Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Putin Counting on Short Attention Spans of Russians and Especially Western Leaders

Paul Goble


            Staunton, March 3 – In addition to his skillful use of disinformation and outright lies, Vladimir Putin counts on the increasingly short attention spans of Russians and everyone else to get away with his crimes be they the blowing up of the apartment buildings in Moscow in 1999, the Anschluss of Crimea in 2014, or the murder of Boris Nemtsov this past week.


            The Kremlin dictator is confident that with the onrush of developments, some of which he may be the author of, fewer and fewer people will concentrate on what he did in the past and more and more will insist that the past, especially if it is “cloudy,” should be ignored in order to deal with whatever is the latest horror.


            That is especially true when the number of people who expressed outrage in the first place is small and when leaders face multiple challenges, some of which Putin can promote, and demands from their own populations that they focus on what is most immediately important to them at any particular moment.


            Consequently, those who expect any event including the murder of Nemtsov to be a real turning point in Russia are likely to be disappointed, and the author of that murder – Vladimir Putin – is likely to ride out the relatively brief media firestorm and continue his aggressive policies at home and abroad.


            Those conclusions are suggested by a commentary offered by Igor Eidman who suggests that Putin, before deciding to murder Nemtsov in order to intimidate all Russians, carefully calculated the risks involved to himself and concluded that “there would not be any serious problems” for his rule (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=54F4939C4BC61).


            To be sure, Eidman says, he would have assumed that “several tens of thousands of intelligents with ‘threatening’ posters like ‘There are now words’ would march through the center of Moscow. They have no words, but he has the OMON, the FSB, the special units, and the professional killers.” Given that, “are these demonstrations threatening to him?”


            “Putin decided on this crime because he understood perfectly that there would not be a repetition in Russia of the history with the murder of Benigno Aquino which prompted the Philippinos to go into the streets and overthrow the regime of the dictator-murderer Marcos or of that of the scandal with the liquidation by the fascist militants of Deputy Matteoti, who put the Mussolini regime at the edge of collapse.”


            Indeed, Eidman continues, “the situation in Italy at the time of Matteoti’s murder very much reminds one of that of Russia today. Then in that country as now in Russia is being completed the formation of a fascist regime. After this murder, Italian society for the last time tried to stop fascism. This didn’t happen, but the Italians unlike [the Russians] at least tried.”


            In thinking about whether to murder Nemtsov, Putin undoubtedly concluded that “this will be a sensation of several weeks.” A few people will make noise and march around, but nothing will happen, he clearly concluded.  What remains to be seen is whether in this case the Kremlin leader might be wrong.


            Unfortunately, the evidence so far points in the other direction.  As Aleksandr Minkin pointed out, even the marches following Nemtsov’s murder attracted only tiny fractions of the population: only half of one percent of the residents of Moscow, for example, took part in the memorial protest march (mk.ru/politics/2015/03/02/zabud-pro-demokratiyu.html).


            Moreover, Putin’s ratings remain high, and despite shunning him earlier, Western leaders are rushing to meet with him or his minions in the name of reaching some agreement, behavior that builds him up in Russian eyes and makes any change in Russia or Russian policy much less likely (nr2.com.ua/column/alexander_shchetinin/Zabudte-o-peremenah-v-Rossii-91267.html).


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