Now for something completely different-at least different than the subject of conversation here the last several days. Not anything completely different at all with regards to Putin and Russia.
After a day of silence, and a New Years Day speech that omitted any reference to the Volgograd bombings when delivered in the Far East of Russia, Putin made a hasty trip to the city. His delay was not quite as long as Stalin’s after the Germans launched Barbarossa, but it was weird that the US government made a statement before he did.
While on his visit, he announced that he would “annihilate” the terrorists.
He has been making the same threat since 1999. One thing missing this time was a threat to “drown them in the shithouse.” I guess he’s trying to keep it classy. Blunt, but classy. Or less vulgar, anyways.
The terrorist threat in Russia is less than earlier in Putin’s reign: nothing like Beslan or the Dubrovka Theater has occurred in recent years. But Dagestan and to some degree Ingushetia remain running sores with chronic bombing and assassinations, and periodically this spills over into Russia proper, with Volgograd being a target three times in the last months. Putin has threatened to annihilate. He hasn’t. The problem lives on.
The Russian response is predictable, and unlikely to be effective. Indeed, it is likely to be counterproductive. Further crackdowns in the Caucasus, including threats to carry out collective punishment on families. (Note the collection of DNA of Muslims, ostensibly for the purpose of identifying suicide bombers, but also very useful in matching bombers back to their families.) This has worked so well, hasn’t it?
In Volgograd, thousands of police swarmed over the city, focusing their attentions on migrants from the Caucasus and the ‘Stans. Such an indiscriminate approach will only stoke resentments. Moreover, it is particularly off-point because of the involvement of ethnic Russian converts in the last two bus bombings (one as the bomb maker, the other apparent as the bomber.)
Any government/administration/regime becomes stale and repetitive when in power for too long. It fashions its hammers, and sees everything as nails. Putin keeps pounding away, on economic policy, on terrorism. For all his pounding, the economy is stagnating, and his efforts to eliminate terrorism are stagnating too.
Or, to return to an old metaphor, Putin’s Hamster Wheel keeps spinning, on terrorism as well as the economy. Given that there is no credible mechanism for replacement of a stagnating-and failing-administration, the wheel will spin on and on. And that means that bombs will continue to explode in Russia.