Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Warning to Russia’s Neighbors: Moscow was Working to Undermine Ukraine in Crimea Already in 2008



Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 23 – It has become an article of faith that Vladimir Putin acted suddenly in annexing Ukraine’s Crimea that many have ignored something that Leonid Grach, the former leader of the Communist Party on the peninsula, knows well: Russia was actively preparing the groundwork in Crimea for such actions six years before it pounced.

            In an interview given to the Meduza news agency, Grach, who headed the Crimean Supreme Soviet from 1998 to 2002 said that Moscow was involved in political and economic life in Crimea at least as early as 2008 – just after Putin’s notorious Munich Security Conference speech (meduza.io/feature/2017/03/21/esli-by-nas-ne-podderzhal-patrushev-v-krymu-stoyal-by-amerikanskiy-flot?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=share_fb&utm_campaign=share).

            The former communist leader says that while a Ukrainian peoples deputy, he never concealed his “pro-Russian attitudes” and took “definite actions intended to promote the rapprochement of Crimea and Russia … I openly professed pro-Russian sentiments.  More than that, I realized them.”

            “In particular,” he says, he and his people seized NATO equipment that was put in Crimea for a NATO-Ukrainian exercise in 2008 and did so on the orders of Nikolay Patrushev, then director of Russia’s FSB and now the secretary of the Russian Security Council. Patrushev understood clearly what was at stake in Crimea, Grach says.

            Grach’s remarks are far from matters of historical interest only. They are an indication that Moscow is playing a long game and that it is putting in place in various parts of the former Soviet space people and institutions that it can use if and when it chooses to subvert or annex part of them.

            On the one hand, of course, such statements are intended to further poison political life in these countries and thus promote precisely that outcome. But on the other, Grach’s words should serve as a warning to all the countries in Russia’s neighborhood and those who support of the real nature of the dangers they face given Putin’s intelligence operative style of foreign policy.

Putin’s ‘Secret Weapon’ Against the West – Massive Illegal Cash Hordes in Foreign Countries



Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 22 – The Russian economy is small relative to that of Europe or the United States. It military is hardly capable of competing with NATO. But “the Kremlin has  a secret weapon which no one else in the world has: enormous criminal financial resources” that Vladimir Putin can deploy to promote his goals, according to Igor Eidman.

            During the time of Putin’s rule, “trillions of dollars” have flowed out of Russia abroad, a trend that is “not simply a criminal affair” but rather “the story about the struggle for rule in the world” designed to promote the goals of the FSB and its master in the Kremlin, the Russian analyst says (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=58D15268674FA).

                (Eidman doesn’t mention it, but the size of these cash flows out of Russia is now so large that some banks and countries are afraid to go after Putin’s holdings because of the enormous profits that they are making from holding or laundering this money (nr2.lt/News/Society/Zapad-poka-hochet-zarabatyvat-na-procentah-putinskih-milliardov-125012.html).

                This “criminal money is the main weapon of the secret war which Putin is conducting against democracy. It is used for buying off Western elites. Financing propaganda, and manipulating public opinion as well as for supporting destructive political forces, organizing hacker attacks, and collecting compromising information and blackmail of influential people.”

“The goal of all this is a sharp strengthening of Putin’s influence in the world, splitting the EU and NATO, destroying the union between Europe and the US, and destabilizing the situation in democratic countries,” Eidman says. “Now, the most important tasks are sparking hysteria about the refugee crisis in the EU and unleashing a new conflict in the Balkans.

Eidman surveys the way Russian money has been used in Montenegro, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Poland, Sweden, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Italy, and the US. “In addition,” he says, “the Kremlin also supports ultra-right, separatist and isolationist forces in the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece and other European countries.”

The way in which Moscow is using its illegal money to destabilize the situation in the former Soviet republics is “particularly dangerous,” Eidman says, and thus requires “a separate discussion.”

In many ways, Eidman suggests, “the situation is like the development of cancer.  The tumor (the Putin corporation) is so large that it is impossible to remove without harm to the healthy part of the organism. The infected (the West) is afraid of this and is refusing to have an operation.”

“But if the surgery is put off forever, the tumor will spread to the point that the life of the victim will be at risk. And then those ill from it will simply die.” The West needs to recognize this and to recognize that Putin is using his “dirty money” not only to affect the political systems of Western countries but also their economies.

Moreover, the West needs to recognize something else: Even in those relatively few cases where the Russian money involved is not dirty to begin with – it may have flowed out in completely legal ways – it has been hijacked by the Kremlin and put to criminally dangerous political use. 

Consequently, Eidman concludes, “the capital and influence of Russian bureaucrats and oligarchs must be surgically removed from Western society. Otherwise, the metasticizing of Putinism will not stop.”

Kremlin’s ‘Insincere and Officious Patriotism’ Turning Russians Off, Polls Show



Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 22 – “Patriotism has become so officious and insincere that it has begun to be rejected” by Russians, especially given that those officials who are promoting it are presiding over a situation in which Russians are living far worse than they did, according to Moscow political analyst Abbas Gallyamov.

            His comments came in reaction to a Levada Center poll showing Russians are far less interested in the Russian past, including even the much-ballyhooed Great Fatherland War, than they were only a year ago and that the number saying they are not interested in the country’s history at all has doubled since 2016 from seven to 15 percent (znak.com/2017-03-22/rossiyane_stali_menshe_interesovatsya_istoriey_velikoy_otechestvennoy_voyny).

            Indeed, other experts say, the Putin regime’s reliance on the Great Fatherland War as a unifying force is failing. Political analyst Nikolay Mironov says that that conflict “interests already less than half of Russians given that as a result of the increasing time since its end, the events of the war have passed into the realm of myths.”

            And in presenting its commentary on the Levada Center poll, the New Chronicle of Current Events leads with the following quotation, one that must certainly disturb those in the Kremlin who think that their version of patriotism is sufficient to fill the vacuum left by the absence of an ideology at a time of social and economic stress.

            According to the New Chronicle, patriotism in Russia today has become “a clear and well-argued explanation of why we must live worse than others” (ixtc.org/2017/03/rossiyane-uzhe-ustali-ot-patriotizma/).

            In another reflection about this poll, Moscow commentator Arkady Babchenko says “in fact, Russians are not proud of anything. Russia is a country with an absolutely Soviet mentality: close your eyes and pass by. Always. Give out the impression that you didn’t see anything” and say whatever the powers want you to (echo.msk.ru/blog/ababchenko/1948348-echo/).

            And that reflects a deeper problem: Russia is “a country which is not capable of sympathy and therefore is no capable of being proud. Pride is always tied up with shame. And if you are incapable of feeling shame, you will not be capable of feeling pride either.”

            As a result of Stalinism, Russians were reduced to a state of “’moral idiotism’” or even suffered “’moral castration,’” Babchenko says. “Since that time, Russia has been a country of cynics who spit on both shame and pride.” That is because they know that all they are told is mythical – and they thus suspect the worst.

            Sometimes it may seem that national myths are useful in uniting the nation, but “this isn’t so. Myth [at that level] is always dangerous,” he continues.  The myth about St. Vladimir led to the Crimean Anschluss. “The myth about the Aryans and the untermenschen led to Auschwitz. The myth about the 40 hooris led to ISIS.”

            Moreover, “the myth that George Bush had a brain le to the Iraq war, and that in turn led to millions of refugees.” And the myth about cyborgs at the Donetsk airport” led to other disasters that could and should have been avoided, Babchenko says.

            Germany became great “only after it was forced over the course of 20 years to return” from the world of myths to the world of reality. The same thing will have to happen in Russia as well. That is the only way it can be cured of its current disastrous situation, Babchenko suggests; but he adds that the process will be far from painless.