Imagine the top opposition leader in America being gunned down by an assassin outside of the United States Capitol building. Then imagine the President assuming control of the inquiry into the assassination of his fiercest critic who just happens to be one in a long line of critics
that meets an untimely demise. That would be unfathomable to even think about here in the United States, but this is what has now become the norm in Putin's Russia.
The brazen assassination of Putin's most vociferous critic Boris Nemtsov has sent shock waves throughout the world and sparked massive protests both in and outside of Russia. Tens of thousands took to the streets on Sunday in protests that were already planned to be led by the slain opposition leader, but instead became a protest to demand justice. None of us should hold our breaths for that to happen anytime in the near or distant future.
We shouldn't hold our breaths for many reasons, the main one being that President Putin has assumed 'personal control
' of the investigation into the assassination. President Putin has already ruled out the prospect that he or anyone in his circle is responsible for the assassination and is instead suggesting it was carried out by extremists or members of Nemtsov's own party in order to fan the flames of discontent before the major protest rally that he was set to lead. While these two scenarios are technically possible, they are highly unlikely based off of the Kremlin's growing list of opposition politicians and journalists who also met an early end since President Putin took over control in the year 2000.
It is not a coincidence that anyone who dares to question Putin or his policies seems to meet an untimely demise. Mr. Nemtsov was well aware of this and even seemed to predict his assassination in an interview only weeks ago when he said he was 'afraid Putin will kill
' him. While this is no evidence of Putin's involvement in the assassination, it does show that Nemtsov was well aware of the perils of being a fierce Putin critic.
Putin may long for the days of Russia's superpower past, but those days are long gone. Now instead of being a major player on the world stage, Russia seeks to take the 'us against the world' attitude. Now instead of working with the world community to solve its most pressing crises, Russia seeks to actively sabotage any consensus. If the West is for it then Russia is against it. No matter if it would do his countrymen good. This is not a sign of Putin's strength, but rather his weakness. A leader has to be able to do more than invade former satellite states and sabotage any international agreements strictly for the purpose of sabotaging them.
President Bush may have looked inside of Putin's soul, but what he saw was not what he claimed to have seen. Putin is no champion of the Russian people, but is instead a champion of complete and absolute power. He has shown he has no problem silencing his critics and it should be of no surprise if it is done again. No cost is too steep for him to hang on to that power, even if it means bringing his country and possibly the world down with him.