Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Even a Territorially Much-Reduced Russia will Still Threaten Itself and the World, Podrabinek Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 15 – Many appear to believe that breaking Russia into a large number of countries will reduce the threat it poses to its own people and the world, but that is far less true than many assume and has been adopted as a principle by some because “tearing Russia apart is easier than changing the way of life of the country,” Aleksandr Podrabinek says.

            The Moscow human rights activist and journalist says that in the long term, a smaller country will lose much of “its military potential and imperial ambitions” but the ability of a state to organize “a global Armageddon no longer depends” on size alone, as North Korea shows (

            “Suppose Russia falls apart into several dozen parts, as those who love simple solutions now dream of,” Podrabinek continues. “It will take years if not decades to weaken the most heavily armed regions: After all, atomic weapons do not need vast spaces. They can easily be located on the territory of the Moscow region alone.”

            And that means that the disintegration of the country instead of reducing the threat its regime poses will at least initially increase it. The temptation of its leaders to use nuclear weapons will only increase because they will no longer have the resources necessary to support conventional weapons.

            Consequently, the rights activist says, “it must be clearly understood that an aggressive authoritarian regime doesn’t turn into a peaceful and democratic one just because the country has become smaller and there are fewer people in it. This is one case where size doesn’t matter.” Some large states like the US are democratic and peaceful. Others like Russia are not.

            “In the US, democracy triumphs; in Russia, dictatorship. Neither the extent of territory nor the history of its expansion explains anything. The causes for one country to become aggressive and dangerous for everyone including its own people and another peace-loving and supportive of its people must be searched for elsewhere.”

            And it must also be remembered, that “many present-day democracies are former empires: the British, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman, to name but three. France, Spain and Portugal were all colonial empires and this hasn’t prevented them from becoming democratic states now.”

            According to Podrabinek, “In the 21st century, imperial ambitions look out of place and, absurd. It is difficult to think of anything more stupid than to boast of a large territory and dream of expanding it. But one must understand that Russia’s war with Ukraine is not dictated by the desire to expand the territory of Russia.”

Instead, that was is “the only way the Kremlin had to preserve the authoritarian regime in the country. War and political repression are two ways a dictatorship survives. Without them, it will crumble like a house of cards.” It covered its actions with “an imperial sauce” because it believed that would make it easier for the population to support it.

But such expectations are increasingly out of date, Podrabinek says, as it shown by “the futility of attempts to build a state ideology, the managerial tool of yesterday. There is no doubt most people in Russia don’t approve of the war in Ukraine and do not have imperial dreams, as those who like simple solutions often suggest.”

            “When the Soviet Union collapsed, no one lifted a finger to glue the broken freak back together. What kind of imperialism is that? If something happened, it is in the past. And it is possible that even earlier it was just intrusive state propaganda - from Uvarov, Trotsky, Stalin, Brezhnev and their accomplices.”

            “Today, only those who, in their simplicity, take it at face value are susceptible to this propaganda.”


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