Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Ten Steps Kyiv Must Take to Counter Russian Efforts to Control Sea of Azov

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – The Russian Federation has shown itself ever more ready to take steps to bottle up Ukrainian shipping in the Sea of Azov by the use of its naval power, a violation of international law that would severely harm Ukraine’s economic and security situation if it goes unchallenged.

            There are some short-term solutions like shifting Ukrainian sea traffic away from Azov ports to Odessa and longer term ones like building a canal between Ukraine and Russian-occupied Crimea (

            But according to Andrey Klimenko, an expert on Crimea for the Maidan of Foreign Affairs, there are ten steps that Ukrainian specialists on maritime law and military affairs say Kyiv needs to take now or in the immediate future (

            These are:

1.      Ukraine must send a note to the Russian foreign ministry stating that it will not respect Moscow’s effort to close the sea near Berdyansk because that it an act of aggression, and Kyiv must also inform all international organizations and especially those who deal with maritime law.

2.      Kyiv must call for an immediate session of the UN Security Council.

3.      It must “immediately denounce the 2003 treaty between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on cooperation in the use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Straits.

4.      Kyiv must declare the Sea of Azov a territorial sea, its internal waters and exclusive maritime economic zone.

5.      It must give orders to the Ukrainian navy and security forces to “take under control the territorial waters of Ukraine in the Sea of Azov.

6.      Kyiv must denounce all agreements with the Russian Federation regarding the use of the Sea of Azov.

7.      It must seek to work with partners to impose sanctions “against all ports of the Russian Federation on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov” to block Russian schemes to avoid existing sanctions regimes.

8.      Kyiv “must develop a plan of crisis measures in order to minimize the negative consequences of the loss of the possibility of using ports on the Sea of Azov.”

9.      It must urge its partners to “create an international naval union (Ukraine-Georgia, Ukraine-Romania, Ukraine-Georgia-Romania, possibly with the participation of Turkey” to protect naval and coastal infrastructure in Ukraine.

10.  Kyiv must “do an analysis and secure ratification by Ukraine” to the full list of international conventions and agreements concerning maritime operations.

These ten measures are likely to inform Kyiv’s policies in the coming days if as expected Russia moves to tighten its control over the Sea of Azov and the Kerch straits.

Putin Already Deploying His ‘Cossacks’ in Non-Russian Republics

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – Before the 1917 revolution, Nicholas II used Cossack units to attack political opponents and ethnic and religious minorities, driving the two together and making his overthrow all the more likely. Now, Vladimir Putin appears set to repeat the tsar’s mistake, moving from attacking protesters with his “Cossacks” to undermining non-Russian nations.

            Putin’s move in fact may be even more dangerous to his position that Nicholas II’s was to his because unlike the Cossacks of later imperial times who were under effective military control, the neo-Cossack bandits Putin is using are ideologically hostile to dissent and minorities as such. (See

            Putin’s use of such groups against protesters on May 5 in Moscow has been well-documented (, but developments that will allow him to use these groups elsewhere have not (cf.

            Now, however, thanks to a report by Ilnar Garifullin of Radio Liberty’s Tatar-Bashkir Service, there is more evidence available on “’Cossackization’” in the non-Russian republics of the Middle Volga, a development that could set the stage for more Kremlin-sponsored but uncontrolled violence there (

            He points out that there is a Kazan link even to the Moscow events because a company there gave 1.7 million rubles (30,000 US dollars) to the shadowy Central Cossack Host that took part in the March 5 mayhem.  But he provides disturbing information about the appearance and growth of “Cossack” villages and units in the Middle Volga.

            The Cossack rebirth at the end of the 1980s involved both real Cossacks and those who wanted to participate in a militarized movement.  The former would like to see their regions returned to them or even to gain independence, things Moscow opposes; but the latter have proved to be extremely useful to the powers that be.

            Many of them have been profoundly affected by the propaganda of Orthodox autocracy and conservative values and are thus quite prepared to be foot soldiers in the campaign against modernity, urban values and non-Orthodox peoples and nations, Garifullin continues.  The regime uses them to suggest that “’Orthodox society’” is behind its repressive policies.

            “It is well known that among the Cossacks in tsarist times there were many Tatar Muslims (the Orenburg Cossacks) and also Buddhists (the Kalmyks).” That is a part of the history of the Cossacks Putin’s “Cossacks” don’t talk about because it is inconsistent with their “Black Hundreds” views.

            Neo-Cossack communities, supported by grants from the Russian Presidential Administration, have appeared in various parts of the Middle Volga, Garifullin says. Often they are used as supplements to the police; but they are also being used to try to halt the de-Russification of the area as ethnic Russians move out.

            The support of the neo-Cossacks for Orthodoxy and imperial traditions is, the analyst says, “an element of cultural policy, a unique ‘soft force’ in this case, judging from everything which serves as an attempt to maintain the status quo” of Russian dominance even as ethnic Russians lose their share of the population.

            The introduction of these “Cossacks” in places where Cossacks never existed before thus represents int eh first instance “an ethno-cultural factor” designed to undermine and threaten the non-Russians even as it encourages the ethnic Russians to remain where they are. But such efforts carry with them real risks, Garifullin says, including violent clashes with the non-Russian nations.

            On the one hand, many in the region are asking if “the Cossacks” are allowed to arm themselves and push their religion and nation, “why shouldn’t representatives of other confessions not be allowed to do the same?” Why shouldn’t the Tatars and Bashkirs be allowed to restore the regiments they made famous a century ago?

            And on the other, he concludes, “the intensification of propaganda of one religious may promote radicalization” not only among members of that religion but in response among those who are of a different faith. Thus, “’Cossackization’” Putin-style could end by triggering an outburst of Islamist radicalism in the Middle Volga.

Putin Nepotism Different and More Dangerous than Earlier Russian Varieties, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – The appointment of the son of one senior official to be a full minister in the government as happened in Moscow last week is unprecedented in Russian history: Nothing quite like that has ever happened before, Andrei Illarionov says; and its consequences are likely to be both fateful and far reaching.

            Of course, the Russian commentator says, nepotism is far from unknown in Russian history. Many times senior people have arranged jobs for their children or other relatives, but never have they dared to put the child of one senior official in as a government minister (

                And there have been cases when the offspring of senior officials have later risen to positions of power on their own without the intervention of their parents. Such events are often referred to as nepotism, but they really are not, Illarionov says. 

            Many view what Putin is doing as a continuation of what Leonid Brezhnev did when he was head of the USSR.  He named his son deputy and then first deputy foreign trade minister and his son in law deputy and first deputy interior minister.  But he did not in those cases or others put these children into the top jobs.

            What Putin has done beginning in 2007 is in fact different. It has lasted longer and it has involved his willingness to see the offspring of senior officials become ministers as in the current case of Patrushev’s son becoming minister of agriculture. This crossing of a Rubicon has enormous significance, Illarionov says.

                It “means the transition of the current Russian political regime into a qualitatively different level of dynastic politics … [and points to] the preparation of a process of the transfer of state power to the next generation.” And it invites comparison with “the multi-generational dynastic politics of leaders of the regimes of certain neighboring countries.” 

            Among these are both successful cases – North Korea, Syria, Azerbaijan and Chechnya – unsuccessful ones – Ukraine – and some that are still in the process of preparation – Belarus.