Thursday, June 18, 2020

Putin Amendment Said to Ban Giving Russian Territory to Other Countries Doesn’t in Fact Do That, ‘Velikoross’ Writer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 15 – Vladimir Putin and his supporters say and most Russians accept that one of the amendments he has proposed does something that Russians, like other peoples around the world, almost always care about above everything else by banning any chance that their country could give up territory to other countries.

            Because of the trauma of 1991 which in the view of many Russians cost them control of lands they viewed as their own and because of the disputes with Japan over the Kurile and the entire world over the occupation of Crimea and with the aspirations of many groups to exit the Russian Federation, such a ban is an especially powerful motivator.

            But according to Svetlana Zemlelova, a commentator for the Russian nationalist Velikoross magazine, the proposed amendment, while superficially attractive, does not provide the protections Russians may think they are voting for (

            Worse, she says, the amendment in fact makes it easier for others foreign and domestic to make territorial claims against Russia by specifying the ways in which Moscow can agree to such changes, powers that she says those at the center should not have because experience has shown that they cannot be trusted.

            Zemlelova argues that in order to get what it wants, the powers that be in Moscow are using a bait and switch operation in many areas, promising loudly what the people say they want but putting in place arrangements that will allow the powers that be to do what they want and sell out the Russian people

            That is certainly the case, in her view, of the amendment on the defense of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.  It reads as follows: “The Russian Federation guarantees the defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Actions (with the exceptions of delimitation, demarcation, and re-demarcation of the state border of the Russian Federation with neighboring countries) directed at the alienation of part of the territory of the Russian Federation and also calls for such actions are not allowed.”

            Many read this as a welcome defense of the country’s current border, Zemlelova says; but in fact, it is just the reverse.  It specifies that the Russian government can agree to border changes as long as they are done under the names of demarcation and delimitation, legal terms that can prove quite elastic.

            What this amendment means, she says, is that “the Constitution will allow the alienation of part of the territory of the Russian Federation by negotiation with a neighbor and the further definition of new borders as a result of these negotiations. In other words, when they tell us that the amendments ban a change in the borders of Russia, this is a complete lie.” 

            The powers are concealing this by bureaucratic language, and they plan to get their way by forcing Russians to vote for all the amendments as a package rather than allowing them to support those that work for their benefit and oppose those, like this one, that don’t.  Of course, Russians are for pension reform; but they aren’t for giving back the Kuriles.

            Far too few Russians seem to appreciate what is going on, Zemlelova says; but enough do to make the powers that be nervous, as can be seen from all their efforts to push things through quickly and without discussion so that most will not recognize the latest sleight of hand by the powers that be. 

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