Friday, July 18, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Malaysian Plane Shoot Down Shows How Far and How Fast Putin has Fallen, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, July 18 – The shooting down of the Malaysian plane yesterday became practically inevitable, Vitaly Portnikov says, when Vladimir Putin gave the pro-Moscow secessionists “contemporary arms and a sense that they could not be punished” because they enjoyed the Kremlin’s backing.


            In a commentary today, Portnikov says that Putin extended that sense of being beyond the reach of punishment to Russian military personnel as well. Consequently, “it is not so important on whose order the passenger jet was shot down – that of a Russian general or someone from the ‘peoples republic,’ who also in fact can be an ordinary Russian general or colonel” (


            What is important, the commentator insists, is that because of Putin’s actions over the last six months in Ukraine and elsewhere, Russia has entered a new period of “feudalism,” albeit “feudalism” with surface-to-air missiles and “atomic bombs,” a development that has left Putin and Russia international outcasts.


            History typically moves slowly, but there are times when it “unexpectedly accelerates.” The last six months on the former Soviet space fall into that category, Portnikov continues.  A half year ago, Putin was still taking part in G8 summits, he was still hosting leaders of the world in his home city, he was talking with them about important issues.


            The Russian leader at that time elicited respect from some and dislike from others, but he wasn’t causing trepidation in almost all. That has now changed, Portnikov says. By his own actions, Putin has become an outcast. His foreign visits are limited, he’s not in the G8 anymore, and he doesn’t discuss key issues with US President Barack Obama.


            “From  respected regional politician, albeit an authoritarian one, Putin has become simply a failing pupil who has been held back in the first years of school and who has been abusing the weak.”


            It is unlikely that Putin even suspects “how much blood” there will be on his hands by the time he ceases to be president of the Russian Federation, Portnikov continues.  “Of course, it wasn’t he who gave the order to destroy these unhappy people.” Putin is “not a madman. He is a player,” just like Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia but on a larger scale.


            What Putin has done is “simply to give his dogs a taste of blood.” As a result, they have “ceased to be people, they simply cannot stop, they like killing.”


            As a result, with each passing day, people around the world are “more and more afraid” of Putin. He is becoming the incarnation of evil … and with each new catastrophe, with every new victim, Russia will be thrown back further and further, to the middle ages, to an era when everything was decided by fire and sword.”


            “And with each new Srebenica,” Portnikov says, regardless of whether it is carried out by “mercenaries or regular forces in Ukraine or in some other country which Russia wants to break into pieces, the gap between it and the rest of the world will deepen and deepen and be filled by human blood.”


            Portnikov says that he doesn’t know “what would happen if Putin suddenly by some miracle wanted to stop: could he change something in the minds of people drunk on blood and enflamed by hatred?  I am not sure,” he says.


            But he says he can imagine with “horror” what will happen if Putin doesn’t stop or isn’t stopped. “Insanity does not recognize state borders, and the thirst for death and destruction will easily find victims among one’s own compatriots: national traitors, Caucasians, non-Russians, Muslims, Gastarbeiters,” all of which can become targets.


            As a result of Putin’s actions and as underscored by the shooting down of the Malaysian plane, Portnikov concludes, “we are on the threshold of Russian Srebrenicas.”


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