Vladimir Putin's ascension to the Russian presidency for a third term was greeted with widespread public protest and charges of electoral fraud. Devon Black writes:
Putin had hoped to re-take the presidency with confidence and a strong mandate. Instead, the pressure was on him to solidify his tenuous political position.
Putin did so by stoking nationalist fervor, crafting a narrative of a Russia beset by enemies, inside and out. Putin told a story of traditional Russians fighting back against both physical and existential threats.
And, so, he moved into Crimea and he keeps pushing the envelope.
Lawrence Martin writes that Stephen Harper's vision of economic prosperity was founded on four pillars -- jobs, taxation, trade and pipelines. But, "other than taxes, where they have cuts to boast about, the pillars are starting to look wobbly."
So, faced with unhappy citizens, both men have turned to nationalism -- which is a decidedly double edged sword. Black writes:
Again and again, history has shown that when politicians try to turn the angrier form of nationalism into political advantage, they lose control. Most recently, Europe has seen a sharp rise in anti-Semitic violence — related in part to the conflict in Gaza, but also linked to the rise of far-right nationalist parties like France’s National Front.
We should be wary when our own politicians try to exploit certain flavours of nationalism for political gain. There’s nothing wrong with, for example, celebrating Canada’s athletic achievements, as Prime Minster Harper did when his Vancouver Olympics jacket became ubiquitous on the 2011 campaign trail. But Harper has taken to peppering his speeches and policy positions with militaristic bombast.
Putin and Harper are creating straw men in an attempt to divert attention away from themselves. If Russians and Canadians begin to realize that the real enemy is within -- worse still, that he sits at the top of the political pyramid -- both men will be finished.