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.

Ukraine as Antidote

In the wake of the large gains by ultra-right wing parties in the recent European elections, Timothy Snyder suggests in the New York Review of Books that Ukraine could provide an antidote to the problem. A country that actively wants to join the European Union and is willing to work for it could help the body to rediscover its purpose:

In the Ukrainian revolution, people fought carrying the EU flag; in the Ukrainian elections, people stood in line for hours wearing EU symbols. The European Union has been enlarging since its establishment as the European Communities, and it will and should continue to do so. A promise of further enlargement would not be expensive: on the contrary, the incentives for reform and for investment would reduce the need for future aid.

By contrast, Snyder says, the voters who in Scotland, France, England, Greece, Austria, Bulgaria and elsewhere in Europe voted for a return to the nation state are living in a parallel universe, and really voted for a “separation from the world”. Their detachment from reality is merely enabling Putin’s scheme for the Russian domination of Europe – the Russkiy Mir – for these nationalists and advocates of “independence” also support Putin’s aims and policies. However, “if Europeans voted the way Ukrainians did, Europe could count on a far more secure and prosperous future.”

The Miscalculation

maidanAs events in Ukraine once again enter a critical phase, it seems evident that the current upheaval, now in its third month, was triggered by the Kremlin in the hope of starting a civil war in the country. This conflict it intended to use as a bogeyman in order to suppress dissent in Russia itself. However, the  plan appears to have backfired: instead of a civil conflict, what has emerged in Ukraine is akin to a social and political revolution involving all layers of Ukrainian society in resistance to a tyrant-President and a government that has lost all touch with the electorate.

 At present it’s still unclear what direction the new Maidan movement will take. As the Yanukovych regime applies brutal force under the Kafkaesque pretext of “anti-terrorist operations” – thus branding Ukraine’s own people “terrorists” – the peaceful opposition still has to overcome and reconcile its own internal divisions. It’s uncertain whether by the end of the present crisis the leaders of the resistance will be the same as the eloquent but somewhat disconnected figures who have so far emerged, or whether other hands and voices will eventually take command. What is clear, though, is that this is a people’s movement: a movement that reflects a widespread discontent and anger among all age-groups and social classes with the corruption and self-seeking of the political establishment that has gripped Ukraine in a stranglehold. As a protester says of Yanukovych: “We cannot trust him. There can be no compromise with a dictator. He must go.”

 In opting for violence as a solution to its unpopularity, the Kyiv regime may have badly miscalculated, for the violence and its consequences can be redirected back to it, and may soon destroy it. With pressure exerted by the EU and the United States, and by world public opinion, the regime’s international legitimacy is likely to be further eroded and undermined. Instead of the “East-West” conflict scenario envisaged by the Kremlin and its Ukrainian clients, a national uprising has the potential to sweep first through Kyiv, then through the other cities and regions of the country, and finally over the border into Russia, where it may threaten Putin himself.

Ukraine: Scenarios

ukreuropeOn his LiveJournal blog Ukraine/Russia specialist Andreas Umland asks:

What happens to Europe should its territorially largest country slide towards civil war and a violent break-up? What happens to the current trans-European security architecture, pan-European organizations and all-European law should the Ukrainian state fall apart? What will happen to the already strained political, yet surprisingly intense economic EU-Russia relations when Moscow accepts possible offers from East and South Ukrainian regions to become, like Transnistria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia, Russian protectorates (if not oblasts of the RF)? I hope that these scenarios are currently being discussed in Brussels, Washington, Berlin, Moscow… etc

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is giving signs that Moscow may not wait indefinitely for the answers:

Russia urges EU “not to interfere” in Ukraine.

Useful Europeans

83px-Logo_Front_National.svgThe previous post drew a rough parallel between the Western leftist and revolutionary movements of the 1920s and today’s left-wing/libertarian alliance of “techno-revolutionaries” who seek to bring down capitalism by information-related means. The analogy can be widened, however: there is another group of dissenters in the West whom Moscow can rely on to create a base of support and a pool of common interests. It’s a group that has little in common with left-wing ideas and aspirations, or even with the preoccupations of libertarianism, but is similarly useful. The far-right movements of Europe, with their representation in the European Parliament and their exploitation of the immigration issue, have a role to play not unlike that of the “полезные идиоты” of the inter-war decades.

As Elena Servettaz recently made clear,

Kremlin officials realize that the traditional liberal and conservative parties in Europe are gradually losing ground and that now is the time to cautiously align themselves with new forces—the far-right nationalists. “Some people in political circles in Moscow know that in Europe, and particularly in France, as the new family of far-right parties is gaining momentum, they must get to know them better and test the waters,” says Jean-Yves Camus.

The Euroscepticism of public opinion in France and the U.K. can be harnessed and adapted by nationalist and populist parties to form a Europhobic ideology based on fear of foreigners, “conservative values” and hostility to Islam. In December the Dutch Eurosceptic politician Geert Wilders attended a meeting in Italy which also hosted a United Russia Duma member:

According to Italian media, Viktor Zubarev also addressed the gathering and spoke about ‘values, the family, the nation, a return to religion’ and said that the party shared a lot of ideas with Italy’s Northern League, from immigration to budgetary policies.

In France, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen believes that Russia is “unfairly demonized”, and has claimed that an ongoing anti-Russian campaign is being organized “at the highest levels of the European Union with support from the United States”.

As Moscow increases its propaganda effort through outlets like RT (Russia Today) and Russia Beyond the Headlines, it’s as well to be aware of the possible dangers of its collaboration with right-wing extremist forces in Europe – and to see those dangers in the context of Europe’s twentieth-century past.

NATO plans bigger exercises

Reuters reports that

NATO plans to sharply increase the size of its exercises in Europe in coming years to ensure allies keep working smoothly together despite winding down combat operations in Afghanistan, senior NATO commanders said on Thursday.

More than 40,000 soldiers may take part in war games planned for Spain and Portugal in 2015, according to U.S. Army Lieutenant-General Frederick Hodges, NATO’s land forces commander.