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The Daily Vertical: Is Putin Turning Inward? (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

There's been an interesting meme making the rounds in the Russian media lately.

Put simply, it claims that Vladimir Putin is coming home.

After more than two years of focusing almost exclusively on foreign conflicts, the Kremlin leader appears to be turning his attention to domestic affairs.

The Russian newspaper Vedomosti made the argument in an editorial last week.

So did political commentator Tatiana Stanovaya in a column in

The creation of a new National Guard -- an elite paramilitary force that answers to Putin alone -- illustrates the trend.

So does the reorganization of the Interior Ministry.

So does proposed legislation to stiffen penalties for extremism.

And so do moves that were less attention grabbing -- like the creation of a Fatherland History Foundation to popularize history and Putin's move to place Russia's Federal Archives under direct presidential control.

The economy is in recession. Social protests are on the rise.

The euphoria from Putin's military exploits is fading. And parliamentary elections are just months away.

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The Kremlin needs a new storyline, a new movie, a new plot.

So, after more than two years of military adventures and vilifying foreign enemies -- be they Ukrainians, Americans or Turks -- is the Putin regime gearing up to focus on the enemy within?

As logical as this seems, I just don't buy it.

The Kremlin is clearly gearing up for a tough political season -- and is giving every indication that it plans to play rough with any dissent.

But since Putin has staked so much of his legitimacy on success in foreign affairs, he simply can't afford to appear to be retrenching.

And anyway, if Russia's history shows us one thing, it is that repression at home and aggression abroad are far from mutually exclusive.

Keep telling me what you think on The Power Vertical's Twitter feed and on our Facebook page.