With the prospective re-election of Vladimir Putin on the horizon, the Russian people are out in droves to protest his policies. Many in opposition to Putin's policies showed up for the various rallies, numbering more than 25,000 people in total by one estimation by the Moscow police, with thousands more around the country. These protesters were flexing the political muscle that is their rights as members of a democratic government. Having such a show of support has helped bolster the confidence of liberals, nationalists and communists; all parties that are in opposition of Putin politics.
These protests were the cause of last week's parliamentary election in Russia, and are meant to put pressure on Putin; specifically on his bid to return to presidency. This vocalization also shows the distaste and animosity that is held for one of Russia's most prominent politicians. This was a major shock because the government felt politically forced to allow the demonstration to take place, and went so far as to license it. This made the demonstration one of the largest to take place since the fall of the Soviet Union. On that note, many there said this rally was reminiscent of those rallies of the 1990s.
Another major factor in this grass roots demonstration is in the participants. Through the various articles, nearly every Russian social group or class are mentioned. There are comments about young Russians holding I-Pads to broadcast this event, while standing next to businessmen and old ladies. Having such a wide variety of people show support for this cause, presents major possibilities for Russia's future. This has allowed the opposition to grow bolder and make a number of demands, such as the release of a number of prisoners and the removal of Vladimir Churov who runs the Central Election Commission.
On top of all of this was the media coverage received for the demonstrations. With such a huge undertaking, the Kremlin could not effectively bury it on Russian television. Not only this, but the government-controlled stations provided coverage of the rallies; including Boris Nemtsov, the current opposition leader. While the coverage on these stations did not show Putin in a negative light, there was virtually no mention of the demonstrations in a negative light.
This demonstration creates the possibility for a major shift in Russian politics and power that needs to be taken into account for national security. The fact that the government of Russia allowed this protest to occur seems to be a positive slant in the direction for the democratic processes of the country. One thing that makes this specifically reassuring is the peaceful manner that this protest was accomplished. While there was a police and military presence, the government had no cause to use it. This in itself showed a major shift from the assumed crackdown of the government that outside sources promote. Having the possibility of a more democratic government creates the possibility of a better economic and political connection with Russia. The United States could benefit from this because it could lead to a lessening of strain between the two governments and allow for negotiations for supply routes through Russian controlled or influenced territory.
While these are a number of national security benefits from this action, a number of concerns arise as well. For one, the articles comment about how the communist and nationalist parties are gaining strength and confidence from these movements. Concern must be raised, and intelligence taken to evaluate what will happen if these parties gain a strong hold in the Russian government. The questions of a change of policies, or values, must be addressed and accounted for in watching and preparing for future American involvement with Russia.
Another problem is the unrest that such demonstrations can cause in the Russian society. So far, Russian protestors and government officials are using legal, open means of a democratic government. However, the question needs to be addressed what will happen if Russian protestors cause social strife in the future; or if the government also cracks down on these political freedoms. Also a national security concern would be the chance that Putin loses the election, but refuses to turn over power to the victor. Such an action, while maybe not probable, must be considered because of the world wide implications of such an action.