Thursday, September 15, 2016

Terrorism against Putin Regime Now Extremely Unlikely, Berg Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 15 – Those who remember that in the final decades of the imperial period, “Russia was the motherland of political terror” and led the world in terms of the number of terrorist incidents, sometimes wonder why there is no terrorism directed against the Kremlin in Russia today, Mikhail Berg says.

            “Of course,” the Moscow commentator says, “there are terrorist acts” in Russia, but in almost every case, these are events which the powers that be exploit and profit from rather than feel themselves threatened into making any concessions, despite the precedents of Russian history (

            If one compares the late imperial period with Russia now, Berg continues, “the chief distinction” is that “the much vaunted Russian maximalism has become less by several orders of magnitude.” Russians now simply don’t want to “sacrifice themselves” and do not display “the idealism and puritanical qualities” of the Russian opposition of more than a century ago.

            One can’t even imagine, he suggests, that some Russian billionaire or intellectual leader “would even organize a fund for the struggle with the Putin autocracy,” let alone sacrifice their own lives or those of their families by participating in what would likely be the suicidal act of terrorism.

            Moreover, Berg says, “that very level of conformism found no less now than in Soviet times is extremely distant from any support of radicalism. Even the most well-known opponents of the regime don’t support the ideas of lustration and holding the Putin elite responsible for Putin’s crimes.”

            There is “a simple reason” for this, he continues: “They do not want to get into fights” with those in or close to the regime and with whom they feel more kindship than they do with the lower orders of the population. Some of them may even be “double agents” like Azev or Father Gapon. After all, some of those now fighting Putin “created smokescreens for Yeltsin’s privatization and found it easy to praise Putin before” the protests in 2011-2012.

            Such people are thus far less pure than their tsarist antecedents, Berg says, and feeling at least partially involved with the regime, they are less likely to consider radical measures like terrorism.

            “No less important” is the fact that “the Bolsheviks became followers of the Bolsheviks who thus ruined the reputation of the radicals for a long time, although memories about the Narodnaya volya and SRs were more measured. But Putin’s opponents in their younger years found it easier to accept Dzerzhinsky than Zhelyabov.

            Another reason that anti-government terrorism is less likely, Berg says, is that “political terror has an international reputation very different from what it was 100 to 120 years ago. Then, many people viewed terrorist actions against officials as at least understandable if not something they approve of. Today, most people view it as the work of dangerous “marginals.”

            And in addition to everything else, he argues, “the theory of liberalism presupposes peaceful protests whereas it considers an armed struggle as dangerous for the status quo of the civilized countries.  Putin, ISIS, and Kim Chen Un represent challenges to the international order, but terrorism is not accepted by many as a means of undermining of removing them.

            The West’s “refusal to supply lethal arms to Ukraine, the effort to make friends with Putin in Syria,” Berg says, “and the readiness to classify as international terrorists all who do not want to passively accept the force of the large against the little all show that political trror hardly likely will be viewed as legitimate in the legalistic West in the near term.”

            Given all this, Russia may export terror to others; but it is unlikely to see any real anti-government terrorism domestically, Berg concludes.

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