Russia is not Charlie

Russia’s official reaction to the French tragedy was little more than diplomatic correctness. President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to François Hollande in a formal statement and then spoke to the French president on the phone. The Russian people, however, have not seen or heard their leader say words of sympathy either for those killed or for the French. State TV showed Putin’s photo, followed by a photo of his press spokesman, who informed the viewers about Putin’s reaction in a voice-over. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was delegated to join the unity march in Paris on January 11. Indeed, after a year marked by confrontation with the West, Putin’s appearance alongside his Western counterparts as they solemnly expressed their unity would have been odd, even embarrassing.

hollande and putin

On the day of the march that brought together over one and a half million people in Paris alone, Russian state TV’s report sounded decent and respectful. But the news report on the march was the only occasion on which this unusual restraint was evident. The participants of a state TV talk show that was aired the very same evening emphasised Russia’s moral superiority and criticised Europe for its hubris, its moral decline, and its faulty policies.

For the full article, please visit the website of the European Council on Foreign Relations.




Maria Lipman for the European Council on Foreign Relations

Maria Lipman is exploring the conservative backlash in Russia and how this translates into foreign policy. She was until recently the editor-in-chief of the Pro et Contra journal, published by the Carnegie Moscow Center. She writes regularly for the New Yorker online and has featured as editor and contributor in several books on Russian domestic politics.