Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Moscow’s Use of Soft Power in Post-Soviet Space has Failed for 11 Reasons, Trukhachyov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – Moscow leaders talk ever more often about the use of soft power in the former Soviet space, Vadim Trukhachyov says; but they have not succeeded in any one of the countries on that space for 11 all too obvious reasons. Unless the Russian government addresses these shortcomings, it is unlikely to have any more success in the future.

            According to the instructor on international relations at the Russian State University of the Humanities, these 11 failures (eurasiatoday.ru/pochemu-myagkaya-sila-rossii-ne-udalas-ni-v-odnoj-strane-postsovetskogo-prostranstva/) include the following:

1.     Moscow started trying to use soft power longer after other countries had done so and has not caught up.

2.     Russian officials typically have not understood why Moscow needs to use soft power and argue that economic strength and a common past are sufficient bases for Russia to achieve its aims.

3.     “For all the post-Soviet countries, Russia was the past from which they were moving away, and Russia never offered any idea about a common future.”

4.     “For Russians remaining in these countries to become instruments of soft power, Russia had to become a Russian nation state but that did not happen.

5.     Moscow failed to target the educated and wealthy segments of the population in these countries, and so those people looked elsewhere.

6.     “Russia had nothing to offer that others could not offer” and often offer more abundantly.

7.     Officials in these countries were not impressed by thieves and criminals coming from Russia.

8.     Russia was insufficiently demanding as far as local elites were concerned.

9.     Russia failed to carry out educational work in which it would discuss the advantages of working with Moscow. It thus lost an entire generation.

10.  Russia failed to recognize all the external sources with which it had to compete, focusing narrowly on the US, the UK and the EU and thus failed to see dangers emanating from others.

11.  Russia doesn’t have a sufficient number of NGOs that Moscow could use to promote its soft power, a shortcoming that the Kremlin has not remedied because it fears that such groups could turn on itself.


For Moscow’s Party of War, Main Enemy is ‘Not the US, NATO or Ukraine but Russian Society,’ Filippov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 12 – Ivan Filippov, a Russian journalist who has followed the Z channels which represent the most pro-war Russians, says that they increasingrly blame ordinary Russians and Russian officials as being the most to blame for the fact that the Russian army has not won more victories in the field.

            In support of his argument, the investigative journalist points to recent comments by Vladivslav Shurygin,  deputy editor of Russian nationalist and super-patriotic Zavtrav newspaper and a permanent member of the Izborsky Club (holod.media/2024/07/15/chto-volnuet-voenkorov-iv/).

            Writing on his Ramzai telegram channel, Shurygin, who is a prominent member of Moscow’s party of war, says that he “wants to say a few words about our main enemy. Not about the US, NATO or even the Ukrainian armed forces … Instead, I’m talking about another enemy altogether” (t.me/ramzayiegokomanda/13413).

            This enemy, Shurygin continues, consists of “stupid, deaf and indifferent officials who do not care deeply about anything except their own pockets … [and] about ordinary people swimming with fat whom the state serves with all its fervor” and allows him to travel to Turkey or Italy and condemn the war at home.

            Filippov says that Shurygin’s phillipic has been reposted in dozens of telegram channels and even attracted the attention of Duma members and others, all the more significant because he is known to be “one of the authors most loyal to the powers that be.” And Filippov says that it is thus clear that what Shurygin says is what many in the party of war believe.

            “The main thought which united all these Z authors,” he continues, “is their dream to end the peaceful and comfortable life of their fellow citizens so that the entire country can live at war.” That isn’t what the Russian people want, Filippov says; and that is why the Z authors are so angry.

Paying Russians to Bring Men to Military Recruiting Stations May Please Moscow as an Idea but as a Practical Matter, It Smacks of Desperation and Won’t Work, Aysin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 14 – Kazan has announced that it will pay 100,000 rubles (just under 1,000 US dollars) to anyone who brings someone to a military recruitment center to sign up for service in Ukraine. Moscow may welcome Tatarstan’s much-ballyhooed idea; but it smacks of desperation and won’t work, Ruslan Aysin says.

            The Tatar political scientist who now lives in Turkey says that few wives and children of men who might be brought to recruitment centers will find takers and that the whole idea will collapse quickly rather than spread (idelreal.org/a/sarafannoe-radio-voennogo-vremeni-aysin-o-planah-tatarstanskih-vlastey-verbovat-na-voynu-po-rekomendatsii-/33031194.html).

            Those who hoped to benefit by volunteering have done so and those who want to avoid service have either left or found ways to hide out. Moscow retains the possibility of ordering general mobilization, but the Kremlin knows that is so deeply unpopular that it is casting about for any alternative.

            The Kazan authorities for their part, Aysin says, know that Moscow will like what they are proposing even if it doesn’t attract anyone to the colors. They will get credit for suggesting this plan, and everyone will quickly forget that not only did it not work but it reflects Moscow’s increasing desperation to find enough men to fill the depleted ranks of its military.

Income Inequality among Russians, on the Rise Since Putin Came to Power, has Increased Further Since 2022 and Now Affects Almost All Regions, ‘Vyorstka’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 12 – Putin points to an increase in the average incomes of Russians without acknowledging that the overall rise has been achieved only by a radical increase in the inequality between the incomes of the wealthiest Russians and those at the other end of the income scale, the Vyorstka news portal says.

            Those in the bottom 10 percent earn on average 10,761 rubles (110 US dollars) a month, while those at the top bring in an average of 152,351 rubles (1600 US dollars); and this enormous disparity is not just between Moscow and the regions but within the vast majority of regions and republics (verstka.media/rossiya-teper-strana-s-vysokimi-dohodami).

            That means that the sense of injustice that many Russians feel about such inequalities is not just between a wealthy Moscow and poor “provinces” but within the regions and republics as well where people experience it more immediately, one of the reasons that the KPRF and other systemic opposition parties are gaining traction.

            The Kremlin routinely claims that it is fighting income inequality, but it is doing so in a way that not only is not reducing this socio-economic problem but is at the present time, when Moscow has cut its subsidies to the federal subjects to finance its war in Ukraine, in fact is intensifying it within the latter as well.

            The only way that income inequality could really be reduced, the economists with whom Vyorstka spoke say is for Moscow to promote broad economic development that will lift all groups rather than help only a limited number of people, however successful the Kremlin may still be in spinning the numbers.


Monday, July 15, 2024

Under Putin, Russians have Become ‘Consumers but Not Citizens,’ Kolesnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 14 – One of the most widespread beliefs among Russians is that change will come as one generation displaces another; but that did not happen in the Soviet Union and it won’t happen in a post-Putin Russia --- at least not by itself – and those who are counting on it shouldn’t, Andrey Kolesnikov argues.

            The younger generation of Russians did grow up “in an era of markets, new communications technologies, and a consumerist civilization, the New Times columnist says; but they did so without democracy” and thus become “consumers but not citizens” prepared to take responsibility for themselves and their country (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/247742).

            “Not only did the patterns of human behavior not change with the appearance of new generations,” Kolesnikov says; but individuals in the rising generation adapted to circumstances rather than challenging them. Indeed, things got much worse with a growth in the new generation of passive conformists” who rapidly “turn into active conformists.”

            To be sure, the columnist continues, “the younger age groups are less supportive of the war and the regime but they still support both. And denunciations are written not only by those older and more senior in rank but by young or relatively young ‘concerned citizens’” who are not as different from their elders as many expected.

            Several decades ago, many Russians assumed that if their country had “transparent and free communications,” the kind of people that the Soviet state with its censorship and control could not form. There was even “incredibly na├»ve talk about ‘the party of television’ versus ‘the party of the Internet.”

            But it has turned out that fundamental changes are not about the freedom of information but rather about how it is understood and analyzed. Those characteristics of the Russian population did not change. And “after February 2022, the situation got even worse: to know the truth, you need to want to know it and to get real information you must want to receive it.”

            To be sure, “there are millions of wonderful young people” in Russia “who don’t accept the unnatural policies of the Kremlin and are horrified, including for personal reasons by the war … They would like to live differently.” And many of them have been heroic in their response to what is going on.

            But there are a far larger number who have adapted to what the regime wants and, in many ways, gone ever further in that direction than their parents, Kolesnikov says. Consequenlty, “the solution to the problem Russia faces” will not be solved by generational change by itself. Far more will have to happen.

            The anthropological and psychological type that characterized the Brezhnev era or even Stalin’s is returning incredibly rapidly and among the young ever bit as much as among their elders. That must be recognized rather than continuing to act as if time by itself will solve Russia’s fundamental problems.

Moscow Failing to Treat PTSD among Veterans Because Putin Regime Values Make that Impossible, Russian Psychologists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 12 – A significant share of Russian veterans returning from Ukraine are suffering PTSD and committing crimes, but Moscow is failing to treat them effectively less because of a shortage of experts than because the values the Kremlin insists those who treat them follow make it impossible for them to do their jobs, five psychologists say.

            Radio Liberty journalist Denis Nesterov spoke with five of them and they were unanimous in saying this represents a serious and growing threat to Russian society as a whole, a point Duma deputies like Nina Ostanina have also made (svoboda.org/a/bessilie-psihologov-pochemu-trudno-pomochj-vernuvshimsya-s-voyny/33030624.html).

            In Russia today, these psychologists says, “it is almost impossible to reduce the level of trauma” such veterans have suffered and “make them safe for society.” Instead and precisely because of the values the Kremlin insists psychologists reflect, the problems these veterans face are intensifying and manifesting themselves in violence.

            According to the five, psychologists can achieve success only if they are able to guide those suffering from PTSD to see themselves as victims and then help them assume responsibility for the future. But the Putin regime rejects any notion that they are victims and does not want them to develop a sense of personal responsibility.

            And what is worse, the share of psychologists who are prepared to adopt that strategy is small. Those who do are at risk of being fired or otherwise punished. Most Russian psychologists go along with what the powers that be demand and thus fail to help their patients overcome the results of PTSD.

            Indeed, these government psychologists are so gungho that many veterans who might otherwise seek treatment do not get it at all because they fear that if they do go to such psychologists, the latter will seek not to help them to overcome their problems and adapt to civilian life but try to force them to return to fight in Ukraine.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

New August 1991-Style State Emergency Committee Appears Ever More Possible, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 13 – Vladimir Pastukhov, the London-based Russian analyst who is one of the most thoughtful students of politics in his homeland, says that in his opinion, “the conditions are arising” that could lead to the formation of a new August 1991-style State Emergency Committee that would challenge Putin not from the liberal left but the radical conservative right.

            In his telegram channel, the analyst argues that “we are witnessing the merging of the top of the security forces with the most reactionary part of the political class and htat as a result, ‘a new opposition’ is taking shape within the system, an opposition of cannibals that seeks to disrupt the status quo and demands changes” (t.me/v_pastukhov/1155).

            Something similar happened before in August 1991, Pastukhov says. It almost happened again in 1996; and now it appears to be happening again. That trend of an alliance of extremely reactionary security officials and ultra-nationalists is not something that should be dismissed “as insignificant.”

            After all, August 1991 happened; and before that “Rasputin was killed not by the Bolshevik Leninists or Savinkov’s SRs but by the hyper-Black Hundreds Purishkevich, Prince Felix Yusupov and with the direct participation of younger members of the Russian imperial family,” Pastukhov warns.