After two suicide bombers
in Moscow's subway system on Monday morning, the world's eyes
immediately turned to Chechnya. Russian officials claim the Chechen separatist movement
was behind the attack--an assumption shared across much of the globe. What will the attacks mean for
Russia? The complexity of Moscow politics must be factored in. Former President
Vladimir Putin retains significant influence as Prime Minister, and
current President Dmitri Medvedev has yet to fully demonstrate whether he
answers to Putin or is an independent leader. During the worst Chechen
violence, Putin greatly expanded the power of the state. Will Russia once again inch toward authoritarianism? Will it renew military actions in Chechnya?
Demand Tough Leadership Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell posits,
"Ever wonder why Vladimir Putin is so much more popular in Russia than
his presidential successor, Dmitry Medvedev?" Just look at their actions
in the wake of the attacks. "Putin said he'd like to "drag out of the
sewer" the organizers of the attacks. And Medevev? He'd like the Supreme Court and the High Court of
Arbitration to come up with some ways to improve counterterrorism laws."
Putin Could Take The Blame The New York Times' Clifford Levy explains,
"Mr. Putin, the former president and still Russia’s paramount leader,
has built his reputation in part on his success in bottling up the
Muslim insurgency in southern Russia and preventing major terrorist
attacks in the country’s large cities in recent years. If the bombings
on Monday herald a renewed campaign by insurgents in major cities, then
that legacy may be tarnished."
- Russians Will 'Call For a
Terrible Revenge' The Guardian's Catherine Merridale,
recalling her years in Moscow, predicts "that the sounds of human grief
will soon be swallowed by the strident noise of patriotism." In short
time, "A nation, encouraged to think itself mistreated abroad and
embattled at home, will soon call for a terrible revenge. If that takes
the form of yet more brutality, of mass arrests and moves against the
dark-skinned immigrants who work in Moscow, it will be difficult not to
point accusing fingers at a chauvinistic state."
Complicate Putin's Popularity Politics professor Mark Katz writes in the New York
Times that Russians will rush to Putin's tough, authoritarian stance,
but that in the long-term they may become increasingly wary of Putinism.
"The fact that these bombings occurred may increase the public’s
growing dissatisfaction caused by corruption, police brutality, economic
stagnation, and general malaise all of which they increasingly see as
due to Putin’s style of rule."
- Russia Faces Chechen, Not
Global Threat The Guardian counters claims
that global terrorist groups like al-Qaeda could be behind the attack (made by the National Review and others). They warn that
failure to recognize the local problem--Chechen violence--risks missing
the local solution, which is Chechen peace. "Most terrorism has local
not global roots and most solutions are local too. The logic, if that is
the right word, of the bombings lies in several previous attacks over
the past decade and in Moscow's often ruthless and occasionally
incompetent responses to them."
- Russian Media: This Is
Kremlin's Fault According to the BBC, independent
Russian media have scathingly attacked Russian leadership and the
government-controlled media. Independent outlets have blamed security
services for not learning from past attacks and for failing to grasp the
decentralized threat of terrorism. They also accused state media of
whitewashing over the brutality of the attacks.
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