We Americans inherited a unique tradition from England, the belief in the freedom of the public space. But most human beings - not least, Russians - are content with the right to do or say what they want behind closed doors, among family and friends.Sad, but true.
This was a move of genius. The Putin model - tolerant totalitarianism - gave the dying command-state a new lease on life. The new czar saw that most human beings don't care who governs them, as long as the government minds its own business. And if the ruler can revive the illusion of national power, so much the better.And in public they cheer: Putin has given us a strong Russia!
Shamelessly cynical, Putin goes through the stage-managed forms of democracy. He even permits scripted media criticism of the state (though not of himself).
But there are limits to the new totalitarianism's tolerance. You can call Putin a baboon-butt monkey-boy over the vodka bottle at your kitchen table - but don't do it in public.
Working through the traitorous Ukrainian power-broker Yulia Timoshenko, Putin's also going to do all he can to "reunite" Ukraine and Russia. And he'll continue to use natural gas as a strategic weapon, while Europe boldly responds, Oh, dear. . . One really ought not to do that . . . Really, one oughtn't. . ."Who is Ralph Peters? Wikipedia:
He spent ten years in Germany working in military intelligence... Peters later became a Foreign Area Officer, specializing in the Soviet Union. He attended the Command and General Staff College. His last assignment was to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence. He retired in 1998 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.Interesting. My take is far less subtle. Putin is a cocky douchebag. He oozes bravado and fascist forcefulness. I can see all the Aryan girls cooing when Putin says, "We don't need help. We are not invalids. We don't have limited mental capacity."
I think Peters' characterization is interesting, but I don't share his optimism that Putin and his particular gang of thugs have learned some new and upgraded form of totalitarianism. They merely limit themselves in the ways they need to limit themselves, for the moment, to cement their power. And how can their control of the media and the public square fail to expand into the churches, families, homes and minds of the Russian people? It cannot.
It is the nature of totalitarianism to be total and the nature of power to corrupt. As soon as the Russians' unprecedented boom decade of economic prosperity dries up, the dissidents will be strengthened and there will be a reactionary wave of violence and repression. The networks of informants will be bolstered and people will, once again, be afraid to speak the truth in their homes.