Sunday, September 25, 2016

Separatists of the World Again Meet in Moscow to Support Russia and Oppose US

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 25 – Separatists from a variety of countries around the world except the Russian Federation assembled in Moscow today to declare both their support for the Russian Federation where calls for independence from that country are punishable by prison as well as their opposition to the United States.

            As when the Kremlin organized a similar meeting a year ago, the most important consequence was not to extend Russian influence among separatists elsewhere but to highlight in Russia and around the world the extent to which Moscow is totally unprepared to accept as applying to itself international norms that Soviet and Russian officials have supported in the past.

            Indeed, there is every reason to think that the session of this self-proclaimed “Anti-Globalist Movement” will backfire on the Kremlin by reminding the non-Russian quarter of the Russian population of exactly how Vladimir Putin and his regime view them and their rights, thus triggering a new wave of non-Russian nationalism in response.

            Last year’s meeting, the first in this series, provides a guide to what one can expect from the group this year.  At that time, the leaders of separatist movements from around the world, some serious, some entirely frivolous, assembled, denounced American imperialism, and elected Syria’s Bashar Asad and Iran’s Mahmud Ahmadinejad to its presidium.

            There were representatives from Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Texas, from Catalonia and Northern Ireland, from Ukraine and the Western Sahara, as well as from groups that declared they sought not separate states but the amalgamation of existing states, in this case, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, into a single one.

            But there were two prominent exceptions to the invitation list: No one was invited from any group in the Russian Federation where any call even for having the country live up to its own constitution is treated as a criminal act of promoting separatism, and no one came from separatist movements in the few countries Russia still has good ties with, like China.

            “Never in the history of humanity,” the meeting’s organizers declared, “have assembled in one place so many rights defenders who represent national liberation movements and parties from various countries.” But Russian speakers quickly made it clear that the meeting was not about self-determination but about alliances with Russia against the United States.

            Fedor Biryukov of Rodina, who was one of the organizers of the conference of European national radicals and neo-Nazis in St. Petersburg in early 2015, told those assembled that “we are attempting to embrace everyone both right and left” who support Russia in its struggle with the West (

            This year, the Moscow guest list is similar: It includes Kurds, Catalonians, Scots, Irish groups from North Ireland, Arabs and Berbers from the Western Sahara and even American separatists from California and Texas, all of whom supposedly are again animated by pro-Russian and anti-American feelings.

            The Tatar-Bashkir Service of Radio Liberty asked Nadir Bekirov, a specialist on international law who worked in the United Nations from 2003 to 2008 on issues having to do with the rights of indigenous peoples to comment on the disjunction between Moscow’s support for separatism elsewhere and its opposition to separatism in Russia (

                The expert points out that members of the United Nations are expected to respect its Charter, which includes among other things, a call for governments to respect the right of nations to self-determination.  They are also supposed to respect various UN declarations calling for respect for national minorities.

            The Russian government, he points out, seeks to have it both ways. On the one hand, it proudly points to its association with the UN documents, something its propagandists and supporters invariably cite. But on the other hand, it ignores its undertakings or defines them in ways that suit Moscow whenever it wants.

            The Russian government shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this duplicity, Bekirov says. It either must be called upon to live up to its treaty obligations. Or, the rest of the world must hear from the Kremlin a declaration that it doesn’t feel itself required to do anything it agrees to once it doesn’t.

US, Ukraine Said Behind Efforts to Split Russia by Reviving Urals Republic

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 25 – Given that the USSR fell apart along ethnic lines, most analysts have focused on the ethnic divisions of the Russian Federation as a possible source of division within that country.  But regional divisions within predominantly Russian areas may be an even graver threat to Russia, according to some Russian writers.

            Valery Korovin, the director of the Moscow Center for Geopolitical Expertise and a member of Russia’s Social Chamber, said on Zvezda television that the United States is trying to revive a Urals Republic in order to divide Russia in two and take control of the resource rich areas east of the Urals (

            “The Urals region divides Russia into a western part which for the time being would remain in Russia and an eastern part, an underpopulated area but rich in natural resources which it will be difficult to hold onto if in the center of the country were to exist some kind of ‘Urals Republic,’ which does not recognize the authority of Moscow,” the Eurasianist says.

            This portion of Russia is precisely the place “from which it would be possible to control both the western part of what would remain of Russia and the Far East, Central Asia and China. It is a strategic knot, by means of which it would be possible to control the entire Eurasian continent and control over it would give the US unlimited power.”

            In reporting Korovin’s statement made this weekend, the Eurasia portal noted that it had “frequently written about the openly anti-Russian activity of Yekaterinburg Mayor Yevgeny Royzman and his close friendship with Ukrainian Nazis” (, thus combining anti-Americanism, anti-Ukrainianism and anti-Semitism in one package.

            It is likely that the Moscow analyst made this declaration because he supports sending more people to Siberia and the Russian Far East in order to hold those regions against challenges from China and elsewhere. But his words are a reminder that Russians recognize that regions may matter even more in the future than do some of the Federation’s non-Russian republics.

‘Optimization’ is Putin’s Translation of Hitler’s ‘Gleichschaltung’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 25 – In 2000, Alexander Rahr published a book describing Vladimir Putin as “a German in the Kremlin.”  His words appear more prophetic and more disturbing than the Russian-German analyst imagined as the Kremlin leader is increasingly adopting an approach that recalls another German leader, Adolf Hitler.

            Until now, most people assumed that Putin used the word “optimization” as a euphemism for his cutbacks in health care and other social services. But now it has become clear that he really is using it in the sense the Nazi leader did when he spoke about “Gleichschaltung,” the standardization and subordination to the state of all political, economic and social institutions.

            Historians have long used that term to describe the ways in which Hitler proceeded to destroy all independent activity in Germany; and they have extended it to other authoritarian states as well.  But now, at least after Putin’s words on Friday, it is entirely appropriate to extend it to the country he now heads.

            At a meeting with the leaders of the systemic parties on Friday, Putin said that the time had come to think about how to “optimize” Russia’s party system by eliminating minor parties so that Russians will have a real chance to choose among major ones and how to do that without violating “the principles of democracy”  (

            As so often when dictators want to move in such directions, calls for taking this or that step that they themselves want often are voiced by others. The leader then expresses surprise and says that clearly this is something that must be addressed.  That is exactly what happened on Friday.

            Sergey Mironov, the head of Just Russia, complained at the meeting that the minor parties had taken away votes from the major parties and, because these smaller parties did not reach the five percent barrier for participation in the Duma, left the Russians who voted for them without representation there.

            Putin responded, according to TASS, that “this is the first time he had heard that there might have become too many parties. He noted that ‘at one time he had been told’ that there were two few parties and that a sign of democracy is an unlimited number of parties having the right to take part in elections.”

            The Kremlin leader continued by saying that ‘when the powers that be decided to permit all to take part in elections, they wanted to assess ‘the political landscape.’” Now, Putin said, that landscape is clear; and so the decision to allow all parties to take part can be revisited and the number of parties “optimized.”

            That is entirely appropriate, the Russian leader said, but he reiterated that “such steps must not undermine the essence of democracy. Let us accurately think about and analyze the experience of other countries without hurrying and take a corresponding decision about public and transparent discussions.”

            That Putin may have been planning to reduce the number of parties after the Duma vote has long been rumored -- see – although his orchestration of the overwhelming victory of United Russia might have seemed to make that unnecessary.

            However, if one understands that “optimization” is not simply a euphemism for “cuts” but is in fact Putin’s translation into Russian of Hitler’s “Gleichschaltung” then the likelihood of a Russian party system entirely organized from and controlled by the Kremlin increases, as does the threat this poses to any hope for democracy and freedom in Russia today.