Staunton, Jan. 24 – There is growing recognition internationally and in Russia itself that that country in its current borders cannot be reformed and thus must be dismantled with numerous parts of the existing state gaining independence and the Muscovite state reduced to the size it was centuries ago, Dmitry Galko says.
That almost certainly is the most important intellectual sea change caused by Putin’s expanded invasion of Ukraine beginning a year ago, the Ukrainian commentator says. Prior to that, most people in Russia and the West even if they disliked what Putin was doing assumed that Russia after him could be reformed without dismantling (graniru.org/opinion/m.287139.html).
Now, they don’t as various surveys of Western experts show and the fact that Kremlin is now more concerned about talk of the disintegration than it is about opposition to the war in Ukraine. Both now recognize that if Russia is kept in anything like its current borders, it will keep returning to imperialism and aggression after a time even if it appears to have reformed.
“No matter what reforms Russia has carried out as a result of defeats in wars, the same Kalashnikov rifle style of politics ultimately resources,” Galko says, noting that as Vladislav Surkov once observed, this is a matter of “physics” and that “dismantling, not reassembly” is what is required.
As someone who since 1991 has been convinced that the disintegration of the USSR was only the first stage of the de-imperialization of Moscow and that the nations and regios the Russian state has submerged and subjugated should gain independence and even be helped to do so, I am only too pleased to see this shift in opinion.
But three things disturb me about what is increasingly becoming the received opinion. First, there seems to be little recognition that such talk in fact provides aid and comfort to Putin, justifying for himself and for many Russians a raising of the drawbridges and a continuation of the current war as the only possible way forward.
It is critically important that those who favor the disintegration of the Russian Federation, the last empire if you will, make it clear that Russians themselves will be among the biggest beneficiaries of that, most clearly if they are in regions that break away from Moscow but also for those in the Russian capital and its surrounds.
Those in the West who favor disintegration need to devote much more time to convincing Russians of this lest what they are saying give Putin a victory and make the achievement of their goals less likely.
Second, the fact that so many people are talking about the need to dismantle Russia after its coming defeat in Ukraine and that this sounds so radical often conceals the fact that a large number of those who take this position aren’t really radical enough. They see the coming demise of the Russian Federation as being a kind of repeat of 1991.
That is, they imagine that the dismantling of Russia will involve the departure of the non-Russian republics rather than being not only about that but about the disintegration of the increasingly fragile Russian community into linguistically Russian but politically independent countries.
Such people need to recognize that in the coming revolution, regions that are now classed as predominantly Russian oblasts and krays can and even must play a role in this process. If they aren’t, then the dismantling people now hope for won’t mean much as the non-Russian republics within Russia constitute only a tiny portion of that country.
If the “Russian” regions aren’t part of the story, then Russia will rapidly return to its historical pattern of imperial aggression and reconquest.
And third – and this is another recrudescence of a way of thinking common 30 years ago – many who now favor the demise of the Russian Federation act as if it is a magic wand that will transform everything and that they won’t have to do much besides declare victory and look forward to a wonderful future.
In all too many respects, that is what happened after the USSR came apart. What is needed now and will be needed even more in the future is a recognition that Western countries will find their work only just beginning after disintegration. Had that been recognized in 1991, many but alas far from all problems the world faces now could have been avoided.