Sunday, December 28, 2014

Vladimir Putin wins a presidential election based on fear

The center of Moscow, during today's presidential elections, looked as if the Kremlin was preparing to fend off an invasion by an enemy army.

Vladimir Putin wins a presidential election based on fear

Police vans block central Moscow on election day. (Trudy Rubin / Staff)
Police vans block central Moscow on election day. (Trudy Rubin / Staff)

MOSCOW - The center of Moscow, during today’s presidential elections, looked as if the Kremlin was preparing to fend off an invasion by an enemy army. Hundreds of huge trucks, some white, some black, with bars over the windows, blocked off street after street, surrounded the huge square in front of the Bolshoi Theatre, and barred access to Red Square; they were flanked by legions of special security police.

When I asked one policeman, in furry hat and grey uniform, what they were all doing, he replied, “ We are protecting against any provocation. We have to keep Moscow safe.” It was all in keeping with the effort by victorious candidate Vladimir Putin to portray the middle class youths who have recently mounted peaceful protest rallies, as a dangerous threat to stability – and the state itself.

Indeed, in his victory statement, as he strode in black jacket and jeans onto a stage in front of thousands of supporters in front of the Kremlin walls (bused in they had no trouble penetrating the security ring), Putin struck up the “defeat our enemies” theme. “Nobody can impose their policy on us,” he shouted. “Our people could recognize the provocation from people who want to destroy us.” My mind flashed back to an afternoon spent with young people planning to act as election observers at polling places, and I wondered if he really thought these youths were going to invade the Kremlin.

Then he dropped the punchline, saying, “The orange scenario will never work here.” His reference was to the Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, in which street protesters force out a pro-Kremlin leader who had won via a rigged election. Putin is obsessed with the idea that the United States funded the Orange Revolution, and other “color” revolutions in former Soviet states, as well as the Arab Spring in Egypt. Clearly his hostile rhetoric had two targets: the tens of thousands of peaceful youths who protested rigged parliamentary elections – and will protest this skewered election on Monday – AND his favorite bogey-man, the United States.

Trudy Rubin Inquirer Opinion Columnist
About this blog

Trudy Rubin’s Worldview column runs on Thursdays and Sundays. In 2009-2011 she has made four lengthy trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over the past seven years, she visited Iraq eleven times, and also wrote from Iran, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, China, and South Korea.

She is the author of Willful Blindness: the Bush Administration and Iraq, a book of her columns from 2002-2004. In 2001 she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary and in 2008 she was awarded the Edward Weintal prize for international reporting. In 2010 she won the Arthur Ross award for international commentary from the Academy of American Diplomacy.

Reach Trudy at trubin@phillynews.com.

Trudy Rubin Inquirer Opinion Columnist
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