Putin’s Next Spectacle
(Article ©2017 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – June 28, 2017 – also appeared at https://www.rferl.org/a/daily-vertical-transcript-putins-next-spectacle/28583415.html)
The Kremlin needs a new distraction.
Russia’s rulers need a new story to tell.
Vladimir Putin needs a new bright shiny object to wave in front of the Russian people.
And if recent experience is any guide, Putin’s next spectacle, the Kremlin’s next bit of dramaturgy, the regime’s next manufactured crisis is probably coming pretty soon.
It might be in Ukraine. It might be in the Caucasus. It might be in the Baltics. It might be in the Balkans. Or it might be at home.
But this has, after all, pretty much been the standard operating procedure every time the Kremlin loses control of the narrative, every time the regime is on the defensive, every time the story it’s been telling about why Putin and his cronies need to rule indefinitely gets stale.
It happened back in 2011-2012, when the narrative about how Putin brought Russia stability and prosperity lost its resonance and mass protests shook the regime.
That time the Kremlin struck back with a fierce crackdown on dissent and a new story about how Russia was the defender of so-called traditional values.
It happened again in 2013-2014, when Aleksei Navalny’s surprisingly strong showing in Moscow’s mayoral election was followed by the example of the Euromaidan uprising in Ukraine.
The Putin regime answered that time with the annexation of Crimea, the war in the Donbas, and a story about the revival of empire.
And now, the current round of nationwide anticorruption protests have again put the Kremlin in that familiar place.
Putin again needs a new story to tell the Russian people to justify his rule. We’re waiting for Putin’s next spectacle. And that makes this a very dangerous moment.