Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Putin's War On Himself

Vladimir Putin has been consolidating power in Russia like a madman. I could list the ways, but it's easier just to link to Siberian Light on the matter. He's pretty close to become a Sub-Saharan or Egyptian style President-for-Life. One of the things that enabled him to win the Russian public's support in the beginning was his tough stance on Chechen terrorists. The brutal crackdowns that ensued were effective for a time, but now things have gotten more complicated. Putin's consolidation of power and heavy-hand are starting to expand the coalition of terrorists and rebels opposed to his government, and it's not made of just Chechens anymore.

In their haste to blame Chechen terrorists for a bold attack on government buildings in this faded resort town last week, Russian authorities initially failed to reveal one crucial detail: the gunmen were not Chechen.

Residents who encountered the 100 or so militants said they spoke with local accents, suggesting that the attack was home-grown in Kabardino-Balkaria, an impoverished Muslim region in southern Russia.

The eyewitness accounts are a disquieting reminder to the Kremlin that terrorism in Russia no longer originates only from the war-torn republic of Chechnya.

And if that message wasn’t clear, in a statement on a rebel Web site Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev — Russia’s most-wanted man — praised the “forces of Mujahideen” from Kabardino-Balkaria, and not from Chechnya, for the assault.

The violence referred to is probably one of the most disquieting incidents recently in a Russia where things are starting to get out of control. They're battle with separatist Chechens who just happen to have been jihadists has angered ALL the jihadists, who are joining the Chechens' fight. Putin's reactions, imposing stricter rule and tougher government action, isn't doing much to stop this mounting problem.

Russia is sinking underneath high unemployment, and Putin's increasingly centralized and corrupt Kremlin. The Kremlin's attempts to close mosques, forbid Muslims from prayer, and permit only pro-Kremlin imams to practice are only fanning the flames. The centralization of government power in Putin is also weakening the hold on the surrounding countryside, and isolating the Kremlin from the people and accountability. Hannah Arendt described authority as coming from hierarchy, a society built like a pyramid. In the case of the Tyrant, the middle levels of the pyramid are knocked out, with the tyrant suspended above it all on a platform of spears. Naturally, this is an unstable arrangement, and it's the one Putin is creating for himself.