As Jack Shafer notes, this Russian government ad supplement published in yesterday's Washington Post is almost comically clueless in its attempt to reach out to American power-brokers. But I don't think the regime's bad English and media naivete is indicative of "Putin's fall," as Schafer proposes. Rather, this shit is scary. It serves not only as evidence of the censorship of Putin's KGB-redux regime, but it also clearly articulates an increasingly confrontational, Russia v. West foreign policy. There's the small stuff -- Russia amping up Arctic exploration under the rationale that it is the rightful sovereign of the ice cap -- and the truly disturbing, including an essay entitled "When a Little Paranoia is Good For You," that claims it is not minority ethnic and linguistic groups within Russia that need protection, but rather the Russian language itself:
The concept of Russian world (russkiy mir), ushered into the public sphere by President Vladimir Putin in his State of the Union speech in April, came into being at the right moment. Never have we been more concerned about the state of our language as now. Not only school teachers, but even taxi drivers complain about the “contamination” of the language by Internet Newspeak, criminal jargon and plain swearing. Never have we heard more about the “retreat” of Russian in all Eurasia.
On the major question -- who will be President Putin's hand-picked successor -- the supplement has this to say about the weakened pro-democracy opposition:
The opposition is in a different situation. They have nothing to lose. Not one of their candidates stands a chance of winning, and their nomination race makes only inside-page news. Russians are skeptical of the opposition.
Nevertheless, opposition candidates still might run for the presidency, and they need a candidate. He or she will certainly not be a strong rival to the Kremlin nominee, but at least they can publicise an alternative platform and show that Russia still has people with different points of view, even though they do not make up a majority.
In other words, this is a government completely comfortable in saying that the only purpose of an election is to show the world that Russians are allowed to have differing views -- there's not even a head nod here toward debating policy or giving the Russian people a chance to determine their future. That's a propaganda election. And as we know from Putin's complete crack-down on independent media, persecution of independent journalists and academics, and show-trials of political enemies, censorship is a way of life in Russia.
This Post supplement crudely confirms that, and makes old Bush administration attempts to buy education columnist support for NCLB look almost elegant.