Monday, June 13, 2016

Moscow Can’t Restore Empire for the Same Reason Anti-Bolshevik Whites Couldn’t a Century Ago, Piontkovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 13 – For the second time in a century, the Russian empire has disintegrated, and following its disintegration there have arisen the expected “post-imperial messianic complexes that have always been characteristic of the Russian political class” which seek to put the empire back together.

            But despite bold declarations like those of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council which proclaims that Moscow has begun the process of reclaiming its “imperial space,” Andrey Piontkovsky says, Russia will not be able to do so – and for the same reason the anti-Bolshevik Whites were not after the 1917 revolution (

            Indeed, he writes, for that reason, the commitment to an undivided empire, “Russia will not ‘dominate’ the post-Soviet space and will not restore any ‘empire,’ not because new players have appeared on this space who have greater economic and information resources” but because Moscow isn’t prepared to offer anyone on that space an attractive option for themselves.

            When the Russian Empire disintegrated in 1917, the anti-Bolshevik Whites fought under the slogan “for a single and indivisible Russia,” one that prevented them “even for the sake of victory over the Bolsheviks for compromises with the national movements on the territory of the territory of the former Russian empire.”

            Their position, Piontkovsky continues, “deserves respect.” At least they were honest as the Bolsheviks were not who said they supported the aspirations of the non-Russians only to crush them later. But the White idea had “one shortcoming: it was not supported by the Ukrainians or the Caucasians or the Balts or, in general, by any of the non-Russian peoples.”

            As Andrey Amalrik wrote a half-century ago, “just as the adoption of Christianity extended the existence of the Roman Empire for 300 years, so too the adoption of communism has extended for several decades the existence of the Russian Empire.”  But that duplicitous and immoral system could last only so long.

            Today’s Russian “’elite,’” Piontkovsky observes, in the wake of the second collapse of the Russian Empire in the last century, has “suffered from phantom imperial pains” but once again is not in a position to offer the non-Russians anything but talk about Russia’s greatness and its “messianic imperial calling.”

            But no one besides perhaps a few deceived Russians can find much of interest in that, the Russian analyst argues. The most Moscow and they can expect with that program from the non-Russians is “indulgent attention” from those who have been bought off with “large financial rewards.”

            “The Russian political ‘elite,’” Piontkovsky continues, cannot understand that no one on the post-Soviet space needs it as a teacher of life and a center of attraction.” Not because the Americans are there causing trouble “but because Putin’s Russia cannot be attractive for anyone” of the non-Russians.

            Almost 20 years ago, Konstantin Zatulin and his allies argued that the former Soviet republics need to be “forced to be friends” with Russia (, utterly failing to recognize that such a formulation is “an Orwellian oxymoron” that will generate hatred rather than its opposite.

            But such an approach, the Russian analyst continues, has another consequence: it prompts the non-Russians to look to other centers of attraction as they pursue their futures. “Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia see their future in the European economic and political space.” Even Belarus does as well.

            Meanwhile, Piontkovsky continues, “the khanates of Central Asia are gradually becoming the near abroad” of China, the result less of Chinese efforts than of Russian mistakes which has pushed these people away and even created a format, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which gives Beijing a means of drawing these countries to itself.

            Russians are uncomfortable talking about Central Asia as “’the near abroad’ of China” but now they have to because “today the Russian political class is experiencing the harshest possible geo-psychological disintegration, one much sharper than in 1991. Then, everything seemed temporary; now, it has become obvious that it is forever.”

            “The confrontation with the West and the adoption of a course for ‘a strategic union’ and coalition with China inevitably will lead not only to the marginalization of Russia but also to its subordination to the strategic interests of China and to the loss of control over the Far East and Siberia, initially de facto and then de jure.”

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