Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Moscow Says Armenia Must Retain Sovereignty over Zengezur and Azerbaijan Over Lachin

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – In Moscow’s latest move on the Qarabagh dispute, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that Armenia must retain sovereignty over what many call the Nakhichevan corridor through Zengezur and that Azerbaijan must maintain sovereignty over what has long been called the Lachin corridor between Armenia and what was Artsakh.

            On the one hand, this reflects a Moscow tilt toward Yerevan as Armenia has objected to any talk of an Azerbaijani corridor through Zengezur; but on the other, it gives Baku something it has long wanted, clear support for Azerbaijani sovereignty over the Lachin corridor, something it can use to control the movement of people and goods between Armenia and Stepanakert

            Lavrov’s words may allow Yerevan and Baku to make progress on delimiting the state border between them because they would appear to suggest that Moscow doesn’t want the area around Lachin to be the stumbling block to such an effort. Many observers had suggested that the two Caucasian countries will have little difficulty in drawing the border except near Lachin.

            That is because drawing the border there would mean an acknowledgement by Armenia that the corridor is within Azerbaijan rather than a lifeline to what Yerevan hopes will be to a revived Armenian community or even political entity in and around Stepanakert protected by Russian “peacekeepers.”

            Now, Moscow has come down on Azerbaijan’s side on this issue, something that will undercut European efforts to keep open the question of the final status of Qarabagh. But at the same time, Moscow has sweetened the deal for Armenia by taking a harder line on Zengezur/Syunik and insisting that there be no talk of an Azerbaijani-controlled corridor there.

            Moscow clearly expects that the only way to make these twin positions work is for the Russian troops and border guards in both places to remain in place and that if that occurs, it will be Russia rather than the European Union that will be in a position to resolve or at least continue to exploit the Qarabagh conflict in the future (kavkaz-uzel.eu/blogs/83772/posts/55109).

North Caucasus Likely to End Up in One Empire or Another, Prominent Avar Writer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – The North Caucasus is located in an extremely bad neighborhood and so is unlikely to be able to make its own way, Alisa Ganiyeva says. Instead, it is likely to end up in one empire or another, Russian or Turkish being the most likely but Arabization and Islamization also among its possible futures. Indeed, it could become an imamate.

            The Avar novelist who has attracted great attention within Russia and abroad for her novels about Daghestan, her biography of Lili Brik, and her articles and reviews in Russian and international newspapers and journals, says that unfortunately these outcomes are likely as well because of the current state of culture in the region.

            Not only are the non-Russian nations and languages under threat, she suggests, but what is emerging in the culture of many of them is an unfortunate and even self-destructive mix of Islam and a tendency to show off rather than be thoughtful (daptar.ru/2022/06/08/izvineniya-repressii-zapreschennyie-slova-alisa-ganieva-o-novoy-realnosti-na-kavkaze/).

            “If the Moscow tsar doesn’t strangle the region” as a result, Ganiyeva says, “the Turkish ruler will come. If he doesn’t arrive, then Arabization will begin. To survive, [people in the region] need a strong national identity, but it is not there. Instead,” she continues, what is on offer is “a mixture of Islam and people showing off.”

Patriarch Kirill ‘Exiles’ Second Potential Successor as Head of Russian Church

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – When Patriarch Kirill exiled Metropolitan Tikhon, long viewed as Putin’s favorite churchman, to Pskov four years ago, most observers concluded that the head of the church was protecting himself against a possible challenge or even replacement. Now that Kirill has exiled Metropolitan Ilarion to Budapest, many are drawing the same conclusion.

            Their reasoning would seem to be justified. After all, Ilarion has been the patriarchate’s “foreign minister” the traditional stepping stone for those who become patriarch; and Kirill is known to have been furious at him for his failures to block Ukrainian autocephaly or the declaration of independence by the Moscow church.

            The new man in that position, Metropolitan Antony, is Kirill’s former secretary and a loyalist much too young to represent a credible challenger to the current patriarch anytime soon. Indeed, some are saying that Kirill doesn’t want to have anyone around who might be his successor.

            But what has just taken place almost certainly reflects at least three other calculations on Kirill’s part. First, he may be trying to deflect blame from himself for the church’s failures in Ukraine by making him the fall guy.  Second, Kirill may want Antony’s skills in running Orthodox churches abroad to occupy his time rather than formulating broader policies.

            And third, and most important for those who dissent from the general view about what has happened, Kirill has “exiled” Ilarion to a church post in a place, Hungary, which has both political and personal importance for the current patriarch and therefore it may not be the complete demotion most see.

            On the one hand, the Hungarian government has been the least willing to commit to sanctions against Kirill personally or Russia more generally; and therefore, Kirill may view having Ilarion there as a way to make himself useful to the Kremlin (and himself) by encouraging Budapest to maintain its sympathetic approach to Moscow.

            And on the other, Kirill is said to have enormous cash holdings in the West; and having Ilarion in Budapest may mean that the supposed exile will in fact work to supervise them for the current patriarch during a period of Western sanctions when it is harder for the Moscow churchman to do that from Moscow.

            If these arguments are correct, Illarionov’s dispatch to Budapest may be far less the exile and end of his church career than many are now saying but instead only a detour on his road to the top of the church. Given Kirill’s typically careful handling of personnel matters at the top of the Patriarchate, that is at least a  possibility that shouldn’t be ignored.

            On this back and forth in the analysis of Kirill’s latest personnel moves, see kasparov.ru/material.php?id=629F7A2D51D6A, apn-spb.ru/opinions/article35255.htm, , realtribune.ru/kadrovaya-revoljuciya-v-rpc-za-chto-snyali-mitropolita-ilariona, facebook.com/chapnin/posts/pfbid0Ah4h5RNKXVeNp5FTe6M3Xjv6Jb6GYydFkmkFXc7zSqyVgAGo6JpviuaUV9FnUsb8l and ng.ru/editorial/2022-06-09/2_8458_editorial.html.

Monday, June 27, 2022

For First Time, Putin says His Goal in Ukraine is 'Recovering' Russian Territory

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – When Vladimir Putin launched his “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, he said that its goals were to “demilitarize” and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Later when Russian-controlled areas sought to hold referenda on joining the Russian Federation, his spokesman indicated that that was their choice rather than Moscow policy.

            But now, for the first time, the Kremlin leader has made clear by comparing today’s events with those in the era of Peter I what many have long suspected: Russia’s goal in Ukraine now is “’the return’ of territories,” that is, imperial expansion of the borders of the Russian Federation (ehorussia.com/new/node/26084).

            Kremlin propaganda is unlikely to change course and admit to this fact. But Putin’s words provide insight into his thinking in which he compares himself to tsars of several hundred years ago and sees the expansion of land under the control of the central government as the measure of Russian victory.

            Not insignificantly, Putin’s comments now reflect the views expressed in April by Sergey Naryshkin, someone widely identified as the leader of the war party in the Russian government, when the SVR head used language almost identical to that which the Kremlin leader is now using (ria.ru/20220411/ukraina-1782865908.html).

Russia has Too Many Bureaucrats, Revolutionaries and Passive Observers but No Real Politicians, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – In Russia today, there are no real politicians, only bureaucrats, revolutionaries and passive observers, Vladimir Pastukhov says. And if today’s revolutionaries come to power, they will not by themselves create a space for politics here: they will only recreate the current situation.

            The transformation will be more apparent than real, the creation of an Alice in Wonderland-type world in which everything is turned on its head: that which was bad will be declared good and conversely, the London-based Russian analyst argues (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=62A2153D3BF1D).

            But if the revolutionaries on hand cannot create a space for politics, if a revolution as they imagine it won’t work, what will? Pastukhov asks rhetorically. The answer is obvious: What is needed is not “a routine change of power with the replacement of bad leaders by good” but rather “’a big bang’ which will form not simply a new state but a new civilization.”

            “Such an historical explosion practically is never the result of the realization of a rational plan in which people act guided by their economic or political interests,” he continues. “It always is the result of the victory of a movement, altruistic in its nature which is grouped around particular ideas.”

            According to Pastukhov, “a real revolution which changes not the powers that be but the course of history, however strange this may seem, is always irrational” and involves the efforts of people “’not from this world’ who need not power and even more not money but the realization of a certain idea in which they have almost a religious faith.”

            There were too few such people in Russia in the 1990s, and that is “one of the main reasons which condemned the post-communist experiment there to failure.” The intelligentsia sold out any altruism for privatization. And that means this: “the deaths of Men and Sakharov mean much more than we are accustomed to think.”

            Talk about altruism may seem absurd and impossible to Russians as their country enters its third decade of Putinism; but the fact that such altruistic revolutions haven’t happened at any particular time and place does not mean, Pastukhov argues, that revolutions driven not by a desire for power and money can’t happen in principle.

            Indeed, the London-based Russian analyst says, Russia is “ripening for such an historically turn” given that it has passed “through all the circles of hell.”  “I’m not saying this will happen tomorrow or even in ten years, but when it does, those who want to build such a society and policy must have prepared the building blocks.

            And they must do so, Pastukhov concludes, even if it is entirely possible that they will not live to see the edifice they want to build fully constructed.

Yandex Maps Makes Russia’s Borders with Ukraine and Other Countries Disappear

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – Vladimir Putin’s contempt for the border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine is obvious, but there is one place where that border and others around Russia have already disappeared completely: Yandex Maps which has announced that its maps won’t be showing political borders anymore.

            Instead, the Russian news agency says, it will be highlighting cities, transportation links like roads and railways, and the location of natural resources. The borders Russian and before that Soviet maps invariably highlighted will no longer be displayed (kod.ru/yandex-maps-bez-ghranits and meduza.io/news/2022/06/09/v-yandeks-kartah-propali-gosudarstvennye-granitsy-kompaniya-ob-yasnila-chto-menyaet-aktsent-na-prirodnye-ob-ekty).

            This represents a change of major dimensions and clearly sends a message about how Moscow now views the state border that were established in 1991. It tells Russians that as far as their country is concerned, political borders are no longer as important as other kinds, at least with regard to countries bordering the Russian Federation.

            That may seem a small thing to many outside this region, but it is a la in the former Soviet space, where administrative-territorial borders were viewed as fundamental and where atlases showing them were released almost every year and were studied closely by Soviet officials and Soviet citizens.

By Invading Ukraine, Putin has Hastened the Disintegration of Russia, Etkind Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – The Russian Federation is an empire and it will fall apart, sooner rather than later, because of Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, an action that highlighted his desire to restore the empire and the fact that what he and others call the Russian Federation is already an empire, Aleksandr Etkind says.

            What happened to the Russian Empire? It disintegrated at the end of an imperialist war. What happened to the Soviet Union? It disintegrated at the end of the Cold War. What will happen to the Russian Federation?” the St. Petersburg historian asks rhetorically. The answer is now clear (en.desk-russie.eu/2022/04/18/defederating-russia.html reposted at themoscowtimes.com/2022/06/08/the-future-defederation-of-russia-a77934).

            Russia’s collapse “has long been feared and predicted,” Etkind continues, and “it could have been slowed down by taking advantage of the favorable economic situation, by relying on a competent government, a skillful diplomatic game or simply by counting on luck,” all the more so that neither its people nor its foreign partners have wanted this outcome.

            In short, he argues, “disintegration could have been avoided — it would have been enough not to start a war with Ukraine. But revanchism was stronger than caution. The collapse of this federation — a complex, artificial, highly unequal and increasingly unproductive community — will take place because of its leaders in Moscow, and only because of them.”

“Those who love the federation; those who think that if it were to disappear, people would be worse off; those who see the idea of a united Russia as the main and even the only political value — all should blame those and only those who started this war,” the historian suggests.

He then asks: “How many parts will the federation break into, and will these parts correspond to the present delimitations of its republics and provinces? In each case, people will decide … some will be democratic, others authoritarian. All will be linked more to their neighbors, their trading and security partners, than to their old, worn-out and repulsive ‘kin.’

“The territories that belonged to other national entities before becoming part of Russia after the Second World War (East Prussia, parts of Karelia, the Kuril Islands) will leave the federation with undisguised pleasure. Ethnic and religious tensions in particularly complex regions such as the Caucasus may lead to new wars. [And] social inequalities, a hallmark of Russia in recent decades, will increase further.

“Sooner or later the international community, which does not like upheavals, will take note of the changes and make an effort to avoid bloodshed. At this point a peace conference will be held, modeled after the Paris conference of 1918-1919, organized by the victors of the First World War.”

 And Etkind concludes: “In the new peace treaty, the neighbors of the new countries will mediate the negotiations: Ukraine, China, Norway, Poland, Finland, Kazakhstan, and others. Historically more successful federations, such as the European Union and the United States, will have their part to play. A new Eurasian Treaty [thus] will complete the work begun at Versailles a century ago.”