Russia's February Surprise
Assassination Attempt Boosts Putin Electorally

Analysis: The assassination attempt against Vladimir Putin is being touted by his supporters as proof of his indispensability.

Amiel Ungar,

Putin In the Snow
Putin In the Snow

The political career of Vladimir Putin is closely intertwined with the insurgency in Chechnya. It goes back to the contrast that Putin likes to draw between himself and the Yeltsin era. Boris Yeltsin fought a series of inconclusive wars with the Chechen rebels that did not crush the insurgency, but revealed the decrepitude into which the once mighty Russian Army had fallen.

During the Yeltsin era, there were bombings in Moscow, perpetrated presumably by the Chechen terrorists. Russians understandably rallied to the hard-nosed judo expert Putin, who promised to waste the terrorists wherever they were. Now the reports tell of Chechen terrorists arrested before they could bomb Putin on a busy Moscow thoroughfare.

The news that a terror ring has been rolled up is not always published immediately and therefore the skepticism about the timing of the publication for shortly before the voting in the presidential election may not be justified. The Ukrainian and Russian security authorities reported picking up another member of the ring and this is one reason why the authorities, including Israel's, frequently impose a blackout on reporting.

There is no doubt, however, that the assassination reports assist Vladimir Putin in his reelection bid. For one thing, they help him subconsciously establish a link between the protesters and the terrorists. One terrorist leader had presumably declared a halt to attacks on Russian civilians now that they were protesting against the regime.

One should discount speculation that the reports were published to justify increased security and perhaps repressive measures against the demonstrators. If that were the case, the story would have broken before the opposition staged its human circle demonstration against Putin over the weekend.

The report accredits Putin as the man who stands between Russia and Islamic terror and the disintegration of the Russian Federation. Members of Putin's United Russia party announced that the arch terrorist Doku Umarov was targeting Putin because Russia's enemies viewed Putin as a guarantor of stability (the message that Putin has been making throughout the campaign).

Irina Yarovaya, chairman of the lower House Committee for Security and Anticorruption, called the assassination an attempt to destabilize the situation in the country "as Putin was the main threat to criminals and terrorists."

Viktor Ozerov, head of the Duma upper house Defense and Security Committee, told the press that the assassination attempt reflected Putin's pivotal role in the fight against terror. “All Vladimir Putin’s actions, starting with his work as the FSB director and ending with his current position, have been aimed at fighting with bandit formations, organized crime and terrorism…Putin has stepped on the throat and tail of many a terrorist and this is why the preparations for such terrorist attack are hardly a surprise,”

One can believe the assassination story or reject it, but in any case, it solidifies Putin's prospects for winning on the first ballot.

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