Massive Repression of the Prodemocracy Opposition May Begin Next Week
Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 43
In the last days before his seemingly inevitable reelection for a third 6-year term as president on March 4, Vladimir Putin aggressively attacked internal and external enemies. In the last of a series of seven lengthy articles Putin described his future presidential foreign policy agenda that seems to be almost exclusively about lambasting the United States as the main source of evil in the world. This program article was published in the Moskovskiye Novosti daily and on Putin’s campaign website. The other six articles were published in different Moscow daily newspapers. The resulting more than 40,000-word election manifesto is a hard read – an obscure and wordy text that hardly any potential voter bothered to study. Journalists and political scientists did of course read, but were not impressed, finding little substance or true novelty. As an election campaign measure the discrete marathon publishing of Putin’s election platform, beginning on January 16 and ending February 27 – one lengthy dull peace after another – most likely did not win many votes. As typical in authoritarian regimes, the text was conjured for essentially one reader – the official author himself, who seems to have been pleased by the result. The seven articles have been already bungled together and published in Moscow as a separate book that is being distributed to the faithful.
In the foreign policy article “Russia and the Changing World,” Putin accused the West in general and the US in particular of meddling in the internal affairs of states to induce regime change under the guise of “promoting democracy,” of destabilizing the Middle East by supporting “the so called Arab Spring” and inducing the anti-Putin opposition in Russia itself. Putin opposes any additional sanction on Iran or any sanctions against Syria. US interventionism is declared the main reason nations like Iran or North Korea may be seeking nuclear capabilities to essentially defend their sovereignty. The only true path to effective nonproliferation is, according to Putin, the containment of the US global threat (Moskovskiye Novosti, February 27).
In the Moskovskiye Novosti article and during a meeting with defense experts in the nuclear closed city Sarov, Putin continued to single out US and NATO plans to deploy ballistic missile defenses (BMD) in Europe as the main military challenge Russia is facing. Putin announced: “It is our national task, we are bound by duty to all mankind to keep the balance of strategic forces and capabilities [against the US] and their BMD plans imply we must make all needed efforts to maintain that balance as an element of international world stability” (https://premier.gov.ru, February 24, 2012).
Sarov (Arzamas-16) is a city north-east of Moscow with some 100,000 inhabitants. It is surrounded by barbed wire security fences and closed to common Russian citizens. Since the 1940s, nuclear weapons were designed and produced in Sarov. Putin chose the venue to announce that maintaining a viable nuclear deterrent against the US is a number one national priority and Moscow will not consider any further nuclear disarmament. Putin stated that the Defense Ministry and General Staff budgetary requests earmarked for building a new generation of intercontinental nuclear weapons aimed at the US has been financed “100 percent.” Putin accused the US of “just a few years ago” secretly spreading the word to their allies: “Russian [weapons] are all rust, they may finger around in the dirt, we do not care what they do. But now that is not so! Since 2008 we have deployed 39 new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), commissioned two new [strategic] submarines, 12 medium range Iskander rocket launchers and a wide range of other weapon systems” (https://premier.gov.ru, February 24, 2012).
Putin rejoiced the deployment of “10 new regiments” of Topol-M and Yars ICBMs that “can beat” the planned US BMD. “That’s not a joke!” he gloated. The chief designer of the Topol-M and Yars ICBMs, Yuri Solomonov, who was present in Sarov, told Putin that most of the declarations about the threat to Russian strategic nuclear forces posed by US plans to deploy BMD in Europe “are hearsay” and self-defeating. “I have designed ICBMs for more than 45 years and announce this absolutely officially,” proclaimed Solomonov and recalled the 1980s when the Russian military and political leaders with dire consequences took seriously President Ronald Regan’s “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). While the Soviet Union was spending billions inventing countermeasures, SDI plans turned out to be unfeasible. Solomonov demanded that in the future the assessment of BMD threats as well as proposals to possible BMD cooperation with NATO must be made by true specialists. Putin told Solomonov “thank you” without any further comment and continued his anti-American daydreaming, gloating that the new T-50 “fifth generation jet fighter,” produced together with India, “is almost complete and is emerging as more capable than the new US fifth generation jet fighters” (https://premier.gov.ru, February 24, 2012).
Gripped by paranoia and megalomania Putin is increasingly losing contact with reality. In Sarov, Putin stated that public opinion in Europe is changing, NATO is disintegrating and major European nations may soon turn against the US and ally with Russia. “The world is changing and Russia is actively building separate special relations with Europe,” announced Putin.
An aggressive foreign policy is coupled with preparations to quell opposition at home. This week, Putin publicly repeated that internal opposition demands for free and fair elections are “supported from abroad to destabilize Russia, using illegal soft power.” Putin announced, “The opposition is preparing to falsely declare the [March 4] presidential elections illegal and rigged.” Putin insisted he has information that during opposition protest rallies “provocations are being prepared” and that the opposition “will exterminate someone” of their own, that they are seeking someone “of the known people to appoint to be a holy offering,” to later blame the authorities. “These people can do anything, I am not exaggerating,” publicly stated Putin. The threat of a violent repression of the prodemocracy movement seems imminent and may begin next week. Putin demands the opposition must fully accept the results of a phony presidential election and shut up – “accept the will of the majority” – or else (https://putin2012.ru/events/337, February 29).