Staunton, February 15 – Vladimir Putin has announced that he backs a proposal by the Constitution working group to amend the country’s basic law so as to prohibit Moscow from yielding to any other country territory it now controls, a position many Russian nationalists and imperialists are delighted with.
Those who support the Kremlin leader on this point, such as Boris Rozhin and Andrey Suzdaltsev, argue that such a change is needed so that no one will be in a position to challenge the present and future status of Crimea, the Kurile Islands and Kaliningrad as integral parts of the Russian Federation (club-rf.ru/84/opinions/1895 and club-rf.ru/84/opinions/1896).
That is certainly part of the reason for this proposal, but the Region.Expert portal points to two other likely explanations for why Putin is backing it and why it is thus likely to be included in Russia’s basic law.-- enshrining in law Russia’s double standards and thus blocking its regions and republics from pursuing independence (region.expert/no_alienation).
Empires and the Russian Federation is one, the portal says, assume that they have the right to add to their country the territories which have belonged to others but that they also have the right to prevent any territory within their borders from assuming it has the right to seek independent status.
And thus with this proposal, Putin hopes to distance his country even further from one aspect of the Soviet past he does disapprove of. If this amendment is inserted into the basic law, it will represent a complete repudiation of the right that existed on paper for union republics to seek independence, something Putin holds responsible for the disintegration of the USSR.
Perhaps the most intriguing comment about this proposal comes from Vzglyad observer Petr Akopov who asks “Will ‘a Window of Opportunity’ for the Alienation of Territories from Russia Open?” (vz.ru/politics/2020/2/16/1023876.html).
In arguing for this amendment at the working group, actor Vladimir Mishkov said that in his recent travels across Russia he had encountered many people who say that as long as Putin is president, Russia will not give up any territory but that after Putin, some leader might appear who would be willing to do so.
For that reason if no other, the actor said, Russia must insert the ban into the constitution on the alienation of territory now.
Akopov writes: “For Russia, the territorial question is especially sensitive. Less than 30 years ago, literally yesterday in hisstoorical terms, we not simply lost enormous territories but suffered the disintegration of our state. The USSR, however anyone relates to it now, was in fact, greater Russia, a continuation of the Russian Empire.”
“The further disintegration and the threat of the collapse of the Russian Federation was stopped only in the first years of this century; and therefore the issue of territory integrity has enormous significant for Russians,” Akopov says. But it is important for them to understand where the threat to the country’s integrity comes from.
Foreign powers may exploit the mistakes Moscow leaders make but they can’t take land from Russia because it is a nuclear power. And if some leader arises after Putin makes mistakes like Mikhail Gorbachev or Boris Yeltsin, then the risk of Russia’s disintegration and fears about it will again increase, the Vzglyad commentator says.
“Concerns that one man can reduce Russia are connected with the catastrophe of 1991 and Gorbachev’s policies of political concessions to the West which preceded that and also with the first years of Yeltsin’s rule when Chechnya was practically lost.” As a result, Russians are overwhelmingly united in their insistence that this not happen again.
“’A window of opportunities’ would open only if weak and manipulatable people ascend to the highest offices in the land either by accident (as was the case in 1985 with Gorbachev) or as a result of a time of troubles (as was the case with Yeltsin who became ruler after the disintegration of the USSR).”
That danger will be prevented not by new language in the constitution, Akopov suggests, but rather by “the unqualified patriotic position of the people and of the authorities linked to it by blood, morality and ideology.” As long as that is the case, no “’window’” will open for the disintegration of the Russian Federation.
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