Vladimir Putin is being glorified as a savior of humanity on Russia’s most-watched television networks for bombing the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and cleaning up after the United States in Syria.
Putin controls Russia’s largest television networks.
Russia’s most-watched television station, Channel 1, featured a spectacle of politicians, analysts, both Christian and Muslim religious leaders, all justifying Putin’s use of force in Syria on legal and moral grounds.
“This is more than just military strikes against Islamic State,” commented Igor Korotchenko, editor of National Defense magazine, after Russian lawmakers unanimously authorized the use of force. “We are protecting the values of humanity and taking a stand against the most extreme forms of obscurantism and terror.”
On Russia’s No. 2 television network, a news presenter early Thursday, hours after Russia had launched its first airstrike in Syria, declared, “A hundred dead terrorists.”
“She then cut to a correspondent in Syria who lauded the precision of the strikes as aerial footage of the attacks supplied by the Defense Ministry aired,” reports Bloomberg.
Putin revved up the Kremlin’s propaganda efforts as polls were beginning to show that public discontent was growing while the country’s economy dragged on and passion over Ukraine faded.
“Russia is halting World War III,” Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the flamboyant leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, reportedly told Channel 1.
There are three opposition parties in Russia’s parliament, which is controlled by Putin’s allies from United Russia. Zhirinovsky heads one of the three opposition parties.
The other two opposition party leaders explained on Channel 1 why it is better for Russia to fight jihadists abroad rather than on Russian soil.
Zhirinovsky reportedly indicated, “Someone, after all, has to clean up the mess the U.S. created in the Middle East, which threatens the fabric of civilization.”
In an effort to avoid the real threat of homegrown terrorist attacks, officials and media outlets made sure to emphasize that Putin’s fight was focused on extremist elements of Islam, not the religion itself.
“One by one, the heads of Russia’s predominately Muslim regions, including Tatarstan, Chechnya and Dagestan, appeared on Channel 1 to voice approval for the Syria campaign, as did the country’s chief mufti, Talgat Tadzhuddin,” notes Bloomberg.
“This directly affects Russia, it’s our southern border,” Tadzhuddin said. “When your neighbor has a fire, you must get involved to help reestablish peace and quiet.”
Throughout Putin’s ongoing 15-year reign, the Russian leader has exploited his control over all national broadcasters to generate public support for his policies, particularly after he annexed the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula.
Putin reached a historic 89 percent approval rating this summer, up from 64 percent two years ago, all by stoking patriotic fervor, notes Bloomberg.
Nevertheless, economic problems are beginning to overshadow the public’s passion for Ukraine.
“While his support remains above 80 percent, discontent is growing as the economic contraction drags on and zeal over Ukraine fades,” reports Bloomberg. “Fifty-five percent of Russians are satisfied with the direction in which the country is headed, down from 64 percent over the summer.”
Bloomberg does acknowledged that the poll, conducted by the Levada Center, was taken in September, before Putin revved up the Kremlin’s propaganda machine over the global fight against terrorism.
“The whole operation in Syria has an element of theater about it and Putin’s gambit will help distract the public from their economic woes now that the euphoria over Crimea has worn off, according to Andrei Kolesnikov, an analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center,” Bloomberg reports.
“These strikes are primarily intended for domestic consumption,” he told Bloomberg. “The images of bombs falling are world-class and they’re intended to show Russia as a world power.”