Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Putin’s Proposed ‘Russian Nation’ Law a Threat to Ukraine, Baltics, Borovoy Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 2 – Vladimir Putin’s talk about a new law on the civic Russian nation is not only directed against the opposition and ethnic minorities within the Russian Federation but represents yet another attempt to legitimize the Kremlin leader’s claim that Moscow has the right to “defend” ethnic Russians abroad, Konstantin Borovoy says.

            And as such, the Russian opposition commentator says, Putin’s blessing for such legislation, even though its specific content is not yet known, represents a new threat for Ukraine and the Baltic countries (

            In Russia, Borovoy continues, “the term ‘nation’ has always been conceived as an ethnic designator.”  And that is why “speaking about some kind of unity of the nation in present-day conditions” is both absurd and dangerous, absurd because there is no such nation and dangerous because it will lead the Kremlin to act as if there is.

            While Putin hasn’t specified what the law will contain, the commentator says, it isn’t hard to imagine that it will be different from all recent laws and that it will contain numerous prohibitions that will be employed against democratic and minority groups under the banner of fighting “extremism” and “nationalism.”

                “Had Putin wanted to do something reasonable, he would have spoken about the unity of the peoples of Russia but not in any case about a nation,” Borovoy argues, because “as soon as they talk about a nation there appear all kinds of unhealthy ideas,” including about the supposed existence of “a Russian world” extending beyond the borders of the Russian Federation.

            According to Borovoy, Putin’s real reason for promoting the idea of a new law about the Russian nation is his desire to “legalize the defense of ‘the Russian world’ beyond the borders of Russia” and thus put himself in a position to do so across the former Soviet space but in the first instance in Ukraine and in the Baltic countries.

            In fact, he says, as Valeriya Novodvorskaya pointed out, there are only “two peoples” on the territory of the former Soviet space in this conception: Russians and Soviets, and thus, it is likely that Putin’s new legislation “will be a law about the defense of the interests namely of ‘the soviet,’” and not the Russian as claimed.

            Of course, Putin and his regime will package all this in the name of “inter-ethnic cooperation” and “friendship” of the peoples, but as was always true in Soviet times, “correct words typically mean the exact opposite and as soon as the government begins to talk about the struggle for piece, one must build a bomb shelter.”

            Borovoy says that he has “no doubts” that this legislation is “a threat for the Baltic countries and for the West” in addition to Ukraine.  That is because it will include “an expansionist” dimension by calling for the defense of all those it imagines to be part of Putin’s new Russian nation.

            Indeed, by denying that the new grouping is ethnic, Putin has created a concept that he can use for aggression against anyone. At the very least, all talk about this will increase the level of aggressiveness in Russian society; and that is something that Ukrainians in the first instance should be worried about.


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