Thursday, February 27, 2020

Six Years Ago This Week, Putin Changed the World Changed by Following His Own Impulses and Invading Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 22 – “The geopolitical reality of today has a birthday,” Roman Popkov, or more precisely three, February 20, 21 and 22, 2014, when Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops into the territory of Ukraine, a move that gave rise to “the second cold war” with its “sanctions, anti-sanctions, sabre rattling, and the use of mercenary armies” across the world.

            Since that time, “Putin has been fighting with America because for him the Ukrainian people do not exist as a subject of history;” and likewise for Putin, “no Ukrainian revolution exists anymore but only an American special operation carried out near his, Vladimir Putin’s, borders” and thus “a special operation directed against him” (

            The Kremlin leader has “convinced himself of this” nonsense. And because he has, Putin is also convinced that his actions in Ukraine are entirely defensive in character, however obvious to everyone else that they are not. And thus he has put the entire world on a new, cold war footing.

            “In contrast to the first cold war, which ended in the 1980s,” Popkov said, “there is in the current clash with the West no recognized messianic meaning. This conflict is the product of the personal complexes and phobias of the head of the Russian state. And the entire history of this global conflict is a chain of tactical situational moves.”

            Over these six years, Ukraine and Russia have changed fundamentally, the commentator says. Only Putin has remained the same.  Ukraine continues in its cyclical path now trusting now overthrowing its leaders but increasingly dedicated to its separate and unique status. Russia too has changed: the chauvinism of six years ago is gone.

            So too are the former heroes of Russia’s “official propaganda, managers of ‘the Russian spring’ have been thrown into the trash, some into graves, some into jails, and some still alive and free but only after having become marginal figures of fun needed by no one,” Popkov continues.

            Despite these changes, the commentator says, “only Putin’s rhetoric regarding Ukraine has not changed at all.” In his latest TASS remarks (,  the Russian president devotes almost ten minutes to Ukrainian issues and repeats his false claims of the last six years, that “Russians and Ukrainians are ‘one people’” and should live under one ruler.

            Putin hasn’t been able to get his way in Ukraine so he has launched attacks directed at the US in a variety of places, including Syria, the Central African Republic, Sudan “and in equally exotic places.”  All these actions, just like his initial attack on Ukraine reflect Putin’s “paranoia, anger, and nearsightedness” which causes him to reject Ukraine’s right to “choose its own fate.”

Chaika’s Interest Prompts Magas to Come Up with ‘Road Map’ for Resolving Prigorodny Dispute with North Ossetia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 22 – Yury Chaika’s businesslike and attentive behavior during his meetings with Ingush leaders and willingness to talk about serious problems has led some in Magas to conclude that the new plenipotentiary for the North Caucasus wants to see steps taken to resolve the problems that have been eating away at the authority of Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov.

            The issue that the plenipotentiary appears most interested in addressing is the fate of those displaced by the Prigorodny District conflict in the early 1990s, commentator Anton Chablin says, adding that Magas is now preparing “a road map” on how it can address that problem (проблема-пригородного-района-близит/).

            Such a document presumably will focus on providing for those Ingush displaced as a result of that conflict – there are tens of thousands of these – and also for the Ingush who remain in North Ossetia, especially the children who do not now have access to Ingush-language schools,

            What makes this striking, Chablin says, is that Kalimatov has studiously avoided discussing this issue in the past. His willingness to do so now means that at least some in Ingushetia are likely to conclude that, under pressure from the plenipotentiary, the republic head may be willing to focus on other neuralgic issues, including the border with Chechnya.

            Meanwhile, Ingushetia is marking International Native Language Day with a “dekada,” the Russian term for a ten-day festival that has enormous political resonance in the North Caucasus because of translator and cultural specialist Semyon Lipkin’s samizdat novel from the late 1970s (

            Ingush participants at a seminar arranged as part of this “dekada” were “unanimous in believing that one of the causes which has put the Ingush language on the brink of disappearance is its disappearance from daily conversations.” People in Ingushetia “not only aren’t speaking it but have even ceased to think in their native language.”

            Roza Khayrova, a linguist in Magas, says that a major reason for this has been the rise of the Internet where young Ingush spend an increasing amount of their time on Russian sites and thus absorb that language at the expense of their own. “Parents,” she says, “must fill this gap and constantly speak Ingush with their children.”

Russian Occupiers have Almost Completely Suppressed Media Freedom in Crimea

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 21 – When they arrived in 2014, the Russian invaders and then occupiers took dramatic actions against media freedom there, actions which attracted international attention and condemnation. Now, these actions continue, Ukrainian activists say, but they seldom get the attention they did or should.

            In an effort to change this situation, the ZMINA rights group has released a report documenting the various ways from arrests, fines and imprisonments, harassments and closures that the occupiers have used against journalists in Crimea (

            But because past repressions have been so severe, there are fewer new official actions to report, and that has led to a decline in attention to the way in which the situation now is much worse than it was in 2014 or 2015.  The occupiers now don’t have to take as many actions as they did because they have already achieved their goals.

            Groups like the ZMINA and the Crimean Human Rights Group are seeking to keep the attention of Kyiv and the West focused on that situation; but they face an uphill fight because the silence of a cemetery does not offer many occasions for reporting, given how many specific actions of abuse clamor for attention.

            As a result, many casual observers draw the mistaken conclusion that the situation in Russian-occupied Crimea has “normalized” and that there is nothing that needs to be done. In fact, it has been “normalized” if that is understood to be the kind of situation Putin wants. It is totally abnormal in terms of media freedom and human rights.

            That must never be forgotten and so it can’t be said too often.