Putin didn’t do too badly for himself by having Gary Kasparov locked up for 5 days. It’s a way of flaunting his aggression, and also of getting people used to just sitting back and taking whatever it is he’s going to do next. So next time, when he does something even worse to Kasparov, people inside Russia and without won’t manage to make much fuss about it, because he already got them used to this much.
I predict that here in the United States the left/media/Democrats aren’t going to make much of a fuss, because they are busy trying to quell dissent, too, via the Fairness Doctrine, McCain-Feingold, hate crime laws, and campus speech codes. So Putin is doing their work, too, by getting people used to the arguments that political dissidents are a threat that must be brought under control.
It’s interesting, though, that even though Putin is wildly popular, at least in Moscow, he finds it necessary to put down all opposition. Is it because he realizes that the prosperity that makes him popular now is not going to last?