Dagestan suicide bombings have Russia looking to Putin
The Dagestan suicide bombings on Wednesday were the latest in a spate of attacks that has many in Russia looking to Vladimir Putin, whose reputation was built on tough talk and action against insurgents.
(Page 2 of 3)
"With these prominent terrorist attacks, Putin will be under intense pressure to show that his strategy worked. It's all on him. He needs to take some action to restore an impression of stability in the North Caucasus," Petrov says.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Some experts say the terror attacks make explicit the threat to Sochi, where Putin has staked $17 billion of the state's money and his own personal prestige on the upcoming Olympic Games.
"This is very alarming," says Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a leading Russian political scientist. "We're facing an enemy that wants to destabilize the situation for political purposes. Russia's prestige is at stake here. And if we can't cope with terrorists in our own capital city, how can we hope to prevent them from disrupting a big international event like the Olympics?"
Putin himself has taken center stage in recent days even though, under Russia's Constitution, national security should be the realm of President Dmitry Medvedev.
In a reprise of his "outhouse" comment, Putin told journalists on Tuesday that the militants will be "dredged from the bottom of the sewers."
After the Dagestan bombings on Wednesday, Putin drew an explicit link with the Moscow terror strike, saying "I don't rule out that [both actions] were carried out by the same group." Dagestani leader Magomedsalam Magomedov echoed that line, saying the Moscow and Kizlyar bombers were "links in the same chain."
Some experts believe Putin and Mr. Medvedev are engaged in an under-the-carpet struggle for control of the Kremlin in elections that are slated for 2012, and some suggest that swift action by Putin in the wake of the terror strikes may improve his chances
"If there are more terrorist acts, particularly in Moscow, we might even see emergency presidential elections," says Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of Panorama, an independent Moscow think tank. "There is growing public unease, and this could be used against Medvedev. People associate Putin with a firm hand, and this situation can play into his hands."
But no one is sure what options may be available to crush the insurgency that is spreading in the mainly-Muslim North Caucasus and now, once again, appears to threaten Russia's main population centers with random violence.
Speaking with journalists Tuesday, Putin admitted that there's little prospect of locking down Moscow's sprawling transportation system, which is used by upwards of 10 million people daily, including thousands of market vendors who routinely lug large packages on and off metro trains. But he called for increased use of surveillance equipment, such as security cameras, as has become common practice in London and other European capitals.