President Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has spoken out against the widespread and unusually vigorous election protests by holding token meetings with the opposition and by turning to an old trick – blaming the uprising on Western “saboteurs.”
Putin explains his position through his mouthpiece Russia Today (RT):
Scapegoating external opponents on internal crises is a tactic that goes back far in Russian history, and builds upon a grain of truth, as most good lies do. During the Russian Civil War from 1918-1922, Western powers, including Britain, France, and the United States, did intervene in the Russian conflict to support the White Armies against the Reds. (Not vigorously enough, in my opinion.)
Most famously, Joseph Stalin blamed the troubles of his Five Year Plans on bourgeois “saboteurs,” which he promptly responded to with the disastrous “Great Purge.”
Vladimir Putin, for his own part, has been hasty to blame Western influence for everything from the colored revolutions in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia to internal meddling through civil society non-profits. Putin even passed various laws restricting the activities and funding of NGOs to prevent what he perceives as undue influence being wielded in Russian internal affairs.
Knowing who runs these supposedly benevolent democratization NGOs, one can hardly blame Putin for being cautious. But what Putin is alleging is that international monitors calling election results bogus, echoed by the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is akin to an act of sabotage. This is an overreach that exposes the brittle nature of modern Russian democratic authoritarianism.
To Putin’s credit, he did acknowledge that Senator John McCain was “crazy,” on route to trashing the protesters.