News / Europe

Analysis: Political Winter Descends on Russia

Russian President Vladmir Putin watches the judo competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Aug. 2, 2012.
Russian President Vladmir Putin watches the judo competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Aug. 2, 2012.
James Brooke
As gray winter skies descend on Moscow, Russians are adjusting to a political winter. Since taking office nearly six months ago, President Vladimir Putin has methodically reduced civic space in Russia by advocating new laws on treason, blasphemy, libel, Internet censorship and curbs on public protest.
 
Then on Monday, Russians saw a new twist: a well-known opposition activist, Leonid Razvozzhayev, shouting to reporters that he had been kidnapped off a sidewalk in Kyiv, Ukraine, and forcibly brought to Moscow for trial.
 
Oleg Kashin, a radio analyst for the Russian daily Kommersant, says get used to it. President Putin, he says, is taking Russia down the road of neighboring Belarus, a nation run for 18 years by Alexander Lukashenko, often called "the last dictator of Europe."
 
What may hold the Russian president back is what analysts in Russia call “handshakeability”: Putin is still welcome in Western capitals, whereas Lukashenko is not.
 
Back to Soviet era
 
With the ruling party sweeping all governors' elections two weeks ago and a new "foreign agent" law going into effect next week, Putin seems to be taking a big political step back to the Soviet Union. For now, these conservative new laws seem to be having a chilling effect.
 
Masha Lipman, an analyst for Carnegie Moscow, says she sees “...a desire to intimidate the tens of thousands of people who have taken part in protests and other forms of civic activism, and indeed push them back where they used to be.”
 
Lipman and others say the goal is to return Russia to the apolitical days during the boom years of the 2000s. During this decade, Russians largely traded their political freedoms for the freedom to travel, to buy, and to make more money.
 
But now the Kremlin fears that Europe’s recession and China’s slowdown will cut prices of oil, gas and other raw materials — the core of modern Russia’s economy.
 
If energy prices go down, the thinking goes, Putin will draw on the new repressive powers to ride out popular protests. His six-year presidential term lasts until 2018, but, as in many oil exporting nations, he is popular only as long as he can deliver the goods.
 
Anti-US sentiment
 
To rally Russians, the Kremlin is playing the anti-American card. Amid charges that Russia’s opposition movement takes its orders from the West, the Kremlin ended a 20-year-old USAID program this month.
 
Lipman charges that state television paints a picture of Russia’s opposition as “either receiving financing from the West or being inspired by the West, or colluding with the West [or] associating themselves with the West, which, as the anti-American propaganda goes, is always seeking to do harm to Russia, to weaken Russia and to [do] all kinds of bad things to Russia.”
 
But while anti-American propaganda hits new, post-Soviet heights in Russia, Aeroflot flights between Moscow and New York are packed.
 
This, says Kashin, presents a dilemma for President Putin. Russia is not like Belarus, where the elite is hermetically sealed from the outside world.
 
“The big difference is that Putin is very closely tied into the West,” said the radio analyst. “Political isolationism hits his inner circle.”
 
Kashin says Russian elites send their children to universities in the West, where they also own bank accounts and real estate.
 
But if Russians start getting 20-year jail sentences for talking to foreigners, and if too many foreign diplomats are kicked out, Putin may lose his "handshakeability" in the West.

You May Like

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
    Next 
by: Grizz from: USA
October 25, 2012 7:50 AM
Putin Clenches his fist, North Korea launches missiles, China sends boats into the South China Sea, Iran building Nukes. It just helps the USA sell more weapons. Once Iran finishes it's first nuclear weapon, we will sell enough military hardware to restore our economy, and pay off our national debt.


by: Robert from: USA
October 24, 2012 9:07 PM
How a person who protects and supports a middle eastern regime responsible for continuing barbaric, unspeakable crimes against humanity retains "handshakeability" in any country is beyond me. Certainly speaks to the spinelessness of the West, my country included.


by: PawneeBill from: Southwest
October 24, 2012 6:28 PM
Kunosaurus: Are you a dinosaur? Communism has show it sucks and oppresses people for 80 years. If you live in America and hate it so much why not GO to your beloved Russia? Renounce your citizenship and LEAVE. Very simple process. Colonialism. What a crock of BS.


by: kunosoura from: Mid-america
October 24, 2012 9:54 AM
What an absurd article, *political winter*, yellow journalism at its worse. In US, Koch brothers, Big Coal, et al hire street criminals, rent-a-mob to block anti-pollution laws, to block clean nuclear power (Vermont Yankee NPP). All criminal acts, hiding behind free speech claims. The U.S. has hired criminals, funded thru NGOs in India that claimed to aid health, education but were funding criminals to attack the Russian Kudankulam Nuclear power plant.

The Army called out to defend against the U.S. sponsored attacks. Gen. Groves, Los Alamos, Manhatten Project planned nuclear world conquest. At end WW-II US Air Force was to begin nuclear genocide of Russia, bombing 15 cities including Moscow. But no fissile material remained. Stalin saved Russia, and the world, by developing a nuclear deterrent (bomb) in time. Khrushchev blocked the US attempt at nuclear encirclement. US now plans same world conquest, but by massive military superiority while denying the victims any defense. Putin is wisely rapidly building deterrent defense. He is Russia*s best, perhaps only, hope. History may repeat itself, Russia again save the world from slavery of colonialism.


by: Alim
October 24, 2012 5:03 AM
To truly modernize, Russia must give more indepence to the regions.


by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
October 23, 2012 10:19 PM
There is no harm in strict laws: the stricter the better. But who adopted the laws and who endorsed them? They were the Duma and the President whose legitimacy was internationally disputed and wasn’t independently verified. Their elections were heavily rigged. Who will practice the laws? They’ll be the courts and the prosecution internationally known for their arbitrary actions. So, the “strict” laws don’t hold water and it isn’t political winter. It’s an unprecedented hijack of the largest country in the world. The hijackers left no breathing space to those seeking justice and accountability. The hijackers will be responsible for the country with the largest nuclear stockpile going into spiraling doom.


by: Walt Peterson from: USA
October 23, 2012 7:47 PM
Long live the Tzar!


by: VladimirOrlovsky from: SantaClaraCalifornia
October 23, 2012 6:59 PM
Long, long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and I was in college,..and life in USSR, ...
this kind of "Articles" called political-propaganda,...by "western" side.
Question:
How do you call this kind of "political journalism" right now?
-Vladimir


by: Ragozzi from: St. Petersburg
October 23, 2012 4:39 PM
"...Russians start getting 20-year jail sentences for talking to foreigners." - come on now, don't be ridiculous please.....


by: Alex Smirnov from: Russia
October 23, 2012 4:03 PM
For me personally free market economy is better. But what can be done when a government is changing rules on the market by using new criteria. I am alone and I must to struggle with government policy in strategy. As for "the last dictator of Europe."
Mr. Putin is the second I think.

Comments page of 2
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid