Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Is Putin Lowering Political Temperature in Russia after He has Done So Much to Boost It?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – Yesterday, Vladimir Putin told a group of young Russian IT specialists that they should not become “hurrah patriots” or call their opponents “enemies,” an apparent effort to lower the political temperature in Russia that the Kremlin has been doing everything it can to elevate.

            That raises the question: Is this a real change of heart on the part of the Russian leader who may be fearful that he has created a monster by his own propaganda efforts and who now wants to cool things down at least a bit to avoid a popular explosion or to give himself more flexibility in dealing with the West?

            Or are the Kremlin leader’s words simply another part of his propaganda campaign, a clever stratagem designed to allow Putin to present himself as more responsible and even decent than some of his countryman and thus to permit his defenders at home and abroad to dismiss attacks on him based on his other comments as misplaced?

            One speech does not allow for any certain answer to these questions, but because in Russia today, almost everything depends on Putin, his comments yesterday may prove significant either as a turning point toward a new set of policies or as a cover for even more offensive actions in the future.

            Speaking to a group of young IT specialists in Klyazma yesterday, Putin faced a number of questions about Russia’s “struggle with the US and the countries of the West,” RBC said in its report about the meeting (

            Asked whether Russia needed to establish “an alternative” to IT systems in which the West has a lead, the Kremlin leader said “we do not need to create any alternative. We do not need to catch up and surpass anyone.” Instead, he said, Russia must “take the best and move forward more rapidly than our competitors.”

            “Let’s not talk about enemies,” Putin said, continuing what the Russian news service described as his “peaceful line.”  “Let’s speak about competitors and opponents. Words create a definite dynamic,” he continued; “let us refrain from extreme ones.”  To be sure, Putin added, Russia’s “opponents” use their advantages in IT “for political goals.”

In response to a question about emigration by Russians in general and Russian IT workers in particular, the Russian leader said “one must not simply be hurrah patriots and say ‘no, stay here; don’t go anywhere, and describe anyone who leaves as a wretch or a traitor! Nothing of the kind. The world is enormous, our country is free, and an individual has the right to live and work where he wants.”

But if the president’s responses pointed in one direction, the words on the posters in the camp, in the best tradition of the Seliger camps organized by the Nashi movement of which this year’s gathering is a continuation, were somewhat different, according to the Russian news agency.

Among Putin’s lines on the posters, it said, was one declaring that “a feeling of civic responsibility, duty, patriotism, kindness and mercy always are our primary values.”  It noted that the RBC correspondent was able to find quotes from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and some other Russian leaders but not from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.


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