by Pascale Combelles Siegel
You would think that Vladimir who has been fighting an Islamist insurgency in the Caucasus for decades would have among the last of world leaders to stick it to the French. Well, you would be wrong. In an obvious payback for the French’s positions on Crimea and Ukraine, Putin has unleashed his crafty propagandists to lambast Charlie Hebdo and the French government for the double attacks that rocked the satirical magazine (12 dead), Montrouge (1 dead), and the Kosher supermarket in Vincennes (4 dead).
Act 1 took place when Jean-Marie Le Pen, the ex-leader of the ultra nationalist right-wing party National Front, simply accused the French intelligence services of having played a role in the attack on Charlie Hebdo. It is worth recalling here that the Front National has largely been outplayed by the rest of the political class. Its leaders were not invited to the Marche Républicaine that followed the attack and were crowded out of the French media space. Well, in the era of globalization, Le Pen found space in Russia, all too happy to oblige. Le Pen explained that now “the terrorists are just idiots and that’s why they left their ID cards in their car.” He went further saying that it reminded him of the plane that caught fire on 9/11 but in the wreckage of which we found one of the passports of one of the terrorists. He concluded that the attacks “bears the hallmark of the [French] intelligence services.”
Act 2 took place in Grozny when pro-Russian president Ramzan Kadyrow authorized tens of thousands of Chechens to take the streets to denounce the newest edition of Charlie Hebdo, which featured a caricature of the Prophet crying under the banner “everything is forgiven). The footage was perfect. Kadyrow cast himself in the role of the brave and noble defender of the faith, denouncing “the vulgarity, immorality and lack of decency and culture of those who caricature the Prophet (may peace be upon him) and further warning: “We will not tolerate any other similar act.” The Russian TV feeds, widely broadcast in the West, also featured a nice looking middle-aged woman, wearing a colorful veil, explaining that such acts were contrary to common decency and hurtful to Muslims around the world and in Chechnya. The message was simple: the voice of respect, tolerance, moderation, and reason is in Chechnya. Of course, in today’s Russia, no one gets to demonstrate unless it fits the political priorities of the day. That one was telling…
For the sake of the Russian people, let’s hope their bosses’ pandering will not boomerang…
Pascale Combelles Siegel