Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Moscow Says Armenia Must Retain Sovereignty over Zengezur and Azerbaijan Over Lachin

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – In Moscow’s latest move on the Qarabagh dispute, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that Armenia must retain sovereignty over what many call the Nakhichevan corridor through Zengezur and that Azerbaijan must maintain sovereignty over what has long been called the Lachin corridor between Armenia and what was Artsakh.

            On the one hand, this reflects a Moscow tilt toward Yerevan as Armenia has objected to any talk of an Azerbaijani corridor through Zengezur; but on the other, it gives Baku something it has long wanted, clear support for Azerbaijani sovereignty over the Lachin corridor, something it can use to control the movement of people and goods between Armenia and Stepanakert

            Lavrov’s words may allow Yerevan and Baku to make progress on delimiting the state border between them because they would appear to suggest that Moscow doesn’t want the area around Lachin to be the stumbling block to such an effort. Many observers had suggested that the two Caucasian countries will have little difficulty in drawing the border except near Lachin.

            That is because drawing the border there would mean an acknowledgement by Armenia that the corridor is within Azerbaijan rather than a lifeline to what Yerevan hopes will be to a revived Armenian community or even political entity in and around Stepanakert protected by Russian “peacekeepers.”

            Now, Moscow has come down on Azerbaijan’s side on this issue, something that will undercut European efforts to keep open the question of the final status of Qarabagh. But at the same time, Moscow has sweetened the deal for Armenia by taking a harder line on Zengezur/Syunik and insisting that there be no talk of an Azerbaijani-controlled corridor there.

            Moscow clearly expects that the only way to make these twin positions work is for the Russian troops and border guards in both places to remain in place and that if that occurs, it will be Russia rather than the European Union that will be in a position to resolve or at least continue to exploit the Qarabagh conflict in the future (kavkaz-uzel.eu/blogs/83772/posts/55109).

North Caucasus Likely to End Up in One Empire or Another, Prominent Avar Writer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – The North Caucasus is located in an extremely bad neighborhood and so is unlikely to be able to make its own way, Alisa Ganiyeva says. Instead, it is likely to end up in one empire or another, Russian or Turkish being the most likely but Arabization and Islamization also among its possible futures. Indeed, it could become an imamate.

            The Avar novelist who has attracted great attention within Russia and abroad for her novels about Daghestan, her biography of Lili Brik, and her articles and reviews in Russian and international newspapers and journals, says that unfortunately these outcomes are likely as well because of the current state of culture in the region.

            Not only are the non-Russian nations and languages under threat, she suggests, but what is emerging in the culture of many of them is an unfortunate and even self-destructive mix of Islam and a tendency to show off rather than be thoughtful (daptar.ru/2022/06/08/izvineniya-repressii-zapreschennyie-slova-alisa-ganieva-o-novoy-realnosti-na-kavkaze/).

            “If the Moscow tsar doesn’t strangle the region” as a result, Ganiyeva says, “the Turkish ruler will come. If he doesn’t arrive, then Arabization will begin. To survive, [people in the region] need a strong national identity, but it is not there. Instead,” she continues, what is on offer is “a mixture of Islam and people showing off.”

Patriarch Kirill ‘Exiles’ Second Potential Successor as Head of Russian Church

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – When Patriarch Kirill exiled Metropolitan Tikhon, long viewed as Putin’s favorite churchman, to Pskov four years ago, most observers concluded that the head of the church was protecting himself against a possible challenge or even replacement. Now that Kirill has exiled Metropolitan Ilarion to Budapest, many are drawing the same conclusion.

            Their reasoning would seem to be justified. After all, Ilarion has been the patriarchate’s “foreign minister” the traditional stepping stone for those who become patriarch; and Kirill is known to have been furious at him for his failures to block Ukrainian autocephaly or the declaration of independence by the Moscow church.

            The new man in that position, Metropolitan Antony, is Kirill’s former secretary and a loyalist much too young to represent a credible challenger to the current patriarch anytime soon. Indeed, some are saying that Kirill doesn’t want to have anyone around who might be his successor.

            But what has just taken place almost certainly reflects at least three other calculations on Kirill’s part. First, he may be trying to deflect blame from himself for the church’s failures in Ukraine by making him the fall guy.  Second, Kirill may want Antony’s skills in running Orthodox churches abroad to occupy his time rather than formulating broader policies.

            And third, and most important for those who dissent from the general view about what has happened, Kirill has “exiled” Ilarion to a church post in a place, Hungary, which has both political and personal importance for the current patriarch and therefore it may not be the complete demotion most see.

            On the one hand, the Hungarian government has been the least willing to commit to sanctions against Kirill personally or Russia more generally; and therefore, Kirill may view having Ilarion there as a way to make himself useful to the Kremlin (and himself) by encouraging Budapest to maintain its sympathetic approach to Moscow.

            And on the other, Kirill is said to have enormous cash holdings in the West; and having Ilarion in Budapest may mean that the supposed exile will in fact work to supervise them for the current patriarch during a period of Western sanctions when it is harder for the Moscow churchman to do that from Moscow.

            If these arguments are correct, Illarionov’s dispatch to Budapest may be far less the exile and end of his church career than many are now saying but instead only a detour on his road to the top of the church. Given Kirill’s typically careful handling of personnel matters at the top of the Patriarchate, that is at least a  possibility that shouldn’t be ignored.

            On this back and forth in the analysis of Kirill’s latest personnel moves, see kasparov.ru/material.php?id=629F7A2D51D6A, apn-spb.ru/opinions/article35255.htm, , realtribune.ru/kadrovaya-revoljuciya-v-rpc-za-chto-snyali-mitropolita-ilariona, facebook.com/chapnin/posts/pfbid0Ah4h5RNKXVeNp5FTe6M3Xjv6Jb6GYydFkmkFXc7zSqyVgAGo6JpviuaUV9FnUsb8l and ng.ru/editorial/2022-06-09/2_8458_editorial.html.

Monday, June 27, 2022

For First Time, Putin says His Goal in Ukraine is 'Recovering' Russian Territory

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – When Vladimir Putin launched his “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, he said that its goals were to “demilitarize” and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Later when Russian-controlled areas sought to hold referenda on joining the Russian Federation, his spokesman indicated that that was their choice rather than Moscow policy.

            But now, for the first time, the Kremlin leader has made clear by comparing today’s events with those in the era of Peter I what many have long suspected: Russia’s goal in Ukraine now is “’the return’ of territories,” that is, imperial expansion of the borders of the Russian Federation (ehorussia.com/new/node/26084).

            Kremlin propaganda is unlikely to change course and admit to this fact. But Putin’s words provide insight into his thinking in which he compares himself to tsars of several hundred years ago and sees the expansion of land under the control of the central government as the measure of Russian victory.

            Not insignificantly, Putin’s comments now reflect the views expressed in April by Sergey Naryshkin, someone widely identified as the leader of the war party in the Russian government, when the SVR head used language almost identical to that which the Kremlin leader is now using (ria.ru/20220411/ukraina-1782865908.html).

Russia has Too Many Bureaucrats, Revolutionaries and Passive Observers but No Real Politicians, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – In Russia today, there are no real politicians, only bureaucrats, revolutionaries and passive observers, Vladimir Pastukhov says. And if today’s revolutionaries come to power, they will not by themselves create a space for politics here: they will only recreate the current situation.

            The transformation will be more apparent than real, the creation of an Alice in Wonderland-type world in which everything is turned on its head: that which was bad will be declared good and conversely, the London-based Russian analyst argues (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=62A2153D3BF1D).

            But if the revolutionaries on hand cannot create a space for politics, if a revolution as they imagine it won’t work, what will? Pastukhov asks rhetorically. The answer is obvious: What is needed is not “a routine change of power with the replacement of bad leaders by good” but rather “’a big bang’ which will form not simply a new state but a new civilization.”

            “Such an historical explosion practically is never the result of the realization of a rational plan in which people act guided by their economic or political interests,” he continues. “It always is the result of the victory of a movement, altruistic in its nature which is grouped around particular ideas.”

            According to Pastukhov, “a real revolution which changes not the powers that be but the course of history, however strange this may seem, is always irrational” and involves the efforts of people “’not from this world’ who need not power and even more not money but the realization of a certain idea in which they have almost a religious faith.”

            There were too few such people in Russia in the 1990s, and that is “one of the main reasons which condemned the post-communist experiment there to failure.” The intelligentsia sold out any altruism for privatization. And that means this: “the deaths of Men and Sakharov mean much more than we are accustomed to think.”

            Talk about altruism may seem absurd and impossible to Russians as their country enters its third decade of Putinism; but the fact that such altruistic revolutions haven’t happened at any particular time and place does not mean, Pastukhov argues, that revolutions driven not by a desire for power and money can’t happen in principle.

            Indeed, the London-based Russian analyst says, Russia is “ripening for such an historically turn” given that it has passed “through all the circles of hell.”  “I’m not saying this will happen tomorrow or even in ten years, but when it does, those who want to build such a society and policy must have prepared the building blocks.

            And they must do so, Pastukhov concludes, even if it is entirely possible that they will not live to see the edifice they want to build fully constructed.

Yandex Maps Makes Russia’s Borders with Ukraine and Other Countries Disappear

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – Vladimir Putin’s contempt for the border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine is obvious, but there is one place where that border and others around Russia have already disappeared completely: Yandex Maps which has announced that its maps won’t be showing political borders anymore.

            Instead, the Russian news agency says, it will be highlighting cities, transportation links like roads and railways, and the location of natural resources. The borders Russian and before that Soviet maps invariably highlighted will no longer be displayed (kod.ru/yandex-maps-bez-ghranits and meduza.io/news/2022/06/09/v-yandeks-kartah-propali-gosudarstvennye-granitsy-kompaniya-ob-yasnila-chto-menyaet-aktsent-na-prirodnye-ob-ekty).

            This represents a change of major dimensions and clearly sends a message about how Moscow now views the state border that were established in 1991. It tells Russians that as far as their country is concerned, political borders are no longer as important as other kinds, at least with regard to countries bordering the Russian Federation.

            That may seem a small thing to many outside this region, but it is a la in the former Soviet space, where administrative-territorial borders were viewed as fundamental and where atlases showing them were released almost every year and were studied closely by Soviet officials and Soviet citizens.

By Invading Ukraine, Putin has Hastened the Disintegration of Russia, Etkind Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – The Russian Federation is an empire and it will fall apart, sooner rather than later, because of Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, an action that highlighted his desire to restore the empire and the fact that what he and others call the Russian Federation is already an empire, Aleksandr Etkind says.

            What happened to the Russian Empire? It disintegrated at the end of an imperialist war. What happened to the Soviet Union? It disintegrated at the end of the Cold War. What will happen to the Russian Federation?” the St. Petersburg historian asks rhetorically. The answer is now clear (en.desk-russie.eu/2022/04/18/defederating-russia.html reposted at themoscowtimes.com/2022/06/08/the-future-defederation-of-russia-a77934).

            Russia’s collapse “has long been feared and predicted,” Etkind continues, and “it could have been slowed down by taking advantage of the favorable economic situation, by relying on a competent government, a skillful diplomatic game or simply by counting on luck,” all the more so that neither its people nor its foreign partners have wanted this outcome.

            In short, he argues, “disintegration could have been avoided — it would have been enough not to start a war with Ukraine. But revanchism was stronger than caution. The collapse of this federation — a complex, artificial, highly unequal and increasingly unproductive community — will take place because of its leaders in Moscow, and only because of them.”

“Those who love the federation; those who think that if it were to disappear, people would be worse off; those who see the idea of a united Russia as the main and even the only political value — all should blame those and only those who started this war,” the historian suggests.

He then asks: “How many parts will the federation break into, and will these parts correspond to the present delimitations of its republics and provinces? In each case, people will decide … some will be democratic, others authoritarian. All will be linked more to their neighbors, their trading and security partners, than to their old, worn-out and repulsive ‘kin.’

“The territories that belonged to other national entities before becoming part of Russia after the Second World War (East Prussia, parts of Karelia, the Kuril Islands) will leave the federation with undisguised pleasure. Ethnic and religious tensions in particularly complex regions such as the Caucasus may lead to new wars. [And] social inequalities, a hallmark of Russia in recent decades, will increase further.

“Sooner or later the international community, which does not like upheavals, will take note of the changes and make an effort to avoid bloodshed. At this point a peace conference will be held, modeled after the Paris conference of 1918-1919, organized by the victors of the First World War.”

 And Etkind concludes: “In the new peace treaty, the neighbors of the new countries will mediate the negotiations: Ukraine, China, Norway, Poland, Finland, Kazakhstan, and others. Historically more successful federations, such as the European Union and the United States, will have their part to play. A new Eurasian Treaty [thus] will complete the work begun at Versailles a century ago.”

 

Commentaries on Regional Media Posts Show Anti-War Attitudes Intensifying in Russia, Bereza Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 7 – The Russian government exercises far greater control over what the media both in Moscow and in the regions posts online than it does over the commentaries that readers then post on articles that are published, making the latter a far better measure of popular attitudes than the former.

            Now former Ukrainian parliamentarian and commentator Borislav Bereza says has mined this neglected source and concluded that anti-war attitudes are on the rise in the Russian Federation (gordonua.com/blogs/borislav-bereza/v-regionah-rf-narastayut-protestnye-nastroeniya-a-desyatki-tysyach-beznogih-bezrukih-invalidov-vernuvshihsya-iz-ukrainy-lish-dobavlyayut-depressii-1612132.html).

“I read the commentaries of Russians attached to articles about the war in Russian regional media,” he writes. “And it is already clear that in Russia there is taking place a gradual disappointment and mass tiredness from what is taking place. There has not been an easy victory and there is no understanding of what the goals of the operation really are.”

 Regime propagandists cannot cope with the evidence Russians see around themselves of Russian soldiers returning from Ukraine either in caskets or badly wounded. Such victims of the war number in the tens of thousands, and the more Moscow seeks to mobilize Russians to fight, the more attention Russians are giving to the victims of Moscow’s war.

 In Soviet times when people saw around them thousands and thousands of those left crippled by World War II, there was a powerful sense among them that such conflicts must never be repeated. Now, the commentaries of Russians suggest that there is an equally powerful sense that the current conflict with similar results must be ended. 

Duma Violates Russian Constitution Even as Amended to Deny Russians Access to European Court, Lukyanova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 7 – Many commentators in both Russia and abroad believe that the amendments to the 1993 Russian Constitution Vladimir Putin pushed through in 2020 declared Russian law superior to and independent of international law and that ending the ability of Russians to appeal to the European Court for Human Rights was only a matter of time.

            But Elena Lukyanova, a legal specialist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics until 2020 when she was forced out because of her criticism of Putin’s amendments, says that despite what many think, the amendments did not eliminate the constitutional provision specifying that Russian law is subordinate to international law (rosbalt.ru/russia/2022/06/08/1961590.html).

            The amendments did not touch most of the constitution and did not remove its provision specifying that Russian law is subordinate to international law and that the Russian government must not act in violation of international law and that Russian citizens must have the ability to appeal to international bodies if Moscow does.

            But now that the Duma has voted to ignore the ECHR and to pay any past compensation only in rubles, Lukyanova says, Moscow has violated its own constitution and is forcing Russians “to live in a closed state cut off from the rest of the world” and one that is “not connected with law” but rather the whims of its rulers.

            Russian officials like Duma spokesman Vyacheslav Volodin are justifying what the Duma has done by arguing that “the European Court for Human Rights has become an instrument of political struggle against our country in the hands of Western politicians” and that “certain of its decisions directly contract the Russian Constitution, our values and our traditions.”

Focusing on Ukraine, Moscow has Left Russians Defenseless Against New Wave of Covid Pandemic

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 7 – With the start of Putin’s war in Ukraine, both the Russian people and the Russian government declared the covid pandemic over, lifted the remaining restrictions and cut back efforts at vaccination. As a result, experts say, the country has been left defenseless against a new wave of the covid pandemic.

            Not only do older strains of the virus continue to circulate, but new ones are constantly arising. And that means that in the absence of vigilance and active measures by the authorities, there is a great danger that Russia will see a new rise in infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the coming months (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-безоружна-перед-новой-волной-covid-19).

            Indeed, the lack of attention to this problem or even to the pandemic as such – Moscow officials have declared the threat over as far as Russia is concerned – makes it more rather than less likely that there will be a new upsurge and that when it comes, Russian healthcare won’t be ready and will be forced to once again scramble to try to contain the threat.

            Everyone from the government to independent demographers like Aleksey Raksha agrees that at present the covid threat has ebbed, but there is broad disagreement as to whether this is a real end, the government position, or a breathing space that won’t last because of mutations in the virus.

             Another independent Russian healthcare expert, Aleksandr Dragan, points out that “the virus hasn’t been informed that the epidemic has ended. Today, it is spreading pratically uncontrolled because almost nowhere in the world besides China are tough anti-covid measures being taken.” And as a result, it is rapidly mutating and increasing the danger of new infections.

            Even the omicron variant has now subdivided, and the delta strain continues to spread in other countries, he says; and there is every reason to think that these and other strains are already to be found in Russia even though the authorities are acting as if there is no danger.  And as a result, the number of Russians getting vaccinated has fallen to almost zero.

            And now Russian producers of domestic vaccines have suspended its manufacture (https://tass.ru/obschestvo/14689487) at a time when imports as a result of sanctions have become less available. In this situation, almost no one is talking about the need for additional shots or taking actions to prepare for them or their absence in the future.

Romanian Policy toward Its Minorities Alienates Gagauz in Moldova and Helps Moscow, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 7 – Moldovan society as a whole is closely divided between those who want to remain in Moscow’s orbit and those who want to turn to the West, but among the Gagauz, the Christian Turkic nation in the country’s southeast, the vast majority remain pro-Moscow and opposed to any shift to the West.

            Such attitudes among the Gagauz reflect both their sense that Chisinau will ignore their rights and fears that a more pro-Western Moldova will ultimately unite with or at least follow Romanian approaches regarding ethnic minorities, according to Prague-based Russian commentator Vadim Sidorov (trtrussian.com/mnenie/gagauziya-tyurkskij-faktor-mezhdu-zapadnym-vyborom-i-russkim-mirom-9085023).

            But instead of improving the situation of minorities in Romania and reaching out to the Gagauz in Moldova, Bucharest has done neither, further alienating the Gagauz from Chisinau and its pro-Western choice and giving Moscow leverage that it might otherwise lose, Sidorov continues.   

            In sum, he says, “the antagonism between the Moldovan unionists and their opponents, including almost all the population of Gagauzia, has not only an ethnic but a civilizational and geopolitical character” and this has limited Turkey’s ability to expand its influence among Turkic groups like the Gagauz as well.

            That is especially true now that Turkey has given up on being included in the European Union and thus is less focused on what Bucharest and other Western governments are doing with regard to ethnic minorities in their own countries and to those in other countries as is the case with Romania and Moldova’s Gagauz.

            What makes Sidorov’s argument important is that the Gagauz issue is typically viewed as a bilateral one between Moldova and Russia or a trilateral one involving Turkey as the third party; but in fact, as he shows, the situation is more complicated, with Romania forming the fourth actor in this drama, something those who want Moldova in the West must recognize.

Russian Ruling Class Must Become Patriotic, Khasbulatov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 7 – The Kremlin is promoting patriotism in the wrong place, Ruslan Khasbulatov says. There is no need to promote such feelings among the Russian people, but there is a compelling need to do so among the country’s elite which continues to act in its own narrow interests against the interests of the country.

            As a result, the economist says, Russia is proving incapable of responding adequately to the challenges posed by the new conflict in the world, a conflict far more dangerous and threatening to Russia than even those of the Cold War (ng.ru/ideas/2022-06-07/7_8455_crisis.html).

            And thus one is forced to conclude, Khasbulatov says, that Russia is confronted not by an economic crisis but by an administrative one – that is, a political one involving shortcomings in the elite now governing Russia and the need for its wholesale transformation from one dominated by selfish business interests into one led by patriotic Russians.

            “No one can know how long this dangerous period will last,” he continues. And Russians don’t know what “the specific political goals of the US, Europe and their allies” rally are “besides the slogan ‘Overthrow Putin!’” But Russians do know that the longer things go as they are, the more the world will unite against Russia and the more Russians will suffer.

            According to Khabulatov, “today we do not see in the country any outstanding administrators or capable ministers” because “the entire government apparatus is filled with representatives of business” who think only of their own interests and not in terms of the interests of Russia as a whole.

            And such people “have not been able to create a national economy corresponding to the needs of the people and the interests of the state” but acts instead on the basis of gaining wealth through the exporting of natural resources and thus acting as de facto the allies of Russia’s enemies by weakening the country.

            “As a result, the model of colonial-comprador and ineffective capitalism has been established in Russia,” he continues. “In brief, so-called domestic business has not dealt with the tasks of establishing a national economy. That is the reality” created over the last two decades, and it must be changed.

            The elite has enriched itself but at the cost of the impoverishment of the people, Khasbulatov argues. Indeed, it appears that for the convenience of the elite, the Russian people have been driven into poverty and kept there. If Russia is to survive, that must change; and the changes must come first of all in the country’s elites.

            The current elites who care only about their own wealth must be replaced by those who will rebuild the Russian economy and raise Russians’ standard of living by developing the country itself and working with neighbors like Azerbaijan rather than selling off the country’s assets and pocketing them.

            If that does not happen and soon, Khasbulatov implies, the future of Russia in the current international climate will be dire indeed. 

 

European Court Finds Russia Guilty of Multiple and Massive Violations of Rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 7 – By a vote of six to one, the European Court for Human Rights found the Russian government guilty of multiple and massive violations of the rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses; and by a vote of four to three it ordered Moscow to release Witnesses now in jail and end all criminal cases against them.

            Because Russia has been expelled from European institutions because of its invasion of Ukraine and because Moscow says it is no longer subject to international law, many may see this as of little importance, but in its decision, the ECHR addressed that and said that the ruling holds because the case involved actions before either of those actions occurred.

            As such, it is the most sweeping finding of an international court against Russia concerning its abuse of the rights of the Jehovah’s Witnesses; and it represents a rare instance in which the ECHR has not only reached a conclusion but directed the government in question to take steps affecting all those in a category rather than just about those who brought the case.

            The Court’s ruling is at  hudoc.echr.coe.int/app/conversion/pdf/?library=ECHR&id=003-7352983-10042703.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Moscow May Create an ‘Alternative’ Arctic Council with China as Member and Big Beneficiary

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 7 – Now that the seven other members are continuing to meet as the Arctic Council but without the presence of a Russian representative who according to its bylaws is chairman in office until next year, Moscow may choose to create an alternative organization for the Arctic consisting of itself, China and some other countries.

            Dmitry Zhuravlyev, the head of the Moscow Institute of Regional Problems, says that creating such an alternative organization and including China among its members is a possibility, given that “the Chinese have many icebreakers and are very interested” given that the West has blocked China from membership in the Arctic Council (svpressa.ru/politic/article/336567/).

            Were Moscow to take this step, that would lead to a major shift in the geoeconomics and geopolitics of the Far North, with Moscow using China to push Russia’s vision of the Arctic and with Beijing using Russia’s opening of such a group to advance its own goals, confident that even if the current standoff ends, a reconstituted Arctic Council would likely then include China.

            This is the latest move in the Arctic chessboard. At the end of last year when Russia assumed the chairmanship, it said it wanted to change both the way the Council operated and the issues it focused on, despite the objections of other Arctic Council members (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/10/arctic-region-now-at-state-of.html).

            Moscow expected the West to yield eventually, but Putin’s invasion of Ukraine led all the Arctic Council members except Russia of course to declare that they were putting the operation of the Council on hold for the time being (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/04/west-will-blink-in-arctic-because-of.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/03/putins-war-in-ukraine-kills-off-moscows.html).

            Now the seven have said they will meet without Russia as a rump Arctic Council in order to continue cooperation and not allow existing programs all support from collapsing (thebarentsobserver.com/ru/arktika/2022/06/sem-zapadnyh-stran-vozobnovyat-rabotu-v-arkticheskom-sovete-v-ogranichennom-rezhime).

 

            Moscow is outraged and expects others to be as well. As the Russian ambassador to the US put it, the Western “Seven” may be able to exclude Russia from the Council but they “do not know how to exclude it from the Arctic” and won’t be effective in their work as long as Russia isn’t part of it (svpressa.ru/politic/article/336567/).

 

            Given the centrality of the Arctic in Putin’s thinking and the importance of the Northern Sea Route in Moscow’s economic and strategic calculations, Moscow may see the creation of an “alternative” to the existing Arctic Council as a good countermove, especially because it will appeal to China which in this way will gain a seat at this increasingly important table. 

 

Putin’s War Delivering ‘Crushing Blow’ to Ukraine’s Demographic Future, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 6 -- Ukraine experienced sharp demographic decline even before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion earlier this year: The Ukrainian population fell from 52 million in 1993 to just over 41 million by the start of 2022. And it likely this decline would have continued even if no war had occurred.

But Putin’s expanded invasion this year has not only killed thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians and led to the emigration of several million more, but it has suppressed the birthrate while increasing the death rate among those remaining and casting a shadow on the future by reducing the number of Ukrainians in the prime child-bearing cohort.

As a result, Ukrainian, Russian and other experts predict Ukraine will soon face a demographic collapse, with its population projected to fall as low as 30 million by the end of this decade, and perhaps 22 million by the end of this century. Worse still, some Ukrainian specialists do not see any way for the Ukrainian authorities to prevent this.

Such a freefall will severely limit Ukraine’s ability to recover from the devastation of Putin’s war, let alone raise an army to defend itself in the future. Ella Libanova, head of the Institute of Demography and Social Research at Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences, has taken the lead in delivering such warnings (life.nv.ua/socium/voyna-v-ukraine-i-evakuaciya-zhiteley-sokratit-naselenie-do-30-mln-novosti-ukrainy-50247390.html).

According to Libanova, “the war has inflicted a crushing blow on Ukrainian demography. In addition to military losses, the total number of which is still unknown, no fewer than 4,000 civilians have died and approximately 5 million have fled abroad. Some of the last have already rooted themselves in other countries and will not return home.”

Together with pre-war trends such as falling fertility rates, an aging population, rising death rates and outmigration by young specialists, Putin’s war will leave Ukraine in an ever deeper “hole,” the Kyiv demographer says, out of which it is unlikely to be able to climb anytime in this century without massive outside assistance.  

(This Window on Eurasia is an excerpted version of this author’s “Putin’s War Accelerating Ukraine’s Demographic Collapse, Experts Say,” which appeared, with additional information and citations, in the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasian Daily Monitor (jamestown.org/program/putins-war-accelerating-ukraines-demographic-collapse-experts-say/).