Friday, February 28, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Putin Seeks to Provoke ‘Full-Scale Civil War’ in Ukraine, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 28 – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal, as shown by the various provocations he has arranged in recent days, is not to seize Crimea right now but rather to provoke a civil war in Ukraine that will allow him to gain control over Ukraine by posing as a peacemaker, according to Andrey Illarionov

            Putin “does not want to fight now,” the Moscow economist and commentator says. Rather, he wants for now that others including Ukrainians, Russians and Crimean Tatars do so. That this is Putin’s plan is shown by all the actions he and his agents have engaged in over the last few days (

            Among the elements of this plan, Illarionov are the Russian foreign ministry’s comments, Russian military maneuvers, the seizure of government buildings and airports in Crimea, labelling the secessionist Crimean prime minister “an authoritative actor,” the uncontrolled actions of Russian soldiers and sailors in Crimea, the desecration of the Ukrainian flag, attacks on Ukraine and Ukrainians in the Russian official media, “cynical praise for the Berkut sadists,” the protection of ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, formation of groups ready to go to Ukraine “and hundreds of other facts” as well.

            “Many of these provocations intentionally and demonstratively desecrate the Ukraine state, Ukrainian national symbols and Ukrainian national consciousness,” Illarionov continues, all a reflection of Putin’s hopes that there will be a reaction by the Ukrainian authorities, that this will lead to bloodshed, and that then Moscow can intervene.

Putin’s goal is to provoke and to trigger conflicts of “all against all” in Ukraine, “political conflicts, civil conflicts, and inter-confessional conflicts,” among groups in all parts of Ukraine, the Moscow commentator says. For Putin to achieve his goals, he needs corpses, “the more, the ‘better.’”

Their appearance in turn, Illarionov argues, will lead not simply to civil conflicts but “to a full-scale civil war in Ukraine.” That will allow Putin to argue that Ukraine has been engulfed by “total chaos, collapse and catastrophe,” to claim again as he did in April 2008 that “Ukraine has not succeeded as an independent state,” and to get support for the restoration of stability and order by Russia and its forces.   

What this means for the new Ukrainian authorities is obvious, the Moscow analyst concludes: They must hold out against this Putin attack, “display patience and restraint,” and not allow themselves to be “provoked into a mass suicide” lest they present themselves and their countries as “a desired victim to the neighboring dictator.”

Window on Eurasia: The US is Betraying Its Founding Principles in Ukraine, Russian Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 28 – If anyone reads the opening words of the American Declaration of Independence, a Russian opposition commentator says, he or she will immediately see that the United States is betraying its founding principles by refusing to stand up to Moscow in defense of Ukraine.

            In a commentary on, Aleksandr Lukyanov says that despite mistakes and failures to follow through in support of its principles in the past, the United States has more often acted on the basis of them and made the world a better place on balance than it would otherwise be (

            But in recent years and particularly with regard to Ukraine, Washington has not defended the basic principles its founders proclaimed: the inalienable natural rights of every individual, the legitimacy of states based on the expression of support of the governed and the right of a people to resist despotism.

            “In the majority of major and minor conflicts of the20th century (both world wars, the cold war, the wars in Korea and Vietnam, numerous conflicts in the Middle East and so on),” he continues, “America has taken the side of those who were struggling for freedom against tyranny.”

            Despite shortcomings and mistakes, “the hypothetical ‘world without America’ that is the dream of Russian ‘patriots’ would have been an extremely uncomfortable place in which tyrant would have been far more numerous and freedom far less than in the real world” that exists at the present time.

            That is what makes the last few years so troubling to those who have looked to the United States, Lukyanov says.  “The history of American foreign policy under Obama’s leadership,” he argues, “has been a history of defeats and retreats” – in Iraq, in Syria, in Iran, and now tragically in Ukraine.

                While some are hoping that no one will do something untoward in Ukraine, there is mounting evidence that “Putin will decide on armed intervention and the annexation of Crimea,” under one pretext and cover or another.  One hopes that this will not happen, but recent history “does not give a basis for optimism.”

            “The only force capable of effectively guaranteeing the security and territory integrity of Ukraine is the United States,” Lukyanov says. But recent events suggest that that “the hope that the US will as in former times support those who struggle for their freedom are today practically equal to zero.”

            US Secretary of State John Kerry has already declared, Lukyanov continues, that”America and Russia will not get into a dispute over Ukraine.” Translated from diplomatic language, this means or at least will be interpreted by Vladimir Putin to mean that “’we will not support Ukraine; do what you want.’”

            The many who promote anti-Americanism “love to call America ‘the world gendarme.’ Alas,” Lukyanov concludes, “the problem [now] is not that America is a gendarme but that the gendarme has grown timid and no longer will defend peaceful residents from hooligans who are no longer constrained” by the United States.

Window on Eurasia: Putin’s Plan for Taking Crimea Away from Ukraine ‘Perfectly Transparent,’ Radzikhovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 28 – Despite discussions in Moscow, Kyiv and the West about what the Kremlin plans to do in Crime, Vladimir Putin’s plans for “separating Crimea from Ukraine” are “perfectly transparent” and are likely to go ahead if they are not blocked by some unexpected development, according to Leonid Radzikhovsky.

            In today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” the Moscow commentator says that Putin has based his plans on the following calculus.  First, “it is obvious that the majority of the population of Crimea is psychologically completely ready” for this, the Crimean Tatars being the clear exception (

            “Once a majority of a society WANTS to separate,” Radzikhovsky says, “then the mechanism of separation is obvious: a REFERENDUM” [stress here and below in the original). To set the stage, someone – and it’s “not important” whether these are Ukrainian Berkuts or Russian special forces – seizes the Crimean parliament and force it to call a referendum.

            That body sets a date: May 24, which just happens to be the day before the elections of a new Ukrainian president. “It is clear that after the referendum in Crimea, practically NO ONE will vote for the president of a FOREIGN government of Ukraine. That is YOUR president, NOT OURS. OUR president is Putin.”

The Russian military provides  cover for this with its “’unscheduled maneuvers’” and thus “without a single shot, in view of the OVERWHELMING superiority in numbers and technology,” it and Moscow wins  The exercise ends on March 7, but “the lesson” has been delivered, and the Black Sea Fleet remains in place.

There is finally “the most delicate moment: the LEGAL one,” Radzikhovsky says. Moscow has twice signed on as a guarantor of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. How is it going to get around this?  It turns out that Viktor Yanukovich provides the Russian government with just “the fig leaf” it needs.

Despite everything, the Moscow analyst says, “It turns out that he is the LEGITIMATE PRESIDENT, and the authorities in Kyiv are ILLEGITIMATE.” That means if Yanukovich says the referendum is legitimate, Moscow can argue that it is living up to its obligations – and he implies that many in the West will be unlikely to challenge that.

Indeed, Putin has already signaled that this is the way he plans to grow by his statement that “it is necessary to continue TO HELP Ukraine.” 

But what about the US and NATO?  According to Radzikhovsky, the Kremlin leader knows that these are “Russophobes, aggressors and enemies” who are constantly plotting against Russia. And he has managed to convince many in his own country and not only there that this is the case. In any case, they are unlikely to challenge Putin’s “Crimean plan” in a serious way.

That is because it will appear to be “WITHOUT FORCE ... will be practically a gift, and will easily SKIRT AROUND ‘international law.’”  All of Russia will be “delighted,” the West will come to “recognize” the new reality, and at least most of the residents of Crimea will be “happy.”

What will Putin require for his “complete happiness?”  The answer, Radzikhovsky points out, is “a great deal.”  But no one wants to think about that or about the way that this Kremlin move on Crimea opens the way to other actions that many may not like but could find it harder and harder to oppose.

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Can’t Count on ‘Fifth Column’ in Belarus, Analyst Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 28 – Despite the sometimes prickly relations between Moscow and Mensk, the Russian government can live with Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his dictatorial regime. But if that regime were to be overturned by a Maidan-like movement, the Kremlin would not have the same levers that it is now using against Ukraine.

            That reality, Aleksandr Klaskovsky suggests in, means that Moscow is even more dependent on Lukashenka than it was on Viktor Yanukovich and that Lukashenka may thus have even greater freedom of action relative to the Russian Federation than many now suspect (

            Entitling his article “Can Moscow count on its ‘fifth column’ in Belarus?” Klaskovsky says that Lukashenka by his authoritarian suppression of the opposition has convinced Moscow that there is no one in Belarus who could replace the dictator however independently of the Kremlin’s line he might become.

            Andrey Kazakevich, the director of the Institute for Political Research, says that “today Moscow ‘does not have a particular need to change power in Belarus,” but other analysts say that the Russian authorities continue to monitor the situation closely in order to ensure they could move in Belarus if necessary (

            Kazakevich says that in the 1990s, Moscow was particularly interested in supporting groups like “the Slavic Assembly ‘Belaya Rus’” in the eastern portions of Belarus in much the same way the Russian government has promoted ties with the leaders of predominantly ethnic Russian regions in Ukraine.

            But with the rise of Lukashenka, who viewed such groups as “competitors,” Moscow backed away, given that the Belarusian leader insisted on “a monopoly of ‘fraternal integration.’” When tensions between Mensk and Moscow increased in 2010, however, the analyst says, Russia again focused on such groups as “a soft force” to promote its interests.

            Many analysts, however, suggested that Moscow had missed whatever chance it had in this regard by its on again-off again approach. Some older Belarusians were still interested, but in the words of one analyst Klaskovsky cites, “there are almost no young people” involved in such efforts.

            It is very much the case, he continues, that Belarusian society is split between those who look east and those who look west, “but this split does not have such a clearly expressed geographical character as it does in Ukraine. There are no regions in Belarus of the compact settlement of [ethnic] Russians.”

            Moreover, the share of ethnic Russians has dropped significantly over the last decade to about eight percent, a decline that reflects not outmigration but rather the aging of the population.  The most “’Russian’” Belarusian cities are no more than 15.5 percent ethnic Russian, compared to Crimea where Russians form “about 58 percent” of the population.

            And Belarusians are increasingly opposed to the absorption of their country by the Russian Federation.  In 2007, 44 percent of Belarusians said they would vote for unity with Russia if a referendum were held on the subject with only 32 percent opposed. Last December, those numbers had changed to 24 percent for and 51 percent against.

            As Klaskovsky puts it, “support for ‘fraternal unity’ in Belarusian society is gradually weakening,” at least in part, the analyst says, because of the propaganda of the Lukashenka regime on its behalf and against Moscow’s pretensions.

            In looking for leverage against him, some in Moscow have viewed the Russian Orthodox Church in Belarus as an ally, but despite installing a Russian citizen as its metropolitan, the church does not play that role, at least not effectively. Moreover, analysts say, that because of Lukashenka’s actions, there is “no organized pro-Russia cell in the Belarusian force structures.”

            Nonetheless, analysts of Belarusian affairs say that Moscow continues to look for possible levers there in the hopes of being able to bring a pro-Russia politician to power “after Lukashenka” and to do so without the risks that a direct military intervention would necessarily entail.

            Lukashenka unquestionably is aware of this, Klaskovsky says, and he may be especially concerned about the consequences of allowing the Russians to use an air base in his country, given the way in which Moscow is currently using its Sebastopol naval base in Crimea against Ukraine.

            The deteriorating state of the Belarusian economy and the unwillingness of the West to engage with “’the last dictator of Europe’” mean, Klaskovsky says, that he may have little choice and that his country will remain “a hostage of Russia for a long time if not forever,” even if there is no possibility for the emergence of a Belarusian analogue to Crimea.

            But Lukashenka’s very suspiciousness of Russian intentions, his actions to ensure that the Belarusian security forces are loyal to him, and the absence of a compact ethnic Russian community there also mean that in the event of his departure from the scene, Belarus could turn sharply to the West and Moscow would have far fewer means to prevent that from happening.

Window on Eurasia: Regionalism Won’t Become Separatism if Moscow Respects Federalism, Shteppa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 28 – Many Russian officials believe that regionalism is a gateway to separatism and try to suppress it whenever and wherever they can, Vadim Shteppa says. But regionalism will grow into separatism only when Russian officials do not respect the principles of federalism as specified in the Russian Constitution.

            Unfortunately, Russian officials don’t respect the constitution and support federalism and regionalism only in neighboring countries like Ukraine where they see these phenomena as a means of weakening or even detroying these states rather than as sources of strength (

            Shteppa begins his essay by calling attention to the latest absurdity in the Russian position: Officials in Karelia refused to register the Republic Movement of Karelia unless that group dropped the word “regionalism” from its charter.  The officials said it was “unclear” and therefore “suspicious” (

            It would be a mistake, however, to see this as a shortcoming of provincial authorities alone, Shteppa says. In fact,”no ‘Ministry of Justice of Karelia’ now exists.” It is simply affront for “federal bureaucrats” as indeed its official title makes clear: “The Administration of the Justice Ministry of Russia for the Republic of Karelia.”

            Regionalism has become “taboo” in Russia, despite international support for such movements. (See among other documents on this the 1996 EU declaration on regionalism at In Russia, those who support regionalists are typically called “’separatists.’”

            Following Roland Robertson, Shteppa argues that regionalism today exists as “a dialectic partner” of globalization, with the outcome being “glocalization” in which globalized firms take into consideration regional differences. And he says that this trend is “more open and progressive” than the one which supports “the format of nation states.”

            Consequently, he continues, the political institutionalization of regionalism via federalism is not a threat to the state but rather a partner which will allow the state to take advantage of globalization rather than hide behind an autarchic system and lose access to the new global economy (

                Some separatist theorists – and here Shteppa refers to Daniil Kotsyubinsky – nonetheless argue that separatism is “the logical conclusion of regionalism,” but that argument, Shteppa suggests, is too rigid and recalls the Marxist insistence that “’imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism’ or that socialism must inevitably grow into communism.”

            “Separatism really can become the result of regionalist development,” he continues, I within the framework of an existing state, this development is blocked and’prohibited.’ Only in this case, one must place the blame not on the regionalists but on the state itself” as the situation in the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union demonstrates.

            Russian officials do not seem to have learned from these examples, Shteppa says. Instead, they seem to be copying exactly what didn’t work n the past. Instead of promoting federalism, Moscow has adopted a law “on the struggle with separatism,” a law that provokes what it is intended to prevent ( and

                But the situation of the Russian authorities is even more absurd and from their point of view counter-productive both within the country and abroad.  Within the Russian Federation, Moscow is “liquidating” federal arrangements, causing regions “to lose interest in one another,” and thus opening the door to a new wave of separatism.

            And abroad, as Moscow’s advocacy of federalism in Ukraine demonstrates, it is pushing for a kind of “federalism” that promotes separatism by ignoring the fact that Ukraine, while officially and constitutionally a unitary state is in fact far more federal and regional than is the Russian Federation.

            That leads to the absurdity in which “those who would like to see Russia a federation are against federalism for Ukraine,” the Russian regionalist theorist says. “And on the contrary, Ukrainian federalism is being actively promoted by those who want to see Russia [remain] a unitary empire.”

It is obvious, he continues, that “in both cases, we are observing a strange treatment of federalism as crypto-separatism and an attempt to oppose the interests of the two countries. But if one approaches the problem without preconceptions, [it becomes clear that] both countries need real federalism.”

Many officials in eastern Ukraine have spoken against federalism precisely because they too confuse federalism with separatism and because they know they would have a hard time maintaining themselves in office if they had to face the local electorate rather than be appointed by one of their party colleagues in Kyiv.

Indeed, the expansion of genuine federalism in Ukraine would reduce tensions between east and west because not all issues would have to be solved in Kyiv, making many of them zero-sum game event, but could be solved differently in different parts of the country at the level closest to the electorate.

Everyone needs to get over the stereotype that the east of Ukraine is ruled only by “’pro-Russia’” officials.  That is just as much a propaganda nonsense as the assertion that the west of the country is controlled by “’fascists’ and ‘Banderites.’” One must remember that in the December 1991 referendum, the east voted for independence just as did the west.

Thus, contrary to what many in Moscow hope and what some in Kyiv fear, a more formally federalized Ukraine would contribute to the maintenance of the territorial integrity of the country and, what is more important, to the division of powers and the growth of democracy there.

The same thing is even more true for the Russian Federation, Shteppa argues.  It too will be able to maintain its territorial integrity and make the transition to democracy if and only if it devolves powers to the regions and becomes a genuine and not just a nominal federal state.

A first step toward that desired outcome, he suggests, is to be clear as to who are the real federalists.  Many who call themselves federalists in Russia today are in fact supporters of “a unitary-imperial policy, while those who support federalism call themselves regionalists and are typically denounced as separatists.

But of course, Shteppa concludes, this is neither new nor confined to the legal system.  “The CPSU nomenklatura did not see to build a real ‘communist paradise’ for the entire people. It was content to create special distribution arrangements for itself.  Today’s [Russian] bureaucrats” are much the same, and the problem is thus far broader.

Russian officials “loudly call for patriotism but buy houses in ‘hostile’ Europe,” Shteppa notes. Meanwhile, he says, Russia’s “priests fervently denounce ‘western perversions’ but close their eyes to what is going on in their own monasteries and seminaries” ( ).