Streetwise Professor

May 7, 2012

A Baton in Time Saves Nine

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 2:11 pm

Russian OMON security forces cracked down violently on some pre-inauguration protests when demonstrators attempted to march on the Kremlin.  That’s bad, but what is more ominous to me is this completely unprovoked raid by OMON on a cafe (the Jean Jacques) that is a well-known opposition hangout:

This is clearly Putin sending a very blunt message. He is making it plain that he will use whatever means necessary to beat down the opposition.

This is repulsive, but it is an eminently sensible move for an authoritarian. As I’ve written before, the authoritarian has an advantage as long as any opposition remains fragmented, and people are unaware of how widespread opposition is. The authoritarian must prevent the opposition from building critical mass; if it does, the equilibrium tends to tip to mass protest and the fall of the authoritarian. Authoritarians fall when they are soft-Putin clearly believes that, and no doubt absorbed the lessons of 1991 very, very well.

By striking preemptively, Putin likely scares off enough people from showing public support for the opposition to preclude the formation of critical mass. If the threat succeeds, he never has to carry out a mass crackdown.

Put differently, a discriminating use of force today makes it unnecessary to use force indiscriminately tomorrow.

There is already an indication that it might work. Oppositionist Masha Gessen has said she will not participate in any more protests until Putin is gone. I’m sure VVP is happy to hear that.

Look for periodic renewals of the object lesson. For OMON to use just enough force to send the message, thereby scaring off enough people from the opposition to ensure that it cannot challenge Putin in any meaningful way.

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  1. Indeed, this is outrageous! The personnel of Russian security forces have no right to do anything other than sit quietly while peaceful protestors opposing Putin lob Molotov Cocktails at them!

    (note photo #9)

    Comment by a — May 7, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

  2. Can any one spell agent provocateur? Maybe, maybe not, but don’t doubt the potential: I didn’t know the bar in question served such cocktails.

    Comment by sotos — May 7, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

  3. OMON is active only when it outnumbers the demonstrators 10 to 1.

    Comment by So? — May 7, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

  4. The Sunday demonstration was truly a disastrous debacle for the opposition forces. Many will react like Gessen and not want to get their skulls cracked for a wretched country like Russia (Sobchak and Panfilova also refused to attend the demonstration), or will be opposed to the wanton use of violence on the opposition side (NTV reporters were attacked, police were mauled, property was vandalized). It became clear that the malignant forces of the maniacal Udaltsov are taking control from the mainstream Nemtsov forces. It was a mistake from the beginning to cooperate with neo-Nazis and like Udaltsov and the Communists, to say nothing of giving so much power to a crypt-fascist like Navalny. One would not have thought the movement could sink lower after watching the protest size drop so precipitously and Putin hold power so easily, but now they have done so. Their polluted ranks and lack of real leadership is fatal to their movement.

    Of course, Putin’s behavior is even worse. How can any sane person think that reviving the Soviet system which collapsed so spectacularly and utterly before the eyes of a slack-jawed world might be a good idea? Russians richly deserve the horrific suffering that now looms above them once again. Pity their innocent children.

    Comment by La Russophobe — May 8, 2012 @ 5:35 am

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