Saturday, March 31, 2018

West Doesn't Understand Why Putin Acts as He Does and Putin May Not Either, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 31 – Over the last decade, Vladimir Putin has “ceased to recognize any rules” in the international system or at home but what is “much more important, Vladislav Inozemtsev says, is that his regime has “ceased even to reflect about the benefit to itself from taking one or another step.”

            Many of the steps the Kremlin has taken be they in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, elections in Western countries or attacks on his enemies abroad, quite clearly have harmed Russia’s interests, prompting the obvious question why has it take them, the Russian commentator continues (

                And that makes effectively responding to them more difficult because the traditional or at least non-military responses don’t appear to work with a leader who quite clearly is acting in ways that his opposite numbers cannot understand. In the first cold war, both sides recognized certain rules; in this, the second, at least one side doesn’t.

            According to Inozemtsev, “the reaction of the West with the expulsion of Russian diplomats points to a certain new reality, one which reflects the fact that the world has ceased to understand Russia. And this should not surprise anyone: Today: it is really not clear what Putin wants.”

            If he wants to be a dictator in his own country, the West isn’t going to interfere. If he seeks to restore the Soviet Union, he will face resistance but less from the West than from the population of the post-Soviet states.  If he wants to launder stolen money in Europe, many in the West will go along.  But if those are his goals, he isn’t acting in a way consistent with them.

            “Not understanding Russia,” Inozemtsev continues, “the West is beginning to send certain signals indicating to Putin that he should reflect about if not becoming less anti-Western at least more rational.”  So far, however, “the Kremlin has given the impression that it doesn’t understand these signals” and assumes that it can respond in a “symmetrical” fashion.

            “However, what was normal in the years of the cold war does not appear to be now.” The members of the CPSU Central Committee in the 1970s didn’t have villas in the south of France. They didn’t keep money abroad.  And Russian companies didn’t owe money to foreign banks. Instead, the USSR was an autarchy.

            “Now, however, everything has changed: Russia is much more vulnerable not so much to American nuclear rockets as to European economic sanctions,” Inozemtsev argues. 

            Symmetrical responses were useful “when the sides were driven by interests;” when they are driven by banal insults, they become counterproductive.” Expelling diplomats doesn’t matter now as much because those in Moscow and Washington not to mention other capitals have less to do.

            Those seeking analogies for what Putin is doing shouldn’t be looking at Khrushchev or Brezhnev, he says. They should rather look at “the experiments of Stalinist times when Soviet special forces eliminated enemies of the revolution abroad and the Kremlin insisted German communist not make common cause with the Social Democrats against the fascist threat.”

            To Stalin, “it seemed that the greatest possible destabilization of the functioning of democratic countries would lead to their collapse and help the establishment of the universal power of the proletariat.  History however showed the mistakenness of that course.” No one suffered more from the collapse of Weimar than did the Soviet Union.

            “If European integration fails, Russia will hardly be among the winners,” Inozemtsev continues. All this means that “sanctions against Russia are practically forever” given that “Russia continues to provoke, to lie and to act” in ways that don’t reflect either principles or interests of the kind the West could understand.

            The West isn’t going to respond with military force. But it will respond; and consequently, Moscow and the world can expect that signs of this growing suspiciousness of Putin’s intentions will appear “again and again.” Everyone needs to be prepared for that – or to begin to change course, although apparently there is little reason to expect that.”

Moscow Official Urges Dropping ‘Tolerance’ from Russia’s Nationality Policy

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 31 – Vitaly Suchkov, head of the Moscow city nationality policy department, told a Duma roundtable on Thursday that the new nationality policy document should drop any references to “tolerance” or “multi-culturalism,” both of which come from the West, and replace them with the Russian term “inter-ethnic concord.”

            Doing so, he insisted, will allow the document to fit in more closely with Russian laws.  In addition, he urged that the document be revised to stress that Moscow will be “defending the interests not only of national minorities but also of the majority,” the ethnic Russians (

            That was hardly the only dissenting note sounded at this meeting. Gusen Shakhpazov, the head of the Lezgin Federation of National Cultural Autonomies said he was unpleasantly surprised that the term “’divide peoples’” had been dropped from the latest version of the document as had any reference to promoting non-Russian languages and cultures.

            Participants from Tatarstan specifically complained about the document’s failure to devote more attention to issues of maintaining the country’s linguistic multiplicity. Others objected to provisions having to do with the non-Russian media and to any changes at all from the previous version of the nationality policy document.

            The openness, even heatedness of the discussion, became possible for two reasons. On the one hand, the Presidential Council on Inter-Ethnic Relations pronounced itself unsatisfied with the document and called for a new draft by April 27 (

            And on the other, Magomedsalam Magomedov, the deputy head of the Presidential Administration and former head of Daghestan, said that everyone should stop treating the draft as if it were a sacred text. This document, he declared, “is not the Bible and not the Koran” (

                Clearly, the debate about this issue is heating up, a trend underscored by a meeting of the experts’ advisory council to the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs that took place on the same day as the Duma session (

            It too was marked by dissent. Academician Valery Tishkov, the principal author of the new document, publicly complained that the Agency had pushed forward two draft laws without securing the preliminary agreement of the advisory council, a violation of the rules as established by the Agency and something he said he had complained about.

            Others complained that the head of the Agency had not bothered to attend the advisory council’s meetings, but an aide to that official countered that the members of the council had been “insufficiently active” and only now were making their proposals and objections heard.

Putin Listening to Both Party of War and Party of Peace within His Regime, Felgengauer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 31 – Vladimir Putin is listening both to “a peace party” within his administration and “a war party,” responding positively first to the appeals of the first that Russia cannot afford an arms race and saying there won’t be one and then positively to the arguments of the second that Russia must be ready to defend itself, according to Pavel Felgengauer.

            The peace party, which includes Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Central Bank chief Elvira Nabiullina, Presidential assistant Andrey Belousov, and former Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin, argues that Russia must cut military spending to meet social needs and thus must reduce tensions with the West, the military expert says (

            Without such steps, they say, “the economy simply won’t grow.” On occasion, Putin has appeared to agree with them, saying in response to the new tough line from Washington that Russia “will not be dragged into an arms race [because] we are smarter than that. But,” Felgengauer continues, “this means nothing.”

            The war party in contrast is extremely powerful and has won many battles for the Russian president’s soul.  It argues that Russia must re-arm because it is “surrounded by enemies” who may attack at any moment” because “the threat of such action is growing. There is no other way to block the aggression of America except with murderous new kinds of arms.”

            They also dismiss arguments that defense spending killed the USSR and could kill Russia. That is possible but it won’t happen tomorrow or indeed anytime soon as long as Russia has oil, gas, metals and so on to sell. These things “will always have value;” and consequently, the economy may not be growing but under conditions of stagnation, “it is possible to live.”

            Some military projects may have to be delayed or even cancelled because there isn’t enough money.  But it is clear that Russia is now spending approximately five to six percent of GDP on its military, approximately what Israel and Ukraine do, far more than the Europeans although somewhat less than the Americans.

            Putin “balances between” these two, saying “yes, we must spend everything on people … and at the same time saying we must be well defended.” Felgengauer says that he personally “doesn’t know how these things can be combined.” But the debate can go on for sometime as Russia is going to survive for a long time yet unless something unexpected happens.

            The independent Russian military analyst concludes by noting that he just returned from a conference in Vilnius on international security where Western participants suggested that the conflict with Russia “will last another two generations, that is 50 years.” And this suggests that the West is ready for “a long cold war.”

            And in this second cold war, Felgengauer continues, Ukraine is going to be on the front lines much as West Berlin was in the first – “or even worse like Vietnam or Afghanistan,” places where the two sides in the earlier conflict tested themselves.