By Brian Whitmore
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.
So, the Kremlin is rolling out its talking points on why tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in nationwide protests last week.
Can you guess what they are? Of course, you can! It was a Western plot. What else could it be after all?
Speaking on state television Sunday night, State Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov said the protests are the latest manifestation of a U.S. plot to undermine Russia.
You know, just like it did in Georgia and Ukraine. Just like it is doing in Belarus.
These guys just can’t help themselves. They just keep going back to their greatest hits.
Because in the Kremlin’s worldview, ordinary citizens in the former Soviet Union have absolutely no agency of their own.
If they challenge their rulers in any way — let alone take to the streets in protest — the only explanation can be that they’re pawns in some dark conspiracy hatched by some foreign power.
They’re naive children who are easily manipulated.
It’s inconceivable that they could develop civic consciousness.
It’s inconceivable that they could form voluntary associations to try to improve their lives.
It’s inconceivable that they could take to the streets of their own accord to oppose systemic corruption.
And it’s remarkable the degree to which Vladimir Putin’s regime appears to actually believe these things, whether it’s talking about Georgians, about Ukrainians, about Belarusians, or about Russians.
And what this says is that this is a regime that looks upon its own people, and those of its neighbors, with fear and contempt.