Jewish World Review Dec 16, 2011 / 20 Kislev, 5772
Strange happenings in Russia
By Jay Ambrose
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In Russia, where the government does its best to obliterate critical news, 50,000 Internet-informed, middle-class Moscow urbanites protested rigged parliamentary elections. A UFO hovered in the sky. The owner of the New Jersey Nets later said he would run against Vladimir Putin for president, and Putin, looking at the discontent that threatens him, said Hillary Rodham Clinton did it.
Question: Can stranger things happen? Answer: Let's hope so.
The strangest of all would be an end to the Putin era. To be sure, it has enjoyed prosperity, owing something to positive Putin initiatives, surviving some egregious Putin initiatives and relying most of all on the good luck of having lots of oil.
The prosperity has ebbed of late, but what about Putin's other touted achievement -- political stability? Getting there took a lot of work, such as an insistence on top-down governance, putting dissidents in prison or having them killed, substituting Putin's ego for rule of law and subverting parliament, the judiciary and other vital institutions to his purposes.
It also helped to have newspapers and TV stations get down on their hands and knees and kiss his feet. Those that didn't soon had new people in charge, and then there was the technique of bang, you're dead, as in the 2006 case of Anna Politkovskaya. The acclaimed writer unearthed enough military corruption to get herself assassinated in her apartment lobby on Putin's birthday.
But Russian rulers made a tactical error in Internet control, bypassing restricted access and instead overloading sites with their own propaganda. It didn't work. Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution pointed out on "PBS NewsHour" that Russians have been hot and heavy in sharing information through Facebook equivalents, YouTube and the like, and guess what? A more alert, more self-assertive middle class is more and more saying it has had enough.
Prime Minister Putin's popularity is hardly dissolved now, but it did not go down well that, after 12 years in power, he made a deal to run for president again in this gangster-ridden, unjust, oppressive society. Then Putin's party pulled a fast one in parliamentary elections. It lost seats, but would have lost many more if not for fraud undisputed by virtually anyone not on the take.
Let's have new elections, said Mikhail Gorbachev, the last chief of the Soviet Union, along with demonstrators in some 70 locations, including Moscow, where there were as many police as demonstrators and an object hovering above -- an unidentified flying object. It obviously did not come from outer space. It was likely some kind of government helicopter taking pictures of the crowd -- a SUFO, a Spying UFO, modern technology being put to a use as old as tyranny itself.
Now, on top of the protests, there is a young billionaire entrepreneur, Mikhail Prokorov, who says he is going to run for president against Putin. He is a former Putin pal, and this could be a trick by someone whose foreign-policy experiences include his ownership of the Jets and once having been charged with inviting a gaggle of prostitutes to a French Christmas party. He's definitely a playboy, but just as definitely a smart businessman. Some think he's for real and could be a contender.
Despite all of this, Putin is canny and very much in the tradition of enduring Russian bad guys, although you'd think he would have to do better than point at Clinton as instigating the protest. She said she was concerned about the parliamentary elections and the word went out that the American enemy was again manipulating Russians. On a TV show lasting more than four hours, Putin said critics were mostly "pawns of foreign agents," even to the point of getting paid.
Somehow I don't think so. Somehow I think Putin earned those protests on his own, and I think the Russian people deserve a whole lot better.
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Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
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