Friday, January 19, 2018

Most People in the West Make Two Fatal Mistakes about Moscow ‘Media,’ Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 19 – Most people in the West continue to make two “fatal” mistakes about the media in Putin’s Russia, Igor Yakovenko says. They assume that Russians who call themselves journalists are in fact journalists and that Russian propaganda is propaganda in the normal sense.

            “Few in the West understand,” the Russian commentator writes, “what the world is dealing with in the form of the Putin regime and its information arm;” and because of that, they commit “two principled and fatal” mistakes reflecting their willingness to take the claims of Moscow’s representatives at face value (

            On the one hand, Yakovenko points out, people in the West “continue to call employees of Russia media journalists, a practice that automatically converts any measures taken against them into limitations on free speech.” But these people aren’t journalists and thus should not be able to expect the respect given to real journalists.

            “Not a single government media outlet in Russia and also not a single one which adopts a pro-Kremlin position, has any relationship to journalism,” and understanding that must be the basis for the adoption of an adequate response by Europe and the West more generally to what these Russians are doing. 

            He continues: “Not a single employee working [for Russian outlets] should be considered a journalist, and everything connected with the defense of freedom of speech has nothing to do with them.  This also relates to ‘experts’ who live in the studios of Russian talk shows” and spew hatred against the West, Ukraine, and the Russian opposition.

            And on the other hand, Yakovenko says, people in the West need to recognize that “the content of the Russian media” is not propaganda. Those who call it that implicitly put it in the same rank with “political propaganda of any other direction,” including that offered elsewhere now or in the past.

            But “the distinguishing feature of Putin’s information forces from such models as the communist or Nazi versions is that the propaganda of Goebbels and Suslov advanced a definitive ideology, albeit an anti-human one.” Each offered a certain “image of the future” and sought to win people over to its pursuit.

            “In Putin’s Russia,” however, “there is no such ideology and no image of the future. There are not and cannot be any books entitled ‘Putinism.’ The Putin media simply destroys the foundations of all norms, moral, legal and scientific.  It simply sows hatred, lies, crudities and provocations.”

            And “not having any positive program for humanity,” Yakovenko continues, “Putin and his media trade in threats and unpleasantness, using any problems in the world for efforts to destroy it, to sow hostility among people and thus allow them to continue to rule and steal in Russia.”

            Unfortunately,” he concludes, “the world still doesn’t fully understand the nature of the threat it is confronted by in the form of Putinism.”  Failure to recognize another threat in the middle of the 20th century cost Europe and all humanity

Kremlin Restoring ‘an Iron Curtain’ around Russia, Polunin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 19 – Vladimir Putin has issued a new directive updating Russia’s border policies as outlined in 1996 because, as the FSB notes, of “the appearance of new threats to the national security of the Russian Federation” and “the growing possibilities of the state for their liquidation” (

            Specifically, the FSB’s explanatory materials note “the pretensions of ‘a number of foreign states’” and efforts to introduce “terrorists and extremists” onto Russian territory, as well as “hotbeds of social-political and military tensions and the risks connected with these of incidents at the border.”

            The FSB further notes that such destabilization just over the borders of the Russian Federation can, if not countered effectively, spread into the country, something especially likely because of “the low density of settlement, levels of socio-economic development and transportation isolation” of border regions.

            The intelligence service also points to the dangers of “trans-border crime, the criminalization of the population as the result of illegal migration, and contraband, including arms, explosive substances and narcotics, all things that the Russian government must block before they spread into the heartland of the country.

              In an analysis of this new decree, the most fundamental change in state policy since 1996 and one that amounts to the restoration of “an Iron Curtain” around Russia, Andrey Polunin of the Svobodnaya pressa points to one change that may matter more than any of the others (

            In contrast to the earlier decree which specified that the borders of the Russian Federation followed those of “the administrative territorial division of the USSR,” the new one drops that language and says instead that Moscow will pursue “a differentiated approach” to borders depending on their relationship with the Russian Federation.

            Mikhail Aleksandrov, a specialist at MGIMO’s Center for Military-Political Research, tells Polunin that officials have been working on this reform for a long time and that “a number of experts have called for toughing the border regime and in particular introducing a visa regime with the countries of Central Asia and the Trans-Caucasus.”

            At the same time, he says, the deterioration of relations with Ukraine has shown that people can arrive from there “who are capable of presenting a threat to the national security of Russia.” But there are also problems in the North, the West, and elsewhere around the periphery of the country.

            Taken together, Aleksandrov continues, these trends should that Moscow must “toughen its border policy.” And the decision to do so now is “correct.” According to him, the biggest threat comes from the countries of Central Asia and the Trans-Caucasus because flows of people from there can include terrorists.

            Indeed, the MGIMO expert says, “the problem is that the US practically openly has come out on the side of international terrorist organizations” like ISIS and is prepared to use people to destabilize the countries to the south and east of Russia in order ultimately to shake Russia to its foundations.

            Russia needs tighter border controls to prevent that from happening, Aleksandrov argues. Moscow’s control of the borders in recent years had “weakened, but the time has come to impose order on the borders of the country.”

Russian Reformers Failed to Take into Consideration Russian Nationalism and Orthodoxy, Chubais Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 19 – Anatoly Chubais, one of the main architects of Russia’s radical economic reforms in the 1990s, says that he now considers that one of the main errors he and his like-minded reformers may was “to a significant degree” their failure to take into consideration “the special features of Russian culture.”

            He and they, Chubais tells the RBC news agency, particularly failed to consider that “Orthodoxy is a serious and fundamental institution which one must understand rather than ignore.” Another failure was their failure to understand that “the Russian people is not the same as the Ukrainian people” (

            There are features in Russian culture which have held the country back, he continues, but there are other parts of this cultural tradition which could and have made a more positive contribution. Failure to consider that was a mistake, and had he and the reformers not made it, they would have developed a different and more successful strategy.

            Over the last 20 years, he says, Russian nationalism ahs evolved significantly. “Only someone incapable of seeing his own nose would fail to see that.”  Chubais adds that “nationalists now are in the governments of no fewer than 15 European countries,” a trend that is very suggestive.

            Chubais stresses in conclusion that “when liberals try to propose some recipes, then they ought to remember that they live in Russia and that their children live there too.”

The Russian reformer does not say but he very well could have that one of the reasons Russian reformers approached things as they did is that they were encouraged by their Western advisors who also downplayed the important of cultural differences and argued, from their triumphalist positions, that on key issues, one size fits all.

Igor Eidman, a Russian commentator for Deutsche Welle, says on his Facebook page today that Chubais’ recognition of the importance of culture and religion is “valuable,” but he expresses skepticism about how genuine the reformer’s transformation has been (

Until recently, Eidman says, “Chubais was certainly the politician in Russia most distant from Orthodoxy and Russian nationalism.” And the simplest explanation for his new political line is that is that the reformer “simply wants to become part of the Putin ideological mainstream” rather that remaining an outlier. He needs state support for ROSNANO.

That is likely the best explanation of his transformation, the commentator continues, but “in his own way, Chubais is sincere.” He clearly believes that the reformers of the 1990s miscalculated when they did not decide to use “Orthodoxy and nationalism as an effective ‘political whip.’” 

And “apparently, he sincerely envies Putin who has been able to strengthen and cement in this way the power of the new ‘elite’ over the new ‘plebeians.’”  Chubais and his colleagues of two decades ago obviously “missed this chance.”