The St. Petersburg attack, a bomb set off in a subway in the Russian metropolis earlier today, could allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to dictate world events in the short term.
Everyone knows that Putin isn’t running a totally legitimate state. Russians even know this, to the point where they hardly bother coming out to vote for anything, anymore. That’s embarrassing for President Putin, but not necessarily a real problem. After all, de-legitimacy, or, the lack of interest in the population for a democracy, is a thoroughly Western ideal. Putin has never been very interested in the Western model, and rarely shies from saying so. To this end, it’s irrational to expect him to embrace a transparent, Western-democratic stance as the lead statesman of his country.
So what’s this mean? Well, it means he can do whatever he wants, practically speaking, as long as he convinces Russian elites to go with it, and Russian citizens not to revolt.
Today, President Putin was presented with a real problem. Sometime this morning, a St. Petersburg subway was bombed by an unknown assailant. Though surveillance pictures seem to indicate a man with a darker complexion in a turban, the attacker’s identity has not yet been proven.
When I say that President Putin has been presented with a real problem, what I actually mean, in Byzantine fashion, is that President Putin has been presented with a genuine opportunity. I said before that the Russian President doesn’t bother with Western ideals, but in this case he may decide to follow a Western precedent.
With the pursuit and continuation of the United States of America’s war against “terror,” the Russian Federation could easily use the international precedent to name an assailant and then pursue them in a similar fashion.
That’s right. This bombing in Russia is a potential nightmare scenario.
Why would Putin do that? With the Russian economy suffering under Western blockades, and with several halfway-autonomous Islamic cities in the Russian south and central asia relatively prosperous from trade with Mediterranean Islamic countries, Putin may well be able to name a Muslim assailant and begin to pursue more traditional Russian tactics against its Muslim citizens: surveillance, search and seizure, and so forth.
Putin could, in the event of the assailant being identified (genuinely or not, as is the Russian way, historically) as citizen of another country—Turkey (likely), Iran (unlikely) or ISIL (nothing to gain)—also justify annexing more territory and striving against whoever he names.
The St. Petersburg attack, taking place on a day where the trending topic in the West is whether or not the NHL will send players to the 2018 Olympic Games, could be a fulcrum moment in geopolitics.
In one particular nightmare scenario, Russia identifies the attacker as Turkic, splits the EU over the question of reparations, aggression, and deportation of Turkic citisens and immigrants in light of recent Turkish anti-EU and anti-caucasian rhetoric, and starts a localised world war as Turkey has NATO and EU protection—in our day and age, a true irony.
The situation will only become more volatile the longer things drag on.