Staunton, December 18 – At his press conference, Abbas Gallyamov points out, Vladimir Putin tried to save the reputation of Russia’s special services out of which he sprung and on which he depends. But his attempt to do so has backfired, leaving him and them in a worse position than they were in before the Kremlin leader’s remarks.
When asked about the Navalny poisoning, the Russian commentator and former Putin speech writer says, “Putin did not try to show that the Russian special services aren’t involved with poisoning political opponents and that they work exclusively within the framework of the law” (currenttime.tv/a/abbas-gallyamov-navalny--putin/31007230.html).
That is what one might have expected, but Putin “did not say this.” Instead, he suggested that “had they wanted to poison him, they would have.” He thus said nothing about their staying within the limits of the law but only about how “effective” they could be and that whatever happened was what they intended to happen.
“Putin intuitively understands that what has occurred is a terrible shock to the reputation of the special services as an effective if horrible secret weapon,” Gallyamov continues. And he recognizes that their effectiveness requires that they operate out of public sight. Consequently, with their exposure in this case, he “tried to save the reputation of the special services.”
That is because Russia today is “already a police state” and the special services are “in essence the main political institution.” But more than that, the commentator says, Putin “understands that if he doesn’t do this and if people around cease to fear his secret police, then the regime will not be able to maintain itself.”
Thus, Putin was trying to send a message to the population: “Of course, the special services are effective. ‘If they had wanted to kill [Navalny], they would have.’ Those are his priorities.” He doesn’t want the current situation to change, and the secret police are the best weapon he has for ensuring such continuity.
But this unwillingness to change, Gallyamov says, is becoming a major problem because even those who back him are doing so not because they think he will improve the situation but rather in the hopes that the situation won’t become even worse. But such hopes do not provide any basis for optimism.
A few years ago, things were different, Gallyamov argues. After the Crimean Anschluss, “people believed in Putin sincerely convinced that he was improving the situation. Now, even those who are for him not to speak of the opposition do not connect with his name any hopes for the future.”
As the situation in Russia has deteriorated, Putin has fallen back on his early training. “He came out of the world of the special services: he is not an ordinary politician.” And the values of the special services are different: There people want to destroy opponents rather than outplay or win them over.
Consequently, in speaking to the media, Putin really believed he was speaking to “the special services of America and American propagandists who will criticize him.” That is his worldview. He lies as he breathes.” But his attempt to defend the special services, while it may work with the Russian people and the West for a time, may not work with the special services.
That is because bringing them into the limelight even in the name of defending them undermines the possibility of their doing their business in the way they are accustomed to. And that may be a bigger minus for Putin than any pluses his public defense of them at his news conference brought.