ON PUTIN AND HIS IMAGE ABROAD: THE RUSSIAN GEORGE W. BUSH ?
President Vladimir Putin of Russia is under increasingly critical western scrutiny these days. Drum roll please….:
“Kremlin Inc. Why are Vladimir Putin’s opponents dying?” – Michael Specter, The New Yorker
The Russians have expressed some concern on how Putin’s recent speech in Munich has been portrayed:
They should be concerned.
Russia’s siloviki political system is a carrot and stick machine for quiet, minimalist, authoritarianism that seeks to keep the masses of the Russian public complacently supportive while neutralizing intelligentsia critics (unpopular with the masses anyway), neutering the free press and preventing the emergence of any serious (or semi-serious) power blocs or public figures who might challenge the interests of the regime.
Normally, Russian hamfisted behavior at home and abroad raises more hackles than this but at the moment, much of the world’s intellectuals and political literati are obssessed with George W. Bush. The Bush administration soaks up a great deal of negative rhetoric and political energy both here at home and overseas. But as Bush’s term wears on and certainly by the time he leaves office, this enormous global resentment and capacity for selective outrage will begin casting about for new “villains”. This is not to say Putin’s regime is a good one or that Russia can be regarded as a democracy; it can’t. These are real issues to be addressed and not swept under the rug. But if you become highly exercised over Vladimir Putin, while being conspicuously silent over Robert Mugabe or Dar Fur, your moral calculus is in disarray
Putin will clearly be in that bulls-eye at that time and there will be a media stampede to push the already poor state of U.S.-Russian and EU-Russian relations over a cliff.