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09/19/2004 Entry: ""

"The terrorists, whose unspeakably malevolent takeover of a Russian schoolhouse resulted in the deaths of 330 children, teachers and parents, have succeeded in at least one respect.

"Russian President Vladimir Putin used that occasion to announce a further tightening of his control over the political system, edging Russia closer to the dictatorship it thought it had escaped."
A Russia less safe and less free, Cincinnati Post, September 17, 2004

Not that he really needed it, but Beslan is Putin's 911.

A Russia less safe and less free

The terrorists, whose unspeakably malevolent takeover of a Russian schoolhouse resulted in the deaths of 330 children, teachers and parents, have succeeded in at least one respect.

Russian President Vladimir Putin used that occasion to announce a further tightening of his control over the political system, edging Russia closer to the dictatorship it thought it had escaped.

President Bush must have missed something when he professed to have looked deep into Putin's soul.

In his nearly five years in office, Putin has brought the TV networks under Kremlin control, crushed the most significant opposition parties, stacked the parliament in his favor, cowed the judiciary, all but renationalized the energy industry and jailed or exiled the oligarchs who might oppose him.

The one thing he has conspicuously failed to accomplish is to win the war he re-launched in Chechnya or to stop the terrorism that war has engendered -- bombings, kidnappings, the lethal takeover of a Moscow theater. Just before the horror in Beslan, suicide bombers believed to be Chechens blew up two airliners in mid-flight.

In order to bring what he called the necessary strength and unity to Russia to fight the war on terror, Putin now has proposed a series of measures that will gravely erode representative government.

He would eliminate direct election of Russia's 89 regional governors in favor of candidates nominated by himself. He would eliminate direct elections for half of the parliament in favor of proportional representation from handpicked slates, thus eliminating the vestigial remains of the liberal and democratic opposition. He also promised to create a new counterterrorism agency.

All of this has to be a great disappointment to the Bush White House, which has been generally supportive of Putin even when the Russian president used our war on terrorism as justification for his own brutal excesses against the Chechens.

A key goal of terrorists is to goad a nation into acting against its own best interest. In provoking a further diminution of Russian democracy, they have succeeded.

 

 

 

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