Tuesday, March 5, 2019

‘For First Time Since Stalin, Moscow Accuses Russian Opposition of Collaborating with Foreign Enemies,’ Ikhlov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 4 – Like so many other “new” developments in Putin’s Russia, General Valery Gerasimov’s presentation last week represents a revival of “the very well forgotten old,” Yevgeny Ikhlov says, a development that brings back some of the first features of the Soviet past both domestically and internationally. 

            Domestically, the Russian commentator points out, “for the first time since Stalin’s era, the opposition is declared to be an accomplice in the preparation of foreign aggression,” the logical next step to declaring some of its members “foreign agents” for taking money from sources abroad but one that opens the way to even harsher treatment of its members.

            And internationally, Ikhlov continues, Gerasimov’s discussion of “hybrid war” includes the suggestion that Moscow will again use terrorism, violence and subversion more generally to weaken the West so that it will not be able to be effective in its efforts to deal with the Russian Federation (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5C7BDE28BC5AF).

            These clearly reflect the deepest hopes and fears of the Russian powers that be, the Russian commentator says, hopes that it will once again be able to exploit the openness of Western societies against them and fears that the West is preparing to use any tolerance Moscow shows for opposition in Russia against the current regime. 

            Like most writers who have commented on the chief of the Russian general staff’s speech, Ikhlov devotes most of his commentary to the foreign implications of Gerasimov’s words, even though he suggests this part of his speech breaks less new-old ground than does his comments about how the West might use the Russian opposition.

            In fact, as he points out, Moscow has continued to use such “hybrid” tactics from Soviet times right up to the present; but the Kremlin’s approach to the opposition has become much harsher in recent times – and now appears set to become even more draconian.

            “Putin has almost completely suppressed the liberal human rights movement,” but now he and his regime face targeted protests against the disposal of trash, the use of the internet, and growing poverty and income inequality. And it is obvious that the Kremlin leader and his regime fear that these, because they tap into something deeper, are what the West will exploit.

            Linking any opposition to whatever the regime does to enemies abroad is something Stalin used effectively in the 1930s and 1940s to impose his totalitarian system.  Putin now, Ikhlov suggests, is prepared to try the same thing, something that makes Gerasimov’s words especially disturbing.  

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