Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Proposed Citizenship Law Opens the Way for Moscow to Annex Other Countries

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 14 – Given their obsession with imperial projects, Aleksandr Golts says, anything Konstantin Zatulin or Natalya Poklonskaya proposes invites to be interpreted in that light, even if what they are talking about is no more than asserting what the proper rules of arithmetic are for Russian citizens.

            Thus, the Russian commentator writes in Yezhednevny zhurnal, their latest proposal,, one that calls for offering Russian citizenship to all whose ancestors lived in the USSR “or even in the Russian Empire,” as long as they know Russian, appears to be less “a jus soli” as it has been advertised but rather “a law for annexation” (ej.ru/?a=note&id=30850).

                Under the terms of their proposal, he says, “the overwhelming majority of residents of the post-Soviet state would gain the right to [Russian] citizenship” and wouldn’t even be required by Moscow to give up their citizenship in these states, thereby creating a large and potentially dangerous class of dual citizens without the bilateral agreements international law requires.

            Had such a law been adopted in the early 1990s, “it undoubtedly would have been just” given that Russia declared itself to be “the legal successor of the Soviet Union and took responsibility for all its citizens, Golts says. But at that time and for more than a decade thereafter, Moscow did all it could to make getting Russian citizenship difficult.

            Even now, the proposed law might not seem all that much of an innovation were it not for the well-known positions of the two authors and “the reputation of the Russian state standing behind their backs,” including that of its head, Vladimir Putin. And Zatulin and Poklonskaya have not been shy about what they are really about in taking this step today.

            Zatulin, for instance, told Ekho Moskvy that under the terms of their proposed law, “now, the right to receive Russian citizenship will be obtained by Russian speakers living on the territory of Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and now on,” with no mention whatsoever that those claiming it would need to move to Russia itself.

            It should be remembered, Golts continues, that “the massive handing out of Russian passports in Abkhazia and South Ossetia was on4e of the most important provoking factors which led to the war with Georgia.” And now, there is “no doubt” that “thousands” of Donbass residents will seek to replace the documents of the self-proclaimed republics with Russian ones.

            In this way, the Russian commentator says, “will be formed on Ukrainian territory enclaves populated by citizens of Russia.”  And after that, there can be little doubt that Moscow will push for the legalization of the existence of those enclaves and the full participation of the Russian citizens in Russian life.

            One immediate consequence of this, Golts observes, is that Putin will gain a new group of voters in the upcoming elections. But more than that, this move means that “Novorossiya” all the Kremlin denials notwithstanding will “de facto become a reality.” And once that is done, he suggests, Moscow may move to do the same thing in other parts of the former Soviet space.

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