Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #784 “First, Tame the Intellectuals . . . .”

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. (The flash dri­ve includes the anti-fas­cist books avail­able on this site.)

Lis­ten: MP3

Side 1  Side 2

(We have done eight pro­grams to date about the Ukrain­ian cri­sis: FTR #‘s 777778779780781782, 783784.)

Pravy Sek­tor Activist

Intro­duc­tion: The title of the pro­gram is a quote from Adolph Hitler. The full quote is: “First, tame the intel­lec­tu­als. Then, take them to the fields and hitch them to your race­hors­es.” It applies direct­ly to the role of Amer­i­can and Ger­man polit­i­cal intel­lec­tu­als and jour­nal­ists in the fun­da­men­tal and delib­er­ate mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the events in and around the Ukraine.

In the Ukraine, prop­er, the fas­cist Swo­bo­da par­ty is tam­ing the intel­lec­tu­als in an alto­geth­er char­ac­ter­is­tic and–when necessary–brutal fash­ion. Sev­er­al Swo­bo­da par­lia­men­tary deputies roughed up the direc­tor of the largest state TV sta­tion in Ukraine and forced his resignation–this because he broad­cast excerpts of Putin’s speech about the annex­a­tion of Crimea. The assault was led by Ihor Mirosh­ny­chenko, the Deputy Chair of the par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on Free­dom of Speech and Infor­ma­tion! He is the same fel­low who referred to Ukrain­ian-born actress Mila Kunis as a “dirty Jew­ess.”

Oth­er, sim­i­lar, events have occurred else­where in Ukraine.

Swo­bo­da leader Oleh Tia­hany­bok: This is what con­sti­tutes “mod­er­a­tion” to our media

Like the U.S. media, the Ger­man media have been sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly mis­rep­re­sent­ing Swo­bo­da as some­thing oth­er than the fas­cist orga­ni­za­tion it clear­ly is. (Swo­bo­da dom­i­nates the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment, along with its fel­low OUN/B deriv­a­tive orga­ni­za­tion Pravy Sek­tor.) We note in pass­ing that the fascist/Nazi nature of the forces now hold­ing sway in Ukraine was empow­ered by the sytem­at­ic, delib­er­ate alter­ing of Ukrain­ian his­to­ry under the Yuschenko gov­ern­ment.

The slant­ed media cov­er­age in the U.S. and that in Ger­many appear to be coor­di­nat­ed, to some extent. Die Zeit has been front and cen­ter in down­play­ing the fas­cism in Ukraine. Jochen Bit­tner of that pub­li­ca­tion is a guest edi­to­r­i­al con­trib­u­tor to The New York Times. (We won­der if Serge Schme­mann might have some­thing to do with that devel­op­ment.)

Much of the pro­gram deals with the nature of the so-called demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­si­tion in Rus­sia, about which we’ve heard so much cat­er­waul­ing of late. In par­tic­u­lar, the pro­gram high­lights the true polit­i­cal cache of Alex­ei Naval­ny, recent­ly fea­tured as an op-ed writer in The New York Times.

Hailed as a “demo­c­rat” in our media, Naval­ny might bet­ter be termed a “fascionalist”–a xeno­phobe who is seen as unit­ing the racist anti-immi­grant right in Rus­sia and the cor­po­rate, urban mid­dle class.

The pro­gram con­cludes with review of West­ern intel­li­gence sup­port for Cau­ca­sus jihadist ele­ments.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: Review of Swo­bo­da’s cel­e­bra­tion of the Ukrain­ian Waf­fen SS units from World War II; the move by Ger­man Green Par­ty del­e­gates to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment to lim­it for­mer Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Ger­hard Schroed­er’s lim­it to free speech after he open­ly ques­tioned Ger­many’s pol­i­cy toward Ukraine; dis­cus­sion of a Russ­ian fas­cist known as “the hatch­et;” Naval­ny’s affin­i­ty with Russ­ian neo-fas­cist ele­ments; review of the role of Arrow-Cross/­GOP vet­er­an Las­z­lo Pasz­tor in the Free Con­gress Foun­da­tion’s inter­face with the Russ­ian IRG in the 1990’s.

1. The Orwellian cov­er­age of the Ukraine con­tin­ues, with the absence of cov­er­age in the West of a stun­ning, rep­re­sen­ta­tive action by Swo­boda par­li­men­tary deputies. Angered by a state tele­vi­sion station’s broad­cast of Vladimir Putin’s speech announc­ing the absorp­tion of Crimea into the Ukraine, sev­eral Swo­boda par­lia­men­tary deputies assault­ed him and forced him to sign a paper of res­ig­na­tion. The assault was led by Ihor Mirosh­ny­chenko, the Deputy Chair of the par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on Free­dom of Speech and Infor­ma­tion! He is the same fel­low who referred to Ukrain­ian-born actress Mila Kunis as a “dirty Jew­ess.”

“Nation­al­ist Svo­boda Par­ty mem­bers of par­lia­ment assault First Chan­nel TV man­ager” by Olga Rudenko; Kyiv Post; 3/19/2014.

Sev­eral mem­bers of the nation­al­ist Svo­boda Par­ty scan­dalously assault­ed the act­ing CEO of state-owned First Nation­al TV chan­nel. On March 18, law­mak­ers Ihor Mirosh­nichenko, Andriy Illenko and Bohdan Beniuk arrived at the TV head­quar­ters with sev­eral oth­er men and forced Olek­sandr Pan­te­ley­monov to quit his post.

In the video, which was first pub­lished by Svo­boda spokesman Olek­sandr Aronets and repub­lished by Ukrain­ska Prav­da after Aronets removed it, the mem­bers of par­lia­ment are seen ques­tion­ing Pan­te­ley­monov in his office about Per­shiy broad­cast­ing Russ­ian President’s Vladimir Putin’s speech about Crimea sep­a­ra­tion that took place in Moscow on March 18.

“Our view­ers have the right to know…” Pan­te­ley­monov starts mum­bling expla­na­tions, but gets inter­rupted by the law­mak­ers shout­ing “Know what? Know what?”

In the video, Pan­te­ley­monov is seen try­ing to explain him­self and speak­ing polite­ly, while the law­mak­ers sur­round him and shout rude­ly.

Mirosh­nichenko, the lead­ing voice of the group, pro­ceeded to accuse Pan­te­ley­monov of direct­ing an edi­to­r­ial pol­icy aimed at dis­cred­it­ing the Euro­Maidan Rev­o­lu­tion at the behest of the for­mer state author­i­ties and demand­ed that Pan­te­ley­monov leave his post imme­di­ate­ly.

Pan­te­ley­monov refused to do so and men­tioned that it was the Cab­i­net of Min­is­ters that con­trolled the TV sta­tion.

“Cab­i­net of Min­is­ters is over. I’m telling you — write the paper,” Mirosh­nichenko shout­ed in the manager’s face as he grabbed him and pulled him through the room to his desk.

Mirosh­nichenko then pushed Pan­te­ley­monov into his chair, Beniuk held him by the neck and Illienko passed him some paper. As Pan­te­ley­monov refused, Mirosh­nichenko and Beniuk beat him and slapped his face.

Even though the video doesn’t show it, the law­mak­ers did force the man­ager to quit.

As soon as the video was post­ed on the evening of March 18, it went viral and the actions of the law­mak­ers were wide­ly con­demned. Many were con­cerned that such actions com­ing from one of the par­ties that were brought to pow­er after the Euro­Maidan Rev­o­lu­tion would fuel Russ­ian pro­pa­ganda that has focused on vio­lence and nation­al­ism in Ukraine.

“These are not our meth­ods. The actions of these law­mak­ers are unac­cept­able,” was the reac­tion of Prime Min­is­ter Arseniy Yat­se­niuk, Svoboda’s polit­i­cal ally.

The assault was also con­demned by Ukraine’s Inde­pen­dent Media Union.

Even Svo­boda par­ty head and Miroshnichenko’s friend Oleh Tyah­ny­bok con­demned the attack. “Such actions were fine yes­ter­day (dur­ing the protests), but now they are inap­pro­pri­ate,” Tyah­ny­bok said in offi­cial state­ment.

After the scan­dal erupt­ed, Svoboda’s Aronets delet­ed the video and all the eyes turned to the pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral Oleh Maknit­skiy. Also a Svo­boda par­ty mem­ber, Maknit­skiy is now expect­ed to impar­tially inves­ti­gate the assault.

On the morn­ing of March 19, Makhnitskiy’s office released a state­ment promis­ing to just­ly deal with the case. Inte­rior Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov also con­demned the assault and said he was ready to have police help the pros­e­cu­tor general’s office in inves­ti­gat­ing the case. . . .

2. The inci­dent described above is, sad­ly, not atyp­i­cal of what is going on in Ukraine. Note, also, the sys­tem­at­ic Ger­man media effort to “put listick on the Nazi” Swo­bo­da orga­ni­za­tion. Swo­bo­da leader Oleh Tyah­ny­bok met with the Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter, among oth­ers.

“A Fatal Taboo Vio­la­tion”; german-foreign-policy.com; 3/21/2014.

The raids on TV edi­to­r­i­al boards by par­lia­men­tar­i­ans in the new Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment, which Ger­many helped bring to pow­er, is pro­vok­ing mas­sive protests. Tues­day evening, Svo­bo­da Par­ty MPs stormed the office of the act­ing Pres­i­dent of the Nation­al Tele­vi­sion Co. of Ukraine (NTU) and forced him to resign with phys­i­cal blows and ver­bal insults. A sim­i­lar inci­dent took place the day before in Cherni­hiv. Dozens of jour­nal­ists in Kiev and the OSCE Rep­re­sen­ta­tive on Free­dom of the Media have harsh­ly crit­i­cized these attacks, which are in line with Svo­bo­da’s elec­toral pro­gram promis­ing to revoke the licens­es of all media “spread­ing anti-Ukrain­ian pro­pa­gan­da.” Svo­bo­da’s par­ty pro­gram calls also for mak­ing the day of the found­ing of the Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army (UPA) a nation­al hol­i­day. The UPA had par­tic­i­pat­ed in the mas­sacres of Jew­ish Ukraini­ans and tens of thou­sands of Poles — accord­ing to esti­mates, up to 100.000 peo­ple. The Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter has lent this par­ty inter­na­tion­al social respectabil­i­ty and Ger­man media is char­ac­ter­iz­ing Svo­bo­da not as “fas­cist,” but mere­ly as “nation­al­ist.” A lead­ing Ger­man dai­ly claims that the leader, Oleh Tiah­ny­bok, has led his par­ty “out of the right-wing quag­mire.”

Svo­bo­da’s Media Spe­cial­ist

The raid on the Nation­al Tele­vi­sion Co. of Ukraine (NTU) car­ried out by a group of Svo­bo­da par­lia­men­tar­i­ans and thugs, has pro­voked new protests against the new Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. Under the lead­er­ship of MP Ihor Mirosh­ny­chenko, the Svo­bo­da activists forced their way into NTU Pres­i­dent Olek­san­dr Pan­te­ley­monov’s office, accus­ing him of serv­ing Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da inter­ests because he had broad­cast excerpts of the speech, Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Putin had held that day. They phys­i­cal­ly assault­ed him and forced him to resign. Mirosh­ny­chenko is the Deputy Chair of the par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on Free­dom of Speech and Infor­ma­tion. A video of the attack can be seen on the inter­net.[1] [Mirosh­ny­chenko is also the fel­low who termed Ukrain­ian-born actress Mila Kunis “Jew.”

Edi­to­r­i­al Coop­er­a­tion

This has not been the only such inci­dent. Accord­ing to the OSCE Rep­re­sen­ta­tive on Free­dom of the Media, already on Mon­day, a group of unnamed indi­vid­u­als stormed the nation­al tele­vi­sion office in the Chernigov region, forc­ing its direc­tor, Arkadiy Bilibayev, to resign.[2] The “Right Sec­tor’s” mili­tia occu­pied the TV sta­tion “Tonis” and sug­gest­ed “edi­to­r­i­al coop­er­a­tion.”[3]

Oth­er Meth­ods

Svo­bo­da’s attacks have sparked protests. In Kiev, dozens of jour­nal­ists demon­strat­ed against intim­i­da­tion attempts using force to end non-con­formist report­ing. OSCE Rep­re­sen­ta­tive on Free­dom of the Media, Dun­ja Mija­tović expressed her “out­rage.” The attack on NTU Direc­tor in Kiev is a “par­tic­u­lar­ly seri­ous inci­dent,” also because it was per­pe­trat­ed by mem­bers of the free­dom of speech and infor­ma­tion com­mit­tee of the Par­lia­ment. Svo­bo­da leader Oleh Tiah­ny­bok has now offi­cial­ly dis­so­ci­at­ed him­self from the attack, declar­ing that his par­ty must “under­stand” that it no longer is in the oppo­si­tion and there­fore, should use “oth­er meth­ods.” Tiah­ny­bok him­self has used vio­lence togeth­er with Mirosh­ny­chenko, as can be seen on the pho­to (right) tak­en in the Kiev par­lia­ment. A year ago, Mirosh­ny­chenko had made him­self a name, when insult­ing Ukrain­ian actress, Mila Kunis he referred to her as “Jew.”

“Typ­i­cal Russ­ian Pro­pa­gan­da”

While its fas­cist char­ac­ter becomes more evi­dent, from one day to the next, the Svo­bo­da Par­ty has under­gone quite a sur­pris­ing rhetor­i­cal car­ri­er in lead­ing Ger­man media organs. Where­as, in the fall of 2013, there was a basic con­sen­sus that the par­ty was rightwing extrem­ist, it has since gone through a major trans­for­ma­tion. As a dwin­dling num­ber of edi­to­r­i­al boards is char­ac­ter­iz­ing Svo­bo­da as “fas­cist” or “rightwing extrem­ist,” a grow­ing num­ber is using such attrib­ut­es as “rightwing pop­ulist,” “nation­al­ist,” or also, more recent­ly, “nation­al con­ser­v­a­tive.” Just a few days ago, a Ger­man dai­ly wrote that Svo­bo­da, pos­si­bly “before 2004, had nur­tured rightwing extrem­ist tra­di­tions.” How­ev­er, its leader Oleh Tiah­ny­bok has since “led the par­ty out of this rightwing quag­mire.” It would be “dif­fi­cult to find fas­cist or anti-Semit­ic remarks he [Tiah­ny­bok, (edi­tor’s note)] has made over the past few years,” accord­ing to the “Tagesspiegel.” Besides, the “fas­cism accu­sa­tion” is part “of the typ­i­cal Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da.”[4]

Fas­cist?

If one would take this alle­ga­tion seri­ous­ly, var­i­ous Svo­bo­da activ­i­ties under Tiah­ny­bok’s lead­er­ship in 2013 would no longer be con­sid­ered “fas­cist” or “rightwing extrem­ist.” This would include a neo-Nazi “Sven­skar­nas Par­ty” (Par­ty of the Swedes) meet­ing, March 23 — 24 2013 in Stock­holm, where Svo­bo­da was rep­re­sent­ed and one of the keynote speak­ers was from the Ger­man NPD par­ty. There would also be Svo­bo­da’s par­tic­i­pa­tion at the “Bore­al Fes­ti­val” in mid-Sep­tem­ber 2013 in Can­tù, Italy, where, along­side the “Sven­skar­nas Par­ty,” also Italy’s neo-fas­cist “Forza-Nuo­va” and the “British Nation­al Par­ty” were also present, or a meet­ing of a Svo­bo­da par­ty del­e­ga­tion with Sax­ony’s NPD region­al par­lia­men­tary group in late May.[5] The April 28, 2013, com­mem­o­ra­tion cel­e­bra­tion orga­nized by Svo­bo­da in Lviv for the 70th Anniver­sary of the found­ing of the “Gali­cian” SS Divi­sion, with a Svo­bo­da par­lia­men­tar­i­an in Kiev as keynote speak­er, would have noth­ing at all to do with fas­cism. The next day, Tiah­ny­bok met in Kiev with the Ger­man ambassador.[6] Accord­ing to the “Tagesspiegel’s” alle­ga­tions, Svo­bo­da’s memo­r­i­al cel­e­bra­tion in Octo­ber 2013 of the Octo­ber 14, 1942 found­ing of the “Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army” (UPA) would also not qual­i­fy as fas­cist. The UPA had mas­sa­cred around 100,000 peo­ple in the wake of the Nazi occu­piers, par­tic­u­lar­ly Jews.

Nation­al Hol­i­day

The Ger­man gov­ern­ment claims that “in the run-up to the 2012 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions” Svo­bo­da had revised its elec­toral pro­gram elim­i­nat­ing “rightwing extrem­ist state­ments” and insist­ing that, in his tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion with Tiah­ny­bok on April 29, the Ger­man ambas­sador had under­lined that “anti-Semit­ic remarks are unac­cept­able from the Ger­man view­point.”[7] But Svo­bo­da’s pro­gram is still unam­bigu­ous. For exam­ple, the par­ty demands that all media organs spread­ing “anti-Ukrain­ian pro­pa­gan­da” have their licens­es revoked. The par­lia­men­tar­i­an Ihor Mirosh­ny­chenko used pre­cise­ly this argu­ment to jus­ti­fy his attack on NTU’s direc­tor. Accord­ing to its elec­toral pro­gram, Svo­bo­da seeks to out­law “any dis­play of Ukrain­o­pho­bia” and ban “sex­u­al per­ver­sion” — refer­ring also to homo­sex­u­al­i­ty. The par­ty calls for a “state pro­gram of patri­ot­ic edu­ca­tion and hard­en­ing the nature of the young gen­er­a­tion” and pro­motes “patri­ot­ic orga­ni­za­tions.” “Patri­o­tism” would be defined by Svo­bo­da’s view of his­to­ry: It plans to declare the crimes of the Nazi UPA and of the Orga­ni­za­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ist (OUN) col­lab­o­ra­tors a “nation­al lib­er­a­tion strug­gle” and wants to give UPA vet­er­ans “prop­er priv­i­leges,” and declare Octo­ber 14, the day the UPA was found­ed, a “nation­al hol­i­day” — the “Day of Ukrain­ian Weapon­ry.”[8]

“Gone Wrong More than Once”

When on Feb­ru­ary 20, the Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier (SPD) appeared in pub­lic at the side of Svo­bo­da leader Oleh Tiah­ny­bok, he lent that par­ty social respectabil­i­ty as an accept­able coop­er­a­tion part­ner. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[9]) A few days ago, for­mer EU-Com­mis­sion­er, Gün­ter Ver­heugen (SPD), was unam­bigu­ous in his views con­cern­ing Svo­bo­da. It is a fatal “vio­la­tion of a taboo” to accept “real fas­cists in a gov­ern­ment,” Ver­heugen declared: “Inte­grat­ing rad­i­cal forces, has gone ter­ri­bly wrong more than once in Euro­pean his­to­ry. This should not be forgotten.”[10]

3a. Anoth­er sto­ry in German-Foreign-Policy.com dis­cuss­es the “Min­istry of Truth” as it has oper­at­ed in Ger­many. Ger­man dailies are dis­tanc­ing them­selves from pre­vi­ous com­mit­ments to car­ry the “Rus­sia Today” pages, car­ried in var­i­ous West­ern pub­li­ca­tions.

More impor­tant­ly, Die Zeit has helped to set the pace with regard to pro­pa­gan­diz­ing the Ukrain­ian cri­sis. Note his links to var­i­ous transat­lantic pol­i­cy form­ing groups.

High­light­ing the over-the-top nature of the Transat­lantic pro­pa­gan­diz­ing of the Ukraine cri­sis is the move by Ger­man Green Par­ty del­e­gates to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment to lim­it for­mer Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Ger­hard Schroed­er’s lim­it to free speech after he open­ly ques­tioned Ger­many’s pol­i­cy toward Ukraine. (This should­n’t be too sur­pris­ing to vet­er­an lis­ten­ers, as the Ger­man Green Par­ty’s roots are anchored not only in the Third Reich but the SS.)

“The Free World”; german-foreign-policy.com; 3/17/2014.

In light of the pend­ing incor­po­ra­tion of the Crimea into the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, Ger­man politi­cians and media are step­ping up their Rus­so­phobe agi­ta­tion. The pub­lic’s “under­stand­ing for Moscow’s alleged motives” regard­ing the Crimea, remains “strik­ing­ly high,” com­plains a lead­ing Ger­man dai­ly. This reflects the view that West­ern glob­al aggres­sions are either “not bet­ter or even worse.” In this con­text, a lead­ing Ger­man news­pa­per, the “Süd­deutsche Zeitung,” has dis­con­tin­ued a Russ­ian PR insert, which it had begun car­ry­ing fol­low­ing a lucra­tive Euro­pean-Russ­ian eco­nom­ic con­fer­ence. Anoth­er lead­ing pub­li­ca­tion, the week­ly “Die Zeit”, has “apol­o­gized” for hav­ing print­ed dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed arti­cles about the Ukraine. The author, a free­lance jour­nal­ist, had also earned his liv­ing, doing edi­to­r­i­al work for the above-men­tioned Russ­ian PR insert. Last week, the lead­ing Ger­man Green Par­ty’s can­di­date for the Euro­pean par­lia­men­tary elec­tions tabled a motion for a gag order on for­mer Ger­man Chan­cel­lor, Ger­hard Schröder, who had crit­i­cized the EU’s Ukrain­ian pol­i­cy. This motion, to restrict his right of free­dom of expres­sion, has been ulti­mate­ly reject­ed by the Euro­pean par­lia­ment, how­ev­er, not by her Par­ty.

Two Blocks

From a pure­ly strate­gic point of view, Moscow, with yes­ter­day’s ref­er­en­dum and Crimea’s pend­ing incor­po­ra­tion into the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, suc­ceed­ed in launch­ing a first effec­tive counter-coup against the West­’s more than twen­ty-year offen­sive. For years now, with the EU’s and NATO’s east­ward expan­sion and its sub­se­quent “East­ern Part­ner­ship,” Berlin, Brus­sels and Wash­ing­ton have been able to attract coun­tries, sit­u­at­ed between Rus­sia and the West­ern Alliance and which had not yet opt­ed for one side or the oth­er. In 2008, the West suf­fered its first set­back, when Rus­sia coun­tered Geor­gia’s mil­i­tary aggres­sion by Abk­hazia and South Osse­ti­a’s de fac­to seces­sion from that coun­try. From the per­spec­tive of pow­er pol­i­tics, Crimea’s annex­a­tion — Moscow’s response to repeat­ed west­ern attempts to take over Ukraine — is the first real effec­tive counter-coup: Unlike Abk­hazia and South Osse­tia, the Crimean Penin­su­la, in the mid­dle of the Black Sea, is of great geo-strate­gic impor­tance (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[1]). While busi­ness cir­cles are try­ing to sal­vage their deals with Rus­sia, Berlin, Brus­sels and Wash­ing­ton are aggra­vat­ing the polit­i­cal con­fronta­tion. Moscow’s chal­lenge to West­ern hege­mon­ic claims will not go unan­swered.

Free Expres­sion

Cur­rent­ly this is clear­ly reflect­ed in the lead­ing Ger­man media, which is seek­ing to swing pub­lic opin­ion to approval of the polit­i­cal con­fronta­tion. A lead­ing dai­ly, for exam­ple, is warn­ing that the pub­lic’s “under­stand­ing for Moscow’s alleged motives” is still “strik­ing­ly high,” reflect­ing the view that “what the Amer­i­cans do is not bet­ter or maybe even worse.”[2] Pro­po­nents of this view can in fact point to numer­ous US wars over the past few decades and to Ger­man aggres­sion, such as in Yugoslavia. Twen­ty years of repeat­ed west­ern vio­la­tions of inter­na­tion­al law — includ­ing wars of aggres­sion, also with Ger­man par­tic­i­pa­tion — accu­sa­tions of Moscow vio­lat­ing inter­na­tion­al law in the Crimea, has obvi­ous­ly lit­tle impact. The lead­ing media is there­fore inten­si­fy­ing the dose.

The Free Mar­ket

The cur­rent dis­sention over the dai­ly “Süd­deutsche Zeitung’s” month­ly PR-insert “Rus­s­land Heute” (“Rus­sia Today”) is but one exam­ple. “Rus­sia Today’s” offi­cial objec­tive is to trans­mit “a pos­i­tive image of Rus­sia.” The insert appeared for the first time in the “Süd­deutsche Zeitung” at the end of 2010, in the imme­di­ate after­math of an eco­nom­ic con­fer­ence in Berlin’s noble Adlon Hotel. At the con­fer­ence, Prime Min­is­ter Putin had called for an inten­si­fi­ca­tion of Euro­pean-Russ­ian eco­nom­ic rela­tions — mak­ing lucra­tive offers for Ger­man indus­try. Oth­er Euro­pean and US-Amer­i­can media, for exam­ple, the British “Dai­ly Tele­graph,” the French “Le Figaro,” Spain’s El País as well as the “New York Times” and “Wash­ing­ton Post” also car­ry “Rus­sia Today.” The “Süd­deutsche Zeitung” declared today that, because of the Crimea con­flict, it will no longer car­ry the pro-Russ­ian insert, co-financed by the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, and, it has also ter­mi­nat­ed its coop­er­a­tion with “Rus­sia Today.”[3]

The Free Press

The cur­rent esca­la­tion in devel­op­ments has also had an affect on a renowned cor­re­spon­dent for East­ern Europe, who, over the past few weeks, has attract­ed atten­tion with his dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed arti­cles on the Ukrain­ian sit­u­a­tion. Moritz Gath­man­n’s arti­cles had also been pub­lished in the on-line edi­tion of the week­ly “Die Zeit.” Since 2010, Gath­mann, a free-lance jour­nal­ist, has also been a “guest edi­tor” for “Rus­sia Today.” March 8, the head of the West­deutsche All­ge­meine Zeitung’s (WAZ) inves­tiga­tive team, David Schraven, pub­licly twit­tered a com­plaint to “Die Zeit”: “it would be bet­ter to say that Moritz Gath­mann works in the ser­vice of Rus­s­la’s pro­pa­gan­da.” Two hours lat­er, the chief-edi­tor of “Die Zeit On-Line,” Jochen Weg­n­er, twit­tered back: “coop­er­a­tion ter­mi­nat­ed.” Since then, “Die Zeit On-Line” has been pub­lish­ing a dis­claimer under each of Gath­man­n’s arti­cles on its site: “Dis­claimer: The author works for the Russ­ian state-co-financed ‘Rus­s­land Heute’ jour­nal insert. This does not con­form to our basic prin­ci­ples. There­fore, we apol­o­gize.” In the cur­rent heat­ed debate, this is tan­ta­mount to the jour­nal­ist’s pub­lic pil­lo­ry­ing. This has made high waves on the media scene. It is not con­ducive to wage-earn­ing jour­nal­ists to go against the Rus­so­phobe main­stream.

The Free Elites

It should also be not­ed that there is obvi­ous­ly no con­tra­dic­tion with “Die Zeit On-Line’s” “basic prin­ci­ples” to close­ly coop­er­ate with Berlin’s and Wash­ing­ton’s for­eign pol­i­cy net­works. For exam­ple, “Die Zeit” edi­tor Jochen Bit­tner had par­tic­i­pat­ed in a coop­er­a­tion project spon­sored by the Ger­man Insti­tute for Inter­na­tion­al and Secu­ri­ty Affairs (SWP) and the “Ger­man Mar­shall Fund,” which — pro­mot­ed by the Pol­i­cy Plan­ning Staff of Ger­many’s Min­istry of For­eign Affairs — wrote the study, “Ele­ments of a For­eign Pol­i­cy Strat­e­gy for Ger­many.” Crit­ics draw par­al­lels between the con­tents of the project paper “New Pow­er. New Responsibility”[4] and stand­points expressed in Bit­tner’s arti­cles. “Die Zeit” has pub­lished no “dis­claimer” under his arti­cles. The same applies to the arti­cles writ­ten by “Die Zeit’s” co-pro­duc­er, Josef Joffe. His texts became one of the sub­jects of a media sci­ence dis­ser­ta­tion pub­lished last year. The author arrives at the con­clu­sion that Joffe not only min­gles in “elite transat­lantic ide­o­log­i­cal cir­cles (...), sup­ple­ment­ed with an EU com­po­nent” — a ref­er­ence to his mem­ber­ship in diverse orga­ni­za­tions for Ger­man and transat­lantic for­eign pol­i­cy — but, he even pro­motes key objec­tives of the Ger­man or transat­lantic estab­lish­ments, in part as pro­pa­gan­da with­in his texts. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5])

The Free Speech

The lev­el reached by the inten­si­fi­ca­tion of Rus­so­phobe agi­ta­tion can be seen in an attempt by a “Green” Euro­pean par­lia­men­tar­i­an to par­tial­ly strip for­mer Chan­cel­lor Ger­hard Schröder of his right to free­dom of speech. Schröder recent­ly spoke quite crit­i­cal­ly on the EU’s Ukraine pol­i­cy and dur­ing a pub­lic event declared “I won­der if it was the right thing to do, to place a cul­tur­al­ly divid­ed coun­try, such as the Ukraine, before the alter­na­tive: asso­ci­a­tion agree­ment with the EU or cus­toms agree­ment with Rus­sia.” Rebec­ca Harms, the lead­ing Green Par­ty can­di­date in the upcom­ing Euro­pean par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, issued a state­ment say­ing that she con­sid­ers Schröder’s state­ments “part of a cam­paign” to “win more sym­pa­thy for Putin.” Last Thurs­day, togeth­er with anoth­er Green Par­ty politi­cian, Daniel Cohn-Ben­dit, she, there­fore, tabled a motion in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment that the par­lia­ment finds Schröder’s state­ment “regret­table” and “reit­er­ates” that the for­mer Ger­man Chan­cel­lor “should refrain from mak­ing pub­lic state­ments on Russia.”[6]

Only a Test Run

With amaze­ment, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment has reject­ed an attempt by the Ger­man Greens to restrict the right to free­dom of expres­sion in a prece­dence case. Nev­er­the­less, this inci­dent is but an indi­ca­tion that still stand­ing demo­c­ra­t­ic taboos could be bro­ken in the cur­rent fren­zy of Rus­so­phobe agi­ta­tion, with­out con­se­quences for the per­pe­tra­tors. The pow­er strug­gle over the Ukraine, as the back­drop, is per­ceived in Berlin as a “test run” [7] for the new Ger­man for­eign pol­i­cy. To be suc­cess­ful, this new pol­i­cy must win broad pop­u­lar sup­port at home — by any means nec­es­sary.

3b. Note that Jochen Bit­tner is a con­trib­u­tor to the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times.

“Jochen Bit­tner” [The Opin­ion Pages]; The New York Times

4a. Indica­tive of the dog­mat­ic edi­to­r­i­al slant that The New York Times brings to the Ukraine cri­sis, an op-ed piece by Alex­ey Naval­ny was pre­sent­ed, with no dis­cus­sion of the polit­i­cal nature of this crea­ture.

“How to Pun­ish Putin” by Alex­ey Naval­ny; The New York Times; 3/19/2014.

As I write this, I am under house arrest. I was detained at a ral­ly in sup­port of anti-Putin pro­test­ers who were jailed last month.

In Sep­tem­ber, I ran for may­or of Moscow as a pro-reform, pro-democ­ra­cy oppo­si­tion can­di­date and received almost a third of the vote despite hav­ing no access to state media. Today, my blog, which was until recent­ly vis­it­ed by over two mil­lion read­ers per month, has been blocked as “extrem­ist” after I called for friend­ly ties with Ukraine and com­pli­ance with inter­na­tion­al law.

For years, I have been telling jour­nal­ists that Pres­i­dent Vladimir V. Putin’s approval rat­ing would soon peak and then tum­ble. Russia’s econ­o­my is stag­nant, I said, and the Russ­ian peo­ple would soon weary of the president’s emp­ty promis­es. Even a ral­ly-round-the-flag mil­i­tary adven­ture — a “lit­tle war,” as it’s known in Rus­sia — would be impos­si­ble, I believed. Rus­sia no longer had ene­mies.

Then, on Feb. 28, Rus­sia sent troops to Ukraine in pre­cise­ly such a “lit­tle war.” I admit that I under­es­ti­mat­ed Mr. Putin’s tal­ent for find­ing ene­mies, as well as his ded­i­ca­tion to rul­ing as “pres­i­dent for life,” with pow­ers on par with the czars’. . . .

4b.  The coali­tion that assem­bled to attempt the oust­ing of Vladimir Putin embraces lib­er­als, left­ists and “nationalists”–that’s New York Times code for fas­cists, a word that Amer­i­can jour­nal­ists sel­dom use. That coalition–strained because of the promi­nence of fas­cist in its midst–is rem­i­nis­cent in some ways of the one that oust­ed the author­i­tar­i­an Hos­ni Mubarak. That event, as we have seen, has led to the rise of the Islam­o­fas­cist Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Egypt.

In the event that the Russ­ian coali­tion suc­ceeds in its goal of oust­ing Putin (some­thing the U.S. and the fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies would love to see), will we see the fas­cists ele­ments seiz­ing con­trol? Russ­ian and Egypt­ian soci­eties dif­fer great­ly, but fas­cists have his­tor­i­cal­ly been quite suc­cess­ful at seiz­ing pow­er through demo­c­ra­t­ic means and then deny­ing demo­c­ra­t­ic process to their oppo­nents and for­mer coali­tion part­ners.

Should the fascists–excuse me “nationalists”–either gain pow­er or sus­tain a suf­fi­cient­ly high pro­file to affect both pol­i­cy and per­cep­tion, among the pos­si­ble effects of that might be to dri­ve the oil-rich Cau­ca­sus to secede from Rus­sia.  This would no doubt be much to the lik­ing of West­ern oil com­pa­nies, who’ve cov­et­ed that region for decades. One of the fas­cists’ rhetor­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal points con­cerns hos­til­i­ty toward peo­ple from that region.

The res­i­dents of the Cau­ca­sus will not be doing the Var­si­ty Rag if the enmi­ty toward them is insti­tu­tion­al­ized by the rul­ing polit­i­cal inter­ests.

The best known of the lead­ers of the Russ­ian oppo­si­tion, a “fas­cional­ist” named Alex­ei Naval­ny, is seen as capa­ble of unit­ing the Doc Martens-wear­ing cadre of the far right and the dis­en­chant­ed and eco­nom­i­cal­ly embat­tled mid­dle class. A polit­i­cal union of that type might well sweep into pow­er, reca­pit­u­lat­ing the com­bi­na­tion of racism/xenophobia and eco­nom­ic suf­fer­ing so effec­tive­ly used by fas­cists through the decades.

“Russ­ian Oppo­si­tion Leader Alex­ei Naval­ny: Unit­ing Nation­al­ists and the Urban, Edu­cat­ed Mid­dle Class”; Aid Nether­lands; 12/31/2011.

. . . . Why Naval­ny? One rea­son is that dec­la­ra­tions like “I will slit the throats of these cat­tle,” though metaphor­i­cal, are no mere puffery. Unlike many in the Russ­ian oppo­si­tion, Naval­ny puts his words into action, and in a cli­mate where more than a few gov­ern­ment crit­ics have met their demise, this action puts his life on the line. Yet, he remains fear­less. “It’s bet­ter to die stand­ing up that live on your knees,” he told the New Yorker’s Julia Ioffe last spring. With that kind of gump­tion, it’s safe to say that Naval­ny has become a nag­ging pain in the ass of Russia’s cor­rupt elite. He’s done so not by stag­ing ral­lies, lead­ing a polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion, or seek­ing polit­i­cal office. Naval­ny is an activist of the 21st cen­tu­ry: his weapons are a blog, Twit­ter, and a crowd­sourc­ing web­site. His army is mot­ley of “net­work ham­sters” ready to root out big mon­eyed cor­rup­tion by comb­ing through dry con­tracts post­ed on his site Rospil. The results are impres­sive. Since Rospil’s cre­ation in Decem­ber 2010, Naval­ny and his army are respon­si­ble for the can­celling of $1.2 bil­lion worth of state con­tracts. Giv­en all this, it’s amaz­ing that some­one has yet to slit his throat.

But Naval­ny is more than an anti-cor­rup­tion cru­sad­er and renowned blog­ger. The thir­ty-five year old Mus­covite lawyer is also emblem­at­ic of two forces that were once sup­port­ers of Putin, but are now increas­ing­ly turn­ing against him: the urban, edu­cat­ed mid­dle class, or ROG (russkie obra­zo­van­nye gorozhane) as pun­dit Stanislav Belkovskii has dubbed them, and Rus­sians with nation­al­ist sym­pa­thies. On the sur­face these two groups appear anti­thet­i­cal to each oth­er. The for­mer are often described as “hip­ster-gad­get-lovers” (khip­stery-gazhetomany) more inter­est­ed in Moscow’s cafes, clubs, and sushi bars, and, until two weeks ago, showed no inter­est in pol­i­tics besides rant­i­ng on their Live Jour­nal blogs and Twit­ter accounts. The nation­al­ists are por­trayed as racist work­ing class street thugs whose sense of Russ­ian vic­tim­hood speaks through fists and boots to the heads of migrants from Cen­tral Asia and the North Cau­ca­sus. Nev­er­the­less, both groups share com­mon ground: they’re by and large sus­pi­cious of the West and the Russ­ian lib­er­als who extol its val­ues, patri­ot­ic, despise cor­rup­tion, view immi­grants as destroy­ing the integri­ty of the Russ­ian nation and increas­ing­ly loathe Putin and his cronies. With a foot in each world, Naval­ny is emerg­ing as the log­i­cal per­son who could unite them around a new mass polit­i­cal move­ment based on what Alex­ei Pimen­ov recent­ly called “an anti-cor­rup­tion pathos plus the nation­al idea.” . . . .

5. One of the Russ­ian fascists–Maksim  Martsinkevich–has the nick­name “The Hatch­et.” One won­ders if he knows Makis Voridis, the Greek fas­cist min­is­ter of trans­porta­tion and intrastruc­ture who has the nick­name “the Ham­mer.”

“Russ­ian Lib­er­als Grow­ing Uneasy with Alliances” by Michael Swirtz; The New York Times; 1/29/2012.

. . . . For more than two decades, Russ­ian lib­er­als have been warn­ing of the dan­gers posed by nation­al­ism, often por­tray­ing it as a greater threat to free­dom and sta­bil­i­ty in this mul­ti­eth­nic coun­try than the soft author­i­tar­i­an­ism of Mr. Putin, Russia’s once and prob­a­bly future pres­i­dent. In recent years, the nation­al­ist move­ment has become large and increas­ing­ly malig­nant, respon­si­ble for a pat­tern of racist vio­lence against non-Slavs that includes kid­nap­ping, tor­ture and mur­der. Nation­al­ists have tak­en respon­si­bil­i­ty for sev­er­al behead­ings.

But in the effort to dri­ve out Mr. Putin, the oppo­si­tion, dri­ven by lib­er­al and mid­dle-class Rus­sians, has nonethe­less reached out to nation­al­ists, see­ing them as a vital bul­wark at a crit­i­cal moment.

Before he could make his case, Mr. Bik­bov was drowned out by a mix­ture of applause and boos, prompt­ing the mod­er­a­tor to remove his ques­tion from the dis­cus­sion. One audi­ence mem­ber called him a “lib­er­al fas­cist.”

As the nascent oppo­si­tion move­ment pre­pares for its next major day of protest, set for Feb. 4, the ten­ta­tive embrace of an alliance with nation­al­ists has emerged as a defin­ing step — but the con­se­quences of such a move are far from cer­tain. . . .

. . . . Mr. Pono­mary­ov said he ini­tial­ly resist­ed the inclu­sion of nation­al­ist lead­ers, but relent­ed when mem­bers agreed to sign a pact denounc­ing xeno­pho­bia and racism. A del­e­ga­tion of 10 nation­al­ists will join an equal num­ber of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from left-wing and lib­er­al groups and a del­e­ga­tion of the polit­i­cal­ly unaf­fil­i­at­ed in the lead­er­ship com­mit­tee of the so-called Cit­i­zens Move­ment, which will coor­di­nate future actions. There are lim­its to the lib­er­als’ tol­er­ance, how­ev­er. When an avowed white suprema­cist, Mak­sim Martsinke­vich, nick­named the Hatch­et, made the top three in an online vote for speak­ers at the sec­ond protest, orga­niz­ers stepped in, deny­ing him the micro­phone . . .

6. On Naval­ny’s posi­tion with­in the Russ­ian “oppo­si­tion.” Note that he par­tic­i­pat­ed in a march by the racist “nation­al­ists,” some of whom raised their hands in a Nazi salute.

. . . . Naval­ny took part in last month’s Russ­ian March in which thou­sands of nation­al­ists marched through Moscow to call on eth­nic Rus­sians to “take back” their coun­try, some rais­ing their hands in a Nazi salute.

Many Rus­sians resent the influx of dark-skinned Mus­lims into Moscow and oth­er cities. Many also resent the dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of bud­get mon­ey sent to Chech­nya and oth­er Cau­ca­sus republics, seen as a Krem­lin effort to buy loy­alty after two sep­a­ratist wars.

Naval­ny defends his asso­ci­a­tion with nation­al­ists by say­ing their con­cerns are wide­spread and need to be addressed as part of any broad move­ment push­ing for demo­c­ra­tic change, but many in the lib­eral oppo­si­tion fear that he is play­ing with fire.

Some oppo­si­tion lead­ers also seem alarmed by Navalny’s soar­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty.

“We are already see­ing signs of a Naval­ny cult,” Vladimir Milov wrote in a col­umn in the online Gazeta.ru. “I wouldn’t be sur­prised if grand­moth­ers from the provinces start show­ing up here ask­ing where they can find him so he can cure their ill­ness­es.” . . .

7a. Again, imag­ine if Naval­ny were to become Russ­ian pres­i­dent:

“Russ­ian Oppo­si­tion Leader Alex­ei Naval­ny: Unit­ing Nation­al­ists and The Urban, Edu­cat­ed Mid­dle Class” by Sean Guil­lo­ry; Exiled Online; 12/26/2011.

. . . . Among his oth­er nation­al­ist fits, he wrote off the neo-fas­cist Move­ment Against Ille­gal Immi­gra­tion as harm­less as “girl scouts”; declared that immi­grants “will NEVER assim­i­late” and are a “bomb under our future”; called on Rus­sians to arm them­selves against “Mus­lim-look­ing crim­i­nals,” sup­port­ed the nation­al­ist inspired “Stop Feed­ing the Cau­ca­sus” cam­paign, and most recent­ly joined the orga­niz­ing com­mit­tee of the year­ly nation­al­ist pow­wow, the Russ­ian March. . . .

7b. We won­der how many of the “urban mid­dle class” about whom we hear so much may have evolved from some of the IRG ele­ments in the 1990’s that net­worked with Las­z­lo Pasztor–the Hun­gar­i­an fas­cist who head­ed the GOP’s eth­nic out­reach orga­ni­za­tion and was also the Free Con­gress Foun­da­tion’s point man inter­fac­ing with Boris Yeltsin’s IRG.

“The Free Con­gress Foun­da­tion Goes East” by Russ Bel­lant and Louis Wolf; Covert Action Infor­ma­tion Bul­letin #35; Fall/1990.

With the rapid pace of polit­i­cal change sweep­ing East­ern Europe and the Union of Sovi­et Social­ist Republics, many oppor­tu­ni­ties have emerged for west­ern inter­ests to inter­vene in the pol­i­tics of  that region. In some cas­es, such a vac­uum has been cre­ated that vir­tual strangers to the area sev­eral years ago are now able to active­ly par­tic­i­pate in chang­ing those soci­eties from with­in.

These inter­ven­tions are not only being prac­ticed by main­stream orga­ni­za­tions. The involve­ment of the Unit­ed States Far Right brings with it the poten­tial revival of fas­cist orga­ni­za­tions in the East. One U.S. group, the Free Con­gress Foun­da­tion, has been plahy­ing a role in East­ern Euro­pean and Sovi­et pol­i­tics and has ties to Boris Yeltsin and the Inter-Region­al Deputies Group (IRG) in the U.S.S.R.

The Free Con­gress Foun­da­tion (FCF) was found­ed in 1974 by Paul Weyrich as the Com­mit­tee for the Sur­vival of a Free Con­gress. Weyrich, who had start­ed the Her­itage Foun­da­tion the year before, was heav­ily fund­ed by the Coors fam­ily for both orga­ni­za­tions.

Weyrich has kept one foot in the right wing of the Repub­li­can Par­ty while dal­ly­ing with the racist Right and the extreme Chris­t­ian Right. In 1976, for instance, he and a hand­ful of oth­er New Rights (William Rush­er, Mor­ton Black­well, Richard Viguerie) attempt­ed to take over the seg­re­ga­tion­ist  Amer­i­can Inde­pen­dent Par­ty (AIP), formed by George Wal­lace in 1968. The AIP was an amal­gam of Ku Klux Klan and John Birch Soci­ety ele­ments. . . .

. . . . The IRG was estab­lished by Andrei Sakharov, Boris Yeltsin and oth­ers in the sum­mer of 1989. By the end of that year, a train­ing school had been estab­lished for can­di­dates to put for­ward the IRG pro­gram. Their elec­toral suc­cess this year pro­pelled Yeltsin to the lead­er­ship of the Russ­ian Sovi­et Social­ist Repub­lic. He imme­di­ately began forg­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive rela­tion­ships with the deeply reac­tionary lead­ers of the Lithuan­ian Sajud­is par­ty. The IRG has also served as a source of right-wing pres­sure on Gor­bachev to dis­man­tle social­ism and the Sovi­et Union itself.

One of the key dan­gers in this agen­da is the polit­i­cal vac­uum it cre­ates, allow­ing ultra-nation­al­ist forces in a num­ber of republics to take pow­er. Such nation­al­ist and fas­cist ele­ments are already evi­dent in Lithua­nia and the Ukraine. In the lat­ter repub­lic, the pro-Nazi Orga­ni­za­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists (OUN) has gained influ­ence in sev­eral par­ties and has mobi­lized large demon­stra­tions that hon­or OUN lead­ers who abet­ted Hitler’s war on the East­ern Front. Sim­i­larly, sev­eral deputies Sajud­is deputies served in Ger­man mil­i­tary units in 1944, and Sajud­is has made dec­la­ra­tions against eth­nic Rus­sians liv­ing in Lithua­nia. Accord­ing to some reports, Poles have also been den­i­grat­ed.

It should also be not­ed that the “rad­i­cal reformer” Boris Yeltsin has dal­lied with Pamy­at, the fore­most Russ­ian fas­cist group to emerge in the last sev­eral years. Pamyat’s vir­u­lent anti-Semi­tism com­pares to the crude pro­pa­ganda of the ear­ly Ger­man Nazi Par­ty in the 1920’s.

The FCF is not entire­ly dis­con­nected from the his­tory of the OUN. The Trea­surer of the FCF board is George­town Uni­ver­sity Pro­fes­sor Charles Moser. Moser is also serves on the edi­to­r­ial advi­sory board of the Ukrain­ian Quar­terly, pub­lished by the Ukrain­ian Con­gress Com­mit­tee of Amer­ica, a group dom­i­nated by the OUN. The Ukrain­ian Quar­terly has praised mil­i­tary units of the Ger­man SS and oth­er­wise jus­ti­fied the OUN alliance with the Third Reich which reflects the fact that the OUN was polit­i­cally and mil­i­tar­ily allied with Hitler and the Nazi occu­pa­tion of the Ukraine.

The OUN, an inter­na­tional semi-secret cadre orga­ni­za­tion head­quar­tered in Bavaria, has received finan­cial assis­tance from the late Franz Joseph Strauss, the right­ist head of the Bavar­ian state. Strauss also had a work­ing rela­tion­ship with Weyrich. . . .

. . . . Final­ly, FCF’s insin­u­a­tion into the pol­i­tics of the East must be judged by their selec­tion of Las­zlo Pasz­tor to head their Lib­er­a­tion Sup­port Alliance, “which seeks to lib­er­ate peo­ples in Cen­tral and East­ern Euro­pean Nations.”

Pasztor’s involve­ment in East Euro­pean pol­i­tics began in World War II when he joined the youth orga­ni­za­tion of the Arrow Cross, the Nazi par­ty of Hun­gary.

When the Arrow Cross was installed in pow­er by a Ger­man com­mando oper­a­tion, Pasz­tor was sent to Berlin to help facil­i­tate the liai­son between the Arrow Cross and Hitler.

Pasz­tor was tried and served two years in jail for his Arrow Cross activ­i­ties after an anti­com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment was elect­ed in 1945. He even­tu­ally came to the U.S. and estab­lished the eth­nic arm of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee for Richard Nixon. He brought oth­er Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors from the East­ern front into the GOP. Some were lat­er found to have par­tic­i­pated in mass mur­der dur­ing the war.

The dor­mant Arrow Cross has sur­faced again in Hun­gary, where there have been attempts to lift the ban on the orga­ni­za­tion. Pasz­tor spent sev­eral months in Hun­gary. When Weyrich lat­er con­ducted train­ing there, he was pro­vided a list of Pasztor’s con­tacts inside the coun­try. Weyrich reports that he con­ducted train­ing for the recent­ly formed and now gov­ern­ing New Demo­c­ra­tic Forum.

Pasz­tor claims to have assist­ed some of his friends in Hun­gary in get­ting NED funds through his advi­sory posi­tion with NED. In 1989 he spoke at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion under the spon­sor­ship of the Anti-Bol­she­vik Bloc of Nations (ABN), a multi­na­tional umbrel­la orga­ni­za­tion of emi­gre fas­cists and Nazis found­ed in alliance with Hitler in 1943. It is led by the OUN. Pasz­tor spoke for the “Hun­gar­ian Orga­ni­za­tion” of ABN, which is the Arrow Cross. . . . .

8. The pro­gram con­cludes by review­ing a fright­en­ing arti­cle about appar­ent U.S. sup­port for a Geor­gia-based jiha­di con­fer­ence. Rich with fos­sil fuels, the Cau­ca­sus region has long been the focal point of hos­tile activ­ity by for­eign inter­ests look­ing to secure those resources for them­selves, wrest­ing the area away from Rus­sia and/or the for­mer Sovi­et Union. In FTR #646, we looked at the Bush administration’s close nation­al secu­rity con­nec­tions to the Geor­gian repub­lic, result­ing in a secu­rity agree­ment with that state, con­cluded on the eve of Obama’s inau­gu­ra­tion.

In FTR #773, we looked at the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, appar­ent blow­back from the West­ern-backed Cau­ca­sus jihadist war.

One can but won­der if petro­leum con­stituen­cies in the West are look­ing to use Mus­lim Broth­er­hood-con­nect­ed ele­ments to foment the inde­pen­dence of those regions. The areas are also piv­otal in the tran­sit of hero­in, in addi­tion to logis­ti­cal sup­port for the war in Afghanistan.

In turn, it can be safe­ly sur­mised that Rus­sia will not give these areas up. What is to be under­stood here, is that the West is engag­ing in low-inten­si­ty war­fare against Rus­sia. Undoubt­ed­ly, that has much to do with Rus­si­a’s actions in the Ukraine.

“Gorin: More Details on the Geor­gia-Host­ed Jiha­di Con­fer­ence Emerge” by Julia Gorin; Jihad Watch; 4/12/2010.

An analy­sis pub­lished Mon­day by Defense & For­eign Affairs offers some cor­rob­o­ra­tion for the Geor­gia-host­ed, U.S.-approved jiha­di con­fab in Decem­ber, the men­tion of which seemed to upset some read­ers.

Here are the rel­e­vant excerpts from the 16-page analy­sis, which is sub­scrip­tion-only and there­fore not link­able:

Mean­while, Geor­gia is active­ly seek­ing to exploit the spread of jamaats [jihadist mini-soci­eties] in the North Cau­ca­sus in order to go after the Russ­ian pipelines in hope of ensnar­ing the US into active­ly sup­port­ing a new con­fronta­tion with Rus­sia. In ear­ly Decem­ber 2009, Tbil­isi orga­nized a high-lev­el meet­ing of jihadists groups from the Mid­dle East and West­ern Europe in order “to coor­di­nate activ­i­ties on Russia’s south­ern flank.” The Geor­gian Embassy in Kuwait, for exam­ple, arranged for trav­el doc­u­ments for jihadists from Jor­dan, Sau­di Ara­bia and the Gulf States. (There is a large and very active Chechen/Circassian com­mu­nity in Jor­dan since the 19th Cen­tury that is heav­ily rep­re­sented in the intel­li­gence ser­vices and the mil­i­tary.) In Tbil­isi, Deputy Min­is­ter of Inter­nal Affairs Lord­kipanadze was the host and coor­di­na­tor. The meet­ing was attend­ed by sev­eral Geor­gian senior offi­cials who stressed that Saakashvili him­self knew and approved of the under­tak­ing. The meet­ing addressed the launch of both “mil­i­tary oper­a­tions” in south­ern Rus­sia and ide­o­log­i­cal war­fare. One of the first results of the meet­ing was the launch, soon after­wards of the Russ­ian-lan­guage TV sta­tion First Cau­casian.

The jihadists of the North Cau­ca­sus — includ­ing the Arab com­man­ders in their midst — came out of the ear­ly Decem­ber 2009 meet­ing con­vinced that Tbil­isi is most inter­ested in the spread of ter­ror­ism. The meet­ing was attend­ed by, among oth­ers, Mohmad Muham­mad Shabaan, an Egypt­ian senior com­man­der who is also known as Seif al-Islam and who has been involved in Cau­ca­sus affairs since 1992. He took copi­ous notes. Accord­ing to Shabaan’s notes, the Geor­gian gov­ern­ment wants the jihadists to con­duct “acts of sab­o­tage to blow up rail­way tracks, elec­tric­ity lines and ener­gy pipelines” in south­ern Rus­sia in order to divert con­struc­tion back to Geor­gian ter­ri­to­ry.

Geor­gian intel­li­gence promised to facil­i­tate the arrival in the Cau­ca­sus of numer­ous senior jihadists by pro­vid­ing Geor­gian pass­ports, and to pro­vide logis­ti­cal sup­port includ­ing the reopen­ing of bases in north­ern Geor­gia. Russ­ian intel­li­gence was not obliv­i­ous of the meet­ing. Seif al-Islam and two senior aides were assas­si­nated on Feb­ru­ary 4, 2010. The Rus­sians retrieved a lot of doc­u­ments in the process. Moscow sig­naled its dis­plea­sure short­ly after­wards when the pres­i­dents of Rus­sia and Abk­hazia signed a 50-year agree­ment on a Russ­ian mil­i­tary base in order to “pro­tect Abkhazia’s sov­er­eignty and secu­rity, includ­ing against inter­na­tional ter­ror­ist groups”.

A major issue still to be resolved is the extent of the US cul­pa­bil­i­ty.

The same analy­sis recalls when this mis­guided approach was used in the Balka­ns, and out­lines how, in order to not alien­ate Mus­lims while we tried to con­tain ter­ror from the Mid­dle East, we for­ti­fied ter­ror in the Balka­ns and jump-start­ed the glob­al jihad:

Ini­tially, the US-led West­ern inter­ven­tion in the for­mer Yugoslavia was aimed first and fore­most to sal­vage NATO (and with it US dom­i­nance over post-Cold War West­ern Europe) from irrel­e­vance and col­lapse. As well, the sup­port for the Mus­lims of Bosnia became the counter-bal­ance of the US con­fronta­tion with jihadism in the Mid­dle East. Antho­ny Lake, US Pres­i­dent Bill Clinton’s Nation­al Secu­rity Advis­er, for­mu­lated the log­ic for the US-led inter­ven­tion on behalf of the Mus­lims. The US nation­al inter­est “requires our work­ing to con­tain Mus­lim extrem­ism, and we have to find a way of being firm in our oppo­si­tion to Mus­lim extrem­ism while mak­ing it clear we’re not opposed to Islam. If we are seen as anti-Mus­lim, it’s hard­er for us to con­tain Mus­lim extrem­ism. And if we stand by while Mus­lims are killed and raped in Bosnia, it makes it hard­er to con­tinue our pol­icy,” Lake argued. That in the process the US would end up part­ner­ing with, sup­port­ing and arm­ing, the very same jihadist forces Clin­ton was seek­ing to con­tain meant noth­ing to Wash­ing­ton. The only thing Wash­ing­ton cared about was the image of a US ral­ly­ing to the res­cue of a Mus­lim cause.

Note that in the 90s the U.S., like Britain, per­mit­ted and facil­i­tated ter­ror­ist net­works to oper­ate in Bosnia and Koso­vo for the pur­pose of Serb-killing, and along with Ger­many we trained Alban­ian and Mid­dle East­ern ter­ror­ists in Alba­nia. Sure enough, the same decade saw U.S. offi­cials par­tic­i­pat­ing in a Decem­ber 1999 meet­ing in Azer­bai­jan very sim­i­lar to the Decem­ber 2009 meet­ing in Tbil­isi, where “pro­grams for the train­ing and equip­ping of muja­hedin from the Cau­ca­sus, Cen­tral and South Asia, and the Arab world were dis­cussed and agreed upon.” The men­tion of this meet­ing comes in as the analy­sis gives back­ground on how we decid­ed to sup­port ter­ror­ism against Rus­sia:

By 1999, the US had giv­en up on rec­on­cil­ing Azer­bai­jan and Arme­nia in order to con­struct pipelines to Turkey, and instead Wash­ing­ton start­ed focus­ing on build­ing pipelines via Geor­gia.
For such a project to be eco­nom­i­cally viable, the Russ­ian pipelines would have to be shut down. Hence, in ear­ly Octo­ber 1999, senior offi­cials of US oil com­pa­nies and US offi­cials offered rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Russ­ian “oli­garchs” in Europe huge div­i­dends from the pro­posed Baku-Cey­han pipeline if the “oli­garchs” con­vinced Moscow to with­draw from the Cau­ca­sus, per­mit the estab­lish­ment of an Islam­ic state, and close down the Baku-Novorossiysk oil pipeline. Con­se­quently, there would be no com­pe­ti­tion to the Baku-Cey­han pipeline. The “oli­garchs” were con­vinced that the high­est lev­els of the Clin­ton White House endorsed this ini­tia­tive. The meet­ing failed because the Rus­sians would hear noth­ing of the US pro­pos­al.

Con­se­quently, the US deter­mined to deprive Rus­sia of an alter­nate pipeline route by sup­port­ing a spi­ral­ing vio­lence and ter­ror­ism in Chechnya....The Clin­ton White House sought to active­ly involve the US in yet anoth­er anti-Russ­ian jihad as if reliv­ing the “good ol’ days” of Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herze­gov­ina and Koso­vo, seek­ing to sup­port and empow­er the most vir­u­lent anti-West­ern Islamist forces in yet anoth­er strate­gic region.

In mid-Decem­ber 1999, US offi­cials par­tic­i­pated in a for­mal meet­ing in Azer­bai­jan in which spe­cific pro­grams for the train­ing and equip­ping of muja­hedin from the Cau­ca­sus, Cen­tral and South Asia, and the Arab world were dis­cussed and agreed upon. This meet­ing led to Washington’s tac­it encour­age­ment of both Mus­lim allies (main­ly the intel­li­gence ser­vices of Turkey, Jor­dan, and Sau­di Ara­bia) and US “pri­vate secu­rity com­pa­nies” (of the type that did Washington’s dirty job in the Balka­ns while skirt­ing and vio­lat­ing the inter­na­tional embar­go the US for­mally sup­ported) to assist the Chechens and their Islamist allies to surge in spring 2000. Cit­ing secu­rity con­cerns vis-à-vis Arme­nia and Rus­sia, Azer­bai­jan adamant­ly refused to per­mit train­ing camps on its soil.

Now, just to keep our — includ­ing my — heads straight, let’s remind our­selves that this exer­cise that Robert Spencer was good enough to let me engage in on these pages was not a defense of Rus­sia; it was not meant to start an argu­ment about how bad or how not-that-bad Rus­sia is. The point is that for­eign rela­tions in a mad world require find­ing enough com­mon ground with not-so-great states so that we can work togeth­er where we can work togeth­er. It’s to min­i­mize the messi­ness of things. Why, when we had Rus­sia in its his­tor­i­cally most maleable form, did we insist on pro­vok­ing and pro­vok­ing and pro­vok­ing? Why did we make a bad sit­u­a­tion like Rus­sia worse when we had an oppor­tu­nity to make it bet­ter? As with all prob­lem­atic coun­tries that we nonethe­less find areas of coop­er­a­tion with, we nar­rowed even those areas by deal­ing with the Rus­sians in the bad faith that had been their trade­mark. Simul­ta­ne­ously, we moved away from pick­ing the less­er evil in a giv­en con­flict, and start­ed sid­ing with the greater.

It’s a sur­real sit­u­a­tion indeed when the actions of my sav­ior coun­try put me in the posi­tion of hav­ing to “defend” Rus­sia, whose peo­ple my par­ents thank their lucky stars to not have to live among any­more. I myself am a self-pro­claimed Rus­so­phobe; I just had no idea how much more patho­log­i­cal America’s Rus­so­pho­bia is. So for some­one who is loath to vis­it even Brighton Beach, I find myself in a sur­pris­ing posi­tion here, point­ing out where we went wrong and shoved Rus­sia back into old behav­iors.

Infu­ri­at­ingly pre­dictably, one of the com­ment posters sug­gested that the line I’m tak­ing here is one that’s paid for by Rus­sia. The same “tip” was offered to Robert by a fel­low blog­ger — in that tone of pro­vid­ing “some friend­ly, pro­fes­sional, and cau­tion­ary advice.” The likes of which I’m all too famil­iar with by now. (One Wall St. Jour­nal fix­ture advised me, “Your views on this [the Balka­ns] are deeply misjudged...You’re not doing your career any favors.” Thanks. Good thing I don’t have a career, then.) It cer­tainly would be nice if any­one paid me for any­thing I do, but it wasn’t to be in this life­time.

Regard­less, it shouldn’t seem strange for some­one to be point­ing out that our for­eign pol­icy is being guid­ed by peo­ple with a stronger anti-Russ­ian agen­da than anti-jihad agen­da. And notice where this kind of think­ing has got­ten us. Take the past two decades of West­ern pol­icy and media cov­er­age in the Balka­ns, which were based on infor­ma­tion that made its way into reporters’ note­books direct­ly from the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion of the Bosn­ian Gov­ern­ment run by the fun­da­men­tal­ist Mus­lim wartime pres­i­dent Ali­ja Izetbe­govic. The tem­plate was used again when politi­cians, reporters, NGOs and human rights orga­ni­za­tions duti­fully repeat­ed what was com­ing out of the KLA-run news­pa­pers and oth­er pro­pa­ganda organs of the Koso­vo sep­a­ratists. And so in ser­vice to con­sis­tency, hav­ing got­ten into this hole, we’ve kept dig­ging. With our Yugoslavia inter­ven­tion, as the Defense & For­eign Affairs analy­sis points out, we’ve end­ed up “demo­niz­ing the Serbs and the world of East­ern Chris­tian­ity as a whole.” Such that we’ve arrived at a place where the word “Byzan­tine” is now used to mean prim­i­tive or unciv­i­lized. While the Mus­lim world and Islam­ic her­itage rep­re­sent the height of cul­ture, tra­di­tion, her­itage and civ­i­liza­tion.

One inter­est­ing thing about the reac­tions to call­ing the U.S. on its aggres­sive alien­ation of Rus­sia via, for exam­ple, the use of jihadists is the sense of out­rage and shock at the sug­ges­tion that Amer­ica would sup­port these vio­lent groups, fol­lowed imme­di­ately by a defense or jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of such tac­tics (e.g. “we *should* help the Chechens against the Rus­sians”). Mean­while, these oh-so-incen­di­ary alle­ga­tions hap­pen to coin­cide with overt­ly stat­ed inten­tions and poli­cies. (See the late Sen­a­tor Tom Lan­tos and his ilk applaud­ing the cre­ation of a U.S.-made Mus­lim state in Europe, which the jihadists should “take note of,” Lan­tos hoped.)

 

 

 

Discussion

5 comments for “FTR #784 “First, Tame the Intellectuals . . . .””

  1. Great cov­er­age! Swo­bo­da are not the kind of guys one would want to invite to mom’s house for Sun­day night din­ner. Also per­haps that hor­ri­ble knife ter­ror­ist attack in North­ern Chi­na that killed 29, and the polit­i­cal upris­ing in Venezuela around the same time are parts of a covert action blitz, along with the Ukraine that is going on right now. If that is the case, this site cer­tain­ly has the foun­da­tion of the blitz well cov­ered and explained.

    Posted by GK | March 31, 2014, 7:23 am
  2. Yeah, there’s prob­a­bly going to be a lot of dis­avowals on all sides for a stunt like this:

    TPM Livewire
    Pro-Rus­sia Offi­cial Dis­avows Fliers Order­ing Jews To ‘Reg­is­ter’ In East Ukraine

    Cather­ine Thomp­son – April 17, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT4539

    The head of the self-pro­claimed pro­vi­sion­al lead­er­ship in East­ern Ukraine’s Donet­sk has dis­avowed fliers issued in his name that call on the city’s Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion to “reg­is­ter” with his sep­a­ratist gov­ern­ment.

    Denis Pushilin, the leader of the pro-Rus­sia “Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Donet­sk,” con­firmed to the Ukrain­ian press on Thurs­day that such fliers were dis­trib­uted around the city’s syn­a­gogues. But he both reject­ed their con­tent and denied that his orga­ni­za­tion was behind their dis­tri­b­u­tion, accord­ing to Think Progress.

    The fliers, which were first report­ed by Ukraine’s Novosti Don­bas­sa and lat­er picked up by USA Today, instruct­ed Jews to bring prop­er iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to the region­al admin­is­tra­tion and pay a $50 reg­is­tra­tion fee. Fail­ure to do so would result in loss of cit­i­zen­ship, con­fis­ca­tion of prop­er­ty and depor­ta­tion, the pam­phlet read.

    It was not imme­di­ate­ly clear who print­ed or dis­trib­uted them, but five men in masks were report­ed­ly seen hand­ing them out in the com­mu­ni­ty.

    ...

    The Anti-Defama­tion League, a group found­ed to com­bat anti-Semi­tism, cast doubt on the pam­phlet’s authen­tic­i­ty in a state­ment.

    “We have seen a series of cyn­i­cal and polit­i­cal­ly manip­u­la­tive uses and accu­sa­tions of anti-Semi­tism in Ukraine over the past year,” Abra­ham H. Fox­man, the group’s nation­al direc­tor, said. “The per­pe­tra­tors and their tar­gets are oppos­ing politi­cians and polit­i­cal move­ments, but the true vic­tims are the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties. We strong­ly con­demn the anti-Semit­ic con­tent, but also all attempts to use anti-Semi­tism for polit­i­cal pur­pos­es.”

    And when a reporter for the Dai­ly Beast went to the admin­is­tra­tion office where the fliers instruct­ed Jews to go pay the reg­is­tra­tion fee on Thurs­day, she found the room was emp­ty.

    The fliers “could have been the work of provo­ca­teurs hop­ing to dis­cred­it the pro-Russ­ian move­ment” in Ukraine, accord­ing to the Dai­ly Beast.

    Will we ever learn the iden­ti­ties of the five masked men? That remains to be seen, although it’s dif­fi­cult to see how pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists that have been high­light­ing the neo-Nazi nature of Svo­bo­da and Pravy Sek­tor as a cen­tral com­po­nent of their PR strat­e­gy would sud­den­ly decide to pub­licly emu­late them:

    The Nation
    The Dark Side of the Ukraine Revolt
    Conn Hal­li­nan and For­eign Pol­i­cy In Focus on March 6, 2014 — 1:17 PM ET

    This arti­cle is a joint pub­li­ca­tion of TheNation.com and For­eign Pol­i­cy In Focus.

    The April 6 ral­ly in Cherkasy, a city 100 miles south­east of Kiev, turned vio­lent after six men took off their jack­ets to reveal T‑shirts embla­zoned with the words “Beat the Kikes” and “Svo­bo­da,” the name of the Ukrain­ian ultra­na­tion­al­ist move­ment and the Ukrain­ian word for “free­dom.”
    – Jew­ish Tele­graph­ic Agency, April 12, 2013

    While most of the West­ern media describe the cur­rent cri­sis in Ukraine as a con­fronta­tion between author­i­tar­i­an­ism and democ­ra­cy, many of the shock troops who have manned bar­ri­cades in Kiev and the west­ern city of Lviv these past months rep­re­sent a dark page in the country’s his­to­ry and have lit­tle inter­est in either democ­ra­cy or the lib­er­al­ism of West­ern Europe and the Unit­ed States.

    You’d nev­er know from most of the report­ing that far-right nation­al­ists and fas­cists have been at the heart of the protests and attacks on gov­ern­ment build­ings,” reports Seu­mas Milne of the British Guardian. The most promi­nent of the groups has been the ultra-right-wing Svo­bo­da or “Free­dom” Par­ty.

    The demand for inte­gra­tion with West­ern Europe appears to be more a tac­tic than a strat­e­gy: “The par­tic­i­pa­tion of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ism and Svo­bo­da in the process of EU [Euro­pean Union] inte­gra­tion,” admits Svo­bo­da polit­i­cal coun­cil mem­ber Yury Noyevy, “is a means to break our ties with Rus­sia.”

    ...

    Tyah­ny­bok is an anti-Semi­te who says “orga­nized Jew­ry” con­trols the Ukraine’s media and gov­ern­ment, and is plan­ning “geno­cide” against Chris­tians. He has turned Svo­bo­da into the fourth-largest par­ty in the coun­try, and, this past Decem­ber, US Sen­a­tor John McCain shared a plat­form and an embrace with Tyah­ny­bok at a ral­ly in Kiev.

    Svo­bo­da has links with oth­er ultra-right par­ties in Europe through the Alliance of Euro­pean Nation­al Move­ments. Found­ed in 2009 in Budapest, the alliance includes Svo­bo­da, Hungary’s vio­lent­ly racist Job­bik, the British Nation­al Par­ty, Italy’s Tri­col­or Flame, Sweden’s Nation­al Democ­rats and Belgium’s Nation­al Front. The par­ty also has close ties to France’s xeno­pho­bic Nation­al Front. The Front’s anti-Semit­ic for­mer leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was hon­ored at Svoboda’s 2004 con­gress.

    Svo­bo­da would stop immi­gra­tion and reserve civ­il ser­vice jobs for “eth­nic Ukraini­ans.” It would end abor­tion and gun con­trol, “ban the Com­mu­nist Ide­ol­o­gy” and list reli­gious affil­i­a­tion and eth­nic­i­ty on iden­ti­ty doc­u­ments. It claims as its men­tor the Nazi-col­lab­o­ra­tor Stepan Ban­dera, whose Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army mas­sa­cred Jews and Poles dur­ing World War II. The party’s demand that all offi­cial busi­ness be con­duct­ed in Ukrain­ian was recent­ly endorsed by the par­lia­ment, dis­en­fran­chis­ing thir­ty per­cent of the country’s pop­u­la­tion that speaks Russ­ian. Russ­ian speak­ers are gen­er­al­ly con­cen­trat­ed in the Ukraine’s east and south, and par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Crimean Penin­su­la.

    ...

    “Svo­bo­da would stop immi­gra­tion and reserve civ­il ser­vice jobs for “eth­nic Ukraini­ans.” It would end abor­tion and gun con­trol, “ban the Com­mu­nist Ide­ol­o­gy” and list reli­gious affil­i­a­tion and eth­nic­i­ty on iden­ti­ty doc­u­ments”.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 17, 2014, 7:41 pm
  3. Here’s a hint of what’s come: John McCain sug­gest­ed today that the West­’s response to the cri­sis in Ukraine should include an accel­er­a­tion of Ukraine’s accep­tance in the EU:

    The Hill
    April 22, 2014, 08:26 am
    McCain ques­tions resolve of Biden in Ukraine

    By Mario Tru­jil­lo

    Sen. John McCain (R‑Ariz.) on Tues­day ques­tioned the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s resolve to stop Russ­ian from help­ing armed sep­a­ratists in East­ern Ukraine.

    Ear­li­er Tues­day, Vice Pres­i­dent Biden called on Rus­sia to stop sup­port­ing the pro-Russ­ian groups that have tak­en over a num­ber of gov­ern­ment build­ings in the east­ern part of the coun­try.

    “Or else what?” McCain asked after lis­ten­ing to Biden’s remarks on MSNBC’s “Morn­ing Joe.” “Or else what? What is the vice pres­i­dent say­ing, if they con­tin­ue to do this, what will we do?”

    McCain, who has called on the Unit­ed States to offer light mil­i­tary weapons to Ukraine, said Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin is keep­ing troops lined at the east­ern bor­der to eval­u­ate his options. He warned the U.S. should not under­es­ti­mate him.

    ...

    He reit­er­at­ed there should be no U.S. boots on the ground, but said the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion should stop announc­ing that fact at every press con­fer­ence.

    “Right now, it is time we said the peo­ple of Ukraine deserve free and fair elec­tions, they deserve our sup­port, and no one in Amer­i­ca wants boots on the ground. I total­ly accept that … [But] can we go one press con­fer­ence with­out say­ing that.”

    McCain also advo­cat­ed for an accel­er­at­ed process to get Ukraine into the Euro­pean Union, as well as devel­op­ing a plan so Ukraine is not reliant on Russ­ian ener­gy.

    The U.S. on Tues­day detailed a $50 mil­lion eco­nom­ic and ener­gy pack­age aimed at help­ing Ukraine’s econ­o­my while Biden was in the coun­try. The admin­is­tra­tion also detailed an $8 mil­lion pack­age of non-lethal mil­i­tary assis­tance.

    It’ll be inter­est­ing to see if any EU ‘com­pro­mis­es’ are going to be required for an accel­er­at­ed EU mem­ber­ship time­line after the upcom­ing elec­tions. Of course, giv­en events on the ground, it’ll also be inter­est­ing to see if there are any upcom­ing elec­tions at all.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 22, 2014, 7:04 pm
  4. Mark Ames has a piece on the back­ground of Boris Nemtsov, the anti-Putin Russ­ian reformer that was just gunned down out­side the Krem­lin while on a walk with his Ukrain­ian mod­el girl­friend, and how Nemtsov’s label as a “lib­er­al reformer” real­ly needs to be rein­ter­pret­ed by Amer­i­cans as a “neolib­er­al reformer”. And while there’s under­stand­ably no short­age of spec­u­la­tion over who killed Nemtsov and why, as Ames’s piece points out, Nemtsov’s anti-Putin/re­former sta­tus is a some­what curi­ous devel­op­ment since Nemtsov was a key fig­ure in the Yeltsin gov­ern­ment, an advo­cate of an unelect­ed gov­ern­ment body of oli­garchs, a dar­ling of the inter­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions that pushed the dev­as­tat­ing “shock ther­a­py” on Rus­si­a’s econ­o­my and soci­ety in the 90’s, and used to view Putin as the sav­ior of the oli­garchy:

    Pan­do Dai­ly
    Boris Nemtsov: Death of a Russ­ian Lib­er­al

    By Mark Ames
    On March 2, 2015

    I bought a cou­ple of bot­tles of Yarpi­vo in a Chi­nese-owned dis­count store around the cor­ner here in Brook­lyn, and poured one out for Nemtsov, who end­ed his life as a Yaroslavl city coun­cil­man. I nev­er liked him much, but his mur­der was bru­tal, and fright­en­ing — and the dark fear it’s brought to Moscow is very real.

    Nemtsov was a very dif­fer­ent kind of lib­er­al or “ultra-lib­er­al” than what we think of as lib­er­als. In the best sense, that means he was nev­er a mealy-mouthed cow­ard. But as one of the lead­ers of the 1990s lib­er­al­iza­tion cat­a­stro­phe, Nemtsov was much more the prob­lem than the solu­tion to that prob­lem. And even when he was in pow­er in the late Yeltsin Era, serv­ing as the half-dead boozer’s first deputy prime min­is­ter and heir-appar­ent, Nemtsov rep­re­sent­ed the very worst and shal­low­est in lib­er­al Russia’s “vir­tu­al pol­i­tics,” a kind of pre­cur­sor to the man­u­fac­tured PR-as-pol­i­tics that was per­fect­ed under Nemtsov’s choice for Russia’s pres­i­dent in 2000: Vladimir Putin.

    Boris Nemtsov first crossed my radar screen in ear­ly 1997, a few months after I launched The eXile in Moscow. He was hailed as the Sec­ond Com­ing of Lib­er­al Jesus by the cream of Moscow’s for­eign cor­re­spon­dent com­mu­ni­ty, back when the Amer­i­can media still had the mon­ey to pack places like Moscow with full-staffed local bureaus. Not that all that staffing made their report­ing any better—most of the report­ing was regur­gi­tat­ed neolib­er­al pam­phle­teer­ing and Peak Clin­ton jin­go­ism; a case study in mass jour­nal­ism mal­prac­tice. Every sin­gle west­ern reporter was com­plete­ly blind­sided by the 1998 finan­cial col­lapse, at the time the most cat­a­stroph­ic and com­plete finan­cial col­lapse in mod­ern his­to­ry — all except our annoy­ing satir­i­cal rag.

    Which brings me back to Nemtsov, whom Yeltsin appoint­ed as his first deputy prime min­is­ter in March 1997, just a cou­ple of months after the The eXile came to life. Every­one in the west went ga-ga over Nemtsov, the young hand­some free-mar­ket gov­er­nor of Nizh­ny Novo­gorod. Lar­ry Sum­mers, who ran Clinton’s Rus­sia pol­i­cy from his post as deputy Trea­sury Sec­re­tary, hailed Nemtsov’s appoint­ment shar­ing the first deputy pre­mier­ship with Ana­toly “Bonecrack­er” Chubais as the “an eco­nom­ic Dream Team.” When Nemtsov trav­eled to Japan, he wowed the world media by telling a meet­ing of Japan­ese busi­ness­men he’d give them his per­son­al cell phone num­ber to call him if they were hav­ing any prob­lems doing busi­ness in Rus­sia.

    Typ­i­cal of the Anglo-Amer­i­can Nemtsovophil­ia we were up against was LA Times cor­re­spon­dent Car­ol Williams, who cheered him on in lan­guage that reads like a cheap par­o­dy of Sovi­et pro­pa­gan­da:

    In the four months since he left the helm of this pros­per­ous Vol­ga riv­er reform show­case to become first deputy prime min­is­ter in Moscow, the charis­mat­ic cru­sad­er has tak­en aim at the cor­rupt and the greedy who have made post-Sovi­et Rus­sia a vast and ter­ri­fy­ing gang­land…

    The 37-year-old for­mer physi­cist has presided over the first promis­ing signs of eco­nom­ic recov­ery since Rus­sia jet­ti­soned com­mu­nism and, to the cheers of the strug­gling mass­es [yes, you read that right: cheer­ing strug­gling mass­es—M.A.], has waged war against gov­ern­ment fat cats jun­ket­ing in import­ed lux­u­ry cars and char­tered planes…

    That was the cheer­lead­ers’ ver­sion—and it was backed by every­one rich and pow­er­ful the world over. Except in Rus­sia.

    In fact, Nemtsov’s Nizh­ny Nov­gorod “mir­a­cle” was, like every­thing else Nemtsov­ian, a mat­ter of can­ny PR mask­ing a bru­tal real­i­ty. Out of Russia’s 89 mis­er­able regions in 1996 — when Rus­sia was in the throes of the worst nation­al eco­nom­ic col­lapse of any indus­tri­al­ized nation in the 20th cen­tu­ry — Nizh­ny Novo­gorod ranked dead mid­dle in terms of medi­an income, despite attract­ing more for­eign invest­ment than almost any region. Nemtsov attract­ed for­eign invest­ment by recit­ing all the neolib­er­al plat­i­tudes in vogue in the 1990s, which made him a favorite of the World Bank set.

    ...

    There were oth­er sor­did sto­ries. Nemtsov was tasked with break­ing up Russia’s nat­ur­al monop­o­lies and intro­duc­ing fair, free-mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion. So he “took on” the state util­i­ties monop­oly, RAO-UES by plac­ing his favorite young Nizh­ny Nov­gorod banker, Boris Brevnov, in charge of the com­pa­ny. Brevnov had by this time mar­ried an Amer­i­can woman who was one of the World Bank’s top offi­cers in over­see­ing its invest­ments into Nizh­ny Novo­gorod when Nemtsov was gov­er­nor. Less than a year after Nemtsov put Brevnov in charge of the util­i­ties monop­oly, the company’s board of direc­tors charged Brevnov with cor­rup­tion and abuse of office, includ­ing the use of com­pa­ny jets to fly to Ken­tucky to pick up Brevnov’s wife, moth­er-in-law and dog and bring them back to Moscow. After get­ting fired from RAO-UES, Brevnov moved to the US and went to work for Enron.

    By August 1998, Nemtsov’s gov­ern­ment went down in one of the largest and most dev­as­tat­ing finan­cial col­laps­es of mod­ern times.

    The prob­lem with Nemtsov’s pol­i­tics wasn’t so much his adher­ence to rad­i­cal neolib­er­al­ism, but his shal­low­ness, his grotesque elit­ism, and his author­i­tar­i­an­ism. Nemtsov is one of the top-down Russ­ian lib­er­als, cut from the same author­i­tar­i­an cloth as Chubais, though not as wily as “Bonecrack­er” (so nick-named because in 1996, when Chubais sum­moned a meet­ing of top Russ­ian news­pa­per edi­tors to the Krem­lin, he told the uppi­ty edi­tor of the then-inde­pen­dent Izvestiya news­pa­per, “You will write what we tell you to write or bones will crack”; a few months lat­er, after Izvestiya broke the sto­ry on Chubais tak­ing a $3 mil­lion inter­est-free loan from a banker who rigged an auc­tion, that edi­tor was out on the streets, and today Izvestiya is a whol­ly owned pro­pa­gan­da organ of the FSB.)

    After the finan­cial col­lapse, it looked like the entire rot­ten Yeltsin-era lib­er­al elite was head­ing for exile or jail, until their sav­ior on the white horse — Vladimir Putin — rode in from Lubyan­ka to save Russia’s lib­er­als. The Nemtsov of our fan­tasies would say that it was some­how out of char­ac­ter for him to sup­port an author­i­tar­i­an spook like Putin in 2000, well after Putin launched the sec­ond bloody war in Chech­nya.

    In fact, the lib­er­als thought Putin was their Pinochet sav­ior, and that they would essen­tial­ly con­trol him, that Putin was one of them. Which he large­ly was, and in many ways still is — cut from sim­i­lar lib­er­al author­i­tar­i­an cloth.

    Here are some choice quotes from Nemtsov’s op-ed, co-authored with Ian Brem­mer, in the New York Times pub­lished in ear­ly 2000, after Putin was named Yeltsin’s suc­ces­sor:

    Some crit­ics have ques­tioned Mr. Putin’s com­mit­ment to democ­ra­cy. True, he is no lib­er­al demo­c­rat, domes­ti­cal­ly or inter­na­tion­al­ly. Under his lead­er­ship Rus­sia will not become France. The gov­ern­ment will, how­ev­er, reflect the Russ­ian people’s desire for a strong state, a func­tion­ing econ­o­my, and an end to tol­er­ance for rob­ber barons — in short, a ”ruble stops here” atti­tude. Rus­sia could do con­sid­er­ably worse than have a leader with an unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to the nation­al inter­est…

    And it is dif­fi­cult to see how to do bet­ter.

    … Mr. Putin’s vocal sup­port for a free-mar­ket econ­o­my boost­ed the prospects of reform can­di­dates in the par­lia­men­tary elec­tions last month and pro­vid­ed a firm foot­ing for mean­ing­ful eco­nom­ic reform to be passed this year.

    The reform­ers are back…

    Deep down Nemtsov had no prob­lem with Putin’s author­i­tar­i­an­ism. His prob­lem with Putin came after being ignored for too long. As George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor Peter Red­daway wrote in his book on the dark Yeltsin years, “The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms: Mar­ket Bol­she­vism Against Democ­ra­cy”, Nemtsov sup­port­ed a Yeltsin pro­pos­al in 1993 to cre­ate an unelect­ed upper cham­ber, the Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil, con­sist­ing of appoint­ed oli­garchs, in order to mar­gin­al­ize the then-pow­er­ful, oppo­si­tion-dom­i­nat­ed Supreme Sovi­et par­lia­ment. One of the rea­sons Yeltsin brought him into his gov­ern­ment in 1997 was to pro­tect Yeltsin and the all-pow­er­ful pres­i­den­cy, as enshrined in the author­i­tar­i­an 1993 con­sti­tu­tion — the same pres­i­den­tial pow­ers that allowed Putin to become who he is. As Yeltsin’s pres­i­den­tial pow­er was being threat­ened again by the Duma, Nemtsov made his posi­tion on reduc­ing pres­i­den­tial pow­ers clear: “For Rus­sia, the weak­en­ing of pres­i­den­tial pow­er would be extreme­ly dele­te­ri­ous. Those who insist on trans­form­ing Rus­sia into a par­lia­men­tary repub­lic are con­scious­ly or uncon­scious­ly push­ing the coun­try toward chaos.”

    Red­daway, one of just a hand­ful of Amer­i­can aca­d­e­mics who got the Yeltsin cat­a­stro­phe right (along with Stephen Cohen and Janine Wedel), con­clud­ed:.

    Nemtsov was recruit­ed by Yeltsin because, unlike Yavlin­sky, he believes in the salu­tary role of author­i­tar­i­an insti­tu­tions for Rus­sia, be they monar­chi­cal or pres­i­den­tial. This view is evi­dent from Nemtsov’s book, in which Yeltsin is depict­ed as a ‘gen­uine Russ­ian tsar.’

    After Putin won with the sup­port of the free-mar­ket lib­er­als, Nemtsov remained hap­py for the next few years as a lead­ing voice in the Duma. Even after his lib­er­al par­ty got ham­mered in the 2003 elec­tions, Nemtsov remained in the loy­al oppo­si­tion. But over time Putin had no need for a dis­cred­it­ed lib­er­al from the Yeltsin era, and by 2007, Nemtsov start­ed warm­ing up to the more rad­i­cal oppo­si­tion led by our for­mer eXile colum­nist Eduard Limonov and chess­mas­ter Gar­ry Kas­parov.

    Still, up through 2008 — when I was last in Rus­sia before the Krem­lin closed my paper and one of their goons made some scary pro­nounce­ments over the radio about me — Nemtsov, like the oth­er lead­ing 90s-era lib­er­als, hedged his oppo­si­tion to Putin. He nev­er seemed will­ing to burn all of his bridges with the Krem­lin and go all-in as a rad­i­cal oppo­si­tion­ist, not like Limonov any­way.

    I asked Limonov why Nemtsov, Khaka­ma­da and the oth­ers still seemed to be hedg­ing their oppo­si­tion to Putin in 2007 — if it was because they were too cov­etous of their cozy bour­geois trap­pings they’d acquired since the Yeltsin years. Limonov’s answer is worth quot­ing:

    It’s much more sim­ple than that. The Putin regime is a lib­er­al regime, so it’s nat­ur­al that lib­er­als like Khaka­ma­da or Nemtsov do not seri­ous­ly oppose it. Just look at Putin’s eco­nom­ic pro­gram: Low tax­es, con­cen­tra­tion of wealth in oli­garchs’ hands, strict bud­gets. The Kremlin’s ide­ol­o­gy is basi­cal­ly the same as that of Nemtsov’s and Khakamada’s, so of course it makes no sense to con­front them as my orga­ni­za­tion does. They can only argue over the details of this lib­er­al­ism, over who should own what and how it should be imple­ment­ed.

    Nemtsov’s pol­i­tics since he went into oppo­si­tion were lit­tle changed from his pol­i­tics when he rode into Yeltsin’s Krem­lin in 1997: anti-cor­rup­tion. It’s the same neolib­er­al tune, and it always has a fun­ny way of turn­ing out bad­ly every time. Anti-cor­rup­tion is not a pol­i­tics, it’s some kind of aspi­ra­tion that always has a way of lean­ing neolib­er­al, oli­garchi­cal, and author­i­tar­i­an, at least in our times it does.

    ...

    But now Nemtsov’s dead, his bloat­ed naked tor­so beamed on Livestream for all to gawk at. His mur­der is fright­en­ing for Rus­sians who live there, but for us out here, it’s some­thing more than that — a kind of karmic sal­va­tion, retroac­tive­ly absolv­ing all who played a part in Russia’s trag­ic post-Sovi­et his­to­ry, a nar­ra­tive arc that made no sense until Nemtsov was mur­dered at the foot of Putin’s Krem­lin.

    It’s an awful sign for Rus­sia if Nemtsov was indeed, direct­ly or indi­rect­ly, gunned down by the Krem­lin as most spec­u­la­tion points towards. But as we just saw, the fact that a polit­i­cal oppo­nent as high pro­file and Boris Nemtsov was a dar­ling of the same forces that inflict­ed the aus­ter­i­ty dis­as­ter of the 90’s and hap­pened to hold views like...

    ...
    After the finan­cial col­lapse, it looked like the entire rot­ten Yeltsin-era lib­er­al elite was head­ing for exile or jail, until their sav­ior on the white horse — Vladimir Putin — rode in from Lubyan­ka to save Russia’s lib­er­als. The Nemtsov of our fan­tasies would say that it was some­how out of char­ac­ter for him to sup­port an author­i­tar­i­an spook like Putin in 2000, well after Putin launched the sec­ond bloody war in Chech­nya.

    In fact, the lib­er­als thought Putin was their Pinochet sav­ior, and that they would essen­tial­ly con­trol him, that Putin was one of them. Which he large­ly was, and in many ways still is — cut from sim­i­lar lib­er­al author­i­tar­i­an cloth.

    ...

    Deep down Nemtsov had no prob­lem with Putin’s author­i­tar­i­an­ism. His prob­lem with Putin came after being ignored for too long. As George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor Peter Red­daway wrote in his book on the dark Yeltsin years, “The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms: Mar­ket Bol­she­vism Against Democ­ra­cy”, Nemtsov sup­port­ed a Yeltsin pro­pos­al in 1993 to cre­ate an unelect­ed upper cham­ber, the Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil, con­sist­ing of appoint­ed oli­garchs, in order to mar­gin­al­ize the then-pow­er­ful, oppo­si­tion-dom­i­nat­ed Supreme Sovi­et par­lia­ment...

    ...was already a real­ly bad sign for Rus­sia.

    So the sit­u­a­tion in Rus­sia pre­sum­ably got worse with the killing of Nemtsov because that’s what hap­pens when polit­i­cal vio­lence enters the equa­tion. But it will be inter­est­ing to see how the assas­si­na­tion of Nemtsov shapes the var­i­ous Russ­ian oppo­si­tion move­ments because, at the end of the day, it did­n’t sound like Boris Nemtsov’s vision for a “reformed” Rus­sia was going to be a sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment for the vast major­i­ty of Rus­sians. Yes, the polit­i­cal reforms Rus­si­a’s oppo­si­tion calls for are gen­er­al­ly steps in the right direc­tion, but what kind of eco­nom­ic reform is Rus­sia going to get if, for instance, a “Russ­ian Spring” even­tu­al­ly ush­ers in a new gov­ern­ment led by oppo­si­tion lead­ers that share the neolib­er­al views of Nemtsov? Based on pol­i­tics of Nemtsov’s polit­i­cal allies, it seems does­n’t seem like the Russ­ian pub­lic is going to appre­ci­at­ed those eco­nom­ic reforms or lack there­of. Since Putin is basi­cal­ly an author­i­tar­i­an neolib­er­al, but one that does­n’t fol­low the ‘sell of the nation to inter­na­tion­al inter­ests’, who knows how much some­one like Nemtsov would actu­al­ly feel need to ‘reform’ how the econ­o­my func­tions oth­er than more state pri­va­ti­za­tions?

    These are all just some of the ques­tions raised about the future of Rus­si­a’s reform­ers fol­low­ing the stun­ning assas­si­na­tion of one their key lead­ers. And of course, one of the biggest ques­tion is whether or not Nemtsov’s death will lead to a revival for the oppo­si­tion at a time when Putin’s approval rat­ings just hit 86%. As Nemtsov’s co-founder of the “lib­er­al” (neolib­er­al) Union of Right Forces par­ty, Iri­na Khaka­ma­da, sug­gest­ed, “It’s a provo­ca­tion that is clear­ly not in Putin’s inter­ests, it’s aimed at rock­ing the sit­u­a­tion”:

    Major Crit­ic Of Vladimir Putin Shot Dead In Moscow

    Updat­ed: Feb­ru­ary 27, 2015, 8:23 PM EST

    MOSCOW (AP) — Boris Nemtsov, a charis­mat­ic Russ­ian oppo­si­tion leader and sharp crit­ic of Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, was gunned down Sat­ur­day near the Krem­lin, just a day before a planned protest against the gov­ern­ment.

    The death of Nemtsov, a 55-year-old for­mer deputy prime min­is­ter, ignit­ed a fury among oppo­si­tion fig­ures who assailed the Krem­lin for cre­at­ing an atmos­phere of intol­er­ance of any dis­sent and called the killing an assas­si­na­tion. Putin quick­ly offered his con­do­lences and called the mur­der a provo­ca­tion.

    Nemtsov was work­ing on a report pre­sent­ing evi­dence that he believed proved Rus­si­a’s direct involve­ment in the sep­a­ratist rebel­lion that erupt­ed in east­ern Ukraine last year. Ukraine and the West accuse Rus­sia of back­ing the rebels with troops and sophis­ti­cat­ed weapons. Moscow denies the accu­sa­tions.

    ...

    Nemtsov assailed the gov­ern­men­t’s inef­fi­cien­cy, ram­pant cor­rup­tion and the Krem­lin’s Ukraine pol­i­cy, which has strained rela­tions between Rus­sia and the West to a degree unseen since Cold War times.

    Nemtsov said on radio just a few hours before his death that Putin plunged Rus­sia into the cri­sis by his “mad, aggres­sive and dead­ly pol­i­cy of war against Ukraine.”

    “The coun­try needs a polit­i­cal reform,” Nemtsov said, speak­ing on Ekho Moskvy radio. “When pow­er is con­cen­trat­ed in the hands of one per­son and this per­son rules for ever, this will lead to an absolute cat­a­stro­phe, absolute.”

    Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko called Nemtsov a per­son­al friend and a “bridge” between the two coun­tries. He said on his Face­book that he hopes the killers will be pun­ished.

    ...

    “Boris Nemtsov was a stark oppo­si­tion leader who crit­i­cized the most impor­tant state offi­cials in our coun­try, includ­ing Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. As we have seen, such crit­i­cism in Rus­sia is dan­ger­ous for one’s life,” he said.

    Polit­i­cal ana­lyst Stanislav Belkovsky told Ekho Mosvky that he did not believe that Nemtsov’s death would in any way serve Putin’s inter­ests.

    “But the atmos­phere of hatred toward alter­na­tive thinkers that has formed over the past year, since the annex­a­tion of Crimea, may have played its role,” Belkovsky said, refer­ring to the surge of intense and offi­cial­ly endorsed nation­al­ist dis­course in Rus­sia since it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Penin­su­la.

    Iri­na Khaka­ma­da, a promi­nent oppo­si­tion fig­ure who co-found­ed a lib­er­al par­ty with Nemtsov, blamed a cli­mate of intim­i­da­tion and warned that the mur­der could her­ald a dan­ger­ous desta­bi­liza­tion.

    “It’s a provo­ca­tion that is clear­ly not in Putin’s inter­ests, it’s aimed at rock­ing the sit­u­a­tion,” she said in remarks car­ried by RIA Novosti news agency.

    Nemtsov served as a deputy prime min­is­ter in the 1990s and once was seen as a pos­si­ble suc­ces­sor to Boris Yeltsin, Rus­si­a’s first elect­ed pres­i­dent. After Putin was first elect­ed in 2000, Nemtsov became one of the most vocal crit­ics of his rule. He helped orga­nize street protests and exposed offi­cial cor­rup­tion.

    He was one of the orga­niz­ers of the Spring March oppo­si­tion protest set for Sun­day, which comes amid a severe eco­nom­ic down­turn in Rus­sia caused by low oil prices and West­ern sanc­tions.

    ...

    “Nemtsov served as a deputy prime min­is­ter in the 1990s and once was seen as a pos­si­ble suc­ces­sor to Boris Yeltsin”. Yikes!

    So, assum­ing Iri­na Khaka­ma­da is cor­rect and the sit­u­a­tion is even­tu­al­ly “rocked” enough to her­ald a dan­ger­ous desta­bi­liza­tion (enough for the oppo­si­tion to gain real pow­er, it seems like now would be a good time for the neolib­er­al-mind­ed reforms to explain how, exact­ly, putting a bunch of Yeltsin-era neolib­er­al reform­ers back into pow­er isn’t going to lead right back to the kinds of humil­i­at­ing “reforms” that Rus­sia expe­ri­enced in the 90’s that helped fueled mass pop­u­lar­i­ty for some­one like Putin that acts like he’s pro­tect Rus­sia from becom­ing a non-Rus­sia eco­nom­ic colony.

    Sure, like most coun­tries these days, Rus­sia is basi­cal­ly an eco­nom­ic colony of its bil­lion­aires, albeit more so than else­where. But if the West­ern-backed neolib­er­al reform­ers get into pow­er, aren’t we just going to see a lot more for­eign bil­lion­aires AND demands for end­less aus­ter­i­ty? What is that going to do to Rus­si­a’s col­lec­tive psy­chol­o­gy if it under­goes a repeat of the 90’s where all the “reforms” basi­cal­ly redis­trib­ute the wealth amongst the Russ­ian and inter­na­tion­al elites while leav­ing the Russ­ian pop­u­lace screwed as usu­al? Isn’t it a mas­sive risk to have mem­bers of Team-Yeltsin as a lead reform­ers? Does any­one in Rus­sia, oth­er than the elites, want to return to the 90’s? It seems like a huge mis­take for Rus­si­a’s oppo­si­tion, espe­cial­ly since the polit­i­cal sup­port for the neolib­er­al “reform­ers” like Nemtsov tends to most­ly come from the Moscow elites that have out­sized influ­ence but are hat­ed by much of the rest of the nation:

    Pan­do Dai­ly
    Sor­ry Amer­i­ca, Ukraine isn’t all about you

    By Mark Ames
    On May 14, 2014

    As the Ukraine cri­sis tips fur­ther into full-scale blood­bath and civ­il war, we seem to be get­ting more clue­less than we were before this cri­sis start­ed. That’s a pret­ty low bar to mea­sure against, and the con­se­quences of our clue­less­ness about what’s dri­ving the var­i­ous sides could be cat­a­stroph­ic for every­one.

    One of the biggest prob­lems is that every­one who riffs on Putin and Ukraine frames their analy­sis through a very nar­row, Amer­i­can­ized lens, as if the only thing on everyone’s minds out there is us, Amer­i­ca. Either Putin is behav­ing evil­ly because he fears America’s empire of lib­er­ty and free­dom; or Putin is behav­ing per­fect­ly ratio­nal­ly because the evil Amer­i­can empire has bul­lied Putin into a cor­ner, forc­ing him to annex Crimea and sup­port pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists.

    Oth­er Anglo-Amer­i­can “experts” frame Putin’s actions as if we’re all play­ing a sophis­ti­cat­ed ver­sion of Risk. In this fram­ing either Putin is dri­ven by some genet­ic need to revive old Russ­ian impe­ri­al­ism, con­quer­ing lost ter­ri­to­ry because he’s been so pained all these years, like a man reach­ing for a miss­ing limb; or con­verse­ly, Putin apol­o­gists say he’s legit­i­mate­ly secur­ing a buffer region to pro­tect Russ­ian inter­ests from Amer­i­can-West­ern encroach­ment.

    All of these ver­sions have truth to them, but they all share one huge blind spot: What role does domes­tic Russ­ian pol­i­tics play in Putin’s poli­cies in Ukraine? For that mat­ter, how does domes­tic Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics inform inter­im leader Turchynov’s or Yarosh’s moves?

    Every hack knows that “all pol­i­tics is local” — but we rarely apply this adage to under­stand­ing the pol­i­tics of the rest of the world. The rea­son in Russia’s case is obvi­ous: We don’t under­stand that part of the world, and aren’t much inter­est­ed in it either, except inso­far as they pro­vide proxy ammo to our own domes­tic polit­i­cal spats. Our best and bright­est for­eign pol­i­cy elites nev­er strayed far from the warped hick mind­set of that Viet­nam War colonel in Full Met­al Jack­et:

    “We are here to help the Viet­namese, because inside every gook there is an Amer­i­can try­ing to get out.”

    It’s much eas­i­er ana­lyz­ing Krem­lin pol­i­cy in Ukraine on the assump­tion that Amer­i­ca is always on Putin’s mind in his every deci­sion — because hell, we’re on our minds 24/7, obvi­ous­ly we must be on every­one else’s minds too.

    To under­stand Putin’s moves in Ukraine from a domes­tic stand­point, go back to the start of Putin’s return to the Krem­lin, announced in late 2011, effec­tive ear­ly 2012. His return to the pres­i­den­cy from his prime minister’s perch has been noth­ing at all like Putin’s first eight years in the Krem­lin. His base is vast­ly dif­fer­ent now than 1999–2008. Then, his base was pri­mar­i­ly Russia’s urban lib­er­als and bour­geois elites. Putin lost them in 2011; his base is now Russia’s Silent Major­i­ty.

    Putin’s pol­i­tics have changed accord­ing­ly.

    Let’s go back, briefly, even fur­ther to 1999–2000, when Putin first rose to pow­er. The for­got­ten ugly truth is that Putin came to office with the enthu­si­as­tic sup­port of Russia’s lib­er­als — the St. Peters­burg (neo)liberals, and also many of the most promi­nent Moscow intel­li­gentsia lib­er­als. Putin’s polit­i­cal men­tor in the 1990s was the lib­er­al may­or of St. Peters­burg, Ana­toly Sobchak — Putin was his deputy may­or and his mus­cle. More impor­tant are Putin’s old ties to the neolib­er­al “St. Peters­burg Clan” that designed and super­vised Russia’s bru­tal mar­ket reforms under Yeltsin. The St. Peters­burg clan was led by Ana­toly Chubais, USAID’s favorite Russ­ian (and Lar­ry Sum­mers’ too, who famous­ly called the Chubais Clan run­ning Yeltsin’s dis­as­trous econ­o­my “The Dream Team”).

    When Putin first rose to pow­er, not only Chubais but the whole cadre of Peters­burg free-mar­ket lib­er­als sup­port­ed Putin as the Pinochet who would pro­tect and pro­mote free-mar­ket reforms in Rus­sia. Chubais praised Yeltsin for resign­ing from the Krem­lin and appoint­ing Putin in his place:

    “It is a bril­liant deci­sion, extreme­ly pre­cise and pro­found, and apart from any­thing else, very brave.”

    Putin’s eco­nom­ic team was stacked with Peters­burg lib­er­als — Ger­man Gref, Alex­ei Kudrin, Andrei Illarnionov (now with the CATO Insti­tute) —and the main lib­er­al polit­i­cal par­ty, SPS, threw its sup­port behind Putin’s first elec­tion for pres­i­dent in 2000.

    ...

    Los­ing the sup­port of the insu­lar Moscow lib­er­al intel­li­gentsia wasn’t a polit­i­cal prob­lem for Putin when he left office in 2008, because their griev­ances didn’t catch on with the boom­ing yup­pie class in Moscow and a hand­ful of oth­er big cities. In a coun­try as cul­tur­al­ly top-down as Rus­sia, it’s hard to overem­pha­size just how impor­tant it was for Putin to keep the lib­er­al intelligentsia’s polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion con­tained and mar­gin­al­ized, lest it infect the young “man­ag­er class”: The legions of polit­i­cal­ly apa­thet­ic PR flaks, cor­po­rate man­agers, lawyers, techies and so on.

    The impor­tant thing to remem­ber is this: Russia’s lib­er­al intel­li­gentsia and its big city yup­pie class is small in num­bers, out­sized in influ­ence and impor­tance…. and hat­ed by the rest of Rus­sia. And there’s a lot to hate: intel­li­gentsia lib­er­als and Moscow yup­pies are elit­ist snobs on a scale that would turn any­one into a Bol­she­vik. They even named their go-to glossy “Snob”— and they meant it. It’s not just the new rich who are elit­ist snobs — lib­er­al jour­nal­ist-dis­si­dent Ele­na Tregubova’s mem­oir on press cen­sor­ship inter­weaves her con­tempt for Putin with her Mus­covite con­tempt for what she called “abo­rig­ines,” those provin­cial Russ­ian mul­ti­tudes who occu­py the rest of Russia’s eleven time zones. Tregubo­va flaunt­ed her con­tempt for Russia’s “abo­rig­ines,” whom she mocked for being too poor and unciv­i­lized to tell the dif­fer­ence between processed orange juice and her beloved fresh-squeezed orange juice. I’m not mak­ing that up either.

    Tregubova’s con­tempt is typ­i­cal for the lib­er­al intel­li­gentsia. Stephen Cohen quot­ed well-known Russ­ian lib­er­al intel­lec­tu­als blam­ing the mis­ery and pover­ty of post-Sovi­et Rus­sia on the Russ­ian mass­es who suf­fered most: “the peo­ple are the main prob­lem with our democ­ra­cy” said one; anoth­er blamed the fail­ures of free-mar­ket reforms on “a rot in the nation­al gene pool.” Alfred Kokh, a Peters­burg lib­er­al fired by Yeltsin for tak­ing bribes from banks while head­ing the pri­va­ti­za­tion com­mit­tee, open­ly rel­ished the mis­ery suf­fered by the Russ­ian mass­es after the 1998 finan­cial mar­kets col­lapse forced mil­lions into sub­sis­tence farm­ing for sur­vival:

    “The long-suf­fer­ing Russ­ian mass­es are to blame for their own suffering…the Russ­ian peo­ple are get­ting what they deserve.”

    What this means polit­i­cal­ly is eleven time zones of untapped resent­ment, sur­round­ing an island of wealth and lib­er­al elitism—Moscow.

    Wealth inequal­i­ty the real prob­lem: Rus­sia has the worst wealth inequal­i­ty in the world.

    Most liv­ing Rus­sians still remem­ber the Sovi­et era, when wealth inequal­i­ty was so minute it was mea­sured in perks rather than yachts. That’s what the Rus­sians mean when they tell poll­sters they pre­ferred the Sovi­et Union days and rue its col­lapse. Lazy hacks inter­pret those polls as proof that Rus­sians are still evil empirelings, for the sheer evil joy of hav­ing a War­saw Pact to boast about. Rather than the obvi­ous: Rus­sians lived longer and eas­i­er under Sovi­et rule, then start­ed dying off by the mil­lions as soon as cap­i­tal­ism was intro­duced, when pover­ty explod­ed and they found them­selves in the most unequal coun­try on earth.

    [And it’s not just Rus­sians: In a Gallup poll late last year, a major­i­ty of Ukraini­ans said that the col­lapse of the Sovi­et Union was more harm­ful (56 per­cent) for Ukraine than ben­e­fi­cial (23 per­cent).]

    To an out­sider, these are all prob­lems that need solu­tions. But to a polit­i­cal ani­mal like Putin, this huge pool of human resent­ment and nos­tal­gia is a poten­tial pow­er base: Russia’s Silent Major­i­ty. Although Putin has thrown them plen­ty of bones over the years, the Krem­lin nev­er fash­ioned an entire pol­i­tics around the Silent Major­i­ty, in part because it nev­er had to. The think­ing has been that no mat­ter how des­per­ate and resent­ful the Russ­ian “abo­rig­ines” in the provinces get, they’ll nev­er pose a seri­ous threat to Krem­lin pow­er. Moscow’s lib­er­als and its “man­ag­er class” were tak­en far more seri­ous­ly as a class.

    Putin’s sur­prise deci­sion in 2007 nam­ing as his Krem­lin suc­ces­sor a Peters­burg lib­er­al, Dmit­ry Medvedev, showed how impor­tant the liberal/yuppie demo­graph­ic was in Putin’s polit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions. Every­one had expect­ed Putin to name a fig­ure tied to the secu­ri­ty ser­vices, the “silovi­ki,” if only to pro­tect him­self. His choice of the lib­er­al, well-liked Medvedev was not sim­ply because Medvedev didn’t threat­en Putin; he also reflect­ed a Rus­sia that lib­er­als want­ed: cul­tured, civ­i­lized, Euro­pean, raised in an elite cen­tral dis­trict in St. Peters­burg. For awhile it worked; many lib­er­als and big city yup­pies were impressed, pleased, and har­bored hopes that Medvedev could be won over to their side, see­ing him as nat­u­ral­ly one of theirs. Keep­ing the big city lib­er­als hap­py, or at the very least from turn­ing against him, remained a key plank of Putin’s pol­i­tics.

    That fan­ta­sy — that Medvedev was any­thing but Putin’s yes-man, or that his Krem­lin perch meant that Rus­sia was now plau­si­bly Euro­pean, was shat­tered for good in late 2011, when Putin announced that the jig was up: He was switch­ing places with Medvedev and mov­ing back into the Krem­lin, and the only thing remain­ing was for Rus­sia to rub­ber stamp his deci­sion with a rit­u­al­is­tic vote.

    That domes­tic polit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion changed in Decem­ber 2011, when tens of thou­sands of young Mus­covites took to the streets in the “man­ag­er class rev­o­lu­tion,” protest­ing Putin’s crude way of re-installing him­self in the Krem­lin. They were out­raged at the way Putin made fools of them — all those years, Putin had insist­ed Rus­sia was “civ­i­lized” and demo­c­ra­t­ic in its own Russ­ian way — part Euro­pean, part Russ­ian — which is exact­ly what the “man­ag­er class” need­ed to hear and to believe. They trav­el a lot to the West. It’s hard to explain just how exis­ten­tial­ly impor­tant those trips to the West are to the “man­ag­er class.” The “man­ag­er class” could hold their heads up while trav­el­ing around Europe dur­ing the first Putin term, because on paper at least, Putin did things by the book. When he stepped down and nom­i­nat­ed Medvedev to take his place, it was fur­ther con­fir­ma­tion that Rus­sia wasn’t as far from “civ­i­lized” Europe as the lib­er­al oppo­si­tion claimed.

    But when Putin made that announce­ment that he was switch­ing seats with Medvedev, the awful real­i­ty hit home to the urban “man­ag­er class” that they’d been duped. And they were out­raged. I remem­ber the explo­sion of raw yup­pie rage on the Russ­ian Inter­net those first few days after Putin’s announce­ment, though I didn’t ful­ly appre­ci­ate how seri­ous that Mus­covite yup­pie out­rage was at first. They were talk­ing as if Putin had declared war on them. He had cer­tain­ly humil­i­at­ed them; worse, the Euro­peans would judge the trav­el-mad “man­ag­er class” like they live in Boratas­tan. Putin humil­i­at­ed them, and that humil­i­a­tion wouldn’t ever go away until Putin was gone. Sud­den­ly, Moscow urban­ites flood­ed social media with rage against Putin, open­ly declar­ing war. I thought they were blus­ter­ing. Yup­pies don’t take to the streets, Russ­ian yup­pies least of all.

    Putin’s announce­ment came in Octo­ber 2011. Two months lat­er, fraud-rid­dled elec­tions sent tens of thou­sands of young Mus­covites out on the streets bat­tling with riot police. It wasn’t so much the vote fraud — every Russ­ian elec­tion since Yeltsin stole the 1996 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions has been rife with vote fraud, with­in lim­its of plau­si­bil­i­ty, and Decem­ber 2011’s Duma vote fit in that rough cat­e­go­ry. The out­rage was over the humil­i­a­tion of hav­ing your despot shove his despo­tism in your bour­geois face. The New York Times head­lined their sto­ry: “Boost­ed By Putin, Russia’s Mid­dle Class Turns On Him.”

    Dur­ing the mass yup­pie protests in Moscow, I remem­ber one telling moment that gave some insight into the Kremlin’s new polit­i­cal strat­e­gy. Legions of pro-Putin youths start­ed pour­ing into Moscow, and locals start­ed warn­ing of provo­ca­teurs come to start vio­lence and invite a crack­down. But in one video I watched, a con­fronta­tion in Mayakovskaya Square between the Moscow yup­pies and the pro-Putin youths, the Mus­covites all start­ed yelling and laugh­ing real­iz­ing that the pro-Putin youths were from the despised provinces. You could tell by their clothes, their hair­cuts, their ner­vous out-of-place expres­sions on their faces. The rich Mus­covites chased them away; the provin­cial Putin tools skulked back to their shit­ty bus­es, for the long jour­ney back to their wretched provin­cial apart­ment blocks.

    It’s hard to know when Putin decid­ed to run a Nixon strat­e­gy and appeal to Red State Rus­sia but I’m pret­ty sure he was as shocked as any­one by the scale and rage in those first anti-Putin protests in Decem­ber 2011.

    This is a long back­ground way of get­ting to the point that I want to make about under­stand­ing Putin by way of “all pol­i­tics is local.” Putin lost the cru­cial big city yup­pie class. They’re gone for good. There are a lot of ways an auto­crat in a nom­i­nal­ly demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­try can respond to that. Putin has cho­sen a new pol­i­tics appeal­ing to the Russ­ian Silent Major­i­ty, and that means appeal­ing to their resent­ments, heat­ing up the cul­ture wars between lib­er­al Moscow and the slow­er, fear­ful mass­es in the rest of those eleven time zones. To exploit the huge dif­fer­ences between the Moscow lib­er­als and yup­pies opposed to Putin, and the rest of the coun­try that resents them.

    The Silent Major­i­ty has wait­ed at least two decades for pay­back, and now it’s on, and it’s not pret­ty. It’s why Putin tar­get­ed Pussy Riot. We West­ern­ers loved them; they were heroes to us, brave punk rock babes fight­ing the Man and get­ting jailed for being punk. In our world, that’s cool. But in Rus­sia, Pussy Riot was com­plete­ly despised by near­ly every­one, across class and region­al lines. One poll after they were jailed showed only 6 per­cent of Rus­sians sup­port­ed Pussy Riot; the poll could not find a sin­gle respon­dent who said they respect­ed the jailed band mem­bers.

    By exploit­ing Russ­ian dis­gust for Pussy Riot and equat­ing the oppo­si­tion move­ment with Pussy Riot, Putin was able to con­flate the lib­er­al oppo­si­tion with a deca­dent, alien art troupe whose pur­pose seemed to be to humil­i­ate Rus­sia and mock their cul­ture. Nixon couldn’t have dreamed up a more per­fect sym­bol of his oppo­nents.

    The Nixon Strat­e­gy also explains why, after all these years, Putin sud­den­ly tar­get­ed Russia’s gays for a vicious cul­ture war cam­paign. In the Russ­ian Red States, the vio­lent, cru­el state-man­aged homo­pho­bia — in which a lead­ing TV anchor told his audi­ence that gays’ hearts and organs should be burned and buried deep under­ground — was red meat, an acknowl­edg­ment at last that Russia’s Silent Major­i­ty mat­ters. And the more Moscow yup­pies and West­ern­ers berat­ed Rus­sia for attack­ing gays, the more the Silent Major­i­ty iden­ti­fied with the Krem­lin.

    And that brings me to Putin and Ukraine. It goes with­out say­ing that Putin didn’t plan this cri­sis to hap­pen — he already had his man in pow­er in Kyiv. But Putin did exploit the sit­u­a­tion, turn­ing a major humil­i­at­ing defeat in Feb­ru­ary into a mas­sive polit­i­cal vic­to­ry with­in Rus­sia by doing what the Silent Major­i­ty would’ve want­ed Putin to do: Redress griev­ances, air out resent­ments non­stop against the West and against west Ukraine fas­cists, and screw what­ev­er the West thinks.

    There’s not much com­fort here for any side in the West when you frame Putin’s actions through local pol­i­tics. Here, in our proxy war way of fram­ing Ukraine, either Putin’s a crazy evil empire‑r look­ing to reestab­lish his empire, mean­ing we bet­ter stop him now; or Putin’s mere­ly react­ing defen­sive­ly to our aggres­sion (or, accord­ing to the faulty think­ing of a lot of peo­ple sick of Amer­i­can inter­ven­tion­ism, Putin is hero­ical­ly defy­ing the US Empire, act­ing as a coun­ter­weight).

    What he’s doing is shoring up his new polit­i­cal base while tight­en­ing the screws on what­ev­er remained of lib­er­al free­dom in Rus­sia, tak­ing con­trol of the Inter­net, seiz­ing con­trol of the hand­ful of oppo­si­tion online media sites, and ramp­ing up the cul­ture war against lib­er­als, gays, the deca­dent West… The fact that we, the US and EU and a few bil­lion­aires, fund­ed vio­lent regime change groups in bed with west Ukraine fas­cists and Rus­so­phobes has only made Putin’s domes­tic job eas­i­er. You can see it in the after­math of the Odessa fire mas­sacre that killed over 40 pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists: It shut up even Naval­ny.

    The lib­er­al-yup­pie elites’ momen­tum is over. Putin’s pop­u­lar­i­ty among the rest of the coun­try has nev­er been high­er.

    So if Putin is nei­ther the defi­ant coun­ter­weight hero or the neo-Stal­in­ist impe­ri­al­ist, but rather play­ing a Russ­ian ver­sion of vicious Nixon pol­i­tics, what should the West do?

    That’s easy: Stay the Hell out of Russia’s way for awhile, its ver­sion of Nixon pol­i­tics is just begin­ning, and it’s going to get ugli­er. Rus­sia has a his­to­ry of turn­ing inward in ways that will strike us as fer­al and alien, some­thing the aban­doned Silent Major­i­ty will wel­come, but no one else will. (Our sanc­tions only helped speed up that process of inward iso­la­tion­ism.)

    America’s Silent Major­i­ty was crazy enough in the Nixon years: the Silent Major­i­ty cheered Nixon on when col­lege stu­dents were gunned down on cam­pus­es; 80% of Amer­i­cans sided with Lt. William Cal­ley, the offi­cer in charge of the My Lai mas­sacre.

    Sor­ry Ukraine, but you’re screwed. This is bare­ly about you; it’s about us. It always is.

    Yep, Rus­si­a’s “lib­er­al intel­li­gen­cia” and the “man­ag­er class” are large­ly hat­ed by the Russ­ian mass­es, so once Putin lost the sup­port of the Moscovites it was easy to turn that into a new source of mass pop­u­lar sup­port for Putin by doing wag­ing a new cul­ture war that tar­get­ed Moscow’s yup­pies. And while some of that hatred was no doubt dri­ven by the kind of sad big­otries you find near­ly every­where, it’s hard to deny that the hatred of Moscows elites was dri­ven in part by the fact that Rus­sia has the most unequal wealth dis­tri­b­u­tion in the world.

    So, giv­en the suc­cess of Putin’s Nixon­ian “Silent Major­i­ty” strat­e­gy, it seems like the addi­tion­al atten­tion Nemtsov’s death is bring­ing to the oppo­si­tion move­ments makes this a real­ly good time for Rus­si­a’s oppo­si­tion par­ties to devel­op a reform pack­age that explic­it­ly does­n’t involve even more neolib­er­al reforms that are prob­a­bly going to do noth­ing about the incred­i­ble con­cen­tra­tion of wealth that result­ed from Rus­si­a’s neolib­er­al reforms thus far.

    How about some redis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth down the pub­lic? Will Rus­si­a’s neolib­er­al reforms be able to stom­ach such an idea? Prob­a­bly not, so the ques­tion is raised of what type future Rus­si­a’s oppo­si­tion has if it’s con­tin­u­al­ly led by a bunch of hat­ed Moscow elites with appeal that does­n’t extend much beyond Moscow. What kind of future is there for Rus­si­a’s oppo­si­tion when that’s the sta­tus quo? Oh yeah, they could con­tin­ue team­ing up with the far-right and hope every­thing works out.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 3, 2015, 2:43 pm
  5. Here’s an indi­ca­tion that the threat of an armed insur­rec­tionary coup that’s now become part of the New Nor­mal for Kiev as a con­se­quence of the sud­den ele­va­tion and nor­mal­iza­tion of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi far-right­ists might not be lim­it­ed to Kiev:

    The Guardian

    Rus­si­a’s ‘valiant hero’ in Ukraine turns his fire on Vladimir Putin

    Igor Strelkov, Russ­ian ‘mil­i­tary hero’ of the war in Ukraine, steps out of the shad­ows to fire sal­vo at pres­i­dent Putin and pre­dict upheaval in Rus­sia

    Shaun Walk­er in Moscow

    Sun­day 5 June 2016 12.03 EDT

    Two years ago, Igor Strelkov was the most noto­ri­ous per­son­al­i­ty of the war in east Ukraine. A for­mer Russ­ian secu­ri­ty forces offi­cer, with a clipped grey mous­tache and a pen­chant for his­tor­i­cal re-enact­ments, Strelkov led the takeover of the town of Slavyan­sk in April 2014, which pre­saged the armed con­flict across the region.

    In Kiev, he was seen as a bloody and ruth­less war crim­i­nal – a Krem­lin agent sent by Moscow to wreak hav­oc in Ukraine. In Rus­sia, he was por­trayed as a valiant mil­i­tary hero, lead­ing the local rebel forces in their fight against Kiev. He could be found strid­ing through the cor­ri­dors of the Donet­sk rebel head­quar­ters, with a Stechkin pis­tol in a vin­tage wood­en hol­ster at his hip and flanked by heav­i­ly armed body­guards.

    Two years lat­er, he cuts a very dif­fer­ent fig­ure, dur­ing an inter­view with the Guardian at his small Moscow office. In civil­ian cloth­ing and slight­ly chub­bier, he spent the encounter stroking his huge Maine Coon cat, Grumpy, which lay on the table in front of him. Strelkov has in recent weeks turned his rhetor­i­cal fire on the Krem­lin itself, even if he no longer has an army with which to back up his words.

    “Putin and his cir­cle have recent­ly tak­en steps which I believe will almost inevitably lead to the col­lapse of the sys­tem,” Strelkov said. “We don’t know yet how, and we don’t know when, but we are cer­tain it will col­lapse, and more like­ly soon­er than lat­er.”

    Pulled out of east Ukraine by the Krem­lin in August 2014, report­ed­ly because the Russ­ian author­i­ties felt he was too much of a lia­bil­i­ty, Strelkov entered a strange twi­light zone, pre­vent­ed from return­ing to the con­flict or fea­tur­ing in state-con­trolled media. After near­ly two years of sit­ting qui­et­ly, the erst­while poster boy of the pro-Rus­sia cause last week released a dec­la­ra­tion strong­ly crit­i­cal of Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, and pre­dict­ing upheaval and blood­shed in Rus­sia in the near future.

    Strelkov, whose real sur­name is Girkin (Strelkov is a pseu­do­nym derived from the Russ­ian for “the Shoot­er”), believes Putin dithered at the cru­cial moment in 2014, for fear of break­ing off ties between Rus­sia and the west for good. A rad­i­cal nation­al­ist who believes Rus­sia should seize all the lands where eth­nic Rus­sians live, and who describes Ukraini­ans as “Rus­sians who speak a dif­fer­ent dialect”, Strelkov said it was fatal that Putin stopped after annex­ing Crimea.

    “He crossed the Rubi­con, but then stopped unex­pect­ed­ly and illog­i­cal­ly. He didn’t retreat, but didn’t go for­ward either. He has no ideas and seems to be wait­ing for a mir­a­cle. He’s stuck in the mid­dle of a swamp.”

    Strelkov, who stud­ied his­to­ry and mod­els him­self on the White offi­cers who fought the Bol­she­viks dur­ing the Russ­ian civ­il war, has been put on inter­na­tion­al sanc­tions lists for his role in the Ukraine war. Last week, Pol­ish MP Mal­go­rza­ta Gosiews­ka pre­sent­ed a report on alleged war crimes com­mit­ted by Strelkov to the inter­na­tion­al crim­i­nal court in the Hague, and hopes an inquiry will be launched.

    Strelkov does not deny hav­ing peo­ple shot for loot­ing, but claims the exe­cu­tions were legal, as they were car­ried out accord­ing to a Sovi­et law on wartime jus­tice.

    ...

    It is unclear to what extent Strelkov’s actions in Ukraine were coor­di­nat­ed with the Krem­lin. Dur­ing the annex­a­tion of Crimea, in which Strelkov took part, the Russ­ian mil­i­tary oper­a­tion was care­ful­ly chore­o­graphed. How­ev­er, some sug­gest that when the action moved to east Ukraine, he was work­ing more in a free­lance role, in touch with con­tacts and cura­tors in Moscow, but not active­ly direct­ed by them. Hav­ing fought as a vol­un­teer in Trans­d­niestr and Bosnia in the ear­ly 1990s, he served dur­ing both Chechen wars as an offi­cer in Russia’s FSB secu­ri­ty ser­vices. He claims he retired from active duty “after a per­son­al con­flict” in 2012, declin­ing to elab­o­rate.

    “I was to a large extent an inde­pen­dent fig­ure,” he insist­ed of his role in east Ukraine. He said he used all his con­tacts to demand a full-scale Russ­ian inva­sion, but it soon became clear this was not forth­com­ing. Rus­sia has denied all involve­ment in Ukraine, though Putin in Decem­ber admit­ted there were “peo­ple who car­ried out cer­tain tasks” in the region. Strelkov him­self declined to com­ment on the lev­el of Russ­ian offi­cial involve­ment, say­ing only that “you may draw your own con­clu­sions”.

    There is over­whelm­ing evi­dence of Russ­ian finan­cial and mil­i­tary sup­port for the rebels as well as of Russ­ian reg­u­lar troops enter­ing the con­flict at key moments, and some rebel sources have claimed that the with­draw­al of the unpre­dictable Strelkov was one of the pre­con­di­tions set by the Krem­lin ahead of send­ing troops covert­ly to inflict a crush­ing defeat on the Ukraini­ans dur­ing the bat­tle of Ilo­vaysk.

    Ever since Strelkov was told to leave Ukraine in August 2014, the Krem­lin has put him on the “stop list”; the unof­fi­cial list of those it is imper­mis­si­ble to give air­time to on state tele­vi­sion, which includes most of the lib­er­al oppo­si­tion.

    “I’m an incon­ve­nient fig­ure for them, they don’t know what to do with me: am I a hero or a ter­ror­ist? They can’t arrest and jail me because it would be seen as bow­ing to the west to call me a ter­ror­ist. But to give me hon­ours is also incon­ve­nient for them, so I’m in this strange gap.”

    An asso­ciate com­plained that nobody want­ed to speak to the for­mer Donet­sk com­man­der; even jour­nal­ists who expressed an inter­est lat­er called back to say they had been told it was bet­ter not to speak to him.

    “The author­i­ties don’t want inde­pen­dent politi­cians or peo­ple who think freely, what­ev­er camp they belong to. They don’t even want free-think­ing sup­port­ers,” said Strelkov. The man­i­festo released last week is a mix­ture of both sur­pris­ing­ly lib­er­al promis­es about free­dom of speech and free elec­tions, togeth­er with impe­r­i­al rhetoric of expand­ing Russ­ian lands and pro­tect­ing Rus­sians in for­mer Sovi­et states.

    “We might seem like mar­gin­als but it didn’t take the Bol­she­viks more than 1% of the pop­u­la­tion to change things in 1917,” said Egor Prosvirnin, who runs a nation­al­ist blog and also signed the dec­la­ra­tion togeth­er with Strelkov and a num­ber of oth­er nation­al­ists. “Things could change very, very quick­ly.”

    Strelkov and his group of nation­al­ist blog­gers and fringe polit­i­cal fig­ures do indeed appear to be mar­gin­al fig­ures. But nation­al­ism is a pow­er­ful polit­i­cal force in Rus­sia, and many won­der if the flames that were fanned in east Ukraine in 2014 will be easy to put out, now that the Krem­lin is seek­ing a diplo­mat­ic solu­tion that would still give it a say in Ukrain­ian affairs.

    “The Krem­lin is very scared of nation­al­ists, because they use the same impe­r­i­al rhetoric as Putin does but they can do it much bet­ter than him,” said Alex­ei Naval­ny, an anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign­er and oppo­si­tion politi­cian. “That’s why there are nation­al­ists in prison, even those who sup­port­ed Putin. They went to kiss his feet, and he kicked them away.”

    Oth­ers say that a fig­ure like Strelkov, after his brief months in the lime­light in 2014, is doomed to remain periph­er­al from now on, address­ing small groups of nation­al­ists in his dis­cus­sion tours around the coun­try, but unlike­ly to win broad appeal. Strelkov said he does not plan to stand for elect­ed office, but thinks his time could come again.

    “We do not plan to launch a rev­o­lu­tion to depose Vladimir Putin. Hav­ing tak­en part in five wars, I know very well what it is like when author­i­ty and social infra­struc­ture col­laps­es in big cities. Nobody wants that, includ­ing me. But unfor­tu­nate­ly, it could be inevitable.”

    “Strelkov, whose real sur­name is Girkin (Strelkov is a pseu­do­nym derived from the Russ­ian for “the Shoot­er”), believes Putin dithered at the cru­cial moment in 2014, for fear of break­ing off ties between Rus­sia and the west for good. A rad­i­cal nation­al­ist who believes Rus­sia should seize all the lands where eth­nic Rus­sians live, and who describes Ukraini­ans as “Rus­sians who speak a dif­fer­ent dialect”, Strelkov said it was fatal that Putin stopped after annex­ing Crimea.”

    Beyond being a threat to Putin and the cur­rent Russ­ian elite pow­er struc­ture, it’s worth keep­ing in mind that the cri­sis in Ukraine and the result­ing ‘new Cold War’ dynam­ic that’s emerged is exact­ly the kind of sus­tained cri­sis that could even­tu­al­ly cre­ate the con­di­tions where an ultra-nation­al­ist far-right revan­chist fringe like what Strelkov rep­re­sents real­ly does some day seize pow­er in Rus­sia. And that’s not just a threat to Putin and the Rus­sians, that’s a threat to world peace. Or at least region­al peace because there’s no short­age of Russ­ian-speak­ing pop­u­la­tions out­side of Rus­sia.

    So if we’re going to see years or longer of big mil­i­tary buildups between NATO and Rus­sia and the kind of eco­nom­ic sanc­tions that even­tu­al­ly desta­bi­lize Rus­si­a’s econ­o­my and soci­ety, is there any par­tic­u­lar rea­son to assume the the Strelkov fac­tion of Rus­si­a’s cur­rent-fringe won’t be one of the main polit­i­cal ben­e­fi­cia­ries of that kind of sit­u­a­tion? It’s unclear why we should­n’t expect a pos­si­ble out­come like that. Per­haps a very pos­si­ble out­come like that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 5, 2016, 6:44 pm

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