NewsTerrorist attack exposes flaws in Putin's security promises

Terrorist attack exposes flaws in Putin's security promises

Vladimir Putin lights a candle to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attack on the Crocus City Hall concert hall on the day of national mourning in Moscow, Russia, March 24, 2024.
Vladimir Putin lights a candle to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attack on the Crocus City Hall concert hall on the day of national mourning in Moscow, Russia, March 24, 2024.
Images source: © PAP | PAP/EPA/MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN POOL
5:44 AM EDT, March 25, 2024

The recent terrorist attack at the Crocus City Hall concert venue has struck a considerable blow to Vladimir Putin's image. According to German commentators, this event is seen as proof that Russian security services have been overly focused on domestic dissenters and the conflict with Ukraine, leaving them unprepared for threats such as those posed by the Islamic State, despite warnings from the United States. There is now a belief that the Kremlin's response will shift its accusatory gaze toward Ukraine.

Stefan Kornelius in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" reflects on Putin's rise to power, which was marked by acts of terror. Notably, in August 1999, a series of bomb attacks rattled the country, leading to widespread speculation about the involvement of the FSB, which was then under Putin's control. These acts of violence were instrumental in justifying military action in Chechnya and solidified Putin's reputation as a decisive leader.

A new threat to the regime

The focus on opposition and the ongoing war with Ukraine has seemingly diverted attention from other significant threats, such as those from Islamist groups. Kornelius observes that the attack, beyond being a tragedy, poses a challenge to a regime that has long manipulated the concept of terror to its advantage, often casting the Ukrainian government as the antagonist.

Questioning the source of blame

Kornelius points out the murky nature of identifying those responsible for the attack, suggesting that while Ukrainian involvement is considered "thinkable," the possibility of it being a manoeuvre by Russian services, akin to the 1999 scenario, can't be discounted. This complexity highlights Putin's ability to maintain a facade of security and invincibility, assuaging public concern with promises of protection against both real and perceived threats.

Putin's likely reaction

The anticipation is that Putin's ire will soon be directed more intensely towards Ukraine, as this pattern of deflection has been a hallmark of his regime's responses to previous crises.
The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" condemns the attack and stresses the importance of not succumbing to feelings of Schadenfreude over Russia's misfortune. The narrative pushed by Putin and his aides, which leans towards implicating Ukraine, contrasts with the inclination in the West to believe claims of responsibility from groups like the Islamic State.

The broken promise of security

Echoing this sentiment, "Die Welt" criticizes Putin for failing to uphold his implicit promise to the Russian populace: security in exchange for restrictions on freedom. The terrorist attack blatantly exposes this failure, with Putin predictably blaming Ukraine to deflect from his own shortcomings.

A nation in lethargy

Gregor Schwung in "Die Welt" and Inna Hartwig in "Tageszeitung" comment on the societal impact of the Kremlin's relentless pursuit of dissenters under the guise of combating terrorism, noting the general public's acquiescence to this reality. The lag in Putin’s response to the tragedy calls to mind his delayed reactions in past crises, underscoring a pattern of disappearance when faced with situations beyond his control.
Comparisons are drawn to Putin's handling of past disasters, such as the Kursk submarine tragedy and hostage situations in Moscow and Beslan. These incidents reveal a leader who is decisive only when in control, resorting to evasion when that control wanes.
This accumulation of neglect towards real threats, coupled with an intensified propaganda campaign to suggest Ukrainian involvement, highlights the Kremlin's strategy to stave off scrutiny and maintain its narrative control, even as it fails to protect its citizens from genuine dangers.
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