Tuesday, February 25, 2014


"Russian leaders expressed their distrust and dislike of Ukraine’s new government on Monday, saying it came to power through “armed mutiny,” just hours after the authorities here announced a nationwide manhunt for ousted president Viktor Yanukovych on charges of “mass murder of peaceful civilians.” Russia questioned the legitimacy of Ukraine’s interim leadership, charging that it used a peace deal brokered by Europe to make a power grab and to suppress dissent in Russian-speaking regions through “terrorist methods.” The tone was much harsher than any previous Russian response to the events of the past few days. “If you consider Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks who are roaming Kiev to be a government, then it will be hard for us to work with that government,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Monday".
William Booth and Will Englund, "Russia cries ‘mutiny’ over change in Ukraine". The Washington Post. 24 February 2014, in www.washingtonpost.com.
"Rather, the main reason for Russian sensitivity is geopolitics. One of the causes of anti-American feeling is the deep and bitter frustration borne of the conviction that Russia has been marginalised. Its former allies in eastern Europe and the Baltic states are not only gone but quite unfriendly toward Moscow. In Asia, an incomprehensible and unpredictable China is calling the shots. In the Middle East, most former partners and footholds have disappeared. For years, official propaganda has been doing its best to convince the population that the west, that eternal enemy of Russia, has not renounced its sinister designs. Worse, it looks as though at least some of Russia’s top leaders or their advisers share this conviction. The cold war zero-sum game mentality is by no means dead. Russia’s leaders regard the west, particularly the US, with much suspicion. They do not believe that Washington is bent on war, but they assume that, given an opportunity, the Americans will never miss a chance to do something nasty to Russia. Ukraine is far more important to Russia than Georgia, where six years ago the Kremlin was ready to go war rather than lose face. In Ukraine, just like in Syria, the bottom line is to avoid being seen to back down under American pressure. Even a partitioned Ukraine is better than a pro-western one. The propaganda line is that the whole circus has been organised by Nato with the aim of snatching a great and important country from Moscow’s grip. The domestic audience is told that the west’s real purpose is moving Nato’s military bases closer to Russia’s heartland. This is why it is easy to understand that official Moscow is terribly disappointed with the way things have turned out in Ukraine, primarily because it is afraid that Viktor Yanukovich’s ouster will be regarded in the world as Russia’s defeat. Some feel President Vladimir Putin has been humiliated since he had allegedly tried to buy Mr Yanukovich and failed. The game is far from over. Russia’s best hope appears to be Ukrainian extreme nationalists, just as in Syria al-Qaeda, the Shias’ mortal enemy, serves President Bashar al-Assad to frighten away both moderate Syrians and the west".
Georgy Mirsky, "Russia is right to be upset over events in Ukraine." The Financial Times. 25 February 2014 in www.ft.com.
The idea being banded about that the violent rhetorical reaction of Russian officialdom over the ouster of the Yanukovich regime has some relationship with Russian fears over its geopolitical position is farcical. It has no basis in reality. Even the feverish reality that one glimpses when one listens to Russian officialdom on the topic of recent events in Ukraine. Au fond, the violent reactions being verbalized by Moskva is simply that with the ouster of Yanukovich by a massive example of popular mobilization is the ultimate cauchemar of the Putin regime. Putinism is based fundamentally upon the de-politization of the mass of the population. The fact that a country which most Russians view in a slightly condescending fashion (at the very least), now can be said to be on the road to political modernization `a la Western & Central Europe, will inevitably raise huge questions in the so far mostly quiescence Russian population. In conjunction with the major, structural slow-down in Russian economic growth (the middle income trap with a vengeance), there is a hugely increased likelihood of a legitimation crisis in Putinism 1. Accordingly, the very last thing that Moskva needs is a toppling of an ally in a hoped-for vassal state. That and not geopolitics is the reason for Moskva's violent response to what has occurred in Kyiv.
1. On the 'middle-income trap', see: George Magnus, "China can yet avoid the middle-income trap." 9 August 2013 in www.georgemagnus.com. On Russian economic stagnation, see: Kathrin Hille, "Russia: after the party. The Financial Times. 4 Februarhy 2014, in www.ft.com.


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