Thursday, August 29, 2019

Strategically, Putinism ‘an Enemy of the Jewish People,’ Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 27 – Putinism is remarkably consistent and in its own terms “harmonious,’ Igor Yakovenko says. It is against progress and positively disposed to dictators. But there is “one detail which violates this harmony and introduces a definite dissonance,” its attitudes toward and relationship with Israel and Russia’s own Jewish population.

            With regard to Israel, the Russian commentator says, Putin’s Russia unexpectedly has “warm, friendly and one can even say sincere relations. And inside Russia, there exists warm support of Putin’s course by a wide range of Jewish organizations” (

            With regard to Israel, Yakovenko says, Putin has better relations that are fundamentally different and closer than with “other countries of the Western, Judeo-Christian world, of which Israel is an inalienable part.” Israel did not denounce Russia for its annexation of Crimea at least initially, and it was “one of the few countries of the civilized world which supported Putin during the second Chechen world.”

            Moreover, Yakovenko continues, “Israel is one of the few countries of the civilized world which has visa-free relations with Russia,” not surprising at one level because there are “more than a million Russian Israelis” but very at another because this arrangement was introduced after Putin’s 2007 Munich speech.

            As Yakovenko notes, “the political elites of many if not the majority of countries of ‘the greater West’ … display ‘delicacy’ and ‘flexibility’ with regard to Israel and its policies.” But Russia does so and gets the response it does despite its support for the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah which call for the destruction of Israel and “’the final solution of the Jewish question.’”

            “The ‘flexibility’ and ‘delicacy’ of Israel toward Putin’s Russia is not only explicable but justified,” Yakovenko continues, given its location and the threats to its existence that Israel faces  And its approach “would be absolutely justified not only tactically but also strategically if it weren’t for one circumstance connected with the internal logic of what’s happening in Russia.”

            “The Putin regime is approaching its end,” the Russian commentator says; but unlike its Soviet predecessor, it is prepared to use force against both its own people (repression) and other countries (war) to maintain itself in power, with the latter perhaps especially likely as its position deteriorates.

            Indeed, Yakovenko argues, for the Putin regime like other governments of a similar type, “in addition to tightening the screws, war is” a most useful tool.  And the probability that the Kremlin will unleash one that will involve the Middle East cannot be dismissed as a complete impossibility.

            “Therefore, while conducting a wise tactic of maintaining calm relations with Putin’s Russia,” Yakovenko says, Israel would be “no less wise” to “develop together with the entire civilized world a strategy capable of ensuring the least threatening deconstruction of a regime which today the chief threat for the entire world.”

             With regard to the Jews in Russia, he continues, “at the official level complete harmony and ‘friendship of the peoples’ rules.” There is no “open state anti-Semitism,” despite the occasional statements of some in the party of power. And the leading Jewish organizations support Putin, often enthusiastically; and he reciprocates when they do.

            But and this is important for the future, Yakovenko says, Russian Jews as a whole have a somewhat different attitude toward Putin and his regime. A survey the commentator conducted in 2010 found that Jewish voters overwhelmingly preferred anti-Putin parties and by themselves would have elected an anti-Putin Duma.

            This pattern is not because “Jews are better or worse than all other Russians,” Yakovenko says. It is simply the long history of the people and the historical memory formed on its basis has inclined them to skepticism toward any dictatorship and toward love for freedom and a high level of personal autonomy.”

            “And thus both Israel and many Russian Jews have a deep conflict at the level of values with those basic ones that lie at the foundation of Putinism.” Today, this conflict is “latent,” but it “can at any moment wake up” because “Putinism today is the chief enemy of freedom and progress on the planet – and that means at the strategic level, the enemy of the Jewish people.”

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