Tuesday, March 18, 2014


"Russia’s willingness to violate Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty is the gravest challenge to the European order in over half a century. The conflict pits a vast nuclear power against a state equal in size to France, an autocratic regime against a revolutionary government. The Russian intervention in Ukraine raises questions about the security guarantees that the West made to Ukraine after the country gave up its nuclear weapons in 1994, and it flies in the face of many Europeans’ belief that, in recent years, a continental war has become all but impossible. The end result may be the emergence of a third Russian empire or a failed Ukrainian state at the center of Europe. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine should not be understood as an opportunistic power grab. Rather, it is an attempt to politically, culturally, and militarily resist the West. Russia resorted to military force because it wanted to signal a game change, not because it had no other options".
Ivan Krastev, "Russian Revisionism: Putin's Plan For Overturning the European Order." Foreign Affairs. 3 March 2014, in www.foreignaffairs.com.
"The invasion of Crimea cannot be explained with concern for the Russian-speaking people of Crimea either. Russia’s rulers do not even care about their own people, robbing them cynically. Why would they suddenly care about their kinsmen in Crimea? And nobody has oppressed the Russians in Crimea. They are first-class citizens, and the official language in Crimea is Russian. Yes, there are poor Russians in Crimea. But all over Ukraine, the majority of the people live in extreme poverty. I think Mr Putin’s goals are far beyond the Crimean peninsula. First, Moscow’s rulers are terrified that Ukraine’s Maidan protest movement could replicate itself in Russia. The fate of Viktor Yanukovich, the ousted Ukrainian president, frightens them. They are also frightened by the tough anti-communist spirit of the Maidan. The revolution is taking place amid collapsing monuments to Soviet leaders: Lenin, Kirov, Dzerzhinsky. But in neighbouring Russia, 25 years after the ban of the Communist party, Grandpa Lenin is still resting in his mausoleum on Red Square, his monuments still stand. In Russia, we have a metamorphosis of the Communist order; in Ukraine, a decisive parting from it. This scares the KGB officers in charge of Russia today. It is also one of the reasons why the Russian media has branded the Maidan participants “fascists”. It is a logic familiar to many older Russians: if you oppose the Soviet Union, you are a fascist. Such was the custom in the Stalinist era; it has been now reborn. And by demonising the Ukrainian protesters, converting them into enemies of everything sacred to Russo-Soviet man, public opinion will surely turn against the Maidan".
Andrey Zubov, "Vladimir Putin’s goals reach far beyond the Crimean peninsula". The Financial Times. 16 March 2014, in www.ft.com.
There are two possible interpretations of Russian President Vladimir Putin's rationale for his policies vis-`-a-vis Ukraine / Crimea in the past two months. One is that offered by Ivan Krastev, which is a traditional 'Primat der Aussenpolitik' explanation. In which a particular state's foreign policy and its goals and interests, governs its relations with the outside world. The type of explanatory model offered up by 'political realism' in political science and international relations theory. A second, more plausible explanatory model I would argue and have argued here in this column for quite awhile now, not only in the case of Russia but for other powers as well is 'Primat der Innenpolitik'. Andrey Zubov's analysis hits the nail right on the head in highlighting the fact that what frightens the inner circle of Grazhdanin Putin more than anything else is having a Slavic portion of Sovietskaya Vlast, like Ukraine, with a pluralistic and democratic political structure. As this mere fact would underline how odd is Russia's own political structure. Especially since the only similar political regimes would be the states of Central Asia. States and nations which Russian's ordinarily look down upon with something akin to contempt if not worse. A politically transformed Ukraine, raises major questions about the legitimacy of Putinism in Russia. And make no mistake: Putinism is a much weaker political façade than we are lead to believe. This is not to gainsay the fact, that in many respects, Putin's regime enjoys some legitimacy from the Russian narod. Especially in the provinces and regions outside of Moskva and St. Petersburg. It is merely the fact, that this legitimacy and is au fond, quite shallow and in fact not at all strong. It is not the type of support that will prevent the regime from collapsing if there is a major economic crisis in the near-future. Indeed, perhaps the best example of this dynamic is the fact that the anti-Putin, anti-Russian annexation of Crimea demonstration in Moskva this past week-end, had more people than the pro-regime, pro-annexation demonstration 1. In short: do not be surprised in the future, perhaps even in the near-future, that Putinism comes crashing down quite suddenly. Just as Sovietskay Vlast came crashing down, with great suddenness back in 1991 2. Or for that matter the Tsarist regime collapsed tout `a coup in February-March of 1917 3. Putin's policies of annexation of Crimea and brinkmanship vis-`-a-vis Kyiv are endeavors to shore up a failing political legitimacy at home. Unless the Western powers hand him a completely unnecessary political and diplomatic victory in the Crimean crisis, Putin's diplomatic gambit will merely postpone the inevitable. The question is merely for how long?
1. Kathrin Hille, "Thousands attend Putin protest rally in Moscow." The Financial Times. 15 March 2014, in www.ft.com.
2. Stephen Kotkin. Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000. (2003) and Stephen Kotkin & Jan T. Gross. Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment. (2009).
3. Richard Pipes. The Russian Revolution. (1990); George Katkov. Russia 1917: The February Revolution. (1917).


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