So while everyone was busy discussing the Panama Papers, it seems the Dear Leader President Putin has decided to consolidate several law enforcement organizations into one large “national guard.” Well okay, I shouldn’t get ahead of myself just yet. The presidential initiative has just been handed over to the Duma so there’s a chance that there might be heated debate and opposition:
Seriously though, the Kremlin has been saying some rather ominous things about this new force. Rather than sticking with a somewhat credible and more noble story about the need to protect against terrorism (very necessary these days), they’ve come right out and said that it would be involved in the suppression of unauthorized mass gatherings.
Yes, that’s right folks. Putin has superior approval ratings and the dwindling opposition consists of a handful of traitors and limp-wristed hipsters of the creative class, but at any moment that unpopular, marginalized group could suddenly rise up, turn into Nazis, and successfully overthrow the Russian government within a few weeks. Therefore, Putin needs this private army. By the way, can you believe how high is approval ratings are?! Russia loves Putin! But in case they don’t- private army. Oh yeah one more thing. Don’t go thinking the the president might not be entirely competent just because he apparently presides over a state which is so weak it could be overthrown at the drop of a hat by “degenerate” hipsters. Remember- private army!
This is all good fun, but in reality it shows that to some degree or another, the Kremlin is scared. There are things they, and in particular the FSO or Federal Guard Service, know and we don’t. If Peskov’s words were sincere and the national guard is about suppressing mass protests, it means they’re scared. If it is just another example of a trial balloon to intimidate the opposition, it still shows fear. Some dogs bark because they’re mean, but often they bark because they’re scared. Sooner or later, Russians are going to start calling the system’s bluff.
After everything that has happened since 2012, one would think that the Russian opposition would melt away. Almost totally frozen out of the media, extremely unpopular outside of Moscow with few exceptions, and with violent, in some cases fatal attacks against opposition figures, one would expect them to throw in the towel. But last February I saw that the cowardly intimidation campaign won’t work.
Putin, his circle, and the people who fervently support and maintain his rule are products of the 1990’s. They are largely rats, cowards who will go through any indignity to snatch some crumbs at the expense of their people. But what they failed to realize, for all their conceited delusions about knowing their own history, is that Russia may have its cowards but it also has people of unbelievable courage. This is the land that produced Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya and Viktor Leonov. People like them were a small minority, but their courage and endurance more than made good any deficiency.
The deluded pseudo-historians in the Kremlin camp love to invoke the supposedly legendary ability of Russians to endure any hardship for the sake of patriotism, but they are mistaken. They endure hardship, not humiliation, only insofar as the cause seems worthy. What humiliation or hardship could the Kremlin possibly inflict on dissenters at this point? They have slandered, harassed, tortured, and even killed- what more can they possibly do that Russians haven’t suffered before, often to a greater degree?
Credible information about Putin’s personal attitudes suggest that he sees Nikolai II and Gorbachev as weak, and that he believes he must be stronger than them. He also believes that the state is inherently legitimate regardless of its actions or the consent of the people. Given his support unwavering support of Yanukovych and more alarming, that he has for Assad, it’s clear that if threatened Putin will have no qualms about ordering his new private army to gun down Russian citizens in droves.
In that case, the price for Russia’s freedom will be high, but history tells us that there are Russians who will gladly pay it. While I fear and loathe the suffering that will inevitably follow this regime’s fall, there’s one small consolation about the violent scenario- Putin will never get to enjoy that $2 billion his friend squirreled away.