Friday, March 1, 2024

No One in Russia is Going to Vote for Anyone Calling for Country’s Disintegration, Shapovalova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 26 – Many Russians favor decentralization and the creation of genuine federalism in which Moscow won’t control everything, Marina Shapovalova says; but no one in Russia will vote for those who call for the country’s disintegration. The fact that some are prompts the question: what can they possibly be thinking?

            “Disintegration” has become such a boogey man in Russia given what happened to the Soviet Union in 1991 that the Kremlin has long been using it to scare Russians and to marginalize those who seek only decentralization, the Russian regionalist activist says (region.expert/fantasm/).

            And those who remain in Russia and hope for a future in politics are only helping the Kremlin leader when they call for the coming apart of the country. They can’t expect to get any support, and they won’t, however much they may feel encouraged by the appeals of their co-ethnics or co-regionalists who are now living abroad.

            Consequently,  those who favor the creation of genuine federalism or even a move toward confederalism should stop coming out in favor of disintegration. Indeed, the only time they should use that term is to point out that Putin, by his policies, is putting the country on the path to collapse and that those backing federalism are the only ones who can prevent disintegration.

 

Moscow Plans to Create ‘Hybrid Colonies’ Where Those in Preliminary Detention will Be Held Alongside Those Already Sentenced to Various Kinds of Prisons and Camps

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 25 – To save money now being spent on moving those behind bars from one kind of detention facility to another, Moscow is planning to create “hybrid” incarceration facilities which will include those being held for trial and not yet convicted and those serving time in various kinds of penal institutions from general to strict regime.

            The Government Commission on Legislation has approved a justice ministry proposal to create places where detainees and convicted prisoners will be held at the same place but under different conditions, a practice that will reduce the amount of money spent on moving prisoners about (holod.media/2024/02/26/gibridnye-kolonii/).

            Initially, there will be three such locations near major cities; but if they work out as planned, the system will be extended to the entire country. While it will save money in transport, critics say, it will simultaneously make it more difficult of relatives and lawyers to visit some prisoners and further reduce the distinction between pre-trial detainees and convicts.

New Push in Duma to Denounce 1990 Shevardnadze-Baker Agreement on Bering Straits

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 26 – Ever since it was signed but not ratified, the 1990 agreement between Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and US Secretary of State James Baker changing the delimitation of the waters in the Bering Straits has been controversial in Russia, with many Russians seeing its provisions as an unjustified concession to the United States.

            There have been repeated calls to denounce it officially, not only because of the deterioration of relations between Moscow and Washington since the start of Putin’s war in Ukraine but also because the Russian government recently denounced an agreement between Moscow and London on fishing rights off the Kola Peninsula.

            Now, some Duma deputies and senators are again pressing Moscow to denounce the accord, although some are suggesting that this is an unnecessary step given that it was never ratified and that Moscow can simply act as if the agreement was never signed at all (vz.ru/world/2024/2/26/1254802.html).

            But other Russian politicians are expressing concern that in response to any such Russian actions, the US would retaliate in some way and thus leave Moscow and its fisherman in a potentially even worse situation than the 1990 accord which according to earlier Russian assessments has cost Russia several billion US dollars in losses. 

 

Few Russians Now Calling for Talks with Kyiv Prepared for Moscow to Make Any Concessions to Ukraine, Volkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 25 – Support among Russians for talks with Kyiv about ending the war “does not mean a readiness to make concessions to Ukraine, Denis Volkov says. The share of Russians prepared to do that is “no more than 20 percent,” a figure that the Levada Center head says is “unchanged over the course of the last year.”

            No more than 15 percent of Russians are prepared to give back to Ukraine any territories Moscow has occupied or allow Ukraine to become a member of NATO, he says; and consequently, while many would like an end to the conflict, very few are ready to make any concessions to achieve that end (forbes.ru/mneniya/506807-strasno-bylo-tol-ko-v-nacale-kak-za-dva-goda-obsestvo-privyklo-k-specoperacii).

            That is one of the factors that has kept Russian support for the Kremlin’s policies in Ukraine high and largely unchanged over the course of the last two years, Volkov continues. One of the reasons for this is the sense people have that they can’t affect the outcome anyway, and another is that they are bombarded by state propaganda.

            But another and increasingly important factor is this: Many who might feel otherwise have chosen to leave the country or simply to go along to avoid trouble, and there has appeared in place of the creative group that formed the older middle class in Russia a new middle class that has positive feelings about the future because its incomes come from the government.

            As long as the Kremlin has sufficient resources to keep this new middle class happy, it will have the support of the majority of the Russian population to continue the war in Ukraine well into the future without being under any pressure from that sector to make concessions in talks to end the war.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

West and Russian Opposition Must Identify and Promote Divisions within Putin Elite if Russia is to Be Changed in a Positive Direction, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 25 – The Russian opposition and the West have been making a fundamental mistake, Vladislav Inozemtsev says. They both treat the Putin elite as an undifferentiated whole that is totally evil. But if they want change, they need to seek to identify and promote divisions within that elite and then form alliances with it.

            That is because, the Russian commentator says, the Russian opposition and the West will succeed in changing Russia if and only if one or the other or both succeed in identifying groups within the current elite who are not happy with what Putin is doing and want changes in Russia like those the opposition and the West do (theins.ru/podkasty/269475).

            Only an alliance between those who want change in the population and those who want change but are now within the Putin administration have any chance of successfully changing a country that Inozemtsev says suffers from such serious problems that there is no other conceivable way for that to happen.

            Such an alliance is required, he continues, because the number of Russians in the population who want change and the number in the elite who also do are small. Only if they get together is there a chance for change. It isn’t a large one at present, Inozemtsev suggests; but pursuing that alliance represents the ony possibility for a move forward.

            And the first step in that direction, the commentator concludes, is for both the Russian opposition and the West acting as if the Putin elite is united. In acting that way, they are unwittingly serving the Kremlin leader’s purposes and making the achievement of the changes they seek even more difficult than they need to be. 

Idea that Russian People Can Peacefully Overthrow Kremlin Dictatorship is a Myth, Mitrokhin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 25 – The idea that the Russian people can peacefully overthrow the Putin dictatorship is the product of the experience of Eastern European countries after 1989 and the non-Russian republics of the USSR in 1991, Nikolay Mitrokhin says. But it is totally inapplicable to Russian conditions now and thus represents a self-deceptive “myth.”

            The Russian analyst now at Bremen University says that what happened in 1989 and 1991 would be possible in Russia if and only if the regime were again as then either weakened or decided on its own not to use force to defend itself (echofm.online/opinions/o-reczeptah-krusheniya-avtoritarnyh-i-totalitarnyh-rezhimov).

            When Gorbachev on his own decided not to use force to retain the Soviet empire abroad or within the confines of the USSR, power there rapidly shifted to groups that were prepared to exploit the situation. But if he had not decided on that course, the history of 30 years ago would have been entirely different.

            Even the weakest and least popular” of dictatorships, Mitrokhin argues – and he gives the current Syrian regime as an example – can use their police powers to remain in place because “the latter are designed in such a way that if they receive a clear command to shoot at civilians, they will do so.”

            “Therefore,” he continues, “the idea that you can simply gather a large crowd and ‘take power,’” an idea much of the Russian opposition is enamored with, “works only in one case: if power is lying in the streets and can be picked up” by anyone.

            “This is clearly not the case in Russia, Belarus or Iran,” he says; and “that is precisely why mass protests do not work even in countries like these if the opposition somehow manages to bring a significant number of people into the streets.”  As long as those in power have a loyal police force, intelligence service and army, these dictatorships will remain in place.

            Mitrokhin warns in conclusion that seeking to use “underground guerilla warfare” against such regimes works even less well. These regimes “know how to deal with that phenomenon ever better” than they do with crowds.” 

 

Moscow Makes ‘Flowerism’ -- the Placing of Flowers at Monuments to Opposition Figures like Navalny – a Crime, Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 25 – The Putin regime keeps adding new paragraphs to the Russian criminal code. The latest of these bans “flowerism,” which Russian say means the placing of flowers on any monument in memory of those who have died while opposing the Kremlin and its policies.

            That is just one of the anecdotes that Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova offers in her latest collection (publizist.ru/blogs/107374/47870/-). Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Everything is going “strictly according to plan and that Kyiv will be taken by the end of the month,” the Russian general staff reported on February 731.

·       Jehovah’s Witnesses have been prohibited from visiting apartments but mysterious people are now going around to call on Russians to vote for Putin and to avoid going to Navalny’s funeral.

·       The Kremlin is mulling plans to celebrate the anniversary of the taking of Avdiivka and may even make it into an annual event.

·       Russia has the worst of everything: Italian corruption, American stupidity, and hidden Chinese communism.

·       Six weeks in advance of the presidential elections, it still isn’t clear against whom Putin is battling.

·       Russians used to be sent to prison for telling jokes. Now they are for reposting them. Yet another triumph of the Kremlin’s efforts to bring the Internet to the population.

·       A group of Orthodox Jews from the US has asked Russian commentator Vladimir Solovyev to change his religion from Jewish to anything else. “In the history of Judaism, there has never been any creature like you,” they say, to which Solovyev has replied “what about Judas?”

·       Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said that Russia and Belarus are stronger as two separate countries rather than they would be combined, a remarkable repost to what Putin argues for.

·       Police in Moscow are now distributing pamphlets among those who have put flowers on locations where Navalny’s memory is being celebrate that quote Stalin henchman Lavrenty Beria’s wise observation that “it is better to sit at home than to just sit,” the latter being Russian slang for being in prison.