing in, and instead of putting it back into the economy, the government wastes it on military production and purchases. None of it goes directly back to the people, despite the fact that the economy is growing. It all remains concentrated, and modulated, by the hands of our government. As Minister of Finance, this trend worries me – we have no clear forward, and our attempts to diversify our economy have been slow. The answer is clear, and that's removing most if not all restrictions on the economy. Expansion of the markets, and thus capital within the Russian Federation, can only come once the economy is no longer constrained by the hands of the government. Looking forward, working with the European Union is the only way to end the burdening financial crisis that our nation has. The President may hold a radically different view, but I see it that there is only one way forward – and that is through the might of our business men."
~ Zhukov Petrovich, spoken at a Bureaucratic-Fundamentalist Party conference weeks before Alexia Kozlova's resignation…
"I'm probably stepping on a lot of toes," said Zhukov, straightening his tie. "I know how they can be."
"Don't worry, I think you’re doing a fine job. We haven't had a voice of reason like you in our nation for years." Spoke one of Zhukov's colleagues.
"They all see me as an oligarch," said Zhukov while putting on his Armani watch. "This nation is just inhibited by our nationalism and poor reverence of business men."
"You’re the Minister of Finance, they'll see you as a man with experience." Said his colleague, "besides, at the very least, they won't see you as a politician."
"But look at Alexia… How am I supposed to compete with that? She brought Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan back into the Federation, she 'liberated' Minsk and Eastern Ukraine. Now she's making talks with Armenia. Plus, she is pretty. She is the wet dream of every nationalist in this country." Said Zhukov. "I just, I need to get into a position where I can do what I need to do. Right now, she blocks everything I'd like to implement." He continued to comb his hair in his mirror.
"I trust in you to be level headed, and that you will do what needs to be done. You know how I feel about her, blocking your policies during a recession. I don't think she is fit." Said his colleague.
"I know," said Zhukov, "If she'd just listen. She's finally coming to a meeting soon, maybe she'll listen to us."
"I don't think she will." Said his colleague. "She's bullheaded. We've tried before."
"Well, if she forces our hand in this, then so be it." Said Zhukov. "I'll be heading off for the dinner, have a good night."
"You too, and try not to talk down to them," said his colleague with one final piece of advise. "Talk to them like you work for them."
The whining engines of the plane groaned while they descended through the clouds, the turbulence shaking the creaking fuselage. Storms of sleet and snow had been rolling over Moscow over the past few weeks, and it wasn't letting up. The city was characterized as quite dreary by this weather, but at the very least, thought Alexia, they would be getting snow soon. The plane descended closer and closer to the ground, with the runway coming into view through the cloudy skies. The plane landed roughly on the tarmac, speeding down with flaps roaring through the wind.
What a landing, thought Alexia. Sometimes she wondered if she would be the next Smolensk incident.
“How was Minsk?” Asked an adviser of hers, greeting Alexia at the airport.
“It was great, my first time seeing the city. There Zacirka tastes wonderful.” Said Alexia. The visit was a success; the crowds were delighted to see her, and they had begun drawing up plans to rebuild the economic stagnation the eastern side had incurred under NATO occupation.
“Glad to hear you liked the city,” said the adviser, “the Mediterranean Republic responded to your statement while you were on your flight.
“Oh, what did they say?” Alexia knew what the answer was, the status quo for the last decade had not changed. They were going to continue the offensive.
“I have it printed out here,” said the adviser, reading off a piece of paper, “’Actions of a few protesters that have strayed in from pro-Russian regions do not represent the beliefs and desires of the people. There are few and far between unsubstantiated reports of anti-NATO action. The operation will proceed.’”
“A few protesters stopped a NATO invasion?” Said Alexia, sarcastically.
“I don’t think they want to call them insurgents.” Said the adviser, “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is waiting on your comment, miss.”
“Don’t worry about it for now, we will say something later. They aren’t going to be stopping the invasion, clearly.” Said Alexia.
“Understood,” said the adviser. Her guards quickly ushered her into a car, and sped off, away from the airport. She had an important meeting today, with the Minister of Finance wishing to speak with her. He had previously written a strong worded email to her, in response to her shooting down some of his plans.
I have given your proposal a lot of thought, although, I think there are aspects that need to be fixed. It's important to realize that the Federation is growing only because of the end of sanctions between the European Union and the Russian Federation. I think you are somewhat aware of this yourself, but I think it's best – for the people – that we go along with the European Union's idea, and use that wealth to expand our own economy. After all, if you remember, the Soviet times only led to a catastrophic stagnation within the Russian Federation, and while I understand your fiscal and other policies are too try to keep the market under Russian control, I think you are cutting off the potential the Russian Federation has with the European Union. More so, your policies on more, moralistic topics are inhibiting the freedoms of the Russian people. You know I hold this stance, and as a former business men, I am fully aware of the consequences of renewed sanctions. Do not become another Gorbechav, Ms. Kozlova.
Alexia quietly read the e-mail, sighing to herself. Zhukov Petrovich had done the same before, push for his own policies to be implemented across the whole Russian economy – albeit many of them weren’t cohesive enough to pass through. She could understand why Zhukov was worried for the economy, and the views that he held on many things, but his smugness irritated her. He was a true Bureaucrat, him being the head of the Bureaucratic-Fundamentalist Party was a testament to that. He could be in any position and influence those above him or below him, and get what he wanted done – but under her presidency this didn't work. So, Zhukov's economic super corridors and modernized subsidy schemes never went through. His theoretical, buzzword plans were all stopped, because they were nothing more than neatly put together words. While he was useful in his position, he was becoming more and more upset with Alexia and difficult to order around. And she had tried working with him, under her terms, yet he wouldn't budge and refused to change his perception. So, to try to get Alexia to listen to him, he would write rather strong worded emails like that, trying to beckon her into giving in as if she was afraid of going down on the wrong side of history. So arrogant, thought Alexia.
She had tried finding a replacement for him years before, but no one ever fit the job. He was a cunning character after all, something needed in the Ministry of Finance. So despite her disagreements, she kept him along – and he was quite the person to have around much of the time. It was just his arrogant inhibitions that got in the way of him working cohesively with other people. And now, presumably, he had invited her to this meeting to berate her on not pushing through his policy. He had done this before, and was willing to argue a point to his deathbed, so Alexia had found that ignoring them was more effective. Of course, she had to pay him some attention, otherwise that would be rude. He was her colleague, after all, and despite her distaste for him he had many qualities that she liked.
Maybe, if she could distract him from talking about politics, this meeting would go swimmingly. But, considering that email, she was sure he had plenty to say to her. Oh, so be it, thought Alexia. He can complain all he would like, if he really needed too.
Alexia’s car stopped in front of the building that Zhukov spent his time at, in part due to the fact that the financial company he had inherited from his father operated there. He was a young, cunning, and proper oligarch, thought Alexia as she entered the shimmering glass building. A receptionist led her upstairs to Zhukov’s conference room, where she saw him sitting in an expensive suit and wearing an expensive watch. Very clearly, he liked flaunting his wealth.
“Hello Alexia! It’s so great to see you again!” Said Zhukov, jubilantly. It was a character he set up to make himself seem nice and welcoming, albeit Alexia enjoyed that fake character he made much more than his normal character.
“It’s nice to see you, Zhukov. I haven’t been in this building in a while,” said Alexia. She looked at his watch and said, “I see your doing quite well for yourself.”
“Yes, I am.” Zhukov replied, with a hint of hesitation behind his voice. “How was your visit to Minsk?”
“It was wonderful, we all had a good time,” Said Alexia, sitting down at the table.
“I see. And you’ve read my email?” Asked Zhukov.
“Yes I have,” said Alexia. She wouldn’t give him any hint of being bothered by it, since that only appealed to his perception of being persecuted by Alexia. “I can tell you why what you’ve proposed won’t work, I think it’s a smart idea – and I know a lot of other people feel the same as you do – but it simply isn’t applicable to our current situation.”
“And what do you have to say about that?” Asked Zhukov.
“Simply, what are we going to do if tomorrow, an assault is launched on the Belarusian Democratic Republic? Or Free Ukraine? This is why we maintain our armed forces, Zhukov.” Said Alexia.
“If we sought further détente, this would no longer be a threat.” Said Zhukov.
“You don’t know that. What if they, in future years, start calling Free Ukraine and the BRD impoverished, oh so poor, nations under Russian tyranny? The political climate could swing the opposite direction, and not in our favor. It’s best we rest with the current status quo.” Said Alexia.
“I don’t see eye to eye with you on that. They wouldn’t do that if our economies intertwined further.” Said Zhukov.
“I don’t think they are afraid to push sanctions once again if they feel like it,” said Alexia. “I value ties with the European Union as much as you do, but we don’t know what their intentions are. We have to be prepared for a situation where we have to fight, hand in hand. And as long as we are prepared for that, that situation will probably never arise.”
“They aren’t sociopaths Alexia. Listen, our nation has so many gaping holes, and our society has not progressed forward like the rest of the world is. We need to siphon that money towards moving the economy forwards, and expanding the per capita wealth of every person in this nation.” Said Zhukov.
“What about the progress we’ve already made? Wouldn’t you say we are moving forward?” Asked Alexia.
“I think the economy is key to expanding our nations potential.” Said Zhukov.
“I would agree.” Replied Alexia.
“But the only way to expand our economy is to expand the flow of capital coming into our nation.” Continued Zhukov. He was staunchly a business man, and by heart, he saw things like a business man.
“You see, the problem with that Zhukov is that capital can be cut off. It would be rather to maintain an export economy of commodities and manufacturing. That way we can be self-sustainable, for the most part.” Said Alexia.
“I’m saying that we bring in the flow of capital to fix the problems that we have in our own nation, and expand our base using that additional money. Like I said, right now were lugging along.” Said Zhukov.
“Just because we are in a recession doesn’t mean we are lugging along, and certainly the capital flowing in from Europe already will be put to good use. What are you trying to say here? We have already pursued closer ties with Europe.” Said Alexia.
“We spend so much on the Russian Army, Alexia, and we spend so much on useless utilities. Imagine what good it would do if we put that money elsewhere.” Said Zhukov. “Our government hasn’t properly treated it’s people, you know that Alexia, I think that’s what got you elected. But we still aren’t moving forward as a society, and I believe that capital is the only way for our society to not be the poorest on the European continent.”
“We aren’t the poorest on the European continent. In fact, many of us are quite well off. Especially you. Why do you keep talking about moving society forward?” Asked Alexia. He would try to be more dramatic with her, to appeal to a fear of policies possibly going down a slippery slope. But after all these years of working with Zhukov, she was well aware of how he operated.
“Alexia, why do we still repress gays? I understand you’re a female president, but you have to know that this nation isn’t free of its old inhibitions.” Said Zhukov.
“This nation isn’t about identity politics. Neither is this conversation, Zhukov.” Said Alexia.
“Well, now we are talking about identity politics.” Replied Zhukov. It was clear that he came to this meeting with the intention of talking about politics.
“My main problem with identity politics is that it forefronts new, several new identities among the national identity we already have. It’s about identity, not unity.” Said Alexia. “You know we have issues regarding identity in certain oblasts.”
“So that’s what’s stopping us? A fear of rebellious provinces?” Replied Zhukov, getting a little defensive.
“Once you open that box, it’s hard to go back.” Said Alexia. “This conversation wasn’t supposed to be about politics anyways, you can run in the election if you’d like, and we can debate it then.”
“I’d like to ask you to reconsider your policies on these matters. You’ve been quite tough, you won’t move.” Said Zhukov.
“There are others who agree with me that your policies aren’t the correct course of action.” Said Alexia. “I’m not changing my stance, Zhukov. I don’t know what you expect to get out of this.”
“I don’t want to have to do anything extraordinary Alexia, I like you. But you’re stopping this country from moving forward.” Said Zhukov.
“You sound like the damn European Union.” Replied Alexia. “What do you mean extraordinary?”
“I don’t mean anything, I don’t want to go against you. But I will if I have too.” Said Zhukov. He had been a very prominent member of the Bureaucratic Fundamentalist Party, which formed in a dispute with her. It was a long story. Regardless, he had already been going against her. And if he truly became a liability and interfered with the functions of the government, she would fire him. It wasn’t anything to be afraid of, so she wasn’t sure what he was getting at.
“You don’t need to go against me if you have different opinions, Zhukov. We are colleagues at the end of the day, our work relationship transcends politics. We can discuss this another time.” Said Alexia. Zhukov had a thing with pushing what he wanted done in every facet of governing, even when it was clearly unreasonable.
“This is far more important than you think, I hope you understand this.” Said Zhukov.
“What makes it important? The system of governance would have it emerge in the State Duma if it truly was.” Asked Alexia.
“You control everyone in the State Duma, nothing is ever going to get through.” Said Zhukov.
“I’m not here to talk about politics, Zhukov. If you have a serious issue that needs to be addressed, please tell me now.” Said Alexia, sternly. She began standing up to leave.
“You should reconsider,” said Zhukov, “don’t force my hand.”
“Force your hand?” Said Alexia, “What do you plan on doing?”
“Just reconsider.” Replied Zhukov.
“No.” Replied Alexia. Zhukov’s fists clenched. That was one thing Alexia knew about Zhukov, he had a hard time restraining himself when things didn’t go his way. In a twisted way, she had fun watching him like this.
She walked out of the room without another word. She was finished with this conversation.
“The damn bitch wouldn’t listen to a word I said. Not a single word. She won’t consider any of our policies.” Said Zhukov in a quiet room. “Fuck! I didn’t want to do this.”
“It’s her choice then.” Said another man in the room, sporting an expensive suit like Zhukov.
“Yeah, well, what if this goes wrong? We already know she’s bullheaded, what if she’s too bullheaded?” Said Zhukov.
“It won’t. I’ve seen it all before, they always capitulate.” Said the man.
“I hope your right… I don’t want to be arrested, you know. We’re putting a lot on the line here.” Said Zhukov.
“That’s why we’re looking to get support from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, you know. You see why now?” Asked the man.
“Are you kidding me? Anybody who works for anything involving violence loves her. I assure you that the Internal Affairs, and the Ministry of Defense, will do anything she asks them to. Even committing mass suicide.” Retorted Zhukov.
“I think there is something that would make you think otherwise. We just have to be… swift and efficient in our planning.” Responded the man.
“Right. I’ll leave that up to you,” said Zhukov, pinching an imaginary piece of lint off his suit. He paused, and looked at the man in the eye, “please, do not mess this up.”
“I won’t, you should know you have nothing to worry about.” Said the man. “Don’t be paranoid.”
Zhukov felt rather distasteful to Alexia, threatening to go against her. That would only interrupt the functions of her administration, there really wasn’t a point. He could try and compete with her in the upcoming election, but she had popular support. What would he be getting at then? Was he just trying to antagonize her? Alexia didn’t understand him sometimes, he just acted strange. Perhaps it was just another part of one of his mind games. He should have learned by now that those never got him anywhere. The man was a true Bureaucrat, he could be in any position and convince those above and below him to do his bidding. But, Alexia wouldn’t fall for it – and she knew that enraged him.
Today the Minister of Defense had invited her to a meeting in Kruznetsky Most, at the headquarters of the Federal Security Service. It was a secluded, relaxing place to meet, away from reporters and hooligans on the streets. She hadn’t been informed as to what it was about, but she always enjoyed working with the Defense Minister. He, at the very least, held loyalty to Alexia. That was something that she valued the most. She realized what set the Defense Minister apart from Zhukov. Zhukov cared more about his social standing, and his work influencing the government, while the Defense Minister cared about his nation. That ultimately is what set them apart as individuals, thought Alexia.
Alexia’s car stopped in front of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service, and her guards ushered her into the building. They led her to a room deep within the peeling walls of the old building, where the Defense Minister and the Minister of Interior were waiting to see her.
“Hello Alexia,” said the Defense Minister, Koselov Yemelyanovich. His old face always looked judging and menacing. But, looks lied, since Koselov was perhaps one of the kindest people in her administration. During her conscription, nearly eleven years ago now, she had briefly served with Koselov. He was highly revered among all of the troops at the time, and upon her victory in the presidential election, she immediately appointed him the Defense Minister.
“Hello Koselov, it’s great to see you again!” Said Alexia. “You too, Alogrin.” She said, looking at the Minister of Internal Affairs.
“It’s nice to see you too,” replied Alogrin. “There is quite a bit to speak about today, so make yourself comfortable.”
“What is it?” Asked Alexia.
“Can I see your phone first?” Asked Alogrin. Alexia handed over her phone to Alogrin, who promptly took the phone out of the room. “Good, now we have no one listening to us. There are no cameras or microphones in this room, so you can talk freely.” Well, this sounded quite serious, thought Alexia.
“So,” said Koselov, “this is about the Bureaucratic Fundamentalist Party.” He paused, “As you know, the power they old rests in the fact that they are composed of high profile, and high ranking officials in the Russian Federation.”
“… Yes?” Spoke Alexia.
“To start, you’ve always been supportive of the Russian Army. You’ve always been a good, strong leader for this country. I think you’re the best president we’ve had so far, which is why elections have gone uncontested.” Said Kolesov. Alexia’s complexion twisted, she was confused as to where he was going with this. “But, you have enemies in Moscow.” She knew this, but it was all political. Surely no one had been, targeting her? No, that would be horrific to think. “Who?”
“Well, Alexia, I’ve been worried for you. You sure have made an enemy out of the Bureaucratic Fundamentalist Party.” Said Alogrin.
“They hate me.” Said Alexia, admitting the fact. She had been staunchly against them since their conception, and even played a role in revealing the vote rigging they were doing. But it had simply all been political.
“I think you know that the only reason they have power is the fact that they are composed of high ranking, high profile individuals. They have to do vote rigging to get seats in the State Duma, after all.” Said Kolesov. “If they needed too, they could try to make themselves a threat to get you out of their way.”
“All we are proposing is that we take precautions, just in case such a thing is to happen.” Said Alogrin. “But we need your permission.”
“What precautions would we be taking?” Asked Alexia.
“We would investigate the BFP, see who they are allied with, and keep a committee of individuals watching them at all times. If they ever step out of boundary, which they would have to if they wanted to try their luck at a coup, we would arrest those who do. All other infrastructure would be set up to counter a coup.” Said Alogrin. “We would have to wait to arrest them, of course, so we aren’t breaking the constitution.”
Alexia sat, her eyes staring blankly into space. “You think this is absolutely necessary? I don’t think spying on other political parties would resonate well with the public – were word to get out.” Said Alexia.
“I think it’s absolutely worth the risk, Alexia. They effectively control more than a third of the Ministries now, which is dangerous. That means they can manipulate things to their will. I know you are the only thing, at this point, blocking them from implementing what they want to implement.” Said Kolesov. “You’re effectively murdering all of their work.”
It was true, Alexia made sure that they didn’t get a firm grip on things. After all, the people didn’t vote them in – they voted themselves in. They would be nothing but catastrophe for the political system. But, spying on other political parties was still a pretty radical proposition. But, with people like Zhukov… Perhaps it was necessary. Perhaps, from China to the communist takeover in Turkey, she had let her biggest threat grow right under her nose.
“Go ahead, just don’t be explicit about what you are doing. Make sure information remains compartmentalized.” Replied Alexia.
“It’s best that you are prepared for the worst,” said Kolisev, muttering another line of his wisdom. “We’ll get started on it as soon as possible.”
Zhukov paced around the room, talking with an old, frowning man. “Lukoil would only see an increase of revenue if we do this.”
The old man grunted, looking down at Zhukov like he we’re a child. “I don’t want to get arrested over your pipe-dreams.”
“They aren’t pipe dreams, do you think Alexia is comfortable with you sitting on all of this money?” Asked Zhukov. “She hates oligarchs, that’s why she hates the Bureaucratic Fundamentalist Party.”
“And you won’t be any different? I remember you talking about pumping money back into the economy. You sound just like her.” Said the old man.
“I was talking about brining capital into the country through working with our corporations, not controlling them.” Said Zhukov. “If you give me your support, as many others already have, you will only get more benefits in the end. With or without you, this is happening – only you can make the process easier.” That last piece of information was a lie, he needed the head of Lukoil to support him. The amount of cash he was swimming in would only help them move forward with their plans.
“I will think about it, but you should watch yourself. You seem to be over-confident in your abilities.” Said the old man, frowning at Zhukov.
Zhukov paused, he didn’t want to say anything, otherwise this work of persuasion would be ruined. “Were both dealing with the same issues,” said Zhukov. “Both of us are inhibited from doing what we’d like to do, I think you understand that yourself. Should you help me, never again will our work be stopped for no reason.”
“I think she has a reason to stop what we are doing, although I don’t agree with it.” Said the old man. He stopped, and thought… He had seen it all before, in nineteen ninety one and ninety three. At this point, he didn’t care. He might as well have Zhukov on his side, rather than against him.
Zhukov, in his great benevolence, said, "I guarantee you will be protected. You will have priority over Gazprom and Rosneft."
"I thought you were supposed to be a saint, Zhukov, now you are bribing me?" Said the man. It was better to have somebody fear you if they can't respect you.
"Your funding will go very far, we will be indebted to you. And you know that we can't just cut off Lukoil," said Zhukov.
"I'll give it thought." Said the old man. "I think, I know of a few things that could help you – and might surprise you."
Zhukov's complexion twisted, now he was seriously considering sticking to his word with this man. Perhaps it was worth it.
One week later…
In parade fashion, the battalion large mass of soldiers shouted at the top of their lungs. The roar filled the air, and rattled her bones. Alexia had been invited by Kolisev to attend this ceremony in the Red Square, it was a relaxing separation from the stresses of her work. Albeit the weather was still characterized by sleet, she felt comfortable here. It was a nice reminder that, in the face of things unfolding, she was backed by the Russian Army. A force to reckon with, for sure.
“Have you found anything yet?” Asked Alexia.
“Yes, I have.” Said Kolisev. “I’ll tell you now.”
“What is it?” Asked Alexia.
“We’ve found that Zhukov Petrovich, the Minister of Finance, has been laundering money out of the Federation.” Said Kolisev, bluntly.
Alexia was shocked. Zhukov was well known for being boisterous, and sticking his affairs in places where they shouldn’t be, but at the very least she thought he was smart enough to not do that. “How much?” Asked Alexia. She put her hands through her hair, a natural reaction to stress.
“Upwards of $250 million.” Said Kolisev. “We were able to trace the accounts back to Texas, Switzerland, and Panama.”
“Jesus Christ,” said Alexia. “Have you arrested him?”
“No, we we’re going to wait for your word.” Said Kolisev. “I know the BFP will use his arrest to act as if they are being persecuted, he’s quite the figurehead in their party.”
“Do it, they can whine all they want, and they will. But they can’t break the law.” Said Alexia. Perhaps she should have found a replacement for the Minister of Finance sooner.
“Ok, I will do it.” Said Kolisev, looking at the marching troops before him.
“I’m starting to think, with all the trouble this party has been, that we might as well dissolve it all together.” Said Alexia.
“You could, that would be the quickest way to end this.” Said Kolisev. “But you’d probably have the heads of Gazprom and other companies throwing a fit, we might even have to arrest them too.”
“No matter what we do, they always find a way to make themselves trouble.” Said Alexia. “They are like Iraq.”
“I think it’s safer to avoid direct confrontation with them,” said Kolisev. “It’s best for us to wait for them to lose momentum, long as we are prepared for any coup, there isn’t much they can do.”
“They could still try and cause damage,” said Alexia.
“But they won’t, because they are Oligarchs. They are too worried about their own holdings to sacrifice them over an ideology. I don’t even know if they have a cohesive ideology, I think they just decided to band together after United Russia dissolved.” Said Kolisev.
“Just get rid of Zhukov, please.” Said Alexia. “He has always gone against the grain, I can see that he’s willing to try to do things that could get him arrested, just to expand his power.”
Alexia smiled at the passing troops, and shivered in the cold. They could continue this conversation elsewhere, perhaps over a cup of coffee – or something warm.