Tuesday, July 17, 2018

As a Result of Russian Flight, Non-Russian Republics Becoming More Ethnically Homogenous, Tishkov Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 17 – Yesterday, the presidium of the Russian Presidential Council on Inter-Ethnic Relations met to discuss the issues they will raise when they meet with Vladimir Putin sometime in the fall.  The Nazaccent news agency focused on the remarks of two of its members.

            Academician Valery Tishkov directed the attention of participants to the exodus of non-titular nationalities from the non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation, a trend that he says “entails the danger of isolationism” in them (nazaccent.ru/content/27712-chleny-prezidentskogo-soveta-obsudili-svyaz-nacpolitiki.html).

            The former nationalities minister added that “programs for returning ethnic Russians to the republics have not given any tangible results.”

            He noted that according to his data, “the composition of the population of the Russian Federation is changing in the direction of an increase of Turkic, Daghestani, and Vainakh peoples and the reduction in the number of Finno-Ugric and Slavic ones.” But Slavs still account for “more than 80 percent,” and so this should not provoke any fears.

            The other speaker Nazaccent reported on was former sports figure Vitaly Mutko who was attending the council for the first time.  The agency said that he “demonstrated knowledge and interest” about nationality issues and welcomed his promise to resuscitate the inter-agency nationalities working group that Aleksandr Khloponin only convened once.

            But Mutko’s most intriguing remark, if Nazaccent reported his words correctly, was his assertion that native languages must not be option if one is speaking about the official language of the republic.” If Mutko actually said that, his position would be the exact opposite of Vladimir Putin’s, something that seems very hard to believe.

            But if this report is accurate, Mutko will have already won himself support among many non-Russians, something that could help him recover from his disgrace as the man most prominently associated with the doping scandal that has marred Russian sports since the time of the Sochi Olympiad.

Kremlin Urged to Follow Orel and Recognize Donbass ‘Now that World Cup is Over’


Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 17 – Now that the World Cup and the Helsinki Summit is over, Moscow analysts say, the Russian government should immediately recognize the independence of the Ukraine’s Donbass and then integrate it with Russia in the ways the governor of Orel Oblast has already taken steps to do. 

            “Before the World Cup,” Aleksey Polubota of Svobodnaya pressa says today, “many political analysts in Moscow said that Russia’s hands were tied lest it disturb relations on the eve of sports event so important for us.” But now, he and many of them say, it is time to go ahead without regard to the West (svpressa.ru/war21/article/205448/).

            The governor of Orel Oblast has shown the way by setting up a joint commission to integrate the two Donbass republics into Russia, the Svobodnaya pressa analyst says. (For a discussion of his actions last week, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/07/russia-has-begun-integration-of-donbass.html.)

            Aleksey Kochetkov, the president of the Russian Foundation for Civil Society Development, says that he personally believes Moscow should have recognized the DNR and the LNR “already four years ago.” Had it done so, he continues, many lives would have been saved. But even now, taking that step would be a good one.

            “In general,” Kochetkov says, “it is necessary to put the question more broadly: does a Nazi regime, which has destroyed peaceful residents, have the right to exist in the center of Europe?” And that question must be raised, he says, because those under the protection of the Ukrainian powers that be represent a threat not only for Russia but also for other countries.”

            Having analyzed the problems of the so-called “unrecognized states on the post-Soviet space” for many years, he says he believes that the process of Russian recognition has gone too slowly both elsewhere and in the case of the Donbass, but despite its slow pace, Moscow is moving toward recognition of two Donbass republics as it did Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

            Aleksey Anpilogov, head of the Osnovanye Historical Research Foundation, stresses that each unrecognized republic is slightly different; and he points to the situation in Cyprus where the Turks have controlled the north but the south has been able to become a member of the European Union.

            “Apparently,” he continues, “the Kyiv regime hopes that approximately the same story will be repeated with Ukraine; that is, despite the unresolved territorial disputes, the country will be taken into the EU and NATO.” But however that may be, the peoples of the Donbass are moving toward Russia even though Russia is not moving fast enough to recognize them.

            The Donbass and Ukraine are growing apart, Anpilogov says, and soon no one will be talking about their coming back together just as no one talks about reuniting Austria and Hungary even though they were part of one country just over a century ago. Unfortunately, not everyone in Moscow appears to understand this.

            He gives as an example of this failure the demand by Russian officials that “residents of the Donbass renew their Ukrainian passports in a timely fashion lest they cease to be recognized on Russian territory.”  Anpilogov says he has been assured that Russian officials are addressing this problem right now.

            According to the analyst, “Russia missed the first moment when it could have proceeded along this path, the fall of 2014. Now, however, for the recognition of the DNR and LNR, the Kremlin doesn’t see a basis and is waiting for the next crisis” when it can act. For the time being, he says, “a situation of ‘no war, no peace’ continues.”

            Some Russian officials appear to fear that giving Donbass residents Russian passports will upset the West. Of course, it will, Anpilogov says; but the West was “far more unhappy about the inclusion of Crimea into Russia. And despite that, the sky has not yet fallen.” It wouldn’t in this case either.

            “I think,” he concludes, “what is involved are the phantom concerns of the Muscovite ruling class. Namely the Muscovite and not the Russian because the main part of the ordinary citizens of Russia and even regional elites would entirely support not only handing out Russian passports to the residents of the Donbass but the inclusion of the DNR and LNR into Russia.”

Trump has Done More than Collude with Putin: He’s Helped Kremlin Leader Destroy Post-1945 World


Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 17 – Donald Trump did more than collude with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. He worked with the Kremlin leader to destroy the three settlements of the 20th century that the United States took the lead in arranging, settlements whose destruction leaves the world and its peoples in a far more dangerous place than it has ever been before.

            In the spring of 2014, the current author warned about what was at stake for the US in Putin’s Anschluss of Ukraine in the hopes that the United States would recognize that that Russian action would quickly be recognized as “a new 911 for the US” and the West. Unfortunately, just the reverse has happened.

            Below is the text of that article which appeared in The Ambassadors Review.  I can only add that at the time, I could not believe that we would sink so low and that future historians will be forced to decide that the real spelling of Helsinki is M-U-N-I-C-H (americanambassadors.org/publications/ambassadors-review/spring-2014/crimea-a-new-9-11-for-the-united-states).

Crimea: A New 9/11 for the United States

In 1991, with the end of the Cold War, the disappearance of the Soviet bloc, and the disintegration of the USSR, many Americans—policymakers among them—believed that we had reached the end of history. They believed that we had entered a new period in which cooperation among countries on the basis of shared commitment to democratic values and free market economics would not only be possible but would be­come the central feature of the international system.
Ten years later, the Islamist terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11th dispelled much of that optimism but did not dislodge one of the key assumptions of 1991. The 9/11 attacks were the work of sub-state actors not only against the United States but against the international community. Americans and American policymakers contin­ued to assume that the governments of the countries of the world, whatever their differences on a wide variety of issues, had a common interest in working together to defeat such challenges and that the counter-terrorist coalition provided a reliable basis for expanding ties.
Now, 13 years after 9/11, the United States and the international community have been confronted with a challenge that calls that optimistic assumption into question. By occupying and annexing Ukraine’s Crimea by force under the fig leaf of a referendum and by signaling that it views Crimea as a precedent for further action, the Russian Federation, with which Washington had so hoped to establish and develop cooperative ties, has shown itself to be a revisionist, even revanchist power, that is committed not only to overturning the 1991 settlement but that of 1945 as well.
It is tempting to believe that the current crisis is “just about Crimea, which was Russian anyway”—and that isn’t true either, given that Stalin deported the Crimean Tatars from there in 1944, prevented their return, and supported the introduction of ethnic Russians in their place—as all too many in the West are doing. It is critically important to understand just what is at stake and why Russia’s actions in Crimea represent the gravest threat to the rules of the game that the United States has taken the lead in establishing and maintaining since the end of World War II.
There are three reasons for what will seem to many a far too sweeping judgment, reasons that lie in the history of the area and of international decisions and that are to be found as well in the statements of Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders during the lead up to what can only be described as the Anschluss of Crimea.
First, Putin has violated the basic foundation of the international system by redrawing borders and transferring the territory of one country into another. He and his supporters claim that they are doing no more than the United States did in Yugoslavia, but that is simply false. The United States did not organize the transfer of Kosovo to Albania. Instead, what we are seeing is naked aggression, covered by a trumped up “referendum” and a massive propaganda effort in Russia and the West.
There is one aspect of Putin’s argument, however, that does deserve attention although it is not compelling under the circumstances. As few in the West have been prepared to acknowledge, the borders of the republics in the USSR were drawn by Stalin not to solve ethnic problems but to exacerbate them. In every case, including most famously Karabakh in Azerbaijan but also Crimea and much of eastern Ukraine, Stalin drew the borders so there would always be a local minority nationality whose members would do Moscow’s bidding against the local majority. That had two benefits for the center. On the one hand, it meant that inter-ethnic tensions in the Soviet Union were primarily among non-Russian groups rather than between Russians and non-Russians, a far more explosive mix. And on the other hand, it justified the kind of repressive system that Stalin imposed. Indeed, it meant that the USSR could continue to exist only with such repression. As I wrote in 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev was likely going to discover that a liberal Russia might be possible, but a liberal Soviet Union was a contradiction in terms. When the last Soviet leader liberalized in the hopes of getting that country’s economy to expand, the USSR fell into pieces.
Those borders could have been changed by negotiation. Indeed, as few recognize, republic borders within the USSR had been changed more than 200 times, with land and people being transferred from one republic to another. However, in 1991 and 1992, the United States decided that these lines must not be changed by negotiation or violence. The rest of the world went along with the idea. The reason for that was the fear that the dismemberment of the Russian Federation, a country that is more than a fifth non-Russian, would exacerbate the problem of control of nuclear weapons and could lead to, in Secretary James Baker’s memorable phrase, “a nuclear Yugoslavia.”
For more than 20 years, this view has guided American and Western policy. The most prominent example of this was the insistence that Armenia end its occupation of Azerbaijani lands and return them to Baku’s sovereignty. So far that has not happened. But it is also the case that our decision to accept Stalin’s borders as eternal did not remove the tensions that he introduced as a kind of poison pill should his empire ever come apart. Putin’s move into Ukraine’s Crimea is an indication of just how strong those tensions remain.
Second, and related to this, Vladimir Putin has done something that overturns not just the 1991 but the 1945 settlement as well. He has argued that ethnicity is more important than citizenship, a reversal of the hierarchy that the United Nations is predicated on and a position that has the potential to undermine many members of the international community. While some may see this as nothing more than a commitment to the right of nations to national self-determination, the Kremlin leader’s approach suffers from a fatal flaw, a defect that unless denounced and countered could lead the heads of other states to take similar and equally dangerous steps. At the very least, Putin’s ideas will lead to massive instability in a large part of Eurasia.
Put in simplest terms, Putin has insisted that ethnic Russians living beyond the borders of the Russian Federation, in this case in Ukraine, have the right to self-determination. Putin has made his career by denying that right to nations within the borders of the Russian Federation, most famously the Chechens against whom he launched and has conducted a brutal campaign that has cost tens of thousands of lives. Consequently, what Putin has done is to say that in Eurasia, ethnic Russians have rights that other peoples do not, a hyper-nationalist, even racist view that will bleed back into Russian society and also spark greater nationalism among the non-Russians both in the non-Russian post-Soviet states and in the Russian Federation as well.
By his actions, Putin has already guaranteed that no Ukrainian state and no Ukrainians will be sympathetic to Russia ever again. Instead, they will view Moscow as a threat. As many people have pointed out since the occupation of Crimea, Putin has done something no Ukrainian leader has ever achieved: he has united Ukrainians and united them around an anti-Russian agenda. Indeed, Ukraine now joins Poland and the Baltic countries as victims of Soviet and Russian actions and will do everything it can, as those countries have done, to escape from the Russian orbit. Some Ukrainians may be suborned or intimidated into saying otherwise, all the more so because some Western countries, including our own, will insist on that. But the underlying geo-psychology has shifted in the region against Russia because of Russian action.
And third, Putin’s annexation of Crimea has been accompanied by the most sweeping crackdown against civil society in the Russian Federation since the end of the Cold War. News outlets have been harassed and suppressed, and opposition figures have been threatened. Putin himself has talked about the existence of “national traitors” and “a fifth column” within Russia, terms that to many Russian ears are not very far removed from the Stalin-era term “enemies of the people.” Indeed, some of Putin’s more rabid supporters are already drawing that conclusion: xenophobia in Russia is at an all-time high, attacks on ethnic and religious minorities are increasing, and many Russian democrats—and we should not forget that they are numerous and our allies—are invoking the words of Pastor Niemöller, fearful that what Putin is doing now will spread to ever more groups, including ominously Jews in that country.
Many in the West have self-confidently assured themselves that this is not a return to the ugly past and that the Internet will block Putin’s efforts. But that may be whistling in the dark. Only one in five Russian homes have a computer, and far fewer have links to the World Wide Web. If Russians can sign on only at work, the ability of the authorities to shut Russians off from the rest of the world is still far greater than one would like. And that allows messages to be sent to the Russian people by the state-controlled media that are truly disturbing, including the recent suggestion that Russian forces could incinerate the United States in a nuclear exchange if Washington does not back off.
One needs to be clear: Crimea is not or at least does not need to be the trigger for a new Cold War. The ideological competition of the Cold War was very different. But those who say we must avoid standing up to the Russians lest we provoke one have fallen into a trap set by Moscow. On the one hand, the bogeyman of “a new Cold War” is intended to block such criticism by the West even where and when it is merited. And on the other, what Putin is doing in some ways is even more vicious than what most Soviet leaders after Stalin did.
Soviet ideology was at its base fundamentally internationalist, a fact that limited but of course did not prevent outrages against ethnic and religious groups by the Com­munist Party and the USSR authorities. But as one wise Baltic leader has put it, if the Russians come back this time, and with Putin’s program of the ethnic supremacy of Russians, Moscow will not be constrained by communism and the results will be truly tragic.
Some argue that because we cannot force Putin to back down on Crimea, we should not speak and act against what he has done. We have a moral obligation and a geopolitical interest in doing so. As we think about Crimea, a small place far away about which few in Washington had heard of until very recently, we need to remember the words of the great Russian memoirist Nadezhda Mandelshtam who wrote that “happy is the country in which the despicable will at least be despised,” even if at any one point there may not be anything more than one can do.
Putin’s occupation of Ukraine is a second 9/11, a warning that the optimism of 1991 was misplaced and that the kind of cooperative future we hoped for has been put on hold for some time. That future is still possible. There are many Russians and others who want it. Unfortunately, Vladimir Putin has demonstrated that he is not among their number unless we are prepared to concede to everything he wants.