Sunday, May 11, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Putin’s Only Way Out of Ukrainian Problems is a Purge at Home, Dzhemal Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 11—Vladimir Putin faces a terrible choice in Ukraine, Geydar Dzhemal says. If he sends in Russian forces, he will revive NATO and isolate Moscow internationally as the West and its allies in Russia would like, but if he doesn’t, he will stand accused by nationalists of betraying Russians abroad.

            “The only way out” for the Kremlin leader, Geydar Dzhemal says, is “a purge of his own entourage, the sacking of [Medvedev’s] government an mass arrests among the systemic liberals” (

            That strategy is suggested by what Nicholas II did not do in 1917, Dzhemal says. Had the tsar dissolved the Duma, crushed the opposition, and “sent the entire Duma into forced exile, he would have “prevented the October [revolution]. But because he didn’t block February, he couldn’t block October.

            Vladimir Putin faces a similar challenge now, the commentator says. “He must above all destroy the political class [and] establish a personal dictatorship.  This is hard, but what else is there to be done?” Otherwise he will face a revolution that will spread from Ukraine’s south east into Russia itself.

            Dzhemal bases his argument on his claim that “the task of the United States is to force Russia to be drawn directly into south-eastern Ukraine, to introduce forces there, and immediately as it were be tied down in that situation.  Crimea,” in this interpretation, “was the [West’s] first success” and must be developed.

            Russia’s annexation of Crimea gave the West the opportunity to “consolidate NATO.” If Moscow moves more deeply into Ukraine, the West will be able to isolate Russia still further and revive itself as a political-military bloc. That’s one of the reasons Putin has been trying to avoid that outcome.

            But there are other groups in the Russian regime who are prepared to play the American “games” by presenting themselves as “patriots” and calling for Russia to intervene militarily in Ukraine. “The result of this,” Dzhemal says, “will of course be a great domestic crisis and collapse,” one from which such people hope to benefit.

            And the efforts of such people, typically from the liberal camp, are objectively supported by nationalist groups who believe that if Putin doesn’t send troops to Ukraine, he will have betrayed the Russian nation.

            Those who think that the West opposes Russian intervention and is actually using sanctions to prevent such a step are misguided, Dzhemal says.  This is all “a game” bcause “the era of strategic tolerance between America and Russia is over.  A new cold war has begun which can again shift into a hot phase.” For that, Russia needs to be over-extended as much as possible in Ukraine.

            According to Dzhemalov, Washington’s “minimal” goal is to boost its authority by portraying “Russia as an aggressor.” But its “maximalist” one is “to draw [Russia] into a big war, to defeat it, and to liquidate it in principle. To achieve and do,” in sum, “what was not done in 1991.”

            The Moscow commentator suggests that what is happening in Ukraine is “a military version” of the Bolotnoye demonstrations.  Russian “systemic liberals” aren’t able to organize a new round of political actions at home because of the tough measures the Kremlin has taken. Consequently, they are using the situation in southeastern Ukraine.

            There, the conflict between Ukrainian workers and Ukrainian oligarchs becomes “terrible headache for Putin” because of the parallels of that conflict in Russia itself.  Helping the one hurts the other not only internationally but domestically.  “The Americans know this very well” and are exploiting it, Dzhemal says, in hopes of spreading it to Russia.

            The federalization of Ukraine which would in fact mark the death of that state, Dzhemal said, would only accelerate the spread of this kind of class conflict into the Russian Federation, where it will become “the main problem of Russia” and where via its sanctions and its allies, the West will want a say.

            Only a harsh dictatorship and a purge can prevent that, Dzhemal says. 

            Dzhemal’s argument is obviously too clever by half, but it is worth attending to because it calls attention to the ways in which Ukraine is becoming a domestic problem inside Russia and a political problem inside the Kremlin and suggests that Putin may well respond the way his predecessors have and try to buy time or even win out with a purge.

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