Putin on the Edge
An extraordinary YouTube video was making the rounds in Russia circles last week. It showed Vladimir Putin in his shirtsleeves being confronted outside a government building in Nizhny Novgorod by a throng of enraged local residents who had watched their lives go up in flames.
Putin is attacked for having done nothing to prepare the local population for the disaster of spreading wildfires, and for having failed to make a timely response to the disaster after it occurred. In brutal, condescending language, talking to Putin as if he were a child, the residents demand action, and Putin stammers ridiculous promises about rebuilding homes from the ground up.
Needless to say, the confrontation was not aired on any national broadcast television, because all those stations are owned and operated by Putin himself.
But the world knows what Russian citizens do not:
Elderly resident Vera Sakharova complained that firefighters had come too lat. “We did not have any help,” she told AFP. “We had to do everything ourselves.” Sceptical of promises of state help, Sakharova predicted: “They have given us nothing, and they won’t give us anything. I don’t know what we are going to do after this,” she added.
“You aren’t doing anything, everything is burning,” another woman can be heard shouting in the footage, which has been viewed more than 30,000 times but was not shown on state television. “Our administration is working very badly, it needs to be convicted,” another woman shouts, as Putin is shown turning and walking away.
Directing this kind of hot rhetoric at Putin while cameras roll, and having that footage go public, shows that Mr. Putin is slipping. His government is not prepared to deal with national crises like the wildfires, which are clearly the result both of bungled environmental policy and a total failure to diversify and develop the economic base.
Instead, Putin has pursued aggressive cold-war provocation at every turn, behaving exactly the way his Soviet fathers and mothers did. They drove their nation to ruin trying vainly to compete the with far superior United States, and Putin is hurtling down the same road at breakneck speed.
Soon, Russia’s neck will indeed, once again, be broken.