Letter: Dispatch from Russia

To the Editor:

In support of Richard Dybvig’s April 5 letter objecting to a Glenn McCoy cartoon depicting Putin as a strongman, the following is from an email I just received from my daughter-in-law, a University of Richmond professor of Russian who spent last week visiting friends and colleagues in St. Petersburg:

“In my circle of diverse informants, there is universal agreement that Putin is in fact very weak at this point. He has, as it were, painted himself into a corner. He is surrounded and provisionally supported by powerful actors with their own power bases and financial interests. He has to continue to play them all off each other, and to his advantage, as long as possible. The minute he loses his grip on the highest seat in the land, he will be eaten alive. In other words, he is just the most powerful gang leader among many — if he stumbles, he will either be killed or end up in jail. So in a certain sense, he has no choice but to tighten the screws, crack down on any genuine threats to his power, which would include any kind of genuine transparency (who really answers the phone, metaphorically speaking, at the corruption hotline?) and any kind of genuine political opposition.”

Barbara Blough