Sunday, April 20, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Surkov behind Publishers of ‘National Traitors’ Lists, Shiryaev Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 20 – Vladislav Surkov, who has served as a behind-the-scenes ideologist and operator for the Kremlin, has been involved in the funding of a Russian website that has done everything it can to boost Vladimir Putin and that now is producing lists of “national traitors,”  according to Valery Shiryayev of “Novaya gazeta.”

            That undercuts the suggestions of those in Moscow and the West who view the appearance of such list as the work of marginal groups not connected with the Putin regime and indicates that the publication of such lists could have far more ominous consequences than would otherwise be the case.

             In an article at the end of last week, Shiryaev says that “one of the most important abilities of professional lovers of the Motherland at all times has been the definition of its enemies.”  After the Bolshevik revolution, such lists were compiled on the basis of social origin, church membership, or “personal antipathies” (novayagazeta.ru/politics/63249.html).

            Many had hoped that that propensity had disappeared with the end of the communist regime, but in fact, it has resurfaced once again on websites like Politonline.ru which “has always served the Kremlin under the leadership of its editor Oleg Volodin and its creative direction (until last fall) Marina Yudenich.

            At the end of March, Shiryaev note, that site published what its authors describe as “the first-ever scientific rating of ‘national traitors’ of Russia” (politonline.ru/comments/15966.html). Because of the way such lists have been used in the past and because “Novaya gazeta” was ranked “an honorable third,” he continues, it is important to know who is behind such lists.

            Who are these people who have given to themselves the right to say who is a patriot and who is not?  Politonline.ru, Shiryayev continues, is part of the Pravda.ru media holding which is led by Vadim Gorshenin and his wife Inna Novikova. Its publications have always been distinguished by uncritical support of the regime and very critical attacks of its opponents.

            In 2008, Shiryaev says, Gorenshin received an infusion of cash for the development of Politonline.ru, and in 2011, he continues, that portal along with yoki.ru, Pravda.ru, and electorat.info were being overseen and supported by Vladislav Surkov and “financed through Master Bank.

            That bank in turn distributed funds to the Nashi movement, to the Russky obozrevatel’ portal, the Strategy 2020 Foundation, and the Moscow Center for Modernized Decisions, according to a study by Marina Litvinovich’s group.  It later came out that these Surkov-overseen groups were getting 90 million US dollars a year.

            Politonline.ru has earned its keep, Shryaev says, by pushing whatever has been the Kremlin position at the time and attacking anyone who disagrees with that. Of course, he continue, there are fewer independent media outlets to attack than there were only a few years ago.

            But despite that, he says, “before Politonline as the heir of ‘Pravda’s’ ‘enemiesof the people in 1937, there are glorious prospects: it is time to begin to rank the personal enemies of society, calling them by name. Half of those on the Russian ‘Facebook’ and Living Journal are next.”  But just how those people will be ranked remains to be seen.


Window on Eurasia: Russian Actions in Eastern Ukraine Intensifying Anti-Russian Feelings There



Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 20 – Russian actions in eastern Ukraine are intensifying anti-Russian feelings among Ukrainians living there, deepening a divide between the Ukrainian and Russian communities there even as some in Moscow question whether the Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine should be considered ethnic Russians at all.

            That Moscow’s moves in Ukraine are infuriating Ukrainians is now old news, but the consequences of that development for the future both for Ukrainian-Russian relations at the state level and those relations at the communal and inter-personal levels are only beginning to be assessed by some on each side.

            An extremely useful contribution to this discussion is offered by Oleg Shro on the Hvylya.org portal in an article entitled “Farewell, Donbass: Ukraine Begins to Close the ‘Russian Question’” (hvylya.org/analytics/society/proshhay-donbass-ukraina-nachinaet-zakryivat-russkiy-vopros.html).

            The actions of those in eastern Ukraine, backed by Moscow, are having a profound impact on the psychology of people there. “A large part of Ukrainian society is already inclined toward anti-Russian attitudes,” but if earlier, these attitudes were directed at the Russian state, Shro says, now it has “grown over into a state of antagonism toward Russian society.”

            A majority of Ukrainian citizens, regardless of ethnic origin, are beginning to display “radical characteristics of real Russophobia,” he continues.  But that is not the fault of the Ukrainians but of the impact of the anti-Ukrainian actions of Moscow and the anti-Russian content of the Russian media over the last months.

            Those actions and content “have given birth to a logical social-psychological response” among many in Ukrainian society who were initially loyal to Russia,” he says. And he argues that “one of the turning points in this process of shifting from ‘love to hatred’ have been the events in the East and in the Donbass.”

            Pro-Russian forces there have made three “fatal mistakes,” Shro suggests.  First, “the elites in the south and east of Ukraine began to present the rest of Ukraine de facto with an ultimatum that the East must be ‘treated with respect’” even though they showed no respect to anyone else. Not surprisingly, this produced a reaction among Ukrainians.

            Second, those demanding “their rights in the East of Ukraine quickly moved from the norms of a peace process to radical forms of expression,” ignoring or openly lying about the fact that the Maidan they oppose did not become violent except very late and only in response to repressive measures from the government.

            And third, the pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine undercut support for their cause by so openly relying on “external interference” from Moscow to achieve their ends. There is a social base for protest in the east, “but the obvious interference of Russia in the process under the cover of a cynical and open lie destroyed forever the possibility” of inter-communal dialogue.

But even more than that, “the events taking place in the Donbassatteh present time are inevitably leading toward  a radical response to regional separatism on the part of Ukrainian society, and that in turn will lead to the final breakdown of any, even perhaps healthy pro-Russian ideas.”

According to Shro, “we all are becoming witnesses of a situation in which Ukrainian society is beginning to reject any manifestation of Russianness in its milieu” and to reject any membership any “’Russian world,’” not because of pre-existing Ukrainian nationalism but because of the behavior of “Russian society and its state machine.”

Those who are saying “Farewell, Donbass” today, Shro insists, will inevitably say “Farewell, Russia” soon, and “not only on the moral and ethnic level but on the physical plane as well.” In sharp contrast to the past, the two communities will isolate themselves from each other and the “social diffusion” that had taken place will end.

“In such a case,” he continues, “there is no need for ‘an iron curtain;’ it has already arisen and the logic of events suggests that in the coming years, the turning away from each other will only deepen.” To put it bluntly, Shro concludes, for the immediate future, “’the Russian question’ is closing both as one about culture and one about geopolitics.”

            But if the Kremlin-backed Russian activists in eastern Ukraine are alienating other Ukrainian citizens, including some who earlier might have identified as ethnic Russians, those same activists are alienating some in Moscow who question the way in which the Russian activists and Vladimir Putin define them and the situation.

            In a post on Ekho Moskvy,Vladimir Milov, a Russian politician and commentator, says that in evaluating eastern Ukraine, one should remember how anti-Moscow the workers in eastern Ukraine were earlier, how much they supported Ukrainian independence, and how much power they in fact have had in post-1991Ukraine (echo.msk.ru/blog/milov/1303366-echo/).

                In an open letter to the residents of the Donbass, Milov suggests that the Russian speakers there should not “drag” Russia “into your internal conflict,” especially since it was precisely eastern Ukraine which imposed on the rest of that country “a corrupt and ineffective” set of rulers.

            And then Milov declares openly the Donbass activists “are not Russians.”  They supported Ukraine when it suited them, and now, because circumstances have changed, they have suddenly decided that they are Russians and that Russia must solve their problems by changing the borders.

            But why should anyone consider such people Russians? Because they speak Russian? Milov asks, and then says: “Forgive me,” he continues, “language is hardly the only criteria of national identity. Half the world speaks English, but this doesn’t mean that all these people are Englishmen.”

            “Try telling Canadians or Americans – or Australians or New Zealanders – that they are ‘one people,” Milov says, and you’ll quickly find out how wrong that notion is.

            Consequently, he concludes, those in the Donbass who are now undermining Ukraine are not Russians but “another people” altogether.  That people made its choice in 1989-1991, and there is no basis for thinking that anyone else, including Russia and the Russians, should solve their problems now.

            Milov’s comments, of course, are directed in the first instance not at the nominal addressees of his open letter but rather at Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin leader’s self-interested, elastic and expansive definition of who is a “Russian” and who is not, a definition that is now triggering problems in Ukraine and has the potential to spark more elsewhere.

            Most of those who identified themselves as ethnic Russians at the end of Soviet times but who live in the post-Soviet states are citizens of those countries and increasingly identify as such even if they continue to speak Russian and even think of themselves as part of a Russian cultural milieu.

            Putin’s effort to make ethnicity more important than citizenship violates the international rules of the game and promises more instability across not just the former Soviet space but more generally. And among the victims of his approach will be those trapped in between like Donbass Russian speakers as well as any possibility of good relations between the countries and the peoples of the region.
           

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Yoke on Tatarstan Now 4557 Times Heavier than Tatar Yoke on Muscovy was Eight Centuries Ago



Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 20 – Residents of the Republic of Tatarstan are now paying Moscow every year 4557 times more than did medieval Muscovy when it was under the so-called Tatar Yoke that Russians continue to describe as an unbearable burden and one they blame for many of the shortcomings of their political culture.

            That difference has been calculated by Kazan scholars on the basis of the latest research and is offered in a commentary about Russia, the Mongol Yoke, and Tatarstan by Rashit Akhmetov, the editor of the independent “Zvezda Povolzhya,” in the current issue of his newspaper (no. 14 (694), April 17-23, 2014, p. 1).

            Akhmetov argues that it is important to return to the question of the Mongol “yoke” because in many ways, Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin is casting himself as the latest incarnation of Ivan the Terrible who was the first Moscow leader to “raise Rus from its knees” not only by his conquest of vast territories but by his self-isolation of Russia from the world.

            To be sure, the Kazan editor says, Ivan did not present his project at the time as “the ingathering of Russian lands” but simply as “the conquest of other peoples.”  But there are some important commonalities. For example, he used Orthodoxy to oppose “Catholic Europe and Muslim Turkey,” the two of which combined as a “common enemy with which no compromise was possible.”

            Indeed, under his guidance, “the construction of the Russian state” became “an isolationalist project,” and that isolation and the imperial ideology related to it, not the Mongol yoke that Russians like to blame has been responsible for Russia’s authoritarian regimes and backwardness.

            Thus, Akhmetov continues, it is not entirely correct to speak of Russia as “the Golden Horde’s heir.” Were it, Russia would be a very different place.  The Horde did not repress its own people in an equally savage way. And it did not impose serfdom, something that would have been almost impossible in nomadic or semi-nomadic society.

            No, he says, “the tradition of ‘war’ with one’s own people is Muscovite ‘know-how,’” and there is no reason to blame the Mongols or the Tatars, all the more so because the Moscow yoke on peoples living within its borders is so much heavier than was the Mongol one on peoples living within its.

            Indeed, Moscow has recently highlighted this reality by complaining that people in eastern Ukraine are being forced to send 70 percent of their incomes to Kyiv while remaining silent about the fact that the people of Tatarstan are having to send 80 percent of theirs.

            But even more seriously, the Kremlin today is again isolating Russia in order to protect its own power, lashing out in all directions. “But one must not base a policy on opposing the entire world,” Akhmetov says. “Sooner or later, [such an approach] is condemned failure and collapse.”

            Having mentioned Ukraine, the Kazan editor then turns his attention to the Crimean Tatars, with whom the Kazan Tatars are related. He notes that there are no indications that Moscow will follow through on its promises to the Crimean Tatars and suggests that as Moscow strengthens its position there, the “political” weight of that community is likely to decline.

            But Moscow’s continuing pressure on the Crimean Tatars could backfire on the Russian leadership because many in the world’s Muslim community, who have been neutral toward the Kremlin up to now, are likely to view Russian oppression of the Crimean Tatars as “the last drop” and oppose what Putin is doing.

            That could put the Kremlin leader in a difficult position all the more so because in the face of worsening relations with the West, Putin is seeking to turn eastwards. In order to try to obscure what he is doing to the Crimean Tatars, Akhmetov says, Moscow may turn to the Kazan Tatars as intermediaries.

            The president of Tatarstan has already gone to China, “a visible result of Russia’s turn to the east,” Akhmetov says, and just one of the ways in which “the importance of Tatarstan is increasing.” Indeed, he suggests, Kazan “could become a showcase of Russia in the East much as Tashkent was in the past.”

            That is even more likely to be the case, he concludes, because “the Muslim countries and China will cooperate with greater interest with Kazan than with Moscow.”  And that in turn sets the stage for new divisions in Kazan between those who see Moscow’s yoke as increasingly unbearable and those who believe the best way to lighten it is the work with the Kremlin.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Window on Eurasia: The West Needs a Non-Recognition Policy for Crimea Now



Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 19 -- The US Department of State has declared that Washington will never recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but such declarations, important as they are, need to be given real content to ensure that no part of the government, intentionally or otherwise, takes steps that undermine that policy. 

            In short, what is needed now is a new non-recognition policy. That is all the more important now given continuing Russian meddling in Ukraine and elsewhere in the former Soviet space. 

            Given all that has happened since Moscow’s seizure and annexation of Crimea, it may seem to some that any such call has been overtaken by events. But in fact, continuing Russian aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere in the former Soviet space make it even more important. 

            The immediate danger of not having such a clearly defined and articulated policy was highlighted earlier this month when the Voice of America put up on its website -- and then fortunately took down -- a map showing Crimea not as an internationally recognized part of Ukraine but as part of the Russian Federation whose government under Vladimir Putin has engineered its annexation by force and the threat of force.  

          But the larger dangers are even greater.

            Since at least 1932, it will be recalled, the United States has maintained as a matter of principle that it will not recognize changes in international borders achieved by the use of force unless or until they are sanctioned international agreement.  That doctrine was enunciated by Henry L. Stimson, the US secretary of state at the time, in response to Japan’s seizure of China’s Manchuria province and subsequent creation of the puppet state of Manchukuo. 

            While the US has not always adhered to this doctrine has not always been followed, it has never denounced or disowned it. And in one case, its articulation and maintenance helped right a terrible wrong and contributed to a most positive outcome.

            The most forceful expression of the Stimson Doctrine was US non-recognition policy regarding the Soviet seizure of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 1940 under the terms of the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Hitler and Stalin.   

           On July 23, 1940, US Undersecretary of State Sumner Wells declared that the Baltic countries had been “deliberately annihilated by one of their more powerful neighbors” and that the US would continue to stand by its principle in their defense “because of the conviction of the American people that unless the doctrine in which these principles are inherent once again governs the relations between nations, the rule of reason, of justice and of law – in other words, the basis of modern civilization itself – cannot be preserved.”

            That declaration was given content by a policy that the United States followed until 1991 when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania escaped from Soviet occupation and recovered their de facto independence, a policy that included among other things, provisions that the US would maintain ties with the diplomatic representatives of the pre-1940 Baltic governments and that the Baltic flags would continue to fly at the State Department, that no map produced by the United States government would show the Baltic states as a legitimate part of the USSR but would carry the disclaimer that the US did not recognize their forcible incorporation, and that no senior US official would visit the Baltic countries while they were under Soviet occupation.

            It is important to remember what such policies did not mean. Neither the Stimson Doctrine nor Baltic Non-Recognition Policy called for American military action to liberate occupied territories, but both provided enormous encouragement to the peoples of these occupied areas that they would at some point once again be free and thus reflected the principles and values of the American people. 

            Why shouldn't such a policy be announced now?  There are three main objections, none of which withstands examination.  The first is that the US has not always lived up to its doctrines either in its own actions or in its willingness to denounce the use of force to change borders. Washington did not issue such a policy after the Soviet invasion of Georgia in 2008, for example; why should it do so now?  But arguing that past mistakes should be repeated just because they were made once is hardly compelling.

            Second, it is said that Crimea is only part of a country and therefore a non-recognition policy regarding it couldn’t look exactly like Baltic non-recognition policy.  That is true. A new non-recognition policy would not include maintaining ties with any pre-occupation government but it could keep senior American officials from visiting the peninsula and include continuing US recognition of Ukrainian passports of the residents of that peninsula, much as the US did in the case of holders of pre-1940 Baltic passports. Arguing that you can’t get everything and therefore should do nothing, a suggestion made all too often of late, isn’t very compelling either.

            And third, it is maintained that Putin isn’t Stalin and that the US shouldn’t anger him because we have so many concerns in common.  Tragically, some US officials have even insisted that Putin shouldn’t take anything we say or do about Ukraine “personally.”  That is absurd. Putin is the aggressor in Crimea and Ukraine more generally. If we make him uncomfortable, we are only doing the minimum to live up to our principles.

            Moreover, despite what Moscow suggests and some of its supporters in the West say, some future Russian leader or even Putin himself will cooperate with us when he or they see it is in their interest. US non-recognition policy regarding the Baltic countries did not prevent the US and Stalin’s USSR from becoming allies against Hitler or the US and later Soviet leaders from cooperating.  Again, the objections fall away.

            It is thus time for a new non-recognition policy so that at a minimum no one will ever see a map of Ukraine put out by the US government that shows part of that country belonging to another.