Monday, July 11, 2005

Shaping the Agenda

Portraying any anti-regime protest as Islamic radicalism and terrorism may seem to the Russian leadership as a smart tactic that could be used for deterring the threat of "color revolutions" even beyond Central Asia. This threat now appears particularly intense in the North Caucasus, where, during the last year, the interplay between growing public discontent, violent struggle between criminal clans, and spillover from the Chechen war-zone have acquired an uncontrollable character. Counter-terrorism was the Kremlin's strategy of choice back in autumn 1999 when the second Chechen war was launched, but now it has become the "last resort" option. Exploiting the rhetoric of solidarity in the struggle against a common "evil" enemy, Putin may deflect Western criticism of his "internal affairs" in Dagestan, or Ingushetia, or indeed Chechnya -- but that cannot hide the fact that he is fast losing his war against terrorism. The shock of the explosions in London was so heavy because it was the first attack on English soil since the heyday of the IRA, but Moscow has gone through too many shocks of this sort, so maybe it was a good idea to organize the summit in St. Petersburg, which has been spared so far. It is, however, difficult to expect tangible results from that "energy plus terrorism minus democracy" summit agenda.
Pavel K. Baev, on how Putin is already shaping the agenda for the next G8 summit, to be held in St Petersburg, Russia.

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