Monday, December 28, 2015

Belarus Today is What Russia May Be Tomorrow But Ukraine is What It Could Be the Day After That, Kazarin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 28 – There is a widespread notion that Russia “tomorrow” will be like Belarus’ “today,” Pavel Kazarin says. “That is completely possible but even if it is, Ukraine’s “today” is what Russia will be “the day after that,” something neither Russians nor Ukrainians have yet thought much about.

            In a commentary for RFE/RL, he argues that it is time for both to consider not just what is likely to come next but what will happen after that, what he calls “the Ukrainian future of Russia,” in order to be in a position not only to analyze what is happening but to prepare for its consequences (

            Any process should be considered in terms of its dynamic, he continues. And Russia’s immediate future is thus defined by authoritarian arrangements. “But this is only a short-term perspective. Its creation and support again is possible only when the system is not going toward collapse.”

            Belarus is stable because it is being kept alive by Russian resources, and because those are running short, it is no surprise that Alyaksandr Lukashenka is trying to find money elsewhere by shifting his “loyalty” from Moscow to the West. 

            Russia has been stable but it is at the end of its rope as far as “parasitizing on rent and distribution” is concerned, Kazarin continues.  Faced with challenges, the Kremlin’s first response is repression, but that will only work as long as those doing the repressing are relatively well off.

            And “therefore ‘any Belarusian tomorrow’ in Russia is not something forever.” Instead, Moscow will quickly face a choice between evolving in a more open direction or condemning itself to still more problems and difficulties if the regime tries to hold on by all the means at its disposal.

            Eventually, in short, Russia will have to deal with the day after its Belarusian one, and that “day after” could resemble “the Ukrainian ‘today.’”

            What Russians call “’the Ukrainian chaos and lack of power’ in fact is only an attempt of a country to reach agreement about itself.” If Ukraine had oil earnings, it might have put this off for a time or softened the process, but without that, Ukraine has no choice but to go through what it is going through to get to a better place.

            “Russian statists may be proud of the unanimity of the State Duma, but this is like being proud of a marble automobile. It is beautiful, monumental, and diabolically aesthetic. Its only problem is that it doesn’t run,” Kazarin says.

            That is because “the task of a parliament consists in balancing interests and finding compromises … If in a legislative organ rules unanimity, that does not mean that society is monolithic. It means only that its interests are not represented in parliament.” 

            And there is a lesson in this: “an authoritarian regime can only be opposed by an authoritarian opposition.” When Ukraine was occupied by Moscow, it is not surprising that the OUN and UPA were “the only force which longer than all others opposed the Soviet system,” the commentator says.

            “Russian stability [therefore] is not the next stage of development in comparison with Ukrainian [social and political clashes]. It is their forefather.” At a certain point, when it runs out of resources, Moscow will either have to seek a way out of its current state by allowing genuine clashes of opinion or alternatively trying to extend the narcotic of state power by other means.

            If it chooses the latter, Kazarin says, there is a chance that it will “pass a point of no return.” But if it chooses the former, then it would be advisable for Russians to “carefully study the experience of Kyiv.”

            The Ukrainian example, he suggests, “is the story of what happened with a country which is trying in a short period to overcome years of inaction. It is a model of how to combine the need for agreement with mass paternalism and the narrow stratum of civil society.” And it is an example of how elites retreat into the past when they are faced with completely new tasks.

            But who can say now that “tomorrow exactly the same tasks will not stand before Russian society? And who knows whether perhaps tomorrow’s Russia will be forced to take as its example namely today’s Ukraine?”

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