Putin’s useless playbook

Jonathan Chait writes in New York Magazine:

Most American politicians, Republican or Democrat, would take Putin’s perspective on handling hostile demonstrations as a cautionary tale. This is how Putin would respond to protests used to be, self-evidently, an indictment. Trump may or may not have been influenced by Putin’s advice. But what’s clear is that he is the first American president who would take a Russian dictator’s perspective on crushing domestic protest at face value.

Putin has never faced violent mass protest in Russia’s major cities. (The insurgency in Chechnya and riots in large prison camps are in a different category.) In the past ten years or so, all the significant protest rallies in Moscow and other big cities have largely been non-violent. Over the years, Putin’s riot police have grown used to law-abiding, generally well-behaved protesters. Occasionally violent clashes would happen,  typically at the government’s provocation, but on a limited scale, never escalating to a proper riot.

Damage to property has also been extremely rare, almost unthinkable actually. The Russian middle class is not yet desperate enough for an orgy of destruction. If, sinking to the bottom, it joined the lower classes in a riot of American proportions, then would the outlook sour for the Kremlin gang, even to the point of amply deserved desperation.  So far, however, Russia has seen nothing even remotely resembling the all-American rioting of the past week. Trump can’t take a page from Putin’s playbook because it has no page for dealing with urban violence. It’s more of a manual for schoolyard bullies, for those who prey on the meek and the decent.

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