Friday, November 27, 2015

Turkey has Allies; Russia has Vassals, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 27 – The downing of a Russian warplane that violated Turkish airspace means that for Russians, Moscow’s war in Syria has ceased to be the computer game that it has largely been presented on state-controlled television  and become something immediate and far more dangerous (

            But it has also highlighted something else: in this latest development of the conflict between Moscow and the West, it has shown that Turkey has allies, while Russia has only vassals and thus is far more isolated than Putin’s statements and pro-Kremlin commentators have suggested, according to Vitaly Portnikov.

                In a commentary on, the Ukrainian analyst points out that after the shooting down of the Russian warplane, Ankara turned to its NATO allies and received complete support for its defense of Turkish airspace, highlighting that Turkey is not Russia’s ally but rather “an ally of the civilized world” (

            Equally instructive, however, is the fact that Putin did not think to turn for support to its supposed allies in the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty or even garner the backing of its members for Russia’s position, Portnikov continues. Moscow propagandists had to search for twitter posts by Kazakhstan and Belarusian bureaucrats to suggest Russia had their backing.

            The reason that Moscow didn’t get the support from its “allies” that the Kremlin expected is because these “allies” are in fact “colonies,” Portnikov says. That is, they are countries “without obvious sovereignty of their own,” dependent on or fearful of Moscow rather than partners with it on behalf of anything in common.

            “Belarus,” he says, “depends on Russian aid. Kazakhstan is afraid of potential Russian aggression and propaganda among its ethnic Russians. Kyrgyzstan depends on Russian assistance and is afraid of a new round of instability” and “the economy of Tajikistan depends on the slave labor of migrants.”

            What kind of “allies” could these be? Allies “in support of dictators? But even dictators,” Portnikov points out, “value their own freedom of action, because their greatest dream is that the metropolitan center will weaken, that it will collapse, that they won’t depend on it anymore and can instead make use of it.”

            Putin should have no doubt that this is what Lukashenka and Nazarbayev and Rakhmon and Atambayev want. And “if even in Yerevan, the capital of a country whose border with Turkey is closed and with which it does not have diplomatic relations isn’t hurrying to support Moscow, what could one demand from Mensk and Astana?”

            “The destruction of the Russian plane over Turkey is not “a knife in the back,’” as Putin continues to claim if for no other reason than that “Turkey is not an ally of Russia.”  Russia doesn’t have allies, but it is going to receive “a real ‘knife in the back’ from Kazakhstan, Belarus and its other vassals.”

            That prospect is one of the reasons why Duma deputy Yevgeny Fedorov has declared that “the goal of the Russian Federation is to seize all the republics of the former Soviet Union and restore the USSR in its borders as of 1945 (that is, including the Baltic countries)” and he is insisting that “this is not his personal opinion” alone (

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