The one emotion most of us who study Russia never associate with the men of the Kremlin is panic. They’re not the type. They’re more like mobsters, prone to say “we have a problem,” rather than to freak out. They think everything has a solution, although sometimes that solution might mean someone has to take nine grams of lead behind the ear. They do not raise their voices — my experience is that most Russian tough-guys are mumblers, not yellers — and they get things done, even if the final outcome might lack a certain, say, elegance.
That’s why it’s unusual to see the government of Vladimir Putin, and maybe even Putin himself, panicking over the downing of Malaysian Airline Flight 17. For the first time in a long time, maybe even since Putin’s first election to power, the Russian regime has a problem it cannot solve, one that will cost the Kremlin in both money and reputation. Continue reading →