Mark Collins – Bad Vlad and Syria: Playing to the Home Crowd?


That’s Anne Applebaum’s explanation:

Putin’s power plays


For Putin’s entry into Syria, like almost everything else that he does, is part of his own bid to stay in power. During the first 10 years he was president, Putin’s claim to legitimacy went, in effect, like this: I may not be a democrat, but I give you stability, a rise in economic growth and pensions paid on time. In an era of falling oil prices and economic sanctions, not to mention vast public-sector corruption, that argument no longer works. Russians are demonstrably poorer this year than they were last year, and things look set to get worse. And so his new argument goes, in effect, like this: “I may not be a democrat and the economy may be sinking, but Russia is regaining its place in the world — and besides, the alternative to authoritarianism is not democracy but chaos.”

In fact, Putin does not have the military muscle to project genuine influence into the Middle East [is one sure?]. He won’t be able to build up his forces stealthily [he already basically did], as he did in Ukraine. Nor does he get anything of material or strategic importance out of his alliance with the embattled Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad. But he will attain the appearance of influence, and that’s all that matters…

…the appearance of influence is even more useful at home. You and I might assume that the prospect of a Russian street revolution is far-fetched, but Putin, having watched what happened in East Germany in 1989 from his KGB office in Dresden, and having then watched what happened to Moammar Gadaffi in 2011, clearly worries about it quite often. To stave off this fate, his state-controlled television rumbles on constantly about the fecklessness of Europe and the corruption of America — just in case any Russians are tempted by the lure of democracy — as well as the total chaos that his policies have helped foment in Syria. The arrival of Russian troops, some in transit directly from the Ukrainian border, is designed to reinforce this message: Putin is ready to help another dictator reestablish dictatorship, reassert control and imprison all of his enemies, in Syria and, if needed, in Russia too…


Read more from Anne Applebaum’s archive, follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her updates on Facebook.

Previously:

 

Syria, or, WEIRD Obamaprof Meets Bad Vlad’s Fangs


Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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