While Russian troops defend Bashar al-Assad in Syria, President Vladimir Putin is also promising to root out terrorism at home, Reuters reports:
President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Russia had foiled 20 militant attacks this year and was stepping up efforts to root out domestic terrorism, almost three weeks after launching air strikes against Islamist fighters in Syria.
The Russian authorities have arrested a number of suspected militants since the Syria campaign started on Sept. 30, a development that stoked fears that militants could seek revenge by attacking targets inside Russia.
Emphasizing the War on Terror at home is a critical piece of Putin’s strategy to portray himself as a strong leader protecting his people from a dangerous world. Putin most certainly benefits from instability in Europe most when it stands in stark contrast to a stable motherland. Radical Islamism in the Caucasus spilling over into the streets of Moscow, a real concern, would just undermine his popular as a competent leader who gets things done.
But given Putin’s authoritarian tendencies, and the Kremlin’s penchant for seeing CIA plots behind many expressions of political dissent, it won’t be surprising at all if the war on terror ends up extending its scope beyond just Islamist groups. The legal framework for the harassment of political opponents and undesirables has been in place since at least 2012. Up until now, these laws have had a chilling effect when just used sparingly in a peacetime context. Under the threat of terror, whatever stops are in place could well come off, giving Putin and his gang an even freer hand to properly clamp down at home.