Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Putin Using Salami Tactics to Destroy Republics, Sabirov Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, February 18 – The Kremlin is well aware that there would be mass protests if it sought to abolish the non-Russian republics all at once as LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky proposes; and consequently, Shamil Sabirov says, it has adopted a salami tactic approach one in which many will not see that each move is a step to the same end.

Non-Russians need to recognize how each of these moves fits into this overall plan and take steps to raise the costs to Moscow of taking any one of them, the Tatar analyst says. If they fail to do so, Vladimir Putin may succeed in destroying the republics at relatively low cost to him (idelreal.org/a/29777071.html).

To understand the nature of the threat of each step, Sabirov says, non-Russians must recognize that Putin’s goal is not only to destroy the non-Russian republics after stripping them of all powers but to destroy the nations on which they are based through assimilation to an ever more aggressive Russian nation.

            Moscow has already clearly signaled this final goal by the steps it has taken so far. First of all, it has launched a media campaign to “further discredit the national republics in mass consciousness” of Russians and to selectively arrest and prosecute ever more senior officials in these republics to undermine the authority and power of their superiors.

            Then, Sabirov continues, Moscow is denouncing and in some cases arresting non-Russian activists for separatism or, in the case of the Muslim republics, for involvement with Islamist extremists and the Wahhabis; and the center is accusing the non-Russians more generally of violating the rights of ethnic Russians.

            “In every republic,” Sabirov continues, Moscow has been “burying not a few delayed-action ‘mines’” that can be set off when the center wants to go after first the national elites and then the national republics as such.  These include language policy, revenue sharing, unfunded liabilities imposed by the center on republics, and many other issues.

            Having deployed these tactics step by step, he says, Moscow’s likely “next step” will be to convene “a constitutional convention” to come up with a text of a new basic law. Non-Russians won’t be allowed to participate because the purpose of that meeting will be to do away with the republics on which they depend.

            The new constitution won’t even use the term “national republic,” referring only to regions, krays or possibly gubernias, terms that do not have any ethnic dimension. Many Russians will recognize this, and many non-Russians will fail to recognize that this will be the death knell not just for the republics but for the nations that lie behind them.

            As “compensation,” Sabirov suggests, non-Russians will be offered “national cultural autonomy,” a poor substitute that will reduce the non-Russians from nations to cultural groups involved in folkloric activities, festivals of the friendship of the peoples and the manifestation of “imaginary” concern about native languages.

            “What could happen next? Undoubtedly, the liquidation of republics and the imaginary threat of separatism will be described as Putin’s historical success and as a necessary renewal of Russian statehood,” Shabirov says.  With the republics gone and new regional lines drawn, those close to the Kremlin will be able to enrich themselves by seizing the wealth of the regions.

            That will “compensate” some of the billionaires for their losses as a result of sanctions and thus help Putin to keep their loyalty.  Meanwhile, the Kremlin will push the notion of “a single [non-ethnic] Russian nation dominated by a Russian cultural code” and blame “the wild 1990s” on the republics which existed then.

            Having achieved that, Sabirov says, Moscow will reduce “to the absolute minimum the number of nationality organizations,” it will cut the amount of non-Russian media and cultural facilities to the bone, censor non-Russian publications ever more heavily, and reduce still further or even kill off altogether non-Russian languages as languages of instruction in the schools.

            And to complete the process, Moscow will back the Orthodox Christianization of Muslim peoples by closing mosques as the Soviets did “at the request of the toilers” and incarcerating Islamic leaders on trumped-up charges of extremism. In what was Tatarstan, Moscow will push the concept of “Orthodox Tatars.”   

            “If all this seems unrealistic to you,” the analyst continues, “then ask yourself whether ten years ago, you anticipated the war in the Donbass, the Crimean events, the harsh confrontation with the West and the playing with missiles, the war in Syria and private military companies in Africa, attempts to close the Internet, language conflict in the schools of the republics, an increase in the pension age, and a quarter of a century of Putin in power?”

Much less has to happen in the coming years not only to destroy the non-Russian republics but also to put at risk the survival of the non-Russian nations within the current borders of the Russian Federation. Non-Russians must recognize this mortal danger for what it is and oppose Putin before he can realize his goals. 

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