Saturday, May 27, 2017

Putin’s Recipe for Civic Peace Won’t Stop Polarization of Russian Society, Remizov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – Vladimir Putin’s statement this week that “civic peace is shaky” in Russia and that “our common obligation is to do everything within our power to preserve the unity of the civic Russian nation” reflects his concerns about new debates over 1917 given the approaching anniversary of the October Revolution, Mikhail Remizov says.

            But the Kremlin leader’s recipe for maintaining unity – not discussing openly which side was right and which was wrong – won’t do anything to block the ongoing “polarization in society” along both “ideological and ethno-religious lines,” according to the head of the Moscow Institute for National Strategy (

                It is important to recognize, Remizov argues, that the ideological divide between “the reds” and “the whites” in Russian society is deeper and more profound now than it was in the 1990s because, even though the powers that be have changed their “fa├žade,” “the clash of ‘communists’ and ‘anti-communists’ has again intensified.” 

            This is “a symptom,” the Moscow commentator says, “of the sense by society of Russia’s lack of political and economic success over the last quarter of a century,” something that has only been exacerbated by the choice of the authorities to focus on the past rather than talk about the future.

            And it also reflects, Remizov continues, what he describes as the government’s “cult of diversity,” something that it inherited from Soviet times and that makes real unity difficult.  The country needs an integral vision and a program to support that vision based on “the Russian language, Russian culture, and Russian historical memory.”

            If the government were to focus on programs to reduce social inequality, he argues, that would go a long way to reduce divisions because it would serve as “a positive vector for the entire society” and “become a very good unifying factor.” But so far, the Putin regime has shown now willingness to move in that direction.

            Appended to Remizov’s interview are some brief remarks by Aleksandr Shatilov, deal of the sociology and political science faculty of Moscow’s Finance University.  He points out that foreign policy successes can unite the country as the annexation of Crimea in 2014 proved but says that the government has failed to follow up on that.

            Instead, he says, “the Russian elite acts clumsily and sometimes almost in a suicidal fashion” by its “inconsistent” actions and messages.  The same pattern is true in the fight against corruption, a fight that should unite the country but in fact is dividing it further.  Shatilov suggests Putin understands all this but has been unable to take the bureaucracy with him.

            As far as ideological clashes are concerned, the sociologist says, “in our intellectual community what is sometimes observed is a war of all against all. Liberals fight with state-thinking people, the state-thinking with communists, the communists with the Orthodox and so on.”

            And that is made worse, Shatilov says, “to put it mildly by some strange initiatives from the authorities themselves.” For example, putting up memorials to Mannerheim and Kolchak do nothing to unite people but only to divide the Russian people further.

‘Molotov is Alive and Looking for a New Ribbentrop,’ Lithuanian Foreign Minister Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – Speaking in Bratislava yesterday, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said that “Molotov is alive and looking for a new Ribbentrop,” thus suggesting Vladimir Putin now like Stalin in 1939 believes he can cut a deal with someone in the West over Eastern Europe  (
            The possibility that the great powers might make such a deal over the heads of the countries of Eastern Europe has been a constant fear in many capitals, especially those who have as the Baltic countries did earlier make as their fundamental demand “nothing about us without us.”

            And such concerns have only intensified in recent months given the all-too-obvious desire of some new leaders to save money by reducing their commitments to these countries and to make money by reaching deals with the Russian Federation, fears that have not been put to rest even by the introduction of NATO troops into some of them.

            Putin is counting on that, on the absence of ideological restrictions (which Stalin also ignored) and on the increasingly short-time horizon of many Western leaders who want to ignore the past and reach quick agreements that may benefit them politically in the short term at home while harming others directly and immediately and themselves over the longer haul.

            The Lithuanian diplomat deserves highest praise for describing what is going on in the most lapidary of language. 


Ukraine is in a State of War with Russia – and Kyiv Needs to Say So, Sungurovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – The Ukrainian government continues to call its fight against the Russian invasion of the country “an anti-terrorist operation,” instead of declaring it to be a real war.  According to Mykola Sungurovsky, this failure reflects the fact that Kyiv elites still “think in the categories of economic profit and electoral advantage.”

            Calling Russian actions a war, the Ukrainian military analyst says, is a matter of principle for “both the domestic and foreign understanding of this conflict,” and failure to use the right term gives Vladimir Putin and his much-hyped notion of “hybrid” war an undeserved advantage (

                That is because, Sungurovsky continues, the words officials use determine “not only attitudes” toward what is going on “but also the behavior of both those who are directly participating in it and also third parties.”  Indeed, “it is wrong to speak about the absence of war and yet demand from society mobilization.”

            “From the very beginning of this conflict,” he says, “the Ukrainian authorities have violated national law” which requires “the introduction of martial law” if Ukraine is invaded. But so far, the government has been unwilling or unable to take that legally required step, one entirely justified by what Russia has done.

            Repeated statements by senior officials that Ukraine would move in that direction “in the case of the intensification of the conflict” have not been followed by action.  And “in many cases,” Sungurovsky says, “the role of the state was compensated by the role of civil society and its volunteer movements.” 

            But Ukrainian society cannot be mobilized unless the government declares the existence of a state of war. Indeed, without such a declaration, “the powers that be do not have the right to demand from society either trust or respect or even more that very much needed mobilization needed for victory over the enemy.”

            The Ukrainian government says it can’t take this step lest the IMF refuse to extend it credits, but the Kyiv analyst points out that the IMF has not made such demands – and would be unlikely to if Ukraine declared martial law in one or another parts of the country or even for the country as a whole, given that Putin’s “hybrid” invasion touches the entire country.