Streetwise Professor

November 26, 2007

The Clampdown

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 10:58 am

It is hard to say which is more pathetic; the small bands of Putin opponents demonstrating in Russia, or the brutal, disproportionate response by the Putin government. We now know–as if further demonstration were necessary–that in Russia, “democracy” is “managed” with nightsticks and police batons.

What explains the ferocious response of the OMON (the Interior Ministry’s security force) to the minuscule and clearly impotent protests? It could demonstrate just how paranoid the Russian regime is, how fearful it is that any spark, no matter how small, could set off a conflagration. Or maybe Putin et al aren’t really that fearful, but see no reason to take chances.

And they will evidently pay no price whatsoever for these actions. That reveals what is truly the most pathetic thing of all: the utterly pusillanimous response of the US government, the EU, and the governments of individual European countries. Why shouldn’t Putin act this way? He has paid no price in the past, and likely will pay no price now or in the future. Now, to be sure, a more vocal–or more muscular–response to Putin’s actions would feed his paranoia, and provide more grist for his rhetorical mill (which has been working overtime as the Duma campaign reaches its climax, with a recent speech indulging in lurid fantasies about the nefarious designs of foreigners on Russia’s resources). And such a response will not derail Russia’s rush to an authoritarian future that is looking more and more like its past. But calling a spade a spade would have the virtue of honesty, and the softly-softly approach will only feed Putin’s disdain and will do nothing to moderate his behavior. Indeed, it will encourage only more adventurism.

Governments, no doubt, are more than a little influenced by the pleadings of business interests looking to get in on a Russian boom. These businesses are incredibly short sighted, for any government that beats peaceful protesters will not think twice about taking whatever foreign property that suits them. Or have they not been paying attention for the past 3 plus years?

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