Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Putin’s Telegram Ban Doing More than Western Sanctions to Divide Russian Elite

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 1 – Anger about the blocking of the Telegram messenger service has spread from rights activists to opposition leaders like Aleksey Navalny and to the millions of ordinary Russians who have become accustomed to using the Internet. But the most important group angered by this Kremlin move is a significant part of the elite, Igor Bunin says.

            The head of the Moscow Center for Political Technologies tells the URA news agency that portions of the elite also rely on the Internet, view it as important to the future of their companies and  their country, and could if the regime doesn’t change course join the other groups in protesting (ura.news/articles/1036274731).

            Bunin does not say but the implications of his remarks are clear: the Putin regime has suffered from a self-inflicted would that has divided the elite between those like Putin who are prepared to go back to the past regardless of the costs to the economy and the country and those who look to the future and know it rests not with the old economy but with the information one.

            And that in turn has the following implication, one likely to matter ever more if Putin doesn’t back down and quite possibly even if he does: his clumsy approach to blocking the Telegram messenger service has divided the elite on which he depends even more than Western sanctions have done at least so far.

            The Kremlin leader can play to patriotism in the face of Western actions, but his obscurantism in the case of the Internet will only infuriate those who hope that Russian can become something more than a raw materials supplier to the West and become a modern country. Against that appeals to patriotism will do little even among his own elite. 

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