Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Window on Eurasia: In Russia, Terrorism Doesn’t Cost Officials Their Jobs But Rather the People Their Freedoms, Moscow Commentator Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 31 – When a terrorist incident occurs in Russia, a Moscow commentator says, it is unlikely to cost even those officials whose responsibilities included preventing it their jobs, but experience with earlier cases suggests, that such incidents will likely cost the Russian people their freedoms without providing them with any additional security.
In a commentary in “Novaya gazeta” today, Andrey Lipsky says that where governments see themselves as the servants of the people, a terrorist incident is likely to lead to “a rapid change of political power” or at least the ouster of officials responsible for security as well as to “serious measures for increasing the security of citizens. And often both together.”
But in a country like Russia, he continues, officials view terrorist acts as another reminder that they “are not in a position to fulfill their chief function – the defense of their fellow citizens” and consequently convince them that at the very least they should exploit the situation to retain their “own control over the country” (
The experience of the last dozen years is both instructive and disturbing. After the blowing up of the apartment buildings in 1999, Vladimir Putin not only launched his political career but used these terrorist actions as the occasion for severely restricting press freedom by means of “anti-terrorist” amendments to media laws.
Then, after the Nord-Ost tragedy in 2002, Putin moved to tighten control of the media even more closely. Again, in 2004, after the Moscow metro bombing, Putin launched the career of Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya. And finally after Beslan, Putin transformed the political system in ways that did little to promote the population’s security but a great deal to protect his.
After that event, he eliminated the election of governors, suppressed single mandate districts for the Duma and introduced other “anti-democratic changes in the electoral system as a whole.” Consequently, after each terrorist action, Russians ask themselves not what will be done to make them safer but what will be done to them in the name of doing so.
That is a question Russians are asking once again in the wake of the Moscow metro bombings, Lipsky says. And they are doing so with particular urgency because they know that “it is difficult to escape bad habits,” that the beginnings of the campaign will encourage populism, and that the regime is disturbed by the increasing numbers of demonstrations and meetings.
Clear evidence that many Russians are worried about these things is offered by two other commentators today. In a posting on, Ivan Yartsev asks whether President Dmitry Medvedev will be “a guarantor [of the Russian Constitution, as his job description requires] or the terminator” of what democratic arrangements it provides (
Despite his frequent statements about the importance of law and a legal state, Medvedev since the terrorist attacks has sounded quite similar to Putin in his commitment to “find and destroy” all those responsible rather than to bring them to justice as the Constitution and Russian laws require.
In his remarks, Yartsev says, Medvedev appears to have forgotten his duties, and “as a result of populist competition between the members of the ruling tandem, the positions of Russia in the Caucasus may continue to be weakened as a result of the ‘illegal’ positions of the law enforcement organs” that the country’s political leaders are calling for.
Clearly, Yartsev concludes, the powers that be in Moscow do not understand that “extra-judicial reprisals over the leaders of the terrorists will permit their comrades in arms to create around the destroyed bandits the auto of martyrdom,” something that will lead to more not fewer terrorist attacks in Russia in the future.
And writing in “Novaya gazeta” today, Yuliya Latynina argues that “sick and health state organisms” react very differently to Salafite terrorism. The United States, she says, seeks to oppose the ideas of the Salafites, and “the American special services struggle against terrorism rather than rob Khodorkovsky” (
As a result, the outspoken Moscow commentator points out, “since September 11, there have not been any terrorist acts in the US,” an enviable record compared to Russia’s where not only have there been multiple terrorist incidents in the past but where more are likely in the future.
The basic reason, she insists, is that Russian siloviki do exactly the opposite. They would rather steal from businessmen than fight “such an unappetizing and dangerous opponent as terrorists.” And she suggests an analogy with the flu: “For a health organism, this is only a passing illness. For a state weakened by excess and corruption, the illness can be fatal.”

Window on Eurasia: North Caucasus Highlights Problems with Notion of Non-Ethnic Russian Nation, Experts Say

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 31 – The terrorist attacks in Moscow earlier this week and the new upsurge of violence in Daghestan highlight weaknesses not only with the Russian state but also problems with the notion of a non-ethnic Russian national identity, a notion that many have argued is essential if that country is to develop as a modern civil society.
In today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Aleksandra Samarina addresses this latter point via interviews with four leading Moscow scholars, Valery Tishkov who heads the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Gyorgy Mirsky of IMEMO, Dmitry Furman of the Institute of Europe, and Aleksey Malashenko of the Carnegie Endowment’s Moscow Center.
Tishkov, who perhaps more than any other individual has been associated with the promotion of the idea of a non-ethnic Russian [‘rossiisky”] identity, acknowledges that there are problems with that identity among many people in the North Caucasus but insists progress is being made (
The process of getting people in the North Caucasus to accept such an identity is proceeding “with great efforts,” Tishkov says, something all the more necessary because that region was “incorporated into the Russian state later than the Volga or the Russian North, Siberia and even the Far East.”
In addition, he says, the North Caucasus “experienced the Caucasus war, the difficult period of the establishment of Soviet power, the deportation of peoples, and the Chechen war.” And consequently, while “the majority” of people in the region consider themselves non-ethnic Russians, there are nonetheless armed people who “cast doubt” on that concept.
Mirsky extended the discussion by observing that even though many people in the North Caucasus and especially in Daghestan use the Russian language as a link to the world, those who leave that region to live and work in Russian cities increasingly feel themselves viewed with distrust because they are Muslims.
“The word ‘Muslim,’ the IMEMO scholar says, “ever more is associated with the term ‘terrorist’” in Western Europe, the United States and Russia. In Russia’s case, he continues, such negative attitudes toward North Caucasians are intensified by the false notion that Gastarbeiters are taking Russian jobs.
This is “dangerous,” he says, because “people who encounter such a situation inevitably translate their feelings to the motherland. And there ever more often the idea arises that the term non-ethnic Russian does not mean anything.” These feelings are fueled by the appearance of attitudes of Russians who want “Russia for the ethnic Russians [“russkiye’].”
The peoples of the North Caucasus, Mirsky says, “do not feel themselves to be ethnic Russians. That is both impossible and unnecessary. And then the term ‘non-ethnic Russian’ turns out to be so nebulous” that they are unable or unwilling to see it as a reasonable substitute for or addition to their own ethnic national identities.
It is difficult to speak about the existence of a non-ethnic Russian nation, although “the idea that there is a single non-ethnic Russian nation, in which are included various peoples and various ethnic groups does exist,” Mirsky adds. But communicating that to ordinary people is “very difficult.”
“For the majority of the population [of the Russian Federation], there is a precise distinction: Russians and in general the Slavs are one thing, and the other people, especially the southern ones, are something quite different.” Muslims feel this and thus have few reasons to re-identify as Moscow wants.
There is an additional reason for that, he says. “Under Yeltsin the term ‘non-ethnic Russian’ was introduced but it was interpreted so that there were both ethnic Russians and non-ethnic Russians. Ethnic Russians were Orthodox and patriots, but non-ethnic Russians were those who took a pro-Western stance and wanted to eliminate Russian uniqueness.”
The Institute of Europe’s Furman points to other problems in the post-Soviet period. When the union republics became countries with the demise of the USSR, he points out, “it turned out that none of the autonomies had the right to leave,” and explaining that to a Chechen or a Tatar was morally “impossible.”
At that time, Moscow was confronted in the North Caucasus by “normal nationalism,” and if [Russia] had really agreed to the independence of Chechnya in 1991-92, this would have been a state. Certainly not a very well organized one to be sure, but step by step it would have proceeded along a more or less human path.”
Instead, by opposing such independence, what Moscow obtained was “a pure formality.” The Chechens say “we are with Russia forever” and formally enter the Federation. But we remain with an extremist underground,” one that provides no basis for negotiations and that can “only be killed.”
But with regard to terms, Furman says, one must begin with the reality that “the North Caucasus is not Russia. Polls show that for ordinary Russians, people of the North Caucasus are more alien than say Ukrainians or Belarusians,” an attitude that is reflected in calls for limiting immigration not from the latter but only with the former and other Muslim areas.
In cultural terms, then, the North Caucasus today is “an absolutely alien territory which it is impossible to integrate [into the Russian Federation] in a genuine way.” That means that the struggle against terrorism will and should continue there for a long time to come. Moscow can restrain and retain the area, Furman concludes, but this will be only “formally.”
Finally, Carnegie’s Malashenko provides an insight into why Moscow is going to find it so difficult to come to terms with this divide. On the one hand, he notes, studying the Caucasus has not been prestigious or highly paid, unlike the study of France, the United States or even the Arab world, and consequently few Russians have done it.
And on the other, the Russian powers that be are so sure that they do not need to understand this part of Russia that in no Russian embassy abroad is there some Russian diplomat “who speaks for example Tatar.” Moscow officialdom is certain it can “conquer” or “modernize” the Caucasus, a reflection of both “laziness” and lack of concern.”

Window on Eurasia: Russian Religious Affairs Site that Angered Moscow Patriarchate to ‘Go Silent,’ Editor Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 31 – The religious news site, whose independent writing about religious affairs and active defense of the rights of every individual to practice the religion of his or her own choice angered the Moscow Patriarchate, is suspending operation after an eight-year run because it lacks the funding to continue its work.
In a message to readers posted on the site today, Aleksandr Soldatov, the site’s chief editor, explains that the wisdom of Ecclesiastes that “to everything there is a season,” including “a time to speak” and “a time to be silent” and that unfortunately, the time to “be silent” has arrived for Portal-Credo (
Some may see this as “a sign of weakness” or “the absence of ‘an effective business model.’” That may be partially true, but “those searching ‘an effective business model’ do not occupy themselves with the defense of persecuted believers in Russia and do not write the truth about the suffering of thousands of people who are guilty only in that they ‘believe incorrectly.’”
The “keys” to such a model, he continues, “today are in the hands of the oppressors and the clericalizers, those [who have] a dream about enormous earthly power and control over society and [who] link its resources with the ideology of ‘a state church,’” and who by their actions “discredit themselves and Holy Orthodoxy itself.”
“It is impossible to see” as inspired by Christ the actions of those who acting in the name of the Church “drive out by force those who think differently or even their out Orthodox brothers from their churches and prayer houses,” constantly demand the transfer of property, and “threaten with all sorts of ‘misfortune’ and repression honest journalists who are brave enough to speak the truth.”
“Service to God’s Word and faithfulness to the Truth are indivisibly connected with the defense of those who are being persecuted,” Soldatov says, and he adds that he sees “his duty as a Christian journalist” in those terms,” a vision that has informed the work of Portal-Credo throughout its years of operation.
Despite that motivation, the chief editor continues, Portal-Credo “was and remains a secular one, open for contacts with representatives of other confessions and unbelievers and ready to defend the human right to freedom of belief whatever that faith might be,” a commitment that has put the site at odds with others and made it more difficult to find funding.
Portal Credo’s approach is based on the following “professional axioms: honesty and objectivity, separation of fact from commentary, and the presentation of various points of view on one and the same subject.” In most places, those values would not represent a challenge, but in Russia today, they unfortunately do.
And those problems are behind the difficulties of finding “’an effective business model’ for such a resource.” The Russian government is only going to support “clerical or propagandistic media, which have nothing in common with independent journalism as ‘the fourth power’ and an institution of civil society.”
At the same time, religious confessions “in their majority” support media outlets that present their point of view and seek to recruit others to it, a charge that more often than not precludes the kind of journalistic balance that Portal Credo has always sought to maintain. And Soldatov adds, there is little interest in the advertizing market for a site like his.
Yet another reason – indeed, while Soldatov does not say so, perhaps the main one – is his belief that “ must occupy the niche of a professional media outlet concerning the persecution and discrimination on the basis of faith, about those aspects of religious life in the post-Soviet space” which are either neglected or subject to censorship.
(Among these is what some call “alternative” Orthodoxy, those followers of the Eastern Christian tradition in Russia and elsewhere who refuse to subordinate themselves to the Moscow Patriarchate. Portal-Credo’s coverage and defense of them have drawn fire from the Patriarchate and beyond question helps to explain the site’s current financial difficulties.)
Soldatov concludes his statement by saying that Portal Credo is going for “a small Easter break but that [he and it] will not say good bye. Even if our plans are not fated to be realized, the Portal will not disappear. We will continue to work within the measure of our strength and possibilities.”
The longtime editor calls on all those who read his statement and who wish to help to get in contact with him electronically at either or And Soldatov promises to answer such messages, again as his “strength and possibilities” will permit.
With the suspension of, the people of Russia have lost one of the most important defenders of one of their most important rights, and those both in Russia and abroad who seek to track the fate of religious freedom and civil society there have lost one of the most important sources of information.
The author of these lines very much hopes that Portal-Credo will return soon, defending the rights of all residents of Russia to practice their beliefs and providing the rest of us with so much valuable information and commentary – which unlike many other sites in this area Portal- has always carefully labeled and kept separate.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Foreign Policy among ‘Least Reformed’ Aspects of Russian Life, Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 30 – Despite the enormous changes in the world since 1991, Moscow’s foreign policy has remained to this day “one of the least reformed and changed” spheres of Russian life, a reflection of continuity in the mindsets and often personalities of those who make it and an increasing threat to the country’s future, according to a Russian commentator.
In an article in today’s “Novaya politika,” Maksim Artemyev says that despite the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, no one in the Russian capital has yet offered a carefully developed program for “the complete integration of Russia” into the new system of international relations (
Russian commentators, he continues, have not been shy in their repeated suggestions that “the West as a whole and the US in particular are conducting themselves as if the conflict between the two camps is continuing.” But, Artemyev points out, they have not seen fit to subject themselves to an equally “critical analysis.”
Every country needs a foreign policy which advances not only its place in the world but also its domestic situation, the Moscow analyst says. Russia’s domestic changes in economics and politics over the last two decades could have been much greater and more productive if there had been equal shifts in its foreign policy.
A major reason that Russian foreign policy has not evolved as it should, Artemyev suggests, is that “in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there are still many people of the Soviet mold and habits with a corresponding mentality. [And] even young cadres coming to replace them are being inculcated to a large extent with the old views.”
Russia’s “expert community also represents an extremely contradictory picture,” he continues. “Among the genuine professionals are not a few opportunists or people who remain mired in their views as if nothing has changed.” And thus it is not surprising that “over the last decade” there have been problems, if not outright failures.
Artemyev then offers a tour de horizon to make his point. With regard to the CIS countries, he writes, Russia has had more problems than with anyone else, a reflection of the fact that “Moscow has not formulated a contemporary order of the day.” All its “integration projects” have failed, with the CIS already long ago “converted into a meaningless fiction.”
“Our neighbors,” he continued, “have shown in interest in cooperating with Russia only when they have unilateral benefits.” That explains why there have been problems with the Tariff Union among other efforts, something that will not be changed, Artemyev insists, unless there is “a conceptual breakthrough.”
If Moscow hopes to attract Ukraine to this grouping, he continues, “we must offer something more weighty and attractive than the WTO.” And Russian analysts need to start paying attention to the problems of Russian-led institutions and not spend their time “criticizing the European Union and pointing attention to the problems of the Lisbon process.”
Without such an “honest” consideration of the real state of play, Moscow will not be able to offer to Ukraine, Moldova or “even Belarus integration projects on the post-Soviet space that will be more interesting that integration in Europe.” And the same thing holds with regard to the efforts of some of these countries to join NATO.
“Russian can denounce this bloc for as long as it wants,” Artemyev says, “but this criticism will not seriously interest anyone beyond [Russia’s] borders,” where “striving for integration into NATO is stronger than the desire to enter into a military-political union with Russia.”
Moscow can hold this tendency back for awhile – “at times by military force, as in the case with Georgia; but it cannot continue to do so forever.” And with regard to Georgia, Artemyev points out, “the MFA up to now has not offered clear and precise criteria and also a wise policy in relation to the so-called ‘unrecognized’ states.”
As a result of that failure, Russia has made itself into a laughingstock, able to get Nauru and Nicaragua to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia but “not being in a position to convince our supposed ‘ally’ Belarus” to do the same. Unfortunately, Artemyev continues, the situation elsewhere is no better.
Russia does not have a considered policy toward Europe, and playing on the energy factor alone is “impossible,” at least in the short term. And the latest accord with Washington on nuclear arms, “an undoubted success,” is vitiated to a large extent because there are so many “unresolved questions” in Russian-American relations.
Moscow’s “hurriedly developed” proposals on Iran and its efforts to “play the Hamas card” in the Middle East also reflect these conceptual failures, he writes. And looking further afield, the Russian foreign policy establishment has not thought through how to use the G-20 or to work on questions like climate change.
More is needed than simply “improving and modernizing the work of the Foreign Ministry,” Artemyev says, although that is an important place to start. In addition, there must be far more frequent consultations between officials and the expert community so that policy choices are clearly and fully discussed.
Despite all his criticism of the current situation, Artemyev ends on a hopeful note. He suggests that in Moscow today “there is an understanding of this problem, and the modernization of the foreign policy sphere is already not something far away.” But his article makes clear just how enormous a task any modernizer in this area will have.

Window on Eurasia: Kaliningrad’s ‘Special Identity’ Requires Restoration of Federalism in Russia, Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 30 – Kaliningrad’s status as a non-contiguous part of the Russian Federation and the rise and intensification of a regional identity combining both Russian and European elements, a local political analyst insists, “requires the restoration [in Russia] of one of the basic principles of federalism – unity in multiplicity.”
If Moscow fails to do that, Solomon Ginzburg argues in the current issue of “NG-Stsenarii,” the current antagonism between Kaliningraders and the governor there is likely to grow into antagonism between that region and Moscow, a development with potentially fateful consequences (
Ginzburg begins his analysis by pointing to the fundamental fact that “Kaliningrad oblast is a Russian region surrounded by countries which are members of the European Union.” As a result, its residents combine both a Russian identity and a European one, often in a “kaleidoscopic” fashion.
What Kaliningrad and being a Kaliningrader means has changed dramatically over the past 65 years, Ginzburg argues, even though many people outside the region do not understand that reality. When the Soviet Union established it, the region “encountered the traditions and style of foreign Europe.”
But the active in-migration of people from elsewhere in the USSR meant both that its people were both extremely mobile and forced to evolve in new circumstances, something that simultaneously promoted and retarded the development of a distinct regional identity because almost everyone living there was from somewhere else.
Such in-migration largely ceased with the end of the USSR, and since then, “certain features of Kaliningrad identity” have firmed up, Ginzburg writes. “Sixty years ago,” people there focused on being “the most Western” part of the Soviet Union, something that caused “the struggle with Nazi symbols to grow over into a struggle against the past of East Prussia.”
Then, approximately 50 years ago, he continues, “Kaliningraders began to feel their regional distinctiveness,” and ten years after that, there arose among them “a fashion for the former, pre-Soviet, German past.” That past instead of being rejected came to be integrated into the Kaliningrad identity.
Then, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Kaliningrader’s sense of being “the most Western” began “to acquire yet another meaning,” one not limited to geography but including in itself “a desire to achieve a high level of life and to achieve a new model of development” as “a new Hong Kong” or “a Singapore on the Baltic.”
But because being “between” Russia and Europe did not mean that Kaliningrad was necessarily a bridge or connected with either and because “the sense of regionalism” annoyed Moscow but not Europe, Kaliningraders “ever more often asked themselves” just what they were part of.
And consequently, it is “senseless” to speak about “a hierarchy of identities” – Russian, regional and European – among Kaliningraders. Instead, in their identity – and Ginzburg makes it clear that he shares it – there are “pieces, segments and fragments of regional, European and Russian identity” which combine in changing ways.
For residents of Kaliningrad who have lived there “more than 20 years,” regional identity is more important than ethnic or confessional membership” and “the territorial factor is beginning to predominate over the national.” Those who have lived there for fewer years generally continue to identify with the Russian Federation.
Nonetheless, “the Kaliningrad identity is not a finally formed system of convictions, capabilities, requirements and personal histories of the residents of the western borderland of Russia.” It is still being affected by “a mass of factors,” including age, faith, language, ethnicity, ideology, political convictions, and so on.
And because that is so, “a particular feature of the Kaliningrad identity is in its kaleidoscopic and mosaic character, when a resident of the oblast at one and the same time calls himself a supporter of integration into Europe” and “a patriotic supporter of the Russian state and an opponent of NATO.”
It is thus entirely possible to say, Ginzburg says, that “the overwhelming majority of Kaliningraders consider themselves residents of a special territory, a different Russia in Europe,” although “an insignificant minority manifests xenophobia toward the neighboring countries in the European Union.”
The sense of distinctiveness has been intensified by the recent wave of demonstrations, Ginzburg says. Indeed, it is fair to speak of their “consolidating role” in that identity. Anger at the regional government and disappointment in Moscow’s policies “have helped to strengthen the desire to go into the European Union.”
That is especially true among the young and middle aged, and it is “strengthening the European vector in Kaliningrad identity,” with “the anti-bureaucratic and anti-Boos attitudes being transformed into anti-Moscow and anti-federal ones,” a development that in turn is “strengthening protest identity.”
Moscow needs to recognize the special nature of Kaliningrad and of the identity of its residents and thus move quickly to restore “one of the basic principles of federalism – unity in multiplicity” lest it fail to satisfy the demands of the residents of that region and push them in more radical directions.

Window on Eurasia: Internet is Transforming Impact of Terrorism in Russia

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 30 – More than any previous terrorist action in Russia, the attacks on the Moscow metro this week are playing out on the Internet, with official government sites competing with independent portals and blogs not only to provide timely information about what happened but to define its meaning for the future.
And while these Internet battles may not yet have the impact of television on what Russians know and believe about what happened, they highlight the emergence of a new media space in which the powers that be cannot be as confident as they were in the past that they can control the situation.
That in turn means that those analyzing the possible impact of this act of violence on Russian attitudes toward terrorism as well as about the top officials of the country must at a minimum take this virtual competition into account and quite possibly may have to revise their conclusions in fundamental ways.
In a detailed discussion of the way in which the Soviet and then Russian media have covered nine major terrorist incidents since 1977, Yuliya Idlis, Yevgeny Gusyatinsky, and Konstantin Milchin say that the first one in which the Internet played any significant role was the 2002 seizure of the Nort-Ost theater (
But they suggest that, in that case, the powers that be did little to put out their reporting and message online and that the blogs provided more immediate and complete information but did not yet play the role they have played since in shaping the way in which Russians understand what happened and what it means for their future.
The authorities intervened to block blogs in a major way at the time of the suicide bombings at the Tushino rock festival in July 2003, but by February 2004, when bombs went off in the Moscow metro, blogs provided more information than did the official media and began to provide more commentary about it.
By the time of the Nevsky Express bombing last November, the three analysts say, “the basic source of information” about what was happening was no longer the official media electronic or print but rather Internet news services and blogs, a trend that may be responsible for President Dmitry Medvedev’s insistence that the government do more online itself.
The Russian government has done more in the last 24 hours, but analyses of its operations show that it is still far behind the bloggers and Internet portals in coverage and commentaries. (See Ivan Begtin’s analysis at and Yekaterina Aksyonova’s report at
The two conclude that if something happens, one should search for current reporting at the sites of the president and prime minister, the extraordinary situations ministry and the ministry of health and social developments. Almost all the other government sites fail to provide anything of use “to their own citizens.”
And such shortcomings have provided an open field for bloggers and independent Internet news services, other analysts say. In a report on the Novy region site, Vitaly Akimov reports that a survey of the blogosphere shows that “no one believes that the terrorist acts were the work of terrorists” (
On a day when “80 percent of the posts on [Russian] blogs are devoted to the tragedy in the capital’s metro system,” the news service reports, many people turning to them find updated information and expressions of sympathy, “but at the same time,” Akimov says, “internet users attempt to analyze the situation and share information.”
The blogs and Internet news services vary widely in quality, quantity and political views, and in an essay on yesterday, Mikhail Zakhorov complained that reading online postings was enough to “drive one out of one’s mind” because of their mix of “paranoia” and “conspiracy theories” (
Having provided some examples, Zakhorov concludes that “the fruitlessness and amorality of a significant number of the expressions of political bloggers testifies that a sensible discussion concerning the development of the country is [still] impossible in Russia,” a conclusion that may be both correct and incorrect at the same time.
On the one hand, the variety of expressions and the absurdity of some of them do seem to make that difficult. But on the other, the increasing inclination of Russians to turn to the Internet given the shortfalls of information in the official media may mean that this is going to be where that discussion will take place, however disturbing its elements may be.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s ‘Imperialist’ Attitudes Pushing Belarus and Other Non-Russian Countries Away, Minsk Official Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 29 – Russia’s counterproductive and off-putting approach to Belarus as well as other former Soviet republics reflects “the presumptuous imperial thought which still has not left the heads of certain Russian politicians,” according to a senior Minsk official close to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
In a 4,000-word article in “Belaruskaya dumka,” Anatoly Rubinov, a former Lukashenka aide and current deputy chairman of the Council of the Republic of the Belarusian National Assembly, says that Belarusians have changed their attitude toward a union state with Russia over the past decade (
Ten years ago, Rubinov writes, Belarusians believed that such a union would play a major role in helping both countries overcome the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union, but now, he argues, they would welcome it only if other countries were members as well and only if Russia itself changed its approach.
The reasons for that shift, he says, are to be found less in the ongoing development of Belarus as an independent and self-confident country with its own system and with increasingly important ties to Western Europe, the United States and China than in Russia’s “short-sighted” and “egotistical” approach to cooperation.
Examples of that abound, Rubinov says. Thus, “instead of building a second branch of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline, Russia is prepared to expend enormous sums only in order to leave Belarus at the side of gas transit,” and immediately after Belarus joined the Tariff Union with Russia and Kazakhstan, Moscow introduced new tariffs on oil.
But these are symptoms of a much larger problem, he continues. On the one hand, Russia’s current “excessively pragmatic position does not correspond to its historic traditions but rather reflects the fact that “today, on the expanses of Russia rules [only] one idol – money and super profits.”
And on the other, Moscow today insists that it alone as the right to exploit natural resources on its own territory even if a union state with Belarus is finally established, while in Soviet times, the central powers that be said that the resources of the union state belonged to all the peoples of the state.
By making that shift, Russia has demonstrated that it is almost exclusively interested in the pursuit of its own interests and no one else’s. But when Belarus tries to do the same and develop relations with the European Union or with Asia, Moscow gets angry and views such steps as anti-Russian.
“At the same time,” Rubinov says, “it is impermissible not to note that Belarus pays dearly for its faithfulness to its ally Russia.” That very faithfulness has made it more difficult for Minsk to develop relations with the West, which routinely accuses Belarus of “an absence of democracy, a dictatorial regime, and Soviet methods of administration.”
“The development of democracy,” he argues, “is not a simple or rapid process. But Belarus is far from the last place in that regard among post-Soviet countries.” Nonetheless, it is routinely attacked as if it were, and the reason for that is the consistent interest Minsk has shown in a union state with Russia.
And from that it follows, Rubin says that “all the unpleasantness of Belarus in its relations with Western countries is not because of Belarus itself but because of its allied relations with Russia.” Invariably, “Belarus has drawn fire on itself” and done so out of a desire to fulfill its allied “obligations and interests.”
But Russia “unfortunately understands these interests in an extremely pragmatic and one-sided way,” as a comparison with American policy toward Georgia, Poland, and the Czech Republic show. Washington “finances” them “not in exchange for material goods but entirely for political loyalty,” something Russia won’t do at present.
Moscow has failed to see that Belarus, which could have allowed NATO forces on its territory, has not done so, a turn of events which Russians see as “completely unbelievable.” But Rubinov points out that it should be recalled just how “unbelievable” at one point was the collapse of the Soviet Union. But that happened.”
“Therefore,” he continues, Moscow “must not build its policy on the basis of petty immediate economic interests. One must directly say that the position of Russia toward Belarus as by the way to other neighboring states is a reflection of the presumptuous imperial though which has still not left the head of certain Russian politicians.”
Belarus could under circumstances move in the direction of the Baltic states, Georgia or Moldova, Rubinov says, and asks rhetorically “has no one in Russia up to know understood that possibility?” He goes on to say that the future of the Union state thus depends “not so much on Belarus but on the position of Russia,” implicitly suggesting that Moscow must change course.
The future of that formation “also to a large degree depends on Ukraine,” Rubinov says, “If Ukraine moves toward a rapprochement with Russia and enters the Tariff Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, if on this basis appears a common economic space, then of course the formation of a confederative or super-state union structure is completely possible.”
In that arrangement, he points, “Belarus would not be left one on one with Russia, and with the establishment of fraternal relations with Ukraine and Kazakhstan, its political possibilities would broaden and strengthen.” But that will require a different Russian policy toward all these states than the one now on offer.
Meanwhile, Rubinov says, Belarus will continue to seek “the maximum rapprochement with the European Union.” It is after all “at the center of Europe, not only geographically but by the level of development of science, education, culture, technology and economics – indeed by all parameters it is a typically European country.”
And Rubinov concludes in this way: “Both in the West and in the East people must clearly understand that Belarus over the course of recent times has developed into an independent sovereignty state which will not under any circumstances become part of another state or sacrifice even a small part of its sovereignty.”
“Belarus is an independent country,” he writes. “It does not have any imperial world political ambitions. It is interested only in mutually profitable cooperation and trade with all, including the United States, the European Union countries, Japan, China, South Korea and others."
“We are Belarusians!” he says. “And this is the main unifying idea. Independently from his ethnic membership, the citizen of Belarus must feel himself to be a representative of the Belarusian people. And Belarus must nowhere be confused with a Ukrainian or a Russian. We have our own country, our own self-consciousness, our own culture and our own pride.”

Window on Eurasia: Trials, Not Special Ops, a Better Weapon against Terrorists, Moscow Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 29 – Reactions to the deadly bombing in the Moscow metro this morning have been extremely predictable. Vladimir Putin has called for an even harsher campaign against terrorists. Dmitry Medvedev has called for a similar campaign but with respect for law. And others have speculated about who is to blame and how the powers that be will exploit it.
If most government officials suggested that radicals from the North Caucasus were responsible, others pointed to foreign special services, opposition groups of various hues, or even the powers that be themselves who, whether they were behind it or not, will exploit the attack for a new crackdown against the opposition.
But Sergey Markedonov, one of Russia’s most thoughtful commentators on ethnic conflict in general, argues that Moscow will have greater success in combating the opponents it faces if it brings them to trial rather than engaging in a campaign of force that results in their deaths without the discrediting testimony a trial can provide (
In an essay posted online only a few hours after the explosions on the Moscow Metro, Markedonov says that it is a mistake to rush to judgment concerning who is responsible, falling into the familiar trap of many Russian analysts who view the North Caucasus with “a immanent (and permanent) presumption of guilt.”
That there is terrorism in that region, he continues, is undoubtedly the case, but “it is far from the only region” involved. In this and other cases, one cannot exclude that others may have been involved. That is what Spanish officials discovered in 2004 when their original suspicions that the Basques were behind the attack on the Madrid Metro turned out to be wrong.
“Only the lazy” don’t talk about terrorism now, Markedonov continues, but most of them do so as if this form of armed conflict began on September 11, a pattern that drives their interpretations of any subsequent event more than often is justified by the facts of the particular case involved.
That is a mistake, and it is one that can be corrected by examining a book, “Insurrection – the Name of the Third World War” (in Russian, “Myatezh – imya tretyei vsemirnoy’) published by Yevgeny Messner, an émigré Russian military theorist in Buenos Aires in 1960, a work ignored by the Soviets and the West but increasingly attended to by Russian analysts.
(Several of Messner’s works have been re-issued in Russia since 1991. An excerpt of the book in question is available at For a brief biography of Messner and a partial bibliography of his works published abroad, see
Messner, who in Markedonov’s words “turned up in exile after the fratricidal [Russian] civil war,” first developed the concept of “insurrection-war” (in Russian: “myatezhevoina’),” which typically without any credit has been expanded by American writers into a description of “fourth generation war.”
“According to Messner,” the Moscow commentator summarizes, “in a war of this type, ‘the combatants are not only forces and not so much forces as popular movements,” and the struggle is in the first case not for territory but for psychological advantage over one’s opponents.
In classical war, psychology plays a role, but Messner argued, “in the present day epoch of all-popular wars and popular fighting movements, psychological factors are the dominating ones.” Indeed, the émigré military theorist insisted, “insurrection-war is psychological war,” something that those fighting it must understand but often do not.
Messner “calls terrorist ‘soldiers’ a crypto-army,” that is a force which is directed not by a government or group of states but rather by “network structures or groups which may not even have continuing contacts with one another. And their target is not so much the bureaucrat or the state as the society” and its attitudes.
These crypto-soldiers have a number of advantages on their side, Messner insisted. They are prepared to die while visiting death on ordinary citizens, a kind of action that “shocks and generates hatred, phobias, suspiciousness and in the final analysis frustration. [And] a society which has become frustrated in this way is much easier to manipulate.”
In such wars, the émigré writer continued, “there are no front lines and the borders between enemy and friend are blurred. In such wars, yesterday’s terrorist may repent and become an executor of state policy, and the corrupted bureaucrat by his actions may push forward terrorist acts and also make possible the general de-legitimization of power.”
Markedonov draws three conclusions from this. First, he writes, “it is necessary to precisely recognize that in ‘a war of the fourth generation’ there cannot be any absolutely secure places,” a recognition that most leaders are unwilling to acknowledge because their populations are not prepared to tolerate that.
Second, to be successful, counter-terrorist strategies must be more complex than many state leaders assume. “Today is not 1945,” the Moscow analyst writes. “And for victory over the militants it is not necessary to convert Nalchik, Makhachkala or Nazran into Berlin.” Indeed, trying to do so is almost certainly going to be counterproductive.
“Let us ask ourselves the question,” Markedonov suggests, “which would be more effective, the simple ‘liquidation’ [of someone who had committed an outrage] or the arrest of a terrorist with his subsequent ‘repentance,’ cooperation with investigators, the publication of repentant memoirs and moral de-legitimation?”
“One such trial,” he continues, “would be more useful than several ‘special operations’” because it would cast a very different light on the fighters than the one they can count being directed their way if they are transformed into giants by the media or into martyrs by the actions of the security agencies.
And third, Markedonov goes on, again drawing on Messner’s argument, “the anti-terrorist struggle cannot be reduced to force measures alone.” Of course, force should be used against those who employ violence, but “the first order task must be ‘the conquest of souls,” not of territory.
In short, Messner and Markedonov are suggesting that “for victory over ‘crypto-armies’ of terrorists, one must know their goals, their moral values, their psychological trump cards, and their Achilles heel. Otherwise, it will be simply impossible to act on them” as the powers that be say they want to do.
But the argument the two make, Messner in his 50-year-old essay and Markedonov in a comment now, is unlikely to find many takers in Moscow at least today. The Russian people are justifiably outraged by the metro attack, and Vladimir Putin has boosted his standing at many points over the last decade by adopting a hard line, preferring special ops to trials.
And that points to more tragedies ahead, with those who say they want to defeat terrorism adopting exactly the strategy that will guarantee that it will not only continue but spread, leading to escalation on both sides and the deferral, perhaps for a very long time, of any chance for peace and the development of a free society there.

Window on Eurasia: Neo-Stalinism a ‘Purely Russian National Diversion,’ Writer Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 29 – Neo-Stalinism, the cult-like devotion to the late Soviet dictator, is found almost exclusively among Russians, even though observers might expect it to be found in Ukraine where the communists are strong, in Belarus where Alyaksandr Lukashenka admires the dictator’s approach, or in Georgia, where some remain proud of their native son.
Instead, Lev Timofeyev, a dissident in Soviet times who is now a rights activist, this phenomenon is “a purely Russian diversion,” one that cannot be explained, as many try to do by a desire for “order, a strong hand, a strong power, and a mobilizing force for modernization,” things other nations are interested in without being attracted to Stalin as a positive model.
In an article slated to appear in the next issue of “Kontinent,” Timofeyev argues that this Russian disease has its roots in a willful ignorance of history, a desire to accept myths rather than face facts, and the hope that someone else will take responsibility for solving all their problems. (Timofeyev provides a summary of his argument in
“It is not difficult to understand direct hatred” of Stalin, the man sometimes described as “the last Soviet dissident” writes, given the Soviet dictator’s role in ruling over a brutal “multi-national concentration camp,” from which all tried to flee and “not one from the ‘friendly family’ of Soviet peoples has shown a desire to return, either to ‘the family’ or to former times.”
But it is far more difficult to explain the attitudes bordering on devotion of many Russians. “Before the icon of Stalin are ready to pray not only former and present-day communist apparatchiks and not only their direct descendents.” Instead, a full “third of the population of Russia is ready to see a new Stalin at the head of the country!”
Everyone is told and has read that the explanation for that lies in a desire for “order, a strong hand, a strong power, a mobilizing resource for modernization,” Timofeyev goes out. But why don’t the Kazakhs or the Ukrainians or the Lithuanians equally need order and a strong hand as well?”
And what about the Germans, who no worse than [the Russians] know just what ‘order and a strong hand’ is and who have a modernization which thank God, do not require such a mobilizing resource?” The reason is simple: “The Germans well remember their history!” But Russians have forgotten theirs.
“Cunningly designed myths block out and at times confuse the memory about real events,” Timofeyev continues. “Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov have been read, but they are rarely recalled.” Vast numbers of studies have documented Stalin’s crimes, but his supporters, in order to boost him have “mythologized the history of the 20th century.”
An example of this is the claims of Abbot Yevstafii, who gained notoriety for putting up an icon with Stalin on it. He said that Stalin’s years in power “were the best years in the history of the USSR. People could go about freely. Prices declined every year, and “all the residents of our apartment house … could always buy any products,” including caviar.
After saying this, “the little father Stalinist,” Timofeyev continues, was welcomed as “an authority and a desired guest on the pages of a number of papers and Internet portals. [And] even the First television channel considered it necessary to acquaint the country with this colorful personage.”
The scope of the lies of such neo-Stalinists is so sweeping, Timofeyev says, that one hardly knows “how to react.” Those telling the lies certainly know they are lying: the abbot is certainly aware that there was rationing under Stalin and that “Stalin’s years were the hungriest in Russia during the 20th century.”
For Russians, the commentator continues, “National Myth Number One” is that “’Stalin took Russia with a plough and left it with a nuclear bomb.’” Yes, says Timofeyev, “Stalin really left the country with a nuclear bomb … but also with an ‘updated plough.” The dictator’s spending on defense impoverished everything else, as the facts show.
Medical services and housing lagged behind every European country as a result and despite the claims of the neo-Stalinists. But one can be certain, Timofeyev says, that the neo-Stalinists won’t be moved, and that those they lie to won’t be moved either “because people love myths” – and these myths are circulated in the mass media while truth “lies on library shelves.”
“Belief in myths allows people even in today’s difficult economic circumstances to be hopeful:” a “New Stalin” may come to a Russia that already has a nuclear bomb and leave “every Russian (or only ethnic Russian?) with an apartment and an automobile” without anyone having to think.
Aleksey Levinson (with the assistance of Svetlana Koroleva) of the Levada Center provides another perspective on what Timofeyev calls “the complete ‘Stalinization of Russian Public Opinion’” in an article entitled “Why Do Living Russians Need the Dead Stalin?” (
Given that Stalin died 57 years ago, Levinson points out, there “remain very few” Russians who have direct personal memories of him, but, as the most recent polls show, the Soviet dictator still casts an enormous shadow on the opinions of even the youngest groups in the population.
While half of young people say that they are “indifferent” to Stalin, Levinson says, the other half divide more or less equally between those who have a positive and those who have a negative view of someone they know only by the reports of others, a pattern especially interesting because of the struggle over Stalin in the last years of Soviet power.
. In Gorbachev’s time, liberal hopes for socialism with a human face generally were tied to Lenin rather than Stalin. Indeed, the latter was viewed as the gravedigger of those hopes. But the illusion of that kind of system, one that was crushed by Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia in 1968 died in Russia together with the Soviet Union in 1991.
The succeeding social differentiation, when a few became fabulously wealthy and a larger number suffered enormous losses left the population at a loss, one that Levinson says led to “a radical shift of public attitudes in the course of a few years.” As faith in democracy and Yeltsin declined, Russians began to look to the KGB and similar agencies.
And as it did so, as the population “turned from ‘democrats’ and from Lenin, it found its ideal in Stalin.” Polls taken in 1994 showed that already 20 percent of Russians included Stalin among the “great people” of history, twice the percentage of only a few years earlier, and by 1999, that number had reached 35 percent.
Putin both reflected and accelerated that trend both by his personal style of rule and by his insistence that like Stalin, he would ensure that Russia had its own political system rather than one “imposed by the West” and that as a result, Russia would in the future “speak with the West on the basis of equality.”
According to Levinson, “Stalin in the mass consciousness of people today is an emblem of this type of rue. With the arrival of Putin on the scene, Stalin rose to third place among the “great” people, remaining only a single percentage point behind Peter the Great by 2008. And Putin himself by that year entered the list of “the ‘great’ five.”
Attitudes toward Stalin among Russians divide along many lines, Levinson says polls show. Older people are more pro-Stalin than younger ones, men are more Stalinist than women, and people living in cities outside of Moscow are more Stalinist than those living in the Russian capital.
Fundamental changes in society have played a role in the survival or rise of Stalinism in Russian society, the sociologist continues, but the actions of the powers that be have also played a role, because they see Stalin as providing “sanction for autocratic rule” and his role in World War II as the basis for national unity.
Few Russians are so “naïve” as to think that the powers that be are promoting Stalin to restore the Soviet system. Only eight percent think that. “The remainder understands that this is only a sleight of hand, with 23 percent saying that the current cult of Stalin is “a surrogate for the lack of a national idea and 23 percent saying it boosts the power of those in office.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Tatarstan’s Shaimyev Departs But Not Far or for Long

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 26 – Yesterday, at the inauguration of his successor, Tatarstan’s longtime and now former President Mintimir Shaimiyev attracted far more attention, both in terms of what his role may be now that Rustam Minnikhanov is republic leader and regarding what such a shift means for other non-Russian republics and for the Russian Federation as a whole.
On the one hand, many commentators stressed that the shift from the regional “heavyweight” Shaimiyev, who has pressed for an expansion of federalism and respect for Islam throughout his presidency, to Minnikhanov, who during 12 years as republic prime minister has focused on the economy, may limit Tatar nationalism and tension between Kazan and Moscow.
But on the other, not only is Minnikhanov and the rest of the Kazan elite largely Shaimiyev’s own creation but Shaimiyev is not going anywhere: he will within a month be ensconced as state counselor to his successor, a position that will undoubtedly allow him to play a continuing role for sometime in cadres selection and national policy.
Nonetheless, most commentators have suggested that Tatarstan and the Russian Federation are entering into a period of transition, one that could ultimately lead to a sharp break with the Shaimiyev legacy either as a result of an attack on him by his successor or because more radical Tatar nationalists may come to the fore if his successor proves less clever than he.
Shaimiyev set the stage for yesterday’s ceremonies when he announced that he did not want to serve another term as republic president. That allowed him not only to leave on his own terms but also it now appears to play a major role in selecting his successor and in arranging to stay at the center of power in Kazan.
While Minnikhanov’s inauguration attracted lower-ranking Russian officials than had those of Shaimiyev’s earlier swearing ins and while r fewer representatives from other non-Russian republics and foreign countries attended, Minnikhanov was inaugurated as president and more formally than most incoming heads of federal subjects have been in the last year.
As a result, Shaimiyev, Minnikhanov and a number of other senior people attending gave speeches during the course of the 90-minute ceremony, speeches whose content both individually and collectively say a great deal about where Tatarstan now is and where it may be heading (
In his remarks, Shaimiyev thanked the “governmental approach” and “trusting relationship” of the Russian presidents toward Tatarstan for helping to create a situation in which “attempts at a distorted and one-sided interpretation of the Tatar people at various stages in the formation of the Russian state had been thrown on the trash heap of history.”
But Shaimiyev, who refused to sign the Russian federation treaty, thus making Tatarstan the only holdout besides Chechnya and resisted Moscow’s pressure to bring republic laws into line with Russian legislation, said he felt “ discomfort” because some in Moscow have failed to recognize the need for developing “a deeply thought out and coordinated nationality policy.”
After taking the oath of office in both Russian and Tatar, Minnikhanov devoted most of his speech to praising his predecessor and talking about the republic’s economic problems. But he did devote one key passage of his brief remarks to issues of federalism, a passage some will likely view as presaging change.
“We have been able to move from extremes in politics, by uniting citizens around common values, by understanding the necessary extent of the self-standing nature of the republic and civilized federal relations and the necessity of developing languages and cultures of the peoples of the republics, by observing an inter-ethnic and inter-national balance of interests, and by recognizing democratic norms of observing human rights and freedom of speech.”
Grigory Rapota, plenipotentiary representative of the Russian president to the Volga Federal District, gave a brief speech in which he made use of a Tatar proverb to the effect that “each person should adapt to where he is from” and noted that “federal officials are already learning Tatar.”
Nikolay Merkushkin, head of Mordovia, said that even though Tatarstan at present was not especially distinguished by its democratic qualities, the people of that republic should pray for Shaimiyev “for a thousand years” given the contributions he had made in protecting the Tatars and other peoples.
And Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, praised Shaimiyev, with whom the OIC has worked closely, for “integrating Russia into the Muslim world” and demonstrably kissed the outgoing president in front of the officials assembled in Kazan.
Three commentators in the last 24 years represent the early line on where things are likely to go in the immediate future. In a comment on the “Osobaya bukhva” portal, Mikhail Vinogradov, a St. Petersburg political scientist, said that there was unlikely to be any major change in Tatarstan or between Tatarstan in the near term.
That republic’s elite, he said, “does not intend to change the political traditions” that Shaimiyev helped to create. And the clearest evidence of that is the creation of the special position for him which will allow Shaimiyev to “retain in his own hands the main levers of rule” over Tatarstan (
In a commentary on, Yana Amelina, a journalist who has a long-standing reputation as one of Shaimiyev’s sharpest critics, suggested that change was possible because Minnikhanov is now in a position “to correct certain mistakes of his predecessor” both within Tatarstan and in relations with Moscow (
She cites with approval the suggestion of Irek Murtazin, Shaimiyev’s former secretary who went to jail, according to Amelina, because he put out a false report that Shaimiyev had died and wrote a book calling him “the last president of Tatarstan.” According to Murtazin, Minnikhanov may organize a Khrushchev-style 20th Party Congress to unmask his predecessor.
Among the reasons for that, Amelina says, are Shaimiyev’s mismanagement of the economy and his far more severe persecution of his political opponents like Murtazin than dangerous radical nationalists like Fauzia Bayramova, despite what Amelina calls her outspoken stance concerning Tatars who cooperated with the Germans during World War II.
And finally, Olga Popova, political editor of “Ekspert Volga,” suggested that what is likely to happen will be a Tatar experiment with the kind of “political tandem” on display in Moscow, an arrangement that is likely to promote continuity on most things but that could lead to some unexpected surprises (
She cites State Council speaker Farid Mukhametshin as saying that there will be “in all probability” one innovation: the appearance of a republic vice president who will act for all practical purposes as the prime minister, a position that will now formally lapse. There are a number of candidates, but most have ties to Shaimiyev as much as to Minnikhanov.
As far as the people of Tatarstan are concerned, she said, “they want from the new president mutually exclusive things – the preservation of stability and at the same time the preservation of the clan system which has penetrated all of Tatarstan society.” Shaimiyev was able to manage this, but Minnikhanov may have trouble doing so.

Window on Eurasia: Environmental Activists to Collect Toilet Paper for Putin

Paul Goble

New York, March 26 – In the latest test of the old notion that those in power can survive almost anything except being laughed at, environmental activists in Moscow and St. Petersburg plan to collect toilet paper for Vladimir Putin since he apparently feels Russia has too little of it and is prepared to allow Lake Baikal to be contaminated in order to produce more.
Tomorrow, “For Baikal,” a coalition of Russian public organizations that seek to defend that environmental wonder from being contaminated by the restarting of the Baikalsk paper mill on its shores, will stage demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg to call attention to this issue (
The demands the group will raise are not new. They seek to prevent the Baikalsk plant from sending waste products into Lake Baikal, to find alternative jobs for any workers displaced if the plant is closed permanently, and to prevent the burial of nuclear wastes in the region under the terms of a plan approved by Putin earlier this year.
But in order to attract attention to their demands, organizers are calling on all those who will take back to bring not only “a good attitude” and posters or banners in defense of Lake Baikal but also “a roll of toilet paper” because Putin and his regime have suggested that the Baikalsk plant must be allowed to operate because Russia lacks enough of that essential product.
The organizers say that, in the course of the demonstrations, they will collect the toilet paper and hand it over to the powers that be so that the latter will not be “forced” to “destroy Baikal” in order to produce what Putin and his associates continue to insist Russians so badly need.
This use of humor to call attention to a very serious problem calls attention to two aspects of the current upsurge of protests in the Russian Federation that are often overlooked. On the one hand, Russians are going into the streets for a wide variety of issues (For a useful survey of the last week alone, see
And on the other, they are becoming increasingly creative in the ways in which they are pressing their demands. In addition to the toilet paper campaign, Russians angry at the powers that be in Moscow in general and at Vladimir Putin’s policies in particular have employed two interesting tactics.
In the first case, opponents of the continued exploitation of the Sayano-Shushen hydro-electric dam have sent Putin an open letter in which they have proposed among other things that since he is so confident of the safety of that dam, he should commit himself to live in area that would be flooded if the dam broke (
And in the second, supporters of jailed Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky have opened an exhibit of political cartoons about his incarceration and jail, cartoons that opposition leaders like Garri Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov say can spark laughter over “the theater of the absurd quality” of his case (
Whether laughter will be sufficient to force the Russian powers that be to change their policies remains to be seen, but once people begin to see such people as figures of fun, that alone will go a long way to transforming the political atmosphere into one in which the possibilities for the future will be different.

Window on Eurasia: Ukraine Needs a Russia that is a Country like Any Other – and so Do the Russians, Kyiv Analyst Says

Paul Goble

New York, March 26 – Both in the course of the Ukrainian elections and following the victory of Viktor Yanukovich, Russian commentators have discussed what kind of a Ukraine Russia needs, commentaries that have not only implied that only Ukraine needs to change but also have defined how many analysts elsewhere see the issue.
But in an essay posted online yesterday, Olesya Yakhno, a commentator for the Ukrainian portal Glavred, argues that this is the wrong or at least not the only question. And she insists that an equally or even more important issue for Ukrainians and Russians alike is “what kind of Russia does Ukraine need?” (
Her answer is that both need Russia to become for Ukraine a country like any other rather than revisionist state which seeks to dominate or even absorb its neighbors, thus threatening not only more conflicts in the future but rendering it almost impossible for Russia itself to make the transition to a modern, free and democratic country.
Since Yanukovich’s victory, she notes, “Russia has hurried to make a number of acts of obeisance of a public character toward the new Ukrainian leadership” in order to show that “the period of Russian-Ukrainian alienation is in the past,” that these past difficulties were the fault of President Viktor Yushchenko, and that “life is becoming better, life is becoming happier.”
At the same time, she notes, Russian commentators have hurried to specify “what kind of a Ukraine Russia needs,” arguing that Moscow needs a Ukraine which is “predictable” both at home and abroad, “semi-authoritarian” for whom “’stability’ is a euphemism for reform, and which makes Russian the second state language and the Moscow Patriarchate the main church.
Moreover, these Russian commentators have said, Russia needs a Ukraine which will not join NATO but will allow Russia’s fleet to remain in Crimea after 2017 and will meet the “business needs” of the Russian political elite, needs, which remain largely “outside of the framework of public discussions.”
And at the most general level, the Glavred commentator says, Russians “consider (or give the impression they do) that for effective cooperation and the conduct of a friendly policy between Russia and Ukraine, the preeminent factor is the level of loyalty of the Ukrainian president to Moscow.”
But in all these discussion, Yakhno continues, one question is missing: “what kind of Russia does Ukraine need?” And behind that question, for which Russian commentators have failed to provide any answer, is “another question,” one that if anything is more fateful: “What kind of Russia does Russia itself need?”
It is clear, the Glavred writer says, that “the format of bilateral Russian-Ukrainian relations depends more on Russia than it does on Ukraine,” something that is not a source for optimism because “even with friendly countries” like Belarus and Kazakhstan, Russia has difficulties maintaining close ties.
The situation with Ukraine in this regard is especially important, she says. While relations between Russia and Ukraine under Yushchenko were not especially good, “however paradoxical it may sound, his presidency despite all the anti-Yushchenko rhetoric of Russian politicians, had its benefits for the ruling Russian tandem.”
Ukraine, second only to Georgia, played the chief “anti-hero in the Russian public space.” And the existence of that image obviated the need for “real policy” and even “allowed the Russian powers that be to hide Russia’s lack of a serious strategy relative to the CIS countries in general and Ukraine in particular.”
In fact, Yakhno continues, it allowed Moscow the chance to “project Russia on a blank screen as a giant of geopolitics.”
There is no doubt that relations between Moscow and Kyiv will improve now that Yanukovich is president. But “in order that cooperation bear a real and not exclusively declarative character, it is obvious that there will have to developed an integral and internally consistent philosophy of these relations,” a challenge above all for Russia.
That is because, Yakhno suggests, “the position of Ukraine through the period of independence was and is unchanged.” Yanukovich has “reaffirmed that the strategic goal of the foreign policy of Ukraine is European integration, alongside effective cooperation with Russia and the US.”
Given that “multi-vector approach,” she writes, “where Europe is conceived of as a political partner and model of the future, and Russia as above all an economic counter-agent and ‘reliable rear,’ inherited from the past,” Kyiv’s choice will remain with the future, and “therefore, there will not be a cardinal turn of Ukraine toward the Russian Federation.”
And what that means, Yakhno says, is that “the real test for Russian-Ukrainian relations did not end with the departure of Yushchenko but only began with the installation of Yanukovich in office” because Moscow can no longer avoid facing the need to develop a real policy toward Kyiv rather than hide behind denunciations of the Orange Revolution.
Whether Moscow is up to that task is unclear, she writes. Not only does Russia face a broad range of economic and political problems at home, but the regime itself is divided about what it wants and will do next. President Dmitry Medvedev clearly wants to see some kind of modernization, although “today few people in modernization Kremlin-style.”
As for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Yakhno continues, he has talked about three “possible variants of the development of the political system on the post-Soviet space:” Ukrainianization, which Russians understand to mean “political instability and a lack of control,” “harsh authoritarianism” (Turkmenistan), and semi-authoritarian Putinism as in Russia.
Putin clearly wants the third to continue in Russia, “even if this directly contradicts modernization,” as it almost certainly does. That is because, Yakhno insists, “modernization is possible only under conditions of ‘Ukrainianization’ or ‘authoritarianism,” the one allowing messy competition and the other marching forward under tight control.
The tension between the requirements of modernization and the needs of the members of the current set of powers that be in Moscow to remain in office, the Ukrainian analyst continues, are creating conditions for the rise of “subjectivism in politics,” a term taken from the Khrushchev period.
It refers, Yakhno says, to an approach which rejects “institutional forms of control” and thus opens the way for actions “which do not take into account the objective patterns of history and the real circumstances of the contemporary development of the country.” In short, it leads to decisions “based on faith in the all powerful nature of administrative and force decisions.”
Such an approach, now very much in evidence in Moscow, does not create the kind of Russia that Ukraine needs, Yakhno says. She then gives a list of six qualities that she argues Russia needs to develop if it is to have good relations with its neighbors and to develop and modernize at home.
First, she writes, Ukraine needs a Russia “which clearly understands its place in the contemporary world: a major, economically powerful and rich country with enormous natural resources and human potential but not a global or even a regional power.”
Second, Ukraine needs a Russia which “is not an empire but a contemporary nation state.” Third, it needs a Russia which “at least approximately believes in what it officially proclaims.” Fourth, it needs a Russia “which thinks in the categories of politics and not business camouflaged as politics.
Fifth, it needs a Russia which “decides above all its state tasks and not the tasks of big business.” And sixth, it needs a Russia “which can once and for all formulate an exhaustive list of its expectations from Ukraine,” thus allowing Kyiv to respond positively to those it agrees with and negatively to those it does not.
In sum, Yakhno says, “Ukraine needs a Russia will simply be another country, important and strong to be sure, but one of the other countries and not the boss, not the elder brother, and what is the most important thing, not an eternal factor in Ukrainian domestic politics.”
That will benefit both countries because “when the policy of Ukraine in the Russian direction finally becomes a foreign and not a domestic manner, then will take place the psychological liberation of Ukraine and its elite from Russia, and Ukraine finally will acquire its independence.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Efforts to Improve Russia’s Image Abroad a Costly Failure, Experts Say

Paul Goble

New York, March 25 – Despite spending “significant sums” in recent years to promote a positive image of Russia abroad, participants in a Moscow roundtable say, the Russian government has largely failed to achieve its goal because it has forgotten that while a country may be possible “to purchase ‘an image,’” its “reputation” will usually reflect reality.
Yesterday at a roundtable on “Images of Russia: Stereotypes, Paradoxes and Reality,” Nikolay Levichev, the head of the Just Russia fraction in the Duma and chair of this meeting, said bluntly that Moscow’s efforts in recent years to “create a positive image of Russia” have not succeeded (
Russia missed a chance at the Vancouver Olympics to improve its image, he said, adding that Russia’s victory in the follow-on Para-Olympics has not been presented as a cause for pride but rather become a source of jokes on the Internet, with various bloggers now making fun of Russia’s “para-shield,” “para-democracy,” and “para-economy.”
Levichev noted that “certain countries in general do not have any idea where Russia is located or what our country represents.” They associate the words “’Russian’ and ‘Russia’ not with the cosmos, ballet or hockey but with disasters, the absence of democracy, and Moscow’s failure to eliminate the death penalty.
And that should not be the case, he continued. Not only have Russian oligarchs “bought up over recent years quite significant foreign media outlets” – although he noted that as a condition of these purchases, they had to promise not to interfere editorially – but the government itself has also been pushing its “Russia Today” electronic and print media efforts.
Igor Yevdokimov, deputy head of the foreign ministry’s information and press department, said that Moscow was not spending that much. He said that “less than 1.5 million dollars” is currently allotted each year. But others at the session suggested he must be talking only about the foreign ministry’s own operation and not that of the entire Russian government.
Following Yevdokimov’s intervention, Levichev remarked that “as a rule, ‘image’ is something that one can buy, but ‘reputation’ is something that is the product of what is in fact the case,” a view that was supported by Valentina Fedotova, a senior scholar at the Academy of Sciences Institute of Philosophy.
She urged those taking part “not to put their hopes only on an external, specially formed image of Russia.” Indeed, she continued, she “does not consider effective the application of the comparatively new term ‘imageology’ as a recipe for improving the way in which others view Russia.”
Those who use the term, Fedotova continued, almost always are concerned “only” about image and not about reality. “After the collapse of the USSR, [the country’s] ideology and social conceptions suffered a defeat. Nothing remained in place of them.” But now, unfortunately, “imageology is trying to occupy this space.”
A much more productive approach, she argued, was to use the ideas of “’soft power,’” something that focuses on such traditional sources of Russian influence as literature, art and science. Worrying about image alone is another example, she suggested of the rise of imported “mass culture” into Russia, a trend she suggested that was bringing much harm.
Mikhail Starshinov, another Just Russia Duma deputy, said the problem may be even deeper. Russia can hardly promote an image of itself until the country decides what that image should be and until there is the creation of an institution like the former CPSU Central Committee’s Propaganda Department that ensures a single message.
At present, Starshinov continued, “no one” is performing that role, and the results are all too obvious.
But it will be hard to reach an agreement over what “image” Russia should promote. Archpreist Aleksandr Makarov of the Russian Orthodox Church said that the country needs to position itself as a powerful Orthodox country, but Maksim Shevchenko, a television host and convert to Islam, said that “Russia must not be considered an Orthodox country” alone.
Other speakers at the roundtable provided additional perspectives. Lyudmila Adilova, a professor at Moscow’s Russian State Humanitarian University, called for the creation of new and “recognizable” brand” and “more effective propaganda media instruments.” That is necessary in work with foreign countries, because “the population has no common values.”
Aleksey Mitrofanov, a leader of Just Russia, agreed. At present, Russians are divided into a wide variety of interest groups, united only by “the struggle for ‘cash,’” a struggle that if it continues without change will not only further undermine Russia’s image abroad but condemn the country to “disintegration.”
Antero Airola, a Moscow correspondent for Finland’s YLE broadcasting company, acknowledged that “for Finns, such a ‘new’ country as Russia still does not exist. ‘When they say the word ‘Russia,’ they have in mind the USSR, and no one remembers that such a country has not existed already 20 years.”
Aleksandr Denisov, the deputy editor of “Azia i Afrika,” sharply criticized the Russia Today television channel for programming, including the beating of Blacks in Moscow, that shows the country in a bad light and thus reinforces negative images of Russia in the minds of many rather than replaces them with positive ones.
And finally, in a tone that likely upset some at this session, Vincente Barrientus, a scholar from Brazil’s Ibero-Latin Institute, went even further and called the leadership of Russia Today and the channel’s “style,” an enterprise in which Russians have placed so much hope, “juvenile” and “unprofessional.”

Window on Eurasia: Daghestanis Call for Repeal of Republic’s 1999 Ban on Wahhabism

Paul Goble

New York, March 25 – After the appearance of an open letter from a union leader denouncing the republic’s 1999 law banning Wahhabism, Daghestani parliamentarians have lined up to demand the repeal of this legislation which they view as discriminatory but which has helped to demonize that trend in Islam across Russia.
Taking advantage of changes at the top of the Daghestani political pyramid, Isalmagomed Nabiyev, who often prepares commentaries for the Makhachkala media, dispatched an open letter to the new leader Magomedsalam Magomedov denouncing the 1999 republic law as a counterproductive mistake (
Nabiyev wrote in his missive that “one of the main problems of Daghestan” is the intensification of conflict among various segments of the Muslim community. “Such a situation,” he continued, “was created thanks to the father of the current leader of the republic, the former chairman of Daghestan’s State Council Magomedali Magomedov.”
Under Magomedali Magomedov, Nabiyev said, “the Daghestani powers that be began to use force in order to root out one of the ideological directions in Islam. Not by the path of countering to this ideology other forms but by the path of the physical removal of the bearers of this ideology.”
That approach was both encouraged and accelerated by the adoption in September 1999 of the republic law “On the ban of Wahhabi and other types of extremist activity,” on the basis of which, the powers that be declared those who disagreed with them to be “enemies of the people” and thus allowed the force structures to persecute them “to the point of physical destruction.”
Nabiyev told the Caucasus Knot news agency that this law “contains in itself aggressive and discriminatory provisions” and that Makhachkala “using the right of initiative, devoted a great deal of efforts in order that such a law would be adopted at the federal level. However,” he said, “Moscow turned out to be more far-sighted.”
The union leader-commentator said that he had frequently called on former Daghestani procurator, Imam Yaraliyev, to do something about this unfortunate act, “but the procurator did not have the courage and decisiveness to suspend the implementation of the law.” Now that the republic has a new prosecutor (Andrey Nazarov), Nabiyev said, the situation could change.
In his letter, Nabiyev said that as a result of this law and its consequences, “the people have become a hostage of a civil war between representatives of two different trends in Islam.” In order to get out of this “dead end,” he continued, Makhachkala’s new leaders must take several steps in addition to overturning the 1999 law.
The republic powers that be must “decisively” shut down the activity of “the death squadrons” and end “the practice of extra-judicial executions.” They must “legalize the position of the Salafi leaders, and they must “take measure of an organizational character” to bring them into conversation with the leaders of other Islamic trends.
Other Daghestani leaders rushed to support Nabiyev’s call. Sayfullakh Isayev, the chairman of the legal affairs committee of the Daghestani parliament, said that the 1999 law must be repealed. “The adoption of the law,” he said, “was a big mistake. Now the time has come to correct it,” and he promised that his committee will hold hearings.
Another deputy, Akhmed Azizov, agreed. “Wahhabism,” he pointed out, “is an ideology. There are no problems arising from one or another individual following it. [And] if someone considers that this worldview is not suitable for Daghestan and Russia, he must find more convincing arguments than repression.”
That is because, Azizov continued, “all the history of humanity shows that it is impossible to defeat an ideology by force,” an ancient observation that the ongoing struggle with “Wahhabism” in Daghestan has simply confirmed.
Gadzhi Makhachev, a former Daghestani and Russian parliamentarian who now serves as the republic’s permanent representative to the Russian President, said that the1999 law had been pushed through by then-speaker and recent republic president Mukhu Aliyev and that he, Makhachev, was “categorically an opponent of the adoption of the law.”
Many other deputies at the time felt the same way, Makhachev added, “but Aliyev, using his own resources, was able to push through the measure.” At the same time, Makhachev said, the law should be retained on the books but not enforced so that future generations “will see how a highly placed official should not work.”
Although neither the republic procuracy nor the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Daghestan have reacted yet, it appears that Daghestan, far and away the most Islamic republic of the North Caucasus, is likely to annul the law, a step that may or may not have a major impact on developments there and elsewhere in the Russian Federation.
On the one hand, such a revision would certainly send a powerful signal to Daghestanis that attacks on Wahhabis and the followers of other Salafi trends in Islam no longer will have the blessing of law, a development that will undoubtedly affect other people far beyond the border of the most Islamic republic of the Russian Federation.
But on the other hand, repealing this law alone is unlikely to end Moscow’s demonization of the Wahhabis or end the views of many among the siloviki who have little interest in promoting social concord and who view force rather than persuasion as their weapon of choice against those with whom they do not agree.

Window on Eurasia: Pavlovsky Reveals ‘Unconstitutional’ and ‘Dictatorial’ Nature of Current Russian Regime, Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

New York, March 25 – By tolerating a certain limited amount of discussion and debate, Russian commentator Irina Pavlova says, the current powers that be have effectively concealed from many in the West both just how dictatorial the regime has become and how unwilling it is ever going to be to share or cede power to anyone else.
And because of that smokescreen, the commentator says, the recent exchange of opinions between Vladislav Inozemtsev and Gleb Pavlovsky in the current issue of “New Times” ( provides confirmation of “just how “unconstitutional” and “illegal” the regime now is (
In their debate on “will Putin leave?” Inozemtsev, the head of the Moscow Center for Research on Post-Industrial Society, approaches that issue, Pavlova says, “like a typical Russian intelligent, loyal to the powers that be and up to now seeing an answer from them on ‘where the country should be headed.’”
He was, she continues, a part of “that [outsider] elite which in 1999 [nonetheless] welcomed the behind the scenes decision of Boris Yeltsin on the selection of his successor as president of Russia and then saw in Vladimir Putin a modernizer.” After his initial enthusiasm, Inozemtsev became disappointed, and now “wants Putin to go.”
Pavlovsky, head of Moscow Effective Politics Foundation, approaches the issue entirely differently, having “the view of an insider who all these years has been working for the powers that be,” Pavlova continues. And she suggests that his remarks are especially revealing about the nature of the Russian state now.
First, she points out, Pavlovsky “confirmed that real power in Russia is unconstitutional and consequently illegal.” According to him, “Putin is ‘that informal institution which the Constitution does not have … He is the supreme authority of this system,” something that is enshrined in no document at all.
Second, when he discussed “’the keyboard’ by which Putin ‘works with the bureaucracy, [Pavlovsky] in essence confirmed the presence in the powers that be of a secret infrastructure, a network of paid and unpaid employees of the special services and force organs,” a network that “operates by the rules of conspiracy,” just as the “real power” did in Soviet times.
Many people, Pavlova notes, had already concluded that this is the case, and some of them look back to the August 1995 law Yeltsin signed that opened the way for the post-Soviet force structures and special services to operate in a “conspiratorial” fashion because that measure called for them to obtain information informally that threatened the state.
With the rise of Putin and exploiting both this law and the subsequent legislation on the FSB, the Russian powers that be began to exploit these opportunities in violation of the Constitution and to the detriment of the Russian people, Pavlova says. And she asks, “what kind of apolitical arrangement is this if not a dictatorship?”
“Such ‘a consolidated power’ is precisely a dictatorship,” she argues, although “true, one of a new, post-modern type. It uses not mass repressions but targeted murders, lies, bribery, corruption, provocations, and political technologies for the manipulation of social consciousness both inside the country and also abroad.”
Pavlovsky confirmed that, she says, when he observed that “20 years ago we thought that Soviet power was the CPSU Central Committee plus the party plus the soviets. It turned out that we were idiots and that Soviet power could exist with freedom of travel abroad, with free trade, and with ‘Playboy.’”
Pavlova continues that “it would be strange if this political technologist who serves the powers that be were to propose to free Russia” from these arrangements. Instead, she suggests, “he has different task in principle: he is seeking means to strengthen and modernize ‘the political façade’ of this unseen but real power.”
His casting about for a way to do that is shown by the three different ways he talks about Putin and the system. In one place, he says Putin should work with Medvedev to consolidate power. In another, he decries the way in which the tandemocracy limits Putin’s freedom of action. And in a third, he says Putin needs to be “in fact the master” and “vozhd’” of the system.
“One thing,” Pavlova concludes, is absolutely clear. “The current leadership in the Kremlin simply is not going to give up its place to anyone else.” That is something those who want Russia to become a constitutional state need to remember, she argues, and it is something that the current opposition must never allow itself to forget.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Demographic Problems, Budgetary Limitations Block Russian Army from Maintaining Planned Force Levels, Expert Says

Paul Goble

New York, March 24 – Russia cannot maintain its military at current staffing levels through the draft because of the country’s demographic decline, and it cannot build an entirely professional one because of budgetary limitations, unless Moscow makes major changes, according to a member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights.
These are things that President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and most senior officials fully understand, Sergey Krivenko, who also serves as coordinator for the public initiative “Citizen and Soldier,” but that understanding leaves them with few attractive options (
Although the interview Gen. Nikolay Markov, the chief of the General Staff, gave to “Rossiiskaya gazeta” attracted fare more attention, the press conference Krivenko gave together with Soldiers Mothers Committee of Moscow chief Tatyana Kuznetsova and VTsIOM sociologist Konstantin Abramov provided many more details.
Speaking first, Krivenko explicitly stated that “the failure of military reform in the form in which it has been conducted up to now is recognized by the leadership of the country.” The planned shift to a largely professional force has failed, and the draft, given the reduced length of service the government has allowed, is not working either.
Plans for contract service have failed so far “not as a result of financial causes but as a result of the incompetent administrative decisions of the Defense Ministry,” Krivenko continued, but plans to try to rescue the situation by boosting the salaries of professionals still further would bust the budget, particularly if the relative number of less-well-paid draftees continues to fall.
But their numbers appear bound to fall, at least in the next few years, given the small size of the cohort born in the troubled 1990s. If the number of soldiers is to be kept at 700,000 and if draftees are to serve only one year, then the military would have to draft 700,000 young people each year, a number far exceeding the number in the prime draft age groups.
One could address that, he says, but forcing people who avoided service earlier and who are still under 35 years of age to serve, “but for this would be necessary another kind of state, and one can imagine just what it would be like.” Such “a draconian variant” is something no one is now seriously considering.
Krivenko stressed that “the president and the government understand this. And they understand that ahead is a dead end,” one from which the country can escape either by spending more money on the military, increasing the length of service for those who are drafted, or cutting the size of the services still further.
Increasing the length of service is the easiest in some ways: after all, Moscow did it in the 1990s, boosting the requirement from 18 months to two years. But Krivenko argued that there are two reasons Moscow might not want to go in that direction. First, “the difference between one year and two” “is qualitatively different” than the earlier much-smaller increase.
And two, such an increase could exacerbate social and political tensions, possibly having an impact, he explicitly suggests, on who will occupy the position of Russian president after the 2012 election. Consequently, decisions on force structure are likely to become more not less political in the coming months.
In her comments, Kuznetsova seconded Krivenko’s suggestion that increasing the length of the draft would spark anger, especially given the continuing illegal behavior of the interior ministry in support of the draft and the equally illegal and highly offensive “dedovshchina” within the military.
But in his remarks, Abramov suggested that his polls indicate that Russian society still has not made a final judgment about military service. In 2009, 51 percent of those polled said that they favor retaining the draft, hardly an overwhelming majority but more than the 35 percent who favored such service in a 1998 poll.
Some 70 percent of those who favor a draft say they believe it is necessary to maintain the necessary reserves, while about 40 percent, Abramov continued, “consider the army ‘a good school of life,” and a slightly smaller number suggest that it is school that helps train good citizens more generally.
Asked why young Russians don’t want to serve, 70 percent mentioned dedovshchina, 29 percent pointed to the risks of internal conflicts, about 30 percent noted the difficultiesof service, 15 percent said young people were not patriotic enough, and “14 percent supposed that young people do not want to lose years” of the lives to such service.
Among the other figures Abramov offered were the following: “More than 70 percent of Russians consider increasing military spending necessary while only 25 percent favor an increase in the number of those in uniform,” with “about half of those polled offering that the number in the Armed Forces now is more or less optimal.”
A major reason for that support, the VTsIOM analyst suggested, is that the military enjoys a high and rising approval rating. The share of Russians saying they approve what the army is doing has risen from 32 percent in2006 to 56 percent in 2009, cresting at 61 percent at the time of the Georgian war.
According to Abramov, “the army and the media are the only social institutions which citizens place ‘in the positive part of the scale.’ For comparison,” he notes, “the Social Chamber of the Russian Federation is ‘at the zero point,’ with the remaining ‘social institutions’ being in an even worse position.

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Views Climate Change as a Security Threat, Mulls Creating ‘Climatic Assistance’ Program

Paul Goble

New York, March 24 – Russia, as experts around the world agree, is likely to be more profoundly affected by climate change than any other country, and Moscow is now focusing on the security threats global warming may entail not only within the country but in its relations with its closest neighbors.
Last week, the Russian Security Council devoted its meeting to these issues, and this week, academic experts and activists discussed them at Moscow Social Forum on Energy Effectiveness and Climate change. Yury Averyanov, a Security Council official who was involved with both, spoke to the media about these issues.
In an extensive interview with “Rossiiskaya gazeta,” Averyanov said that global warming would affect various parts of Russia differently. On the one hand, he said, climate change would have some positive effects on parts of the country extending the growing season, reducing fuel consumption needs, and boosting hydro-power production in some areas.
But on the other, the economist continued, its negative impact on the country both domestically and in terms of its relations with neighboring states to the south and foreign powers in the Arctic region means that the security implications of climate change must always remain at the center of Russian discussion (
Global warming, he said, would increase the dangerous of flooding in many parts of Russia, with excessive runoff into rivers possibly leading to more accidents at hydro-electric dams and at other littoral facilities. And it will profoundly affect the two-thirds of Russian territory which is in the permafrost zone.
It will reduce the size of that zone and increase the depth of annual melting, and “over the next ten to fifteen years,” global warming will destabilize the foundations of “many cities in the zones of eternal permafrost as well as thousands of kilometers of pipelines, automobile and rail roads,” thus increasing the risk of breakdowns and accidents.
“About 80 percent of BAM passes through the permafrost zone. Its melting and the increase in snowfalls will require a review of construction norms and rules given the changes in climate,” Averyanov added. And he noted that “a quarter of the houses built in Tiksi, Yakutsk, Vorkuta, and other population centers will become completely unsuitable for habitation.”
All these developments, the Security Council official said, affect Russia’s national security, but he stressed that there were two other more immediate security challenges that global warming presents. On the one hand, he said, global warning has sparked competition for access to the Arctic, with the US and other countries seeking to limit Russia’s access to that region.
And on the other – and this is a more intriguing comment – Averyanov said that in addition, “the risk of [inter-state] conflicts connected with the deficit of water and food [arising out of climate change] is especially high to the south” of Russia, even though most discussion hitherto has focused on the Arctic instead.
At the climate forum, which took place yesterday, Averyanov said that this threat is no sufficiently great that Russia “must create its own program of ‘climatic assistance’ to its partners, above all in the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Eurasian Economic Community (
Such assistance, it appears likely, would be directed in the first instance to prevent any massive increase in outmigration from these countries to the Russian Federation as well as to reduce the chance that competition for water and food in Central Asia in particular could trigger new armed conflicts into which Russia might be drawn.
But it is also likely that the offer of such assistance or the arrangements that would be made to realize it would give Moscow a new set of levers on these countries, thus representing yet another instance in which that country like some others has transformed a national security threat into a national security opportunity.