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.)

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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]


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.)





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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