Ukrainians become Ukrainian

At New Pathway, Alexander Motyl writes:

For the first time, arguably ever, Ukraine has a solidly pro-Western, pro-reform elite and society, a patriotic, self-mobilized, active, and pro-Ukrainian civil society and population, an increasingly patriotic security apparatus and army, the solid support of the West and of key Western institutions, and a crystal-clear sense of who the “enemy” is – Russia.

Ukrainians have finally become Ukrainian, and their society and state are finally in the West. This is unprecedented and of world-historical importance.

What needs to change is of course the economy, the state apparatus, the society. The economy has to be made more market friendly, the state has to be trimmed, decentralized, made less corrupt, and subordinate to the rule of law, and society has to be made less corrupt and also subordinate to the еrule of law. Opening up the economy is “easy,” as are trimming and decentralizing the state. A few good laws can do the trick. Changing attitudes to corruption and rule of law will take time.

The End of a Brand

On his blog The Vault of the Future, Silicon Valley startup entrepreneur Max Skibinsky takes an undeceived view of today’s Russia in the aftermath of the MH17 disaster, and explains some of the reasons for his reluctance to return there:

To understand Russia’s lightning fast descent into the abyss one has to understand a simple truth that many (myself included) suspected all along: Russia was and is a failed state. What is seen from the outside is just a facade imitating a functional country and government. High oil prices, residual infrastructure of USSR and internal mass propaganda machine maintained the illusion for more than a decade.

Not only is Russia a mafia state — it’s controlled by a vast propaganda machine that is even more all-devouring than the Soviet one:

Official TV propaganda lies professionally and constantly. There are no independent TV channels; everything is controlled by government stooges. The “news” teams employ special teams that do video editing and fabrications to present absolutely falsified accounts for TV transmission…

The best way to understand modern Russia is to imagine a steep pyramid. At the very top there is a clique of KGB-affiliated oligarchs, who manage a barely-competent class of middle-managers (who can and do steal a fraction of everything they touch) which in turn sits on top of a largely brainwashed and deranged mass population living on life-long government welfare.

As the author notes, “this is the most toxic environment imaginable to incubate a startup ecosystem.”

He concludes:

I think we came to the end of the line with regards to Russia as a name, culture, a global brand. For the time being the country future is destroyed, police state is well-entrenched and the narrative for the brainwashed locals would be xenophobic tale of struggle with the “West”.

Hat tip: Anders Östlund on Twitter: @andersostlund

 

Take Russia out of Europe

Dmitry Tymchuk, on the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 flight MH17:

I sincerely believe that some part of the responsibility for this tragedy lies with the European leaders. In the case of the Russian aggression against Ukraine they have been too busy counting their money, forgetting that the world is very crowded and fragile. They forgot how small Europe is. And it cannot be that one country is the victim of aggression and consumed by war, while this is apparently of no concern to all the others.

It’s also time, I believe, that those in Europe and the U.K. who are involved with Russia at a general cultural and educational level made their position clear. Time that Russian propaganda organizations like RT (Russia Today) and Voice of Russia were taken off the air and closed, time that Russian PR agencies like the Russkiy Mir Foundation and Academia Rossica were shut down and their offshoots and branches in Western universities removed.

The Dictatorship

Yuri Felshtinsky, in a recent article discussing what he sees as Russia’s current gradual preparation for a major war:

Сейчас уже понятно, что никакой элиты нет. Есть довольно жестко отстроенная вертикаль власти. В конце 15-летнего пути все, что мы имеем в России, – это диктатура. Это диктатура не сталинского типа, а скорее мягкая диктатура фашистского типа, как при Муссолини или раннем Гитлере. Диктатура при открытости границы – а при Сталине границы были закрыты, при рыночной экономике – а при Сталине никакой рыночной экономики не было, без концентрационных лагерей, без массовых политических репрессий. Но эта мягкая диктатура в любой момент может превратиться и в более жесткую диктатуру – просто по законам жанра.

It is now clear that there is no elite. There is a rather rigidly constructed power vertical. At the end of a 15-year-old path, all that we have in Russia is a dictatorship. It is not a Stalinist dictatorship, but rather a soft dictatorship of the fascist type, like that of Mussolini or early Hitler. A dictatorship with open borders – under Stalin the borders were closed. One with a market economy – under Stalin, there was no market economy. One without concentration camps, without mass political repressions. But this soft dictatorship can at any moment turn into a more hardline dictatorship – simply by the laws of the genre.

Putin’s Russian World

At the annual conference of Russian Federation ambassadors and permanent representatives on July 1 Putin delivered an address “on protecting Russia’s national interests and strengthening the foundations and principles of international relations.”

This year, prompted by events in Ukraine that are being deliberately engineered by Russia itself, Putin’s speech contained some unambiguous pointers to the future direction of Russian foreign policy and military strategy, which are now impelled by considerations of what the propaganda calls “national interest” and “rights to protective intrusion”. From the English translation posted on the official website:

In Ukraine, as you may have seen, at threat were our compatriots, Russian people and people of other nationalities, their language, history, culture and legal rights, guaranteed, by the way, by European conventions. When I speak of Russians and Russian-speaking citizens I am referring to those people who consider themselves part of the broad Russian community, they may not necessarily be ethnic Russians, but they consider themselves Russian people.

What did our partners expect from us as the developments in Ukraine unfolded? We clearly had no right to abandon the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol to the mercy of nationalist and radical militants; we could not allow our access to the Black Sea to be significantly limited; we could not allow NATO forces to eventually come to the land of Crimea and Sevastopol, the land of Russian military glory, and cardinally change the balance of forces in the Black Sea area. This would mean giving up practically everything that Russia had fought for since the times of Peter the Great, or maybe even earlier – historians should know.

I would like to make it clear to all: this country will continue to actively defend the rights of Russians, our compatriots abroad, using the entire range of available means – from political and economic to operations under international humanitarian law and the right of self-defence.

It should be noted that in the translation designed for foreign consumption the phrase “Russian world” (русский мир), with its quasi-imperial overtones, is rendered by the more innocuous term “Russian community”. As Vladimir Socor points out in a recent article for EDM, the “right of self-defence” “translates into Russia’s paramilitary intervention in Ukraine’s east. Moscow rejects all proposals to disarm its proxy forces there, or evacuate them back to Russia, or disavow them, at least verbally”. Socor continues:

This is the boldest application to date of Putin’s concept of compatriots’ “right to self-defence.” Moscow acts as if this is an inherent right in principle and an already acquired right in Ukraine’s east.