Monday, June 24, 2024

Fragging Appears in Russian Units in Ukraine, ‘Novaya Gazeta’ Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 17 – Fragging -- attacks on officers by soldiers under their command and a phenomenon that was notorious in the US military in Vietnam as well as in Soviet forces in Afghanistan as well -- is now taking place in Russian units in Ukraine, data collected by Novaya Gazeta suggest.

            The independent paper examined military court records in the occupied territories between February and October 2023. It identified more than 135 cases in which Russian soldiers were charged with killing either civilians or other Russian military personnel (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2024/06/14/ruzhe-streliaet-po-svoim).

            These figures are necessarily incomplete both because of the limited time and territory they covered, the paper acknowledges, and because not all crimes of this type are brought to the courts or correctly categorized. Consequently, the real numbers may be far higher, the paper suggests.

            But even these numbers are indicative of breakdowns in command and control and unit cohesion that threaten the ability of the Russian military to carry out its mission, prompting officers to avoid giving orders that might lead to their own deaths at the hands of their own soldiers.

            And to the extent that such cases become more widely known, fragging of this kind will certainly prompt discussions among Russians in general and those in the political elite about the potentially dangerous consequences of continuing to pursue the Kremlin’s military goals and could even lead to demands for changes in both tactics and strategy.

Putin’s Recent Personnel Moves Threaten to Spark Conspiracies Against Him, Eidman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 18 – Over the course of the last month, Vladimir Putin has offended large swaths of his entourage by firing or demoting officials but leaving them or their supporters in position of real power where there is a growing possibility that at least some of them may engage in conspiracies to oust him from power, Igor Eidman says.

            Indeed, the Russian commentator argues, “never before in the Putin leadership have their been so many people who have been offended by the dictator” (censoru.net/2024/06/18/nikogda-v-putinskom-rukovodstve-ne-bylo-stolko-ljudej-obizhennyh-diktatorom-kadrovye-reshenija-nesut-dlja-putina-riski-zagovora.html).

By his actions, Eidman says, Putin has seriously offended influential “clans” headed by Patrushev, Shoygu, and generals from the defense ministry as well as senior officials in the Presidential Administration and the wealthy partners of all these people in business and elsewhere.

“None of this would have been a problem for Putin if he had acted in a Stalinist manner and had the offended been sent to the camps. But they haven’t been dealt with in this way and preserve their positions in power.” And as a result, the commentator continues, Putin himself “has created a seedbed” for a revolt by those nominally closest to him.

Almost all of the officials who have been demoted or seen their positions weakened, including Patrushev, Shoygu, Gerasimov, and Kiryenko, still retain real power and influence; and having been “mortally offended” by Putin, they may decide to act against him before he can take even more steps against themselves.

 

Putin Must Avoid Kolchak’s Mistakes on National Question, ‘Soveshenno Sekretno’ Historian Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 17 – The Russian past offers many lessons for the present and not just those the current powers that be want people to draw. Among those unlearned lessons, Sergey Lozenko of Sovershenno Sekretno says, is one that comes from the disasters that followed from Aleksandr Kolchak’s failure to take the nationality question seriously.

            In a 2,000-word article entitled “Kolchak’s Nationality Question,” the historian says what the leaders of the White Movement routinely underestimated the importance of ethnic issues and believed that any problems in that area could be solved by force alone. The result was disaster (sovsekretno.ru/articles/istoriya/natsionalnyy-vopros-kolchaka100624/).

            Lozenko devotes particular attention to the ways in which Kolchak ignored and then sought to repress Ukrainian nationalism in the Russian Far East. His intelligence operatives told him that ethnic Ukrainians there wanted to split off that region from Russia and that he had no choice but to use force against them.

            That is precisely what he did, alienating many Ukrainians there and driving some of them into the hands of the Bolsheviks. But at the same time, Kolchak chose to rely on units raised by Ukrainian military leaders, only to see these forces later change sides and fight against him including at the Volga, thus preventing a link up with Denikin that might have led to victory.

            The details Lozenko provides are fascinating and convincing. But it is his conclusion about Kolchak’s failure and the lessons it has for today that are especially noteworthy. He writes that the inability of the White Russian leaders to “realize the significance of nationality policy and provide a unifying idea for the representatives of the peoples in Russia led to disaster.”

            And he ends by asserting that “it is necessary to draw lessons from this history in order to promptly identify and forestall challenges that are emerging today.” Few who read his article will fail to see the parallels he is drawing between Ukrainians then and now and between Admiral Kolchak and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

 

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Russian Victims of Natural Disasters Send Record Number of Complaints to Putin, Kremlin Admits

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 14 – Russian victims of flooding and fires sent more than 2500 complaints to Vladimir Putin during April and May complaining about the failure of the authorities to help them, a number far in excess of the figures registered in 2019 before the pandemic and the war in Ukraine occurred, the Kremlin has acknowledged.

            According to the Kremlin, almost a third of these complaints came from Orenburg Oblast alone, the hardest hit region in the Russian Federation situated between Bashkortostan and Kazakhstan (letters.kremlin.ru/digests/year/2024/308, letters.kremlin.ru/digests/year/2024/309 and istories.media/news/2024/06/14/zhalobi-na-problemi-s-viplatami/).

            While the Putin regime may be pleased that Russians choose to write to Putin about their problems rather than to any one else, its officials can hardly welcome the fact that these data suggest that Russians are ever more ready to complain in a public and entirely identifiable way about things that hit their lives directly.

Russian Opposition Paralyzed by Fear of Choice Between Centralization and Disintegration, Guseynov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 16 – One of the most serious weaknesses of the Russian opposition, Gasan Guseynov says, is a lack of a vocabulary which could allow it to overcome its paralyzing fear “before the choice between a centralized Russian state and a multiplicity of new states which could arise on the territory of the present-day Russian Federation.”

            The Paris-based Russian philologist says that the words leaders of the opposition use not only prevent them from seeing just how far Russia has moved to becoming a Russian nation state but also prevent them from being able to navigate between centralizers now in power and those who advocate disintegration as the only way forward (rfi.fr/ru/россия/20240616-с-чего-начинается-освобождение-языка).

            The word “disintegration” frightens them to the point that they cannot respond adequately when it is mentioned. As a result, they don’t recognize how small that threat is now that Russia is becoming a nation state and thus find themselves in an alliance with the centralizing imperialists and thus make the possibility of disintegration far greater.

            Is it really better for Russian people today living in the vastness of Eurasia to have a single aggressive and unjust state rather than several additional compact and peace-loving states named for example after large Russian cities or regions?”  the philologist asks rhetorically. But the vocabulary the Russian opposition uses prevents this from even being discussed.

            Instead, Guseynov says, those in the opposition who dream of “a beautiful Russia of the future … forbid representatives of the Russian minorities from even mentioning the possibility of ‘the collapse of Russia.” And still worse, they tell the latter to “’know their place’” lest in saying anything about changing relations between center and periphery they frighten people.

Muslims Moving Beyond the Umma into Russian Establishment

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 14 – Kazan’s Business Online has offered its list of the 100 most influential Muslims in the Russian Federation. The most striking thing about the list is that these influentials are now in the Russian establishment government or business rather than at the top of the Muslim Spiritual Directorates (MSDs) which oversee the umma in that country.

            Among the top 10 of these influential Muslims, only three are leaders of the Muslim community as usually understood: Ravil Gainutdin, head of the MSD of Russia, Talgat Tajuddin, head of the Central MSD in Ufa, and Albir Krganov, head of the Spiritual Assembly of Russia (business-gazeta.ru/article/636876).

            The others are government officials, Duma members and business leaders, a pattern that holds for the other 90 Muslims on the list, and clear testimony to the fact that Muslims now have multiple ways of rising to the top of Russian society and are not nearly as ghettoized as some would like and many more continue to believe is the case. 


Navalny Team’s ‘Traitors’ Affecting Russian Opposition Much as Khrushchev’s 1956 Secret Speech Affected Communists, Zharkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 14 – The new film, Traitors, prepared by Navalny’s Foundation for the Struggle with Corruption, is having an impact on the Russian opposition comparable to that which Khrushchev’s secret speech in 1956 had on communists both in the USSR and around the world, according to Vasily Zharkov.

            In both cases, the Russian activist who is now at the European University of the Humanities in Vilnius says, they attacked an earlier leader, Yeltsin in the film and Stalin in the speech, for betraying the principles in which he supposedly acted and opened the way for the recovery of those principles (moscowtimes.ru/2024/06/14/dvadtsatii-sezd-v-emigratsii-a134023).

            Just as Khrushchev’s attack on Stalin gave “the children of the 20th congress” the opportunity to seek to restore Leninism so now the film is giving “a new generation of Russian politicians, the generation of the children of Aleksey Navalny” the opportunity to propose “their version of a democratic future and a path to a more just, equal and free society.”

            “In the eyes of most Russians, the terms ‘democracy’ and ‘liberalism’ were seriously discredited by the policy of Yeltsin and his team.” If they are to be revived, they must be freed of that burden, something that requires “an analysis of the mistakes of previous political generations” and a rejection of their discredited approaches.

            Comparing the new film with the 1956 congress is “of course, a metaphor.” There are many differences, but these two events are “turning points for the history of ideologies and the political history of Russia.” The 20th congress began “the long process of revising ideas of socialism;” the new film, the ideology of liberalism and democracy.

            “In criticizing Stalin, Khrushchev called for returning to ‘Leninist principles’ but not to tsarist times.” In criticizing Yeltsin, the new film is doing something similar, not calling for a return to Soviet times but to fulfilling the promises of democracy and freedom that Yeltsin failed to keep.

            That demolishes what had been a long-standing consensus in the liberal opposition: say nothing about Yeltsin or speak only good about him.” Now what the first Russian president did to subvert democracy and freedom can be openly discussed by a new generation of opposition figures without any suggestion that the alternative is a return to Sovietism a la Putin.

            For the opposition, criticism of Yeltsin has been “finally legalized,” and that has triggered a fight between the older generation of opposition figures who backed his “good tsar” approach to introducing the ideology but not the substance of freedom and democracy and those who want those values in forms that allow them to be pursued.

            What happened under Yeltsin was the establishment of “freedom exclusively in a negative sense, freedom from government oversight but not freedom for participation in the affairs of the state and society. The state and the people for a time turned out to be free from one another, but a decade later, the state retook what it had lost,” Zharkov says.

            Most of the earlier opposition leaders have fled abroad but there they lost social capital and “committed a fatal mistake,” he continues. That mistake, which consists of “a fear of the people alongside the absolutization of the role of the market,” remains for them what it was for Russian liberal dogmatists of the 1990s, the only way forward.

            Their attitude can be summed up in the following way: In addressing the people, they say “you are rabble so you don’t deserve anything good in your life. You will never have democracy but must instead recognize our privileges and power over you in Russia because we are your intellectual elite.”

            “Such a message,” Zharkov points out, “does not make democratic ideas more popular across society.” Instead, by taking that position, “Russian liberals have driven themselves into a ghetto from they can escape only by returning to empathy for their fellow citizens,” something a younger generation of the opposition is willing to do.

            “Unlike the heirs of the old Soviet pop nobility who flourished in the 1990s,” the commentator says, “these people do not consider themselves ‘an elite’ and are much closer to understanding the needs and aspirations of the mass population.” They don’t view their fellow countrymen “as a rabble but rather as people worthy of living in an equal and free society.”

            The new film will speed this process as it is “high time” for “the Russian opposition to leave the pseudo-elite ghetto” it has been in and instead “learn to speak with the people in a respectful way and in clearly understandable language,” Zharkov concludes.