Friday, January 13, 2017

Putin Conducts His Foreign Policy like a Special Op, Melnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 13 – Vladimir Putin is conducting his foreign policy like the special op of an intelligence service, reflecting both his own biography and Russia’s fundamental weaknesses, weaknesses that mean Russia no longer has its two traditional allies, the army and the fleet, as Alexander III put it, but new ones including hackers, prostitutes and bag men.

            The Kremlin leader’s decision to use Chechens as fighters in Syria is a reflection of this broader trend, Moscow commentator Aleksey Melnikov suggests; and Putin has adopted this approach, at least in this case, for all too obvious reasons rooted in the conflict itself and the reaction of Russians to it (

                Putin has gotten Russia involved in a war far from its borders, one that increases the risks for Russian citizens, one moreover that has no clear purpose and no set price tag or limit on casualties, and one that clearly isn’t going as well as the Kremlin leader and his controlled media like to assert, the commentator continues.

            One Russian state television, everything is going swimmingly. Moscow’s ally Asad is gaining strength, and Russian forces are achieving one victory after another as a result of thousands of airstrikes. “But now, it turns out that after these grandiose successes, ground forces are needed.”

Why? And why is Putin taking them from Chechnya but not from Moscow and St. Petersburg? The answer is obvious: “because Moscow and St. Petersburg are cities that at least potentially are political active.” It would be harder to recruit there and to do so without attracting attention and sparking protests.

“But what will happen in Chechnya if people from the Republic are killed in Syria?” The answer of course as long as Kadyrov is around is exactly “nothing.”  Anyone who is ready to complain will be dealt with – and dealt with in summary fashion. What isn’t clear is what the Kremlin has promised Kadyrov for these services.

Some in the Russian opposition, Melnikov says, respond that the war and losses in Syria don’t concern them because the people in the Russian military knew what they were getting in for. But this only highlights the degradation of any sense of collective responsibility, something that may only be made worse by the Kremlin’s use of despised Chechens.

Melnikov says that the attitude of the opposition is wrong: all those who fight in Syria are “our citizens” and they almost certainly have been told by their commanders that they are fighting “for our country.” It isn’t there fault that they’ve been sent to Syria. It is “the fault of the Russian political leadership and V.V. Putin personally.”

It is also and no less the fault of the opposition because they have allowed to arise “in the 21st century, a situation where Russia is ruled not by a democratic regime but by “state secrets, state security and special operations” like this one, a development that threatens to undermine any chance for Russia’s development in a positive direction.

Melnikov does not point out that this development is a reflection of Russia’s weakness and of the weakness of its political leadership. If it were really strong, it would not have to act like this.  And that highlights the sad reality. Not only does Russia not have any real allies in the world, it doesn’t even have Alexander III’s army and fleet.

Instead, as two other Russian analysts, Maksim Kononenko and Tatyana Stanovaya, point out, its allies are not those but rather the accomplices of covert operators everywhere – hackers, prostitutes and bagmen – who can penetrate, corrupt and buy off but who can hardly make Russia great again ( and

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