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President Vladimir Putin of Russia is under increasingly critical western scrutiny these days. Drum roll please….:

Post-Putin” By Steven Lee MyersNYT Magazine

The Putin Era in Historical Perspective” (PDF) –National Intelligence Council report

“Kremlin Inc. Why are Vladimir Putin’s opponents dying?” Michael Specter, The New Yorker

“Who’s killing Putin’s enemies? -Part I” and “Part II”Michael Specter, The Guardian Observer Magazine

“Seven Questions: Russia’s Cloaks and Daggers ” –Foreign Policy

Europe wary after Putin tirade” – The Daily Telegraph

Russia’s Managed Democracy” by Perry AndersonLondon Review of Books

The Russians have expressed some concern on how Putin’s recent speech in Munich has been portrayed:

“One Cold War Was Enough” – Foreign Minister Sergei LavrovWashington Post

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.

Hat tips to Dr. Diane Labrosse of H-Diplo and Stan Reber of the SWC

4 Responses to “”

  1. A.E. Says:

    I wouldn’t exactly call him the Russian George W. Bush. He’s very popular in Asia, specifically with the bloc China is trying to construct, all oriented around the principle of “non-interference”–aka “stop talking about my human rights abuses.”

    But I think you’re right in that if American power wanes, Russia and China will suddenly find themselves hit with massive image problems.

  2. Dave Schuler Says:

    What with the assassination of Russian journalists and the footprints leading back to Putin, “minimalist” seems a bit of a gloss.

  3. mark Says:

    Hi a.e. & Dave,

    Ha! I’m too harsh and too easy, all in one post.

    Well, it is certainly minimalist in the Russian historical context. I would also assume that some of these murders trace back to Putin but others are “freelance” by mafiya factions – either to curry favor or cause trouble.

  4. Klaus Says:

    I think it’s fair to focus on malevolent leaders that wield considerable power over those that do not. So while Bush and Putin can and do mess up other countries, most dictators can only mess up their own.

    Emotionally, they should be treated equally, that I agree with. But who wants emotions anyway?

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