Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Putin Making Impossible Demands to Set Stage for War, von Eggert Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – Putin’s demands on the West are ones he knows the West will not agree to, thus giving him in his eyes justification for military action against Ukraine at a time when the West is weak, Ukraine is growing in strength, and his own generals don’t want to be called back a second time in a year, Konstantin von Eggert says.

            Were the West to agree to Putin’s demands, the Russian commentator for Deutsche Welle says, it would mark the end of NATO. But this is a good time for him to make them, the Kremlin leader has concluded by “the political will of the West has been weakened by the pandemic, the interests of major business” in trade with China, and “the lack of far-sighted political leaders.”

            A second reason Putin has for adopting this tactic now, von Eggert says, is that he has concluded that no pro-Russian leaders are going to emerge in Ukraine and that the Ukrainian military is only growing stronger as a result of Western assistance just as Azerbaijan’s did before the 2020 war (dw.com/ru/kommentarij-poslednjaja-bitva-putina/a-60303733).

            Given this conjunction, the Russian commentator says, Putin has decided that he needs to move now before the West regroups and the Ukrainian military becomes too strong to defeat. In addition, there is an important domestic consideration which undoubtedly is weighing on the Kremlin leader’s thinking.

            This is the second time in the past year that Moscow has moved massive numbers of troops up to the Ukrainian border. The first time Putin pulled them back. Were he to do so again, von Eggert says, such a move “would create the impression of indecisiveness and weakness, especially among the military.”

            That is something Putin who relies increasingly on the siloviki “has always sought to avoid.” Consequently, the Kremlin leader like the cornered rat he often talks about feels he has nowhere to retreat to and thus plans to lash out against Ukraine and the West rather than engage in any lengthy negotiations or pursuit of a compromise. 

 

Putin’s ‘Optimization’ Completing Destruction of Russian Villages Stalin’s Collectivization Began, Filmmaker Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – The Russian countryside has been “the victim of an unending series of experiments from collectivization [under Stalin] to optimization [under] Putin,” film maker Denis Bevs says. And as a result, tens of thousands of villages have become ghost towns overgrown with weeds.

            What is remarkable is that many Russians who now live in cities retain warm memories of the villages where they and their ancestor live. Some are working to erect monuments where those homes once were, and ever more are choosing to be buried not in urban cemeteries but in those of villages which no longer exist (sibreal.org/a/ischeznuvshie-russkaya-derevnya-ot-kollektivizacii-do-optimizacii/31577043.html).

            “Today,” Bevs says, “no one can say exactly how many rural settlements and villages have disappeared from the maps of the RSFSR and Russian Federation over the last 50 years.” Soviet censuses did not count villages, and Russian ones typically list as existing even if there are no people there anymore.

            The 2010 census reported that there were 153,000 rural settlements and villages, but of these, Moscow admitted, 20,000 had no people in them. They are ghost towns, overgrown with weeds, and their number has only grown given Vladimir Putin’s “optimization” program which has closed post offices, schools, and stores in many of htem.

            Russian historian Oleg Gorbachev says that “the state has always treated the village as an inexhaustible source of resources” for its needs. Indeed, “modernization of the economy at the expense of the village is our national trend.” But the resources are running out as the villages and rural settlements are dying or already dead.

            “Of many villages today nothing remains. There is no designation of them on present-day maps, and there is no information about them on the Internet. Even the foundations have disappeared … and it is becoming ever more difficult to find places which once existed,” Bevs says. What is interesting is that many urban Russians are now deciding to be buried there.

            Since the beginning of perestroika, the film maker continues, more than 20,000 villages have officially died, and another 20,000 are in fact ghost towns in which no one lives but which the authorities continue to act as if they exist. Many more are on the brink of destruction and will disappear from the map in the future.

            According to Gorbachev, “we are losing the country. Now, we do not understand what is being done to us not only in distant places beyond the Arctic circle but even in central Russia. There is land, but it is covered with weeds. And another historian, Yakov Yakovlev agrees but hopes that some recovery will be possible.

            There are still Russians who “want to live on and work their own land … They want to feed their children normal and natural products and not some unknown fruits and vegetables from the supermarket.” If the state would provide only a little help, they would stay and fight for the future of rural Russia.

            Tragically, the government shows no sign of recognizing such a need, and the people themselves are not in many cases in a position to do anything themselves.

 

West Lacks Mechanisms to Change Kremlin Policies and Must Act to Outlast Putin Regime, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – Six years ago, Russian economist Vladislav Inozemtsev argued in Russia of the 2010s: How to Live with It and How to Outlive It that the West must recognize how limited is ability is to change Kremlin policies or to influence the future social and political development of Russia (dgap.org/en/research/publications/russia-2010s)

            Now, in Neprikosnoveny Zapas, he argues such a recognition is even more critical given the growing rift between Russia and the West and the widespread assumption of Western leaders sanctions can force the Kremlin to change course (magazines.gorky.media/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/nz-138-Vozmozhnaya-oshibka-v-sankczionnoj-politike.pdf).

            Vladimir Putin and his regime will ignore any sanctions, Inozemtsev says, and thus demonstrate that “the West does not have any real instruments for the modification of Moscow’s actions. Moreover, and more important, he continues, “transformations in the Russian Federation will only happen when and if the vast majority of the population are ready and demand them.”

            The Russian government has many resources to ensure that time will not come anytime soon however much the small Russian opposition in whom the West invests so many hopes argues otherwise, the economist continues.

            “Consequently, he says, his recommendation to the West is “not to try to change Putin’s Russia but simply outlive it,” doing whatever is necessary to contain its nefarious actions abroad but not counting on any fundamental transformation inside. At the very least, the West must recognize that it lacks the ability to make anything else happen.

            And he concludes for good measure that all who want to see Russia a democratic and European state need to practice the first rule of good doctors: do no harm. Otherwise by intervening in ways that have consequences they don’t understand, both outsiders and opposition activists may end by making the situation much worse.

It Took Red Army ‘Almost a Decade’ to Subdue Western Ukraine after 1945, Russian Specialist on Ukraine Warns Kremlin

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – Anyone thinking about a Russian invasion of Ukraine today should remember that it took the Red Army at the height of its power at the end of World War II “almost a decade” to pacify Western Ukraine, Viktor Mironenko says. Indeed, an invasion now could lead to “a Russian Vietnam or a new Afghanistan.”

            The director of the Center for Ukrainian Research at the Institute of Europe at the Russian Academy of Sciences argues that unfortunately Kremlin policy now is being formulated by people who don’t remember the past and are operating on illusions about the strength of Russian arms and the weakness of Ukraine (rosbalt.ru/russia/2021/12/01/1933466.html).

            Mironenko’s comments came at a roundtable of political and military experts organized by the Rosbalt news agency. Other participants were divided on what the Kremlin is thinking and what may lie ahead. Independent military expert Pavel Felgengauer argued that “for a large regional war, today everything is ready in Russia.”

            But former Duma deputy Ilya Ponomaryev said that he “does not see any logic” in such a move by the Kremlin.” Of course, Moscow wants to manipulate Ukraine; but “after Afghanistan, the Americans cannot allow themselves any foreign policy fiascos” and so Russian leaders know that the US would lead resistance to any Russian invasion.

            The Kremlin’s threatening language has already given Moscow something it very much wants: more Western sanctions on Belarus, something that Vladimir Putin hopes will force Belarus to unite with Russia and give him a new post, head of a union state, to occupy after 2024.

            Historian Elena Galkina says the probability of a large war between Russia and Ukraine is about “10 percent.” Moscow may have prepared its military but it hasn’t taken the usual steps to prepare its own population. “The population of Russia is much less prepared for war than it was in 2013.”

            At that time, “Russians believed that half of Ukraine loves us; but now there are no such illusions … [and] today, fewer Russians are aggressively inclined.” Moreover, the costs of occupying Crimea are on everyone’s mind. The costs from an expanded war would certainly be even higher.

            Sociologist Pavel Kudyukin, however, warns that no one should “overrate the rationality of thinking in the Kremlin,” especially as the center of decision making has shifted from the Presidential Administration to the Russian Security Council where the siloviki are dominant rather than experts on the domestic situation.

            And Marina Shapovalova, a writer and economist, says that media hype about the war has been “exclusively in the information field” rather than more broadly as one would expect if Russia were really going to invade. Moscow wants to ensure that Ukraine is never in NATO but doesn’t need to occupy and attempt to pacify it to achieve that end.

            People “both in Russia and Ukraine are afraid of war, although in Ukraine, there is a definite straum of citizens who are ready to fight for their motherland. In the Russian Federation, there are almost none of these to the extent that no one has attacked their country.”

            In a separate comment, Rosbalt commentator Sergey Shelin suggests there is another constraint on Kremlin plans: “Russians do not want to go into battle with Europe on the side of Lukashenka.” They know how the West would react to that, and yet that alliance against Ukraine is precisely what Putin is talking about (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2021/11/30/1933460.html).

Russian Supreme Court Says Those Fearful for Their Lives have Broad Rights to Self-Defense

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – At a time when aggressiveness in Russian society is on the increase and when ever more Russians possess lethal weapons, the Supreme Court has declared that those who fear their lives are in danger have broad rights to use force in self-defense and directed lower courts to apply that standard.

            Such recognition of a right of self-defense even when it leads to bodily harm or the death of attackers has been expanded in a series of decisions by the Court over the last decade; and it has now been codified by a declaration of the presidium of Russia’s highest court (rg.ru/2021/11/30/reg-dfo/verhovnyj-sud-raziasnil-vazhnye-pravila-samooborony.html).

            The court says that no one has the right to shoot at people who are running away regardless of what they may have been doing up to that point but also that “when the life of an individual is under threat, he has the right to defend himself with all available means.” And this is a right, the court says, all lower courts must recognize.

            According to Vladislav Kulikov, a Rossiiskaya gazeta journalist, the new “document gives citizens carte blanche for the defense of their lives. Now, when considering specific cases, the Supreme Court has confirmed precisely those legal positions.” In short, more Russians are likely to feel free to shoot back – and more deaths are likely.

 

A Single Chinese Firm Registers More than Five Times as Many Patents as Russia as a Whole, Ishchenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – One sign of Russia’s decline as a center of invention is that a single Chinese company this year registered 5500 international patents while Russia as a whole registered only a few more than 1000, Anton Ishchenko, the head of the All-Russian Society of Inventors and Rationalizers, says.

            The reason is simple: few firms want to introduce new technologies, many have dispensed with sectors promoting inventions, and the government is no longer supportive of inventors despite all its talk about innovation, Ishchenko continues (rg.ru/2021/11/30/pochemu-izobretateli-sejchas-ne-vostrebovany-v-rossii.html).

            Just how little support there is in Russia today for inventions was highlighted recently when the Society feared it would not be able to give a million-ruble (14,000 US dollar) prize to its inventor of the year. Only at the very last minute did a major firm come up with the money for a man who has invented a needle that can’t be used twice, thus limiting infections.

            The association president paints a devastating picture of invention in Russia, a country which once led the world in new patents. Russians currently are registering about 35,000 patents a year, a pathetic figure compared to the 1.4 million Chinese inventors are doing or the 620,000 that Americans are.

            As far as international patents are concerned, Russia last year registered only a few more than one thousand, while Chinese nationals registered 274,000 and Americans, 58,000. As a result, Russia ranks 23rd among the countries of the world far below its share of the population and far lower than in the past, Ishchenko says.

            He places the blame for this on three things: First, Russian managers are far less willing to introduce new ideas than their foreign counterparts, with only seven or eight percent of them saying they are ready to do so, compared with 70 to 80 percent among mangers in Germany, Finland and Vietnam.

            Second, both the Russian government and individual firms have stopped supporting the work of inventors, something that means those who have new ideas that they want to see contribute to the economy and the country often do not have the chance – and seeing this, ever fewer Russians are seeking to become inventors.

            And third, the government has signaled that this isn’t something important for it. In 2019, a draft law calling for more support of inventors was introduced into the Duma; but it was voted down. Today, Ishchenko says, there are few prospects that it will be taken up again, although his group continues to press for that. 

Russia Must Dispense with Soviet Nationality Arrangements or It Will Disintegrate Just as the USSR Did, Kaplenkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – If Russia is to avoid a repetition of the disaster of 1991 when the Soviet Union came apart, it must reverse two Soviet decisions, Valery Kaplenkov says. On the one hand, it must eliminate the autonomous ethnic republics within the country; and on the other, it must reunite the three Slavic and, in his mind, Russian republics, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

            The Rex news agency commentator has been pressing for the elimination of the non-Russian republics (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/10/all-of-russias-federal-subjects-must-be.html). But now he has expanded that to include the elimination of Belarus and Ukraine (arex.ru/articles/83912.html).

            His linking of the two may be a sign of how some in the Kremlin view the issue, with calls for doing away with the non-Russian republics within and outside the Russian Federation becoming increasingly fused into one issue as Moscow marks the 100th anniversary of the formation of the USSR when the ethno-territorial structures of today were created.

            Kaplenkov’s arguments are not new. With regard to the non-Russian republics within the Russian Federation, he cites with approval Stalin’s objections to Lenin’s ideas. Indeed, he quotes Stalin’s reported remark that Lenin was a genius on many things but didn’t really understand the nationality question.

            And he points out that in most of the non-Russian autonomies today, the titular nationality does not form the two-thirds of the population that the United Nations says is required for the creation of such entities and that these territories cannot support themselves but exist on subventions from the center, a real burden on the Russian nation.

            And with regard to the need to do away with Belarus and Ukraine as independent states and do away with the name Russian Federation for Russia, Kaplenkov argues, as does Vladimir Putin, that the titular nationality of these three were created by the Soviets for short-term political goals in violation of what had been true in the Russian Empire.

            To the extent that these two issues, one domestic and one foreign, are being combined in the thinking of Kremlin leaders, it is likely that moves in one area will be accompanied by moves in the other, with Putin’s efforts to unite Belarus with Russia and his pressure on Ukraine being paralleled by new moves to amalgamate out of existence ethnic autonomies in Russia itself.