Friday, March 27, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Putin has Left Russia without Friends in the Region, Moscow Commentator Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 27 – Vladimir Putin because of his hatred for Ukraine, Estonia, and Georgia has managed to leave Russia without any allies in the former Soviet space, a remarkable performance and one that means Moscow now must try to intimidate these countries to get its way or yield to others in ways many Russians would fine offensive.
This is a remarkable performance, Vladimir Nadein points out in today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” one that is almost unprecedented. “Even Hitler,” even when it was obvious that he was losing the war “retained allies up to the end of 1944. But Putin, after ten years of uninterrupted rule doesn’t have any” (
Instead of following “the first rule of ancient diplomacy: assemble around oneself more friends and thus destroy more quickly the coalition of enemies, Putin has pursued a policy that has offended and driven away Russia’s neighbors and not gained Russia many of the advantages it might have gotten had it not followed Putin’s lead.
And as a result, with the possible exception of China, Belarus and Kazakhstan, about whose attitudes toward Russia there are still “some doubts,” “all other countries bordering us are clearly not disposed in our favor,” something that Nadein insists did not have to happen and that could be reversed with different policies.
“To deny this would be stupid,” the longtime journalist argues, and consequently, Putin and those around him have tried to suggest that this is the way things “ought to be” – “a kind of diplomatic variant of the Stalinist maxim according to which the class struggle sharpens as the country advances toward socialism.”
But however that may be, “a diplomacy which leaves one’s country in such isolation deserves the very lowest grade.” And nowhere is this situation worse than with regard to Ukraine, a country in whose presidential elections Putin openly interfered and whose history he and those around him were openly, unnecessarily, and counterproductively offensive.
After detailing Putin’s comments in Bucharest about Ukraine as a state and his failure in the gas war, something which set more Ukrainians against Moscow and drove them ever closer to the Europeans, Nadein devotes most of his article to something few Russian commentators have discussed in such detail: Putin’s offensive approach to the Ukrainian terror famine.
“It is difficult to think up something more offensive for any nation than the relationship that official Moscow [under Putin’s guidance] has taken toward this greatest of human misfortunes,” the death of millions of people through starvation caused by the policies of the Soviet state, the Moscow journalist says.
Not only did Dmitry Medvedev refuse to go to Kyiv for the commemoration of this tragedy, but he and the Moscow propaganda machine condemned the Ukrainians for “unleashing an anti-Russia psychosis” by insisting that the terror famine was a genocide, something Moscow says cannot be true because people of other nations and in other republics died as well.
But that is a fundamentally fraudulent and offensive argument, Nadein says. “The terrible famine in the Don and in Kazakhstan in no way deprives the Terror Famine [in Ukraine] of features of a genocide. The Hitlerites methodically destroyed gypsies, but no one on that basis denies that they conducted a genocide against the Jews.”
And Putin’s and Moscow’s efforts to deny this by citing Western “authorities” who are not authorities and by talking about mistakes in the pictures in exhibitions, the journalist continues, are offensive on their face and do no credit to Russia and the Russians, whatever the prime minister and his entourage think.
But there is a precedent for what Putin has done: “For many years in the Soviet Union, its officials denied the world recognized fact that the main victims at Baby Yar were Kyivan Jews. The censors [at that time] permitted only a single formula to describe what happened there: ‘Soviet citizens died.’”
Nadein says that he “never understood” why Soviet officials thought that was something that brought them advantage. And he adds that he does not understand why Putin and his government are continuing a similar outrage against truth and against the feelings of Ukrainians and others who have suffered so much.
Nadein’s article is important on for three reasons. First, it links these unfortunate policies directly to Putin and thus opens the way for Medvedev and his successors to shift away from them. Second, it suggests that dialogue on some of these most neuralgic issues may be increasingly possible, regardless of what the Russian prime minister thinks.
And third – and this may be its most important role – his article opens the way for a delinking of the Russia of today from the Soviet Union of the past, something Putin has never been willing to do but a step some Russian leader in the future will have to make if his country is to be surrounded by anything other than enemies or those to intimidated to be real friends.

No comments: