Discussing ways of putting an end to Putin reminds one of an old [Soviet] radio joke: “Genetic engineering has created an iron rat. The beast is markedly abominable and villainous, but almost invulnerable.”
Russia’s foreign policy is practically copying its domestic pattern. What makes neo-totalitarianism so strong is its ability to turn any kind of opposition – leftist, rightist, extremist or moderate – to its advantage. Each has its niche that makes everyone happily accept the existing degrading economic and sociopolitical model. Those in power appear to be especially effective using the opposition that way, in order to propagandize hysterical populism, something that seems to top the agenda of several noted [Russian] public figures.
This is precisely the kind of such overall-consent approach Russia is trying to establish in its international relations. It is quite possible that the sanctions will serve the Putin regime’s benefit – mainly because the West and its civilization have always been inclined to project their systemic concepts, values, and principles onto an altogether different entity. Suffice it to recall the first contacts with the natives of [what is now] Latin America or Asia. I mean there were different civilizations. Europeans discovered there barons, dukes/counts, and social standings.
Little has changed with the development of ethnography and geography. The current US administration seriously considers the victory of “Muslim brothers” in the election race in Egypt. This attitude is so serious that [Washington] has severed traditional contact with the local military. It is common knowledge that the Afghan tribes fight regardless of victory or defeat, because fighting courses through their veins. This is what makes them invincible. And yet attempts have been repeatedly made to defeat them. There are many examples to cite.
As for Russia today, it is absolutely impossible to acknowledge the obvious fact that a politician admitted to G8 has for a very long while been thinking and acting along the very different lines of logic; a politician capable of making nuclear blackmail, hostile foreign territory takeover, telling endless lies.
At present, G7 is in a very difficult situation – and in an embarrassing state, in terms of morale. Its condition could be best described as a Raped Women’s Union or Fraud Victims Association, except that what we have is a group of victims of violence, humiliation, and theft getting together, yet refusing to acknowledge their condition, pretending that everything is OK. Result: foolish situation with Germany that was so proud of its go-between status and ability to come to terms with Russia, after Germany’s foreign intelligence service missed Russia’s plan to seize the Crimea, and the same is true of the United States, unless Barack Obama wanted to see and hear nothing about that plan.
Number one and biggest mistake on the part of analysts in the civilized countries – also, on the part of their colleagues in Russia – is that they associate Russia’s economic and social status with the stability of the regime. This regime is absolutely independent of that status, as well as of political moods. It is a kind of internal political autarchy that has never been defeated by Russian society, with all changes occurring as a result of inter-elite crises.
It is true that these crises emerged due to foreign political circumstances, but the existing political regime made sure they would never affect it. Until now the default mode was no nuclear blackmail on an international level. Russia has changed that mode and many believe that Russia will have its way by holding the West at nuclear gunpoint.
Last but not least, Putin has long proclaimed an elite nationalization motto. This is germane to any autocratic regime with historical modifications, like the Stalin regime. Here the key technique is manifesting egalitarianism, establishing a monarchical and totalitarian nation. Sanctions against Putin’s inner circle are playing into Putin’s hands, especially considering that there is a lovely internal compensation.
Number two mistake made by the civilized world was focusing on Putin and his inner circle in the oil/gas and international finance domains. No one seems to realize that “All Russia is our orchard…” [Anton Chekhov’s line in his play The Cherry Orchard. – Ed.] and now Russia turned into Putin and his inner circle’s private property. When formally drawing up federal and his balance sheets, simple privatization techniques are used, so that the government-run budget is regarded by the ruling elite as the obshchak [post-Soviet criminal slang word that means the common fund of a criminal community. – Ed.].
These techniques demonstrate the ties between what at first sight appears to be Putin’s irrational, archaic, risky imperial expansion policy, and the specific interests of his inner circle, including the hangers-on, a sizable and influential social group that includes a variety of public figures one can watch on the television almost every day, along with our good old cloak-and-dagger heroes, etc.
The glaring dark hole in Russia’s [federal] budget is moving from Sochi to the Crimea. Digging up the Olympic project’s finance reports didn’t look exactly patriotic, considering that other files were examined, concerning confiscated plots and homes, unpaid salaries and wages, etc. I wonder what would happen to anyone who would be stupid enough to mention the construction of bridges across the Kerch Strait. “All for the Front, All for Victory!” [A motto dating back to Russia under Stalin and WW II. – Ed.] I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Russia is financing the Crimea on a top secret basis, and that any media attempts to figure out what is going on will be qualified as acts of high treason.
What we hear about the Kremlin’s plans concerning the occupation of all Ukraine, including Kyiv, “mother of all cities of Rus’,” sounds quite realistic. These plans demonstrate the ruling elite’s barbarian concept of a “single Russian people” and its specific business interests. As regards Zhirinovsky’s message to the Polish foreign ministry, it isn’t as crazy as it sounds. This is a case study in floating trial balloons. I’m sure that Ukraine’s partition is on the minds of Russian strategists and on paper. That’s how they visualize Russia entering the international community of nations...
I will now broach a subject that will not be appreciated by the Ukrainian rather than Russian reader, probably by the Russian reader as well. I will reiterate that various sources estimated the rally in defense of Ukraine in Moscow as ranging between 50 and 70 thousand protesters – and this in conditions of psychological and moral pressure on the media and general public. Against this backdrop, the Ukrainian political leadership’s inactivity, indifference, apathy looked quite depressing.
Your government appears to be concerned only about getting aid from the West, considering that this aid is being provided quicker, in larger amounts, meant to help the victims of [Russia’s] aggression. Last fall, German Ambassador to Ukraine Dietmar Stuedemann said Ukraine shouldn’t overplay its role as a victim of Russia to pressure the EU [for membership]. Anyway, that’s precisely what’s happening against the backdrop of Russia’s corrupt military mission in the Crimea.
The biggest problem is that the noted Ukrainian public figures never attempted to organize a nationwide mobilization campaign when faced with that clear and apparent danger in the Crimea. Whether that happened because of principled pacifism, misinterpretation of the situation, or something else, doesn’t matter at the moment. What matters is that the existing domestic situation stimulates the aggressor, encouraging him to impose his will on the rest of the world.
PLACARD READS: “UKRAINE STANDS UNITED” / Photo by Ivan ANTYPENKO
Interestingly, progressive communities in Russia and Ukraine keep saying that the Putin regime will collapse before long, while referring to all achievements of that regime as Kremlin propaganda and provocation. The fact remains that this regime is getting stronger in Russia and beyond its borders. Ukrainians jumped the gun saying pro-Russian parties were impossible in your country. There is the Party of Regions and it is openly assisting the aggressor. Le Pen supporters are gaining momentum in France, aided by their counterparts elsewhere in Europe. Note that these political parties are Putin’s dedicated allies; they hold him in esteem. It looks as though the whole world forgot that totalitarianism came from Russia, that its example [Bolshevik coup d’etat] in 1917 has since been exerting a bad influence on European democracy.
Putin uses the connotation “national traitors,” a borrowing from Hitler’s political vocabulary. He applies it to all those who believe that Russia should be stopped. There were few such traitors in Nazi Germany, but those few were noted personalities. They seemed to have good prospects. One of those “traitors” even fought in the ranks of the Norwegian army. His name was Willy Brandt.
Zhirinovsky: Kremlin mouthpiece
Andrzej SZEPTYCKI, Polish analyst with the Institute of International Relations, University of Warsaw:
“It is true that the Polish foreign ministry received a letter from Mr. Zhirinovsky who invited Poland to take part in a partition of Ukraine. He offered us five oblasts in western Ukraine (those of Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Volyn, and Rivne), save for Zakarpattia and Chernivtsi. Our foreign ministry responded with a brief comment, referring to his message as being strange, even absurd; that it could not be regarded as Russia’s official proposal because, according to international law, a country could be represented by only three persons on an international level: president, prime minister, and foreign minister.
“Also, we in Poland are only too well aware that Mr. Zhirinovsky has of late been voicing President Putin’s ideas, that the man voices various options preferred by those ‘upstairs’ in Russia, but which they can’t voice themselves.
“Why is Russia acting that way? It wants to prove that Ukraine is an artificial state, as Putin said back in 2008. This proposal was also meant to demonstrate that Russia isn’t the only one interested in Ukraine and having to defend its citizens there. Russia expected this proposal to result in debates in Central European countries, concerning their cultural or historical interest in Ukraine. Should the situation be further destabilized, Hungary could become interested in what was happening in Zakarpattia, like Turkey being interested in what is happening in the Crimea.
“Making sanctions effective takes time. Obviously the current limited sanctions on the part of the West are having certain economic consequences. Another big question, however, is whether these sanctions will cause any changes in Russia’s domestic and foreign policy. When will this happen? In a week, in a month, or five years from now? Should this happen in a week, then Ukraine could be saved, even if not the Crimea. It is hard to say how long it will take us to convince those in power in Russia and Russian society that they really need such changes.
“How can Poland help Ukraine? It can and it is doing just that. It raises the matter in no uncertain words in the structures of the West of which it is a member. It is actively propagating the issue within NATO and EU.”
ZHIRINOVSKY TRIES TO TRIGGER OFF UKRAINE DEMOLITION PROCESS
Viktor NEBOZHENKO, director, Ukrainian Barometer Social Study Center:
“Zhirinovsky’s letter is further proof that [the restoration of] the USSR is not Putin’s number-one priority, because its frontiers coincide with those of the current CIS members. The main thing for Putin is not to be left alone as an individual aggressor who is being supported by Belarus, Kazakhstan, and North Ossetia. He badly needs allies, he is looking for them – or pretending to be having other participants in his project that are interested in a further occupation of Ukraine.
“Also, the word ‘partition’ is very meaningful in Poland. The Poles have suffered this experience three times, so the very notion hurts their feelings, very deeply. It symbolizes the partition of Poland by Russia, Austria, and Prussia. Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union followed suit in 1939. In other words, the very notion of partition is deeply offensive to the Polish man in the street, considering that [Zhirinovsky’s] letter suggested that Poland can do unto others what has been done unto it.
“Most importantly, this message addresses not only Poland, but also Hungary which remains expressly displeased in the Treaty of Trianon (1920) that allowed all of the WW I Allies to have a piece of the Kingdom of Hungary pie. In the end, Hungary lost practically 40 percent of its territory. The Hungarian nationalists are keenly aware of the fact.
“In other words, Zhirinovsky is trying to trigger off the process of cancellation of the Yalta and Potsdam accords that established the inviolability of frontiers between Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, Bohemia, and Slovakia. He is well aware of the fact that all these frontiers were on paper only, being the result of diplomatic arrangements and international guarantees.
“This is evidence that Putin and Zhirinovsky are determined to go further than their current plans. Most likely, Belarus, Latvia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine will remain on top of Russia’s expansion agenda.
“The Ukrainian administration should respond to [Zhirinovsky’s] message the way the Polish foreign ministry and the office of the president did, referring to it as a letter from an ailing man. We can’t regard it as an actual diplomatic proposal concerning a partition of Ukraine by Eastern Europe and Russia. Otherwise we will recognize the possibility of such partition. This [message] should be described as an example of provocation on the part of a person who is on the crest of the wave of aggressive political euphoria, which is clearly apparent in Russia.
“We should not trust the West and its statements about sanctions being a powerful stimulus that will force [Russia] to make peace. Any aggressor in a state of such victorious euphoria will regard any such sanctions as being meant to offend him. In this case, Putin, Zhirinovsky, et al. are most likely to feel that way. They [i.e., sanctions] are not meant to damage Russia because history shows that Russia can’t be made to recognize its losses. Those in power there have always placed their problems on the shoulders of those down the hierarchical ladder. The latter followed suit ad infinitum, ending with death camps. Therefore, these sanctions should not make Russia behave in a different manner, but make it aware of its deep-reaching inherent shortcomings, that [the international community] regards it as a second-rate polity, that it is being largely ignored despite its self-advertised success.
“These sanctions are a means of bringing the Russian elite, Putin in particular, back to their senses. They are quite effective. They [the Russian elite and Putin] believe that, after grabbing a territory of a neighboring country, everyone should realize how strong they are. In reality, they are being humiliated. He who can impose sanctions orders the music.”
Interviewed by Ihor SAMOKYSH, The Day