The ruins of Grozny, the capital city of Chechnya, in March 1995 during the Second Russo-Chechen War after multi-year Russian air and artillery bombardment.
Vladimir Putin has no need of Chechnya, Abkhazia, South Osetia or Crimea, Aleksandr Podrabinek says. He has moved against all of them “not for territory but for his own self-assertion and personal power, things which only the state of war can guarantee him.”
That is how he began his rise to supreme power in 1999 with the apartment bombings, the Moscow commentator says in an essay on Grani.ru, and that is how he will continue in Ukraine and elsewhere given that, to use George Orwell’s expression, he is interested only in building and retaining personal power.
“The shedding of blood preceded Putin’s ascent to power,” Podrabinek says. And “this was not an accidental coincidence: it was a necessary condition for his rise.” In his case as in many others, “war became the occasion for a change in power and a change in course.”
To have a war, he needed “a casus belli,” and he “did not look for one but created it,” blowing up the apartment buildings in Buinaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk and only failing to blow up another in Ryazan when alert citizens sounded the alarm that the local police arrested and then were forced to release FSB officers who had planted the bomb.
“On that very same day, September 23 , the first bombing raids were made on Grozny. More bombings followed and “thus began the second war in Chechnya,” whose conduct was now in the hands of “a young, energetic and decisive president.”
There is no other explanation than official involvement for what happened in Ryazan, but Russians prefer “not to remember” or if they must to do so “exclusively in an emotional key and not in an analytical one. Unfortunately, this is the normal way of things in Russia,” the Grani commentator says.
Efforts to find out the truth were quickly drowned out by meetings about the tragedies. “Such is the nature of our national character,” Podrabinek says. “The beauty of suffering overwhelms everything else – justice, curiosity, honor and duty before those who have died.” Ceremonies are enough to get Russians to come to terms with their past as officials want.
But 15 years on, “an understanding of the events of the fall of 1999 is essential in order to correctly evaluate the moving forces of Putin’s current policy.” That was when the Putin era began. It “began with terrorist acts and wars.” Indeed, it was precisely those that allowed Putin to come to power and “in a planned fashion take civil rights away from society.”
In the intervening period, “each military event and each terrorist act has been used by [Putin] to tighten the screws still more, to make the laws harsher and to strengthen his personal power. War is his life, his means of existence. It is a pretext for the salvation of society … Only in an atmosphere of war can he exist.”
“Peaceful life is full of political discussions and elections,” a state which Putin will find himself on the losing end and he “understand this” very well. He always has and always will need an enemy.” Even when he installed the superficially more liberal Medvedev in his place, Putin “compensated with a war with Georgia.”
“In the absence of a foreign enemy,” Putin is “ready to use the image of an internal one,” throwing “healthy national forces” against those as well. He need only shout “’The Fatherland is In Danger!’” and this lumpen including former military personnel, imperialists, fascists and radical Orthodox will “joyously” throw themselves against that enemy too.
No one should forget that this is Putin’s “cadres reserve, his last hope for preserving power if it suddenly turns out that he doesn’t have enough forces to withstand a foreign enemy.” That is how he began and that is how he is continuing, Podrabinek says, concluding that to keep himself in power forever, “force [too] is not a goal but [only] a means.”