Putin’s 'doctors' plot'?

No one doubts that Chechen extremists (freedom fighters?) have had Vladimir Putin in their sights for years. Yet with just a week to go before Russia’s presidential election, riveting news that a ring of assassins has been arrested in the midst of actively preparing an attempt on Putin’s life has raised nationalism in Russia and engendered sympathy for the embattled president. The timing couldn’t be better for Putin (though, of course, any time is a good time to have assassins captured, if you’re the target). Sounds suspiciously like a “Doctors’ Plot” moment, for those who don’t believe in such providential timing. Back in 1953, as Josef Stalin was preparing the ground for another purge, a convenient plot to kill the tyrant involving a group of Jewish doctors was discovered. This was to be the signal for unleashing that peculiar type of Russian hell on innocent people. Fortunately for the Soviet Union and the world, Stalin died of a stroke on March 5, 1953, before he could fully indulge his blood lust yet again.

Putin is no Stalin, obviously, but as a way to rally fading support, show his fearlessness, and possibly lay the ground for future tightening of security, the Extremists’ Plot may be more than a footnote in Russian history. And this time, I don’t think Putin is going anywhere. As they say, history doesn’t repeat, but sometimes it rhymes.

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About the Author

 

Michael
Auslin
  • Michael Auslin is a resident scholar and the director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies Asian regional security and political issues.


    Before joining AEI, he was an associate professor of history at Yale University. A prolific writer, Auslin is a biweekly columnist for The Wall Street Journal Asia, which is distributed globally on wsj.com. His longer writings include the book “Pacific Cosmopolitans: A Cultural History of U.S.-Japan Relations” (Harvard University Press, 2011) and the study “Security in the Indo-Pacific Commons: Toward a Regional Strategy” (AEI Press, 2010). He was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, a Marshall Memorial Fellow by the German Marshall Fund, and a Fulbright and Japan Foundation Scholar.


    Auslin has a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an M.A. from Indiana University at Bloomington, and a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University.


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