Putin’s moves to shut out contact between Russia and the outside world appear deranged when you know that Russia is facing a massive and increasing shortfall in foreign investment. With little domestic savings to speak of, Russians depend on foreigners to float their boat, yet their government is doing all it can to prevent them from understanding the needs and concerns of foreigners, which only further alienates foreign money from the Russian market.
And Putin’s goons are going much further. The security forces are already openly bragging about reading the e-mail of opposition leaders, openly storming the offices of opposition publications at will, and openly seeking to bribe LJ bloggers to toe the Kremlin line. They are, in other words, practicing not just to destroy the Internet’s ability to influence the next presidential “election” in Russia, but to bring about a sea change in the way Russians get information from the Internet — permanently rendering the web useless as a means of challenging the Kremlin’s power.
Barack Obama was supposed to be the first tech president. Supposedly youthful and “with it,” the BlackBerry-wielding Obama was supposed to lead us into a brave new world of technological progress. But what he’s actually doing is simply watching as the most serious obliteration of tech-based expression that the world has yet seen takes place in Russia. In fact, Obama is enabling the disaster by helping Medvedev score propaganda points and keep his docile domestic population off guard.
Obama has done nothing at all to stand up for American values in Russia. Instead, he’s munched burgers with Medvedev, unilaterally given up missile defense in Eastern Europe, and made it clear he thinks Medvedev is a progressive figure that America should support. This allows Medvedev to sell himself to his electorate as a man respected by the outside world, further undermining the legitimacy of those who would challenge him.
In fact, to the shocking contrary, Obama may actually support the Kremlin’s efforts to wipe out privacy on the Internet. His administration is actively seeking to crack open Skype and Gmail, just like the Putin Gestapo. Who knows? Maybe Putin and Obama are sharing notes and secret midnight whispers.
In short, one of the most memorable events of the Obama administration may well be the laying of the RuNet in its grave — and the rise of a fully realized neo-Soviet dictatorship in Russia.