En kjent russisk liberal journalist skrev med sjalusi og smerte fra demonstrasjonene i Kiev. Tenk om det hadde vært Moskva! Men det er ikke det. Russerne er apatiske. Putin kan foreta seg nesten hva han vil. Men i Ukraina har han vist at han har mistet kontakt med virkeligheten, skriver Misha Lipman. Hun arbeider for Carnegie-stiftelsens kontor i Moskva.

An apathetic public is easily manipulated, so in Russia, politics has been reduced to intimidating the elites. With no political competition left and no accountability, policymaking has increasingly relied on heavy-handed and simplistic methods and on irresponsible executors. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his aides can get away with almost anything without fear of having to deal with the consequences.

But in the matter of Ukraine, their methods have backfired. Russia’s circumscribed vision and shortsighted strategy have only made things worse. Having put all his stakes on a Yanukovych victory and invested his authority in the Ukrainian presidential election, Putin was unprepared for an outcome that would go against him. His repeated congratulations to Yanukovych, at a time when the results of the runoff were losing their legitimacy even in the eyes of the Ukrainian government, showed that he had no exit strategy and had lost touch with reality.

Putin’s role in the Ukrainian vote gave rise to anti-Russian sentiments among the Ukrainian people and deepened the rift with the West. His failure in Ukraine is sure to raise the temptation for the Kremlin to appeal to Russian nationalism by portraying the events there as a Western plot against Russia. This fall Putin has been talking vaguely about Western «agents» seeking to weaken Russia — rhetoric that is eagerly taken up by Kremlin aides and servile journalists. Already, a Russian public relations specialist who handled the Kremlin effort in the Ukrainian election has warned that unless Russia stands up to the West in Ukraine, the West will soon be staging the same scenario in Russia itself.

Dangerous Indifference in Russia (washingtonpost.com)

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