Putin Tightens the Screws — by Judith Levy

 

The always interesting Julia Ioffe has a chilling piece up at The New Republic about what Vladimir Putin and his associates have been getting up to back home while the rest of the world wrings its hands about Crimea.

Their moves include, among many others:

  1. Firing the editor-in-chief of Lenta.ru, “arguably the best news site in Russia”, and replacing him with a Kremlin loyalist. The entire staff resigned in protest. This follows Putin’s full-on assault just before the Olympics on Dozhd, the last independent television channel in Russia. Dozhd just announced that it will shut down as a result of that clampdown.
  2. Going after the Internet. The Kremlin banned access to opposition news sites, to the site of Moscow’s biggest radio station, and to the blog of anti-Putin cyber-activist Alexey Navalny, who is  under house arrest.
  3. Touting a vastly expensive “Trans-Eurasian Development Belt” that is in opposition to Western influence. Vladimir Yakunin, head of Russian Railways (the biggest company in Russia), explained the venture as follows (I used Google Translate on text from Lenta; native speakers please correct as necessary): “Western countries impose values that are alien to Russian values, in particular, economic development for the betterment of quantitative indicators. Under this model, the development of Russia is losing its inherent spirituality and morality.” This is not the first time that Yakunin has said the global financial crisis contains a moral element. This “new geopolitical economic cluster” is intended to combat that Western-imposed moral rot.

Pro-Russian and anti-Western sentiment is being expressed openly, fervently, and much more frequently — indeed, it’s coming so fast that Ioffe says she’s having difficulty keeping up with it.

She reports that regime-praising, anti-Western rhetoric is being ratcheted up sharply among Russian writers, artists and intellectual elites, many of whom are dependent on the Kremlin for grants. She describes elementary school kids coming home terrified after having been told by their teachers that America is going to invade Russia. A friend told her that Russian TV had just informed him that “the internet is for radicals and perverts” —which the friend interpreted as “a clear foreshadowing of a great firewall with the West.”

The picture is wider than Crimea or Ukraine, and it’s deeply unsettling. Ioffe’s conclusion:

Here’s what’s scary about this: this is all being done, according to various reports, without any consultation with anyone outside Putin’s shrinking inner circle of old KGB spooks. The economic elites most likely to suffer from a plummeting ruble and sanctions have been shut out of the decision-making process. This is all about intangibles, the things that reason can’t hook, the things impervious to logic and reasoning and even the cynical algebra of geopolitical interests. This is about pride and values and the Trans-Eurasian Development Belt.

And, yes, all of this is familiar and increasingly terrifying, but to whom? To you and me and an increasingly besieged island of Moscow liberals? Because, terrifyingly, familiarly, all of this works. The method has been tried many times, and it is true: Putin’s approval ratings have grown to their highest level in three years. Nearly two-thirds of Russians think there is no legitimate government in Kiev and that there is anarchy on the streets of Ukraine. Over half said that moving Russian troops into Crimea was legal; of those, two-thirds agree that this is basically Russian land. Nearly half of those polled said that a Russian presence in the area brings stability, and that Crimea should be brought into the fold of the Russian Federation.

What Moscow liberals are discovering is how quickly the ground has shifted beneath their feet since Putin came back to power in 2012, how futile and pathetic their resistance, and how easily wartime mobilization can steamroll them into nonexistence, in a way it couldn’t when Russia went to war with Georgia in 2008. This time, even their tiny Internet ghetto isn’t safe anymore. And its not clear that, once all this over and Crimea is safely part of Russia, that the regime will roll back these measures. In fact, it’s highly likely that it won’t.

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  1. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    What a bunch of clowns. These people have no idea what makes a modern economy. Reality will set in soon enough.

    • #1
  2. user_240173 Contributor
    user_240173
    @FrankSoto

    Marion Evans:
    What a bunch of clowns. These people have no idea what makes a modern economy. Reality will set in soon enough.

     Soon enough in historical timelines is not the same thing as soon enough in human lifetimes.

    This can drag on for a very long time.

    • #2
  3. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Frank Soto:

    Marion Evans: What a bunch of clowns. These people have no idea what makes a modern economy. Reality will set in soon enough.

    Soon enough in historical timelines is not the same thing as soon enough in human lifetimes.
    This can drag on for a very long time.

     That is true . They can cause plenty of damage before they crash.

    • #3
  4. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Ah yes, what is old becomes new again.  Now we see the what happens in the vacuum that Obama creates!

    • #4
  5. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Well thank goodness we put like 5 of Putin’s lackeys under sanctions that will show him! I was afraid our response was going to be timid and ineffectual. Putin is doing what all totalitarians do. He is threatening his neighbors and crushing any autonomy and resistance at home. I hope those Russian dissidents can get out in time before he just starts shooting them. I expect that in the next year or so Putin will announce a new Siberian development program, which will help relocate struggling Russians to new opportunities in Russia’s vast hinterland. That is if he even feels it is worth the effort to dissemble anymore.

    • #5
  6. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Frozen Chosen:
    Ah yes, what is old becomes new again. Now we see the what happens in the vacuum that Obama creates!

     FC,

    You have spoken the truth.  This could have been Obama’s moment of leadership.  In 2009 he had an opportunity handed to him on a silver platter to destabilize Iran.  Any outcome would have been better than the current Islamic Jihadist tyranny.  He stumbled uselessly and the opportunity evaporated.

    Now he has the opportunity to stabilize a new born democracy that has deep European roots.  He could galvanize the EU, England, & America.  The Chinese don’t like Putin because they know somewhere on the Russian time table pressure looms for the Chinese northern border.  They would at least remain neutral.  Europe and Western Civilization might find a rebirth of purpose in this.  One more foster child of a country won’t frighten Angela Merkel.  She already has Spain, Italy, & Greece.  The new kid might even give the old something to think about.  The Ukrainians aren’t interested in the lie of socialism.  The are ready to risk all for something new.

    It could be inspiring.  Wait…it’s the B Team at the controls.

    The B Team

    Not!!!!!

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #6
  7. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    One of my enduring beefs with Batman Return was the portrayal of the Penguin, artfully assayed by Danny DeVito, a genuinely repulsive figure, winning a mayoral race hands down despite making TV ads where he drooled copious amounts of black bile down his front while munching on a whole raw fish. Of course, as it turns out, Tim Burton was merely anticipating the Age of ACORN. And so it goes.

    The reset button, complete with badly blown translation and ex-FLOTUS SecState, was the perfect transition to what history will remember, dolefully, as the Burtonoid Age of Statecraft. An age where anyone can get their own iPod of Obama speeches from the TOTUS’ most notorious supplicant, if born to the House of Windsor.

    Good night Ted Baxter, wherever you are.

    • #7
  8. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Marion Evans:
    What a bunch of clowns. These people have no idea what makes a modern economy. Reality will set in soon enough.

    “But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead.” – John Maynard Keynes

    • #8
  9. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    And off comes the mask of A New Russia and we see the same old Imperial Russian scowl.

    Everyone from the Baltic to the Pacific should feel the chill.

    • #9
  10. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    Marion Evans:

    Frank Soto:

    Marion Evans: What a bunch of clowns. These people have no idea what makes a modern economy. Reality will set in soon enough.

    Soon enough in historical timelines is not the same thing as soon enough in human lifetimes. This can drag on for a very long time.

    That is true . They can cause plenty of damage before they crash.

     The lady who cut my hair yesterday is Ukrainian, while I couldn’t understand everything she said, she repeated over and over “this is a tragedy.”  She even pointed out the Crimea will be worse off back under Russia.  She is also afraid for her relatives over there.  The human cost will likely be significant. 

    • #10
  11. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    I reckon one last ray of hope is that poll that actually showed that a third of Russians think the current government in Kiev is legitimate, and half said it was not legal to move Russian troops into the Crimea, and that half said it was not basically Russian land.  We’ve got something to work with!  But how do we reach those people in an increasingly authoritarian, personality-driven government?

    • #11
  12. SallyVee Inactive
    SallyVee
    @GirlWithAPearl

    Great info judith. Posting from tablet, new site looks & functions beautifully on android.

    I find myself agreeing with bad vlad’s criticism of the west in his speech. We are craven arrogant self absorbed gun brandishing fools. And that is where my agreement ends. But that is sufficient material with which a ruthless megalomaniacal bully with clear objectives can swiftly prevail, with minimal consequences. Oh, except for the human cost. But humans are merely collateral objects in post modernia. 

    Well done, obama voters. Go get you some new bunny slippers and a latte to celebrate.

    • #12
  13. user_313423 Inactive
    user_313423
    @StephenBishop

    Guns before butter.

    • #13
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