Monday, February 28, 2022

‘The Kazakh People have Attacked Kazakhstan, and Moscow has Come to That Country's Defense,' Russian People Joke Half-Seriously

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 5 – Often when something happens abroad, Russians come up with anecdotes that are a response less to what has occurred than one to the views the Kremlin or commentators express or a comment on their own situation. That is especially the case when the government and the commentators are anything but unanimous in their assessments.

            That has been the case with Russian jokes about the violence in Kazakhstan, some of which Moscow journalist Tatiana Pushkaryova has assembled for the portal (

When Kazakhs protest, their government promises to lower gas prices; but in Russia, that is impossible: there are too few Kazakhs.

Unhappy is the fate of dictators! You make you and your family billionaires, you erect monuments and rename cities in your honor, and you plan to remain in your position for life. But then all at once everything you’ve done turns to dust and you are ready “to leave the country for medical treatment.” But this pattern hasn’t taught dictators anywhere anything.

The Kazakh people have invaded Kazakhstan, and the powers there have asked Russia for military assistance against the aggressor.

The West must have been behind the Kazakh riots. No one goes into the streets when prices rise and living standards fall. Look at us. That’s what’s happening in Russia; and we don’t go on strike.

Kazakhstan President Tokayev announced that he wouldn’t shoot at his own people and so he was calling in the Russians to do that for him.

Putin’s propagandists have become reluctant to talk about what the Kazakh people are doing lest it give the Russian people ideas.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Kazakh Riots Made Putin Russia’s Ruler for Life, Kashin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 5 – The five days of rioting in Kazakhstan which was ended by a brief Russian-led intervention are likely to have many consequences for that country and for the Central Asian region, but the most obvious result is that these events, “by the will of the Kazakh people,” have finally made Vladimir Putin the ruler of Russia for life, Oleg Kashin says.

            Before the riots, Putin had accepted the idea, which many have challenged, that Kazakhstan was stable and that Nazarbaev’s plan for transition would work there and could potentially serve as a model for himself and Russia. But after them,  the Moscow commentator says, Putin and his entourage completely discarded that possibility (

            They know or at the very least fear that such a gradual transition in Russia could have the same effects that this project has had in Kazakhstan. And so Putin has to remain the paramount leader as long as he is alive, something that inevitably complicates Russia’s development in the medium and long term.

            But the events in Kazakhstan highlighted another aspect of the Putin problem, Kashin says. The Kremlin leader routinely condemns 1991 as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century; but in doing so, he misses the point that the disintegration of the USSR was not the end of this catastrophe but its beginning.

            “The Belovezhskaya model of organizing the post-Soviet space froze in place all the worst which was characteristic of the Soviet Union – borders between the republics, the rightlessness of ethnic Russians and local ethnic autocracies and gave Russia noting in exchange,” the commentator insists.

            But despite that, Moscow still somehow values what happened in 1991, “and each time when the Belovezhskaya system suffers a collapse, Putin considers it a challenge to himself and devotes maximum efforts to preserve everything just as it was after 1991” even when it may appear that he is undermining this or that part of the settlement of 30 years ago.

            “The phantom interest in political stability in post-Soviet countries makes Putin a full co-author of the geopolitical catastrophe comparable with Gorbachev whom he despises and the Belovezhskaya trinity.” Political stability is fine, Kashin says; but it can work against a nation’s interests, including in recent decades those of Russia.

            He continues: “Of course, one should not say that the disintegration of Kazakhstan and the destruction of Kazakh statehood would be the most desirable scenario for Russia,” Kashin argues. “But it can definitely be said that the preservation and strengthening of the Astana regime would be the worst of all possible outcomes.”

            “Chaos and anarchy in Kazakhstan could save at least part of this country from future subordination to other strong regional players,” he argues. But “the preservation of this regime excludes that.” Nonetheless, the Kremlin will be glad to have political stability and will continue to deal with Kazakhstan as if Russia were “its junior ally.”

            Not only will that bleed Russia dry, but it will preserve Kazakhstan “for some future Chinese or let us say Turkish expansion, Kashin concludes, noting that Moscow is doing much the same with the other new states that emerged after 1991, something that may help Putin personally in some sense but is doing exactly the opposite for Russia.

Are Orthodox Church Wars Going to Intersect with Putin’s War in Ukraine?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 25 – Given how angry the Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate have been about the autocephalous status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, there are compelling reasons to think that in the event of a Russian victory in Ukraine, Moscow would move quickly to strip the UOP of its independent status and force it back within the ROC MP.

             That possibility both became more likely and faces more obstacles because of a conflict between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church over Moscow’s decision to form bishoprics in Africa and thus violate canon law and an analysis offered by Ukrainian experts of Moscow’s behavior about annulling autocephaly.

             Earlier this month, Metroplitan Grigory of Peresteri at a synod of the Greek church urged that the ROC MP be stripped of its autocephaly for five years as punishment for Moscow’s creation of an African exarchate and its violation of Alexandria’s autocephaly (

            Not surprisingly, the Moscow Patriarchate immediately responded, with Metropolitan Ilarion, head of the church’s foreign relations department, delivering a savage rejoinder ( His response has now been analyzed by Dmitry Gorevoy, a specialist on religion in Ukraine (

            Gorevoy points out that the language of the basic statue of the ROC MP contains provisions that allow the Moscow church to extend its canonical territory at will including to the ends of the earth. Only Georgia on the territory of the former USSR, and countries in the Middle East are generally excluded.

             In his judgment, the Ukrainian expert says, “the ROC is striving for world rule” as far as the Orthodox are concerned. The Greeks have accused Moscow among other things of adopting an ethnic approach to religion, Russifying believers who are culturally close to the Russians and defending Russians against assimilation where the non-Russians are radically different.

             Those provisions and practices are not to be found in other Orthodox churches. But the most interesting and contentious of the Greek hierarch’s proposals – to deprive the ROC MP of autocephaly for five years – is the one the Moscow metropolitan has fastened on because it has potentially the most serious consequences.

             If the Orthodox world were to agree to strip the ROC MP of autocephaly for that period and if it were able to enforce its decision on Moscow, then the ROC MP would effectively be put in receivership, with decisions on policy and personnel taken not by the hierarchs of the Russian church but by others, presumably appointed by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

             Metropolitan Ilarion says that church law does not contain any provisions allowing for an Orthodox church that has been given autocephaly to have that status taken away, conveniently forgetting that Moscow twice done just that: in 1811 with respect to the Georgian church and in 1924 with respect to the Polish Apostolic Orthodox Church.

             Ilarion says that “the extension of autocephaly or the status of a Patriarchate of a Church in a particular land is an irrevocable act. It cannot be limited or recalled.” In short, Moscow is insisting on the importance of a rule that it has in fact violated, something that raises questions about its moves against the UOP and also makes those moves more problematic.

Moscow has Achieved Two of Its Three War Aims in Ukraine with Respect to Crimea, Security Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 25 – Ukrainians continue to resist the Russian advance, but Sergey Marzhetsky, a Russian security commentator, argues that in the first 24 hours of this stage of the conflict, Moscow has achieved two of its three war aims in Ukraine with respect to Russian-occupied Crimea.

            First of all, he says, Moscow has taken full control of Ukrainian regions on the western shore of the Sea of Azov thus guaranteeing it a reliable land bridge to Crimea and complete control of the Sea of Azov, thereby eliminating the possibility that Ukraine or any other country could use that against Russia (

            And second, “Russian forces have taken under their control the entire infrastructure of the North-Crimean canal, ensuring that the Crimean peninsula will finally have a reliable source of potable water and that no one will be able to use “a water weapon” against the Russian presence there.

            But third, Marzhetsky says, the third and most important problem of Crimea, “unfortunately” remains unresolved – the legal status of the peninsula. “Neither Ukraine nor the collective West standing behind it has recognized Crimea as Russian,” something that creates any number of problems for residents of the region.

            The Russian foreign ministry has been unable to secure a change in approach among Western countries, and so now the Russian military must seek “the complete and unconditional defeat” of Ukraine on the battlefield and force Kyiv to seriously revise its views and the structure of its state.

            “One of Moscow’s demands can and must be,” the security analyst argues, “Kyiv’s recognition of the rights of Crimeans and residents of the Donbass for self-determination, Crimea as Russian and the DNR and LNR as independent states.” Whether the latter two join Russia can be decided later.

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Most Russians Prefer to Think That What is Happening in Ukraine isn’t a War, Levinson Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 25 – Russians are against war, something they understand as a major war involving the West; but with regard to Moscow’s use of force against their neighbors as now against Ukraine, they prefer to think that what is happening there isn’t a “real” war although almost four out of ten fear that it could become such, Aleksey Levinson says.

            The Kremlin plays to this schizophrenic thought, the Levada Center sociologist says, by never calling what it does a war but finding one euphemism after another; but its success in doing so reflects the fact that Russians really do make this distinction  (

            Surveys show, Levinson continues, that “Russians do not want war” but that a majority of them supports what might be called “hybrid” military operations against Russia’s neighbors or further afield. Those actions are viewed more as “gestures” than as the start of any real war and they are the kind of assertive behavior that a majority of Russians welcome.

            Since 2014, Ukrainians have concluded that a war is going on between their country and Russia, he says. But “in Russia, people prefer to think that there is no such thing.” And what is important” is that a majority is convinced and is likely to remain convinced that Russia’s military actions in Ukraine won’t lead to “a real war.”

            Consequently, most Russians are likely to believe that Putin is “playing with the West” not according to Western rules but according to Russian ones and thus support him for helping Russia as he puts it to “rise from its knees.” Only if that changes will the support Putin has even now begin to ebb in a serious way.

            At the same time, however, it is noteworthy that “almost 40 percent” of Russians are already beginning to feel “a chill of fear” about the possibility that what is going on in Ukraine could lead to the real war they fear and very much oppose.

‘Most Disadvantageous Outcome’ for Moscow of War in Ukraine would Be a Russian Occupation, Nosovich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 24 – “All military history” shows, Aleksandr Nosovich argues, that “the most disadvantageous outcome” for Moscow of the Russian advance would be “the occupation of Ukraine,” a comment that suggests that even among Vladimir Putin’s cheerleaders, there is growing concern that the conflict may harm Russia far more than anyone expected.

            Nosovich, who heads the notoriously pro-Putin and anti-Western portal, says that efforts to occupy Ukraine could prove as disastrous for Russia as American efforts to occupy Afghanistan and Iraq (

            According to the Russian imperialist, what the West did in Yugoslavia was “more effective for the Americans” and could serve as a model for Russia in Ukraine. Another analogy Moscow should be looking at is the outcome of the 2020 Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, although who might serve as a mediator for Russia and Ukraine is unclear, Nosovich says.

            A Russian victory in Ukraine is not the same thing as the triumph of Russian arms, he continues. Instead, it is to achieve Moscow’s goals, which are the neutralization of Ukraine, the final blocking of any expansion of NATO eastward, and the elimination of any Western military presence in former Soviet republics.

            Russia has the resources to continue to fight until it achieves those goals, Nosovich argues. It has large gold and cash reserves; and even if the Russian advance bothers some of Russia’s neighbors, they will have no choice but to continue to cooperate with Moscow economically.

            After all, even Ukraine after 2014 saw its economic ties with Russia increase dramatically last year, he says. The same can be expected from all the rest and from the West whatever governments and commentators are suggesting at the present time, the enthusiast for the Russian world says.

            It is likely that Nosovich’s words contain within them a double message. On the one hand, it suggests that within the Russian imperialist camp, there are those who see that the occupation of Ukraine would prove counterproductive, costing Russia more than it would benefit Moscow.

            But on the other hand, they may be a signal of something else: some in Moscow may now want to find a way out of its current problems, by playing up the idea that it does not really want to occupy Ukraine, something it is in any case finding it very hard to do and would find it even more difficult to sustain.

            If the latter, Nosovich’s comment may be a trial balloon directed at Kyiv and the West to undermine the commitment of both by suggesting that Moscow doesn’t really want to annex the entire Ukraine but would be end the war if its “security considerations” were accepted.