putin

Russia “feared but not respected”

Michael McFaul:


“… the downing of Malaysia Airways #17 squandered in one day years of investment in changing Russia’s reputation abroad, including the $50 billion spent on the Sochi Olympics, which were intended to introduce the new, modern Russia to the world. Russia may be feared again, but Russia is not respected.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/08/putin-the-not-so-great-109711_Page3.html#ixzz39aIlIsAM

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.

Neo-Nazism now a part of Russia Today

The Interpreter online current affairs magazine recently ran a feature on a neo-Nazi who represents Germany on the Kremlin’s propaganda TV channel Russia Today (RT). Now the Interpreter discusses another right-wing extremist who appears regularly on the same channel. It seems that the Moscow  authorities have no qualms about associating themselves with some of the most vicious racist and extremist movements in Europe and the United States. A few years ago, I would not have believed that this was possible – but now it’s plain for everyone to see.

The rise of antisemitism in Russia and the crisis in Ukraine

The Winnipeg Media Centre has published an analysis of the Putin regime’s campaign of disinformation and defamation against Ukraine, the basis of which is an attempt to incriminate the Ukrainian government and people with the charge of organized antisemitism. In fact, as the analysis shows, the rise of antisemitism is taking place not in Ukraine but in neighboring Russia, where officially sponsored fascist and neo-Nazi ideology is creating a situation not unlike the one that existed in Germany during the 1930s.

The analysis is divided into three sections:

The first section gives the view of the Ukrainian Jewish community and of organizations that monitor human rights. It is clear from these articles that Jews in Ukraine see neither the current Ukrainian government nor the groups that brought about the change of government as a danger.  On the contrary, they are unanimous in the view that the biggest threat to the safety and security of Jewish people in Ukraine comes from the militant separatists backed by the Russian state.

The second section presents articles by scholars who are following events in the Donbas area and in Russia. These researchers are among many who warn of an alarming rise in chauvinistic and xenophobic attitudes in Russia. They are particularly worried by the rise of fascist groups supported by the government, and by the development of a fascist ideology in circles close to Putin.

The third section presents articles that indicate what we can expect from governing circles in Moscow, and raises broader issues in connection with Putin’s propaganda campaign.

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.”