Considering the relative lull which seems to be taking place in the Ukraine, this might be a good time to look at the impact which the dramatic developments in the Ukraine have had upon the internal political scene in Russia and what that, in turn, could mean for the international (dis)order. In order to do that, I would like to begin by a short summary of a thesis which I have already mentioned in the past (for a discussion please see here, here, here and here):
Setting the Russian part of the stage
First, some bullet-style reminders on topics previously covered on this blog:
- There is no real Parliamentary opposition in Russia. Oh, not at all because “Putin is a dictator” or because “Russia is not a democracy”, but simply because Putin has brilliantly managed to either co-opt or defang any opposition. How? By using his personal authority and charisma to promote an agenda which the other parties could not openly oppose. Formally, opposition parties do, of course, still exist, but they completely lack credibility. This might eventually change with the new Law on Political Parties.
- The only “hard” opposition to Putin in modern Russia are the various openly pro-US individuals (Nemtov, Novodvorskaia, etc) and their associated movements and parties. At best, they represent something in the range of 5% (max!) of the population.
- Putin did a “judo move” on his real opponents (more about them later) by using the strongly “presidential Constitution” adopted in 1993 to basically concentrate all the power in his hands.
- The *real* “opposition” to Putin and his project can only be found *inside* the Kremlin, the “United Russia” party and some influential figures. I refer to this real opposition as the “Atlantic Integrationists” (AI) because their key aim is to integrate Russia into the AngloZionist worldwide power structure.
- The *real* power base of Putin is in the Russian people themselves who support him personally, the All-Russian People’s Front, and in the group which I call the “Eurasian Sovereignists” (ES) whose primary aims is to develop a new, multi-polar, world order, to to break free from the current AngloZionist controlled international financial system, to re-orient as much of the former USSR as possible towards an integration with the East, and to develop of the Russian North.
If I wanted to simplify things further, I would say that in 1999 the AI and the ES jointly made the push to put Putin into power to replace Eltsin. The AI (roughly representing the interests of big money and big business) wanted a rather gray and dull bureaucrat like Putin (or so they thought!) to assure continuity and not rock the boat too much after Eltsin’s departure. The ES (roughly representing the interests of a certain elite of the former KGB, especially, its First Chief Directorate) and Putin himself, brilliantly used the power given to him by the 1993 Constitution (adopted under Eltsin and the AI!) to slowly but surely change the course of Russia from a total submission to, and colonization by, the USA to a process which Putin and his supporters call “sovereignization” i.e. national liberation. A long tug-of-war ensued, mainly behind the scenes, but with regular visible flare-ups such as the open clash between Putin and Medvedev on Iran and Libya or the sacking of Kudrin by Medvedev (the two had been set on a collision course by Putin, of course). As a last over-simplification I would say that Medvedev represents the Atlantic Integrationists and Putin the Eurasian Sovereignists.
Again, I have very much over-simplified all of the above to keep this short, but if any of this is new to you, please do go and read the four previous articles I mention above, including the comments.
Setting the Ukrainian part of the stage
Until this winter the biggest difference between Russia and the Ukraine was that in Russia Putin had basically destroyed to old oligarchy, which was US and Israeli controlled, and replaced it by a new one, which was either supportive of the Kremlin or neutral. Putin’s message to the Russian oligarchy was simple: “you can be rich, but don’t compromise the welfare of the Russian nation or try to enter the political struggle”. For those who might wonder why Putin did not eliminate the Russian oligarchy as a class, I would restate here that everything which Putin did since 1999 until now was always a compromise between his ES and the still very powerful AS. Putin could simply not directly challenge this very powerful, well-connected and wealthy group, so he had to proceed slowly and with caution, step by step.
In contrast to Russia, in the Ukraine the oligarchs realized what I would call “the Khodorkovsky Dream” – they basically bought everything: the entire economy, the totality of the mass-media, the Parliament and, of course, the Presidency. For the past 22 years, the Ukraine has been basically enslaved by a number of oligarchs who made a simple deal with the West: you support us, and we support you. As a result, the western leaders and the corporate media did “not notice” that all the Ukrainian politicians were corrupt to the bone, including Ianukovich and Tymoshenko, that – unlike in Russia, contrary to the AngloZionist propaganda – political disagreements in the Ukraine were often settled by assassinations, that the Ukrainian plutocracy was literally sucking the Ukraine dry of its wealth. Eventually, even the amazingly rich Ukraine ran out of resources and wealth to pillage and the crisis became obvious for all to see.
Besides the pillaging of resources and wealth, another major “achievement” of the Ukrainian oligarchs was the total subordination of the state and its instruments to their needs: for them the state itself became and instrument of power and influence. For example, the Ukrainian security service SBU (ex-KGB) spent all its time and resources involved in the internal power struggles between the various oligarchs and their power bases and, as a result, the SBU has not caught one single foreign spy in 22 years! To make things worse, the SBU was basically run from the local station of the US CIA. This wholesale destruction of the state apparatus itself played a key role in the events this winter and is still a central factor in the situation on the ground: for all practical purposes, there is no “Ukrainian state”.
The Eurobureaucrats and Uncle Sam come waltzing in
It is against the background of this total collapse of the Ukraine as a state and a nation that the EU decided to make its move: it offered the Ukraine an association with the EU. Uncle Sam loved the idea, especially since it included a political chapter to conduct the Ukraine’s foreign and security policy in agreement with the EU. This notion of a EU-run Ukraine also appealed to the USA which basically believed that the Ukraine was the key to Russia’s putative imperial ambitions (see here for details). Besides, the White House knew that if the Ukraine was run by the EU, and the EU run by the USA (which it has always been), then the Ukraine would be run from the USA. So the West began dangling a big carrot in front of the Ukrainian people: “make a “civilizational choice” and join the EU and become rich, wealthy, happy and healthy; as for Russia – it has nothing to say in this, the Ukraine is a sovereign state”. For millions of impoverished and exploited Ukrainians, this was a dream come true: not only would they become wealthy and happy as the Europeans supposedly are (only in propaganda reports, but nevermind), they would finally get rid of the corrupted clique in power. As for the Ukrainian oligarchs – they loved it too: they would get to continue exploiting the Ukraine and its people as long as they maintained an anti-Russian stance (which was easy enough – the Ukrainian oligarchs were literally terrified of Putin and, even more so, of the notion of a “Ukrainian Putin”).
The big explosion
There is a saying which says that if your head is in the sand, your butt is in the air and, indeed, reality came back to bite the Ukrainians in the butt with exquisite vengeance: the country was broke, ruined, just weeks away from a default and the only place were money could be found to prevent the final collapse was Russia. The Russians, however, put a condition on their help: no association agreement with the EU because Russia could not have a open market with the Ukraine while the Ukraine would open its market to EU goods and services (this was no “Machiavellian ploy” by Putin, but a basic and obvious necessity understandable to anybody with an “Economics 101” course under the belt). At this point, Yanukovich suddenly made a 180 turn which sincerely baffled many Ukrainians, turned to Moscow for help and all hell broke loose: outraged Ukrainians took to the street and wanted to know why their dream of prosperity was denied to them. The USA also panicked – if Russia was allowed to rescue the Ukraine it would inevitably control it – “you paid for it, you own it” says the US logic. So the USA threw in its biggest weapon: the “Ukrainian Taliban” aka the “Right Sector”, the Freedom Party (ex Social-Nationalist Party) and its assorted neo-Nazi thugs. The sudden appearance of bona fide Banderites and other neo-Nazis scared the Russian speakers so badly that while the freaks in the new revolutionary regime in Kiev were busying themselves with banning Russian as an official language or de-criminializing Nazi propaganda, Crimea seceded and most of the Ukraine entered a period of complete chaos and lawlessness.
We all know what happened since, so there is no need to cover it again, and we can now look at these events from the point of view of Russian internal politics and their likely global impact.
The view from Moscow
The first thing to say here is that Putin’s popularity with the Russian public has soared to new heights: it currently stands at 71.6% and that even though there has been little progress on the anti-corruption front, no progress at all in the much needed reform of the judicial system and with a Russian economy going through some difficult times. Still, regardless of many unsolved problems facing Russia – Putin is currently simply impossible to attack as he has positioned himself as the man who saved Crimea and, possible, even Russia (more about that below).
The second dramatic effect of the events in the Ukraine is that is has further polarized the Russia society. I am not saying that this is fair, but the fact is that Russian politicians now have two choices. They can position themselves either as:
1) True Russian patriots who support Putin, support the reintegration of Crimea, support the Russian policy of standing up to the West or,
2) Russian “liberals”, who are russophobic, bought and paid for by the US, who are nothing more than a 5th column (Putin used this term), pro-capitalist, pro-NATO and even pro-Nazi (remember, the West does now openly support Nazis in the Ukraine!).
Needless to say, all the Russian politicians scrambled over each other to show that they firmly belonged to Group One. Even Sergei Mironov, the head of the “Just Russia” Party and last “real” opposition leader inside the Duma, took the lead in helping Crimea (which got him on the US and EU sanctions list). Those who failed to do so are now dead meat.
The most credible of them all, Alexei Navalnyi, the only opposition leader not associated with the Eltsin regime of the 1990s, wrote an article in the NYT entitled “How to punish Putin” in which he went as far as to make a list of names the US should punish. In the current political mood in Russia, this is nothing short of a political suicide and Navalnyi’s political career is now ended. He might as well emigrate to the London or the USA.
But the biggest result of the crisis in the Ukraine was to put Russia and the USA on an open collision course. Seen from Russia this is what the West has done:
1) organized an illegal armed insurgency
2) overthrown a legitimate (if corrupt) government
3) supported neo-Nazis
4) put anti-Russian policies over democratic values
5) put anti-Russian policies over the right of self-determination
6) refused to recognize the will of the Russian people in the Crimea
7) refused to recognized the will of the Russian-speakers in the Ukraine
8) sanctioned Russia symbolically only because it could not do more
9) failed to intervene militarily only because it feared Russia’s military might
10) strong-armed the world at the UN to condemn Russia
Against this background – what chance do the Atlantic Integrationists to get any support for their policies? None, of course. Not only that, but the sanctions used by the West have made it possible for Putin to do that which he could not have done before: scare Russians away from western banks (either into off-shores or into Russian banks), create a Russian SWIFT-like inter-bank pay system, shift more efforts into exporting gas to China and the rest of Asia, reduce the Russian participation in US-run bodies such as the G8 or NATO, force Russia to deploy more powerful military capabilities on its western borders (Iskanders in Kaliningrad, Tu-22M3s in Crimea), reduce Russian tourism abroad and send it to Russian regions and last, but not least, further reduce the Russian use of the US dollar. All this is a dream come true for economists like Glazyev or politicians like Rogozin who have lobbied hard for such measures since many years but whose advice Putin had to ignore lest the Atlantic Integrationists strike back. But now there is even some serious talk in Russia about withdrawing from many key military treaties (strategic nuclear, conventional, nuclear verification, etc.) or even the WTO (unlikely).
It now has become extremely easy for Putin to fire anybody on the grounds that this person is not effectively implementing the President’s decisions. Now everybody knows that and every single Atlantic Integrationist now runs the risk of being summarily dismissed. In truth, it must be said that Barak Obama has helped Putin immensely and that thanks for the truly insane US policy on the Ukraine the position of the (generally pro-US) Atlantic Integrationists has been undermined for many years to come.
A joke told for the first time on Russian TV by, of all people, the spokesman of the Russian Investigative Committee (a “Russian FBI” one could say), not exactly somebody noted for his humor, has become particularly popular these days. It goes like this:
Barack Obama boycotted the Olympics and did not attend the games in Sochi – and we brilliantly won and the Olympics and Para-Olympics. Thank you, Comrade Obama!
Obama then strongly supported extremists Kiev junta – and we miraculously regained Crimea. Thank you, Comrade Obama!
Obama imposed sanctions on our oligarchs – and now their money is not in the West but in Russia. Thank you, Comrade Obama!
Now, if we may, we have more wish: we would like to win the World Soccer Cup…
Jokes aside, there is much truth to this joke – the more the USA is trying to maximize the stakes and beat back Russia, the stronger Russia becomes and the stronger Putin becomes in Russia.
As for the poor few pro-US activists left in Russia, they are truly in a desperate situation: for years they had to fight off accusations of being associated with the horrors of the Eltsin regime in the 1990s and now, to this terrible legacy, they can add the new burden of having to fight off accusations of being “pro-Banderastan”. Frankly, they all might as well all pack and leave for the West, as in Russia they are finished.
What does that mean for the rest of the world?
I have often described the covert struggle between the Atlantic Integrationists and the Eurasian Sovereignists as “internal” or “behind the scenes”, which was mainly true until now. The events in the Ukraine have now changed this and the kind of issues the “Eurasian Sovereignists” have been only alluding to in more or less oblique terms are now openly discussed on Russian TV: how to coexist with a hysterically russophobic and openly pro-Nazi West, how to decrease the Russian participation in, and dependence upon, the AngloZionist controlled international financial system, what kind of measures to take to make sure that the US and NATO will never have a viable military option, how to deal with the “internal 5th column” inside Russia so as to avoid a “Maidan in Moscow”, how to deal with the kind of US-sponsored subversive organizations (such as NED, Carnegie, etc.) who still operate in Russia, how to make sure that any rabidly anti-Russian government in Kiev is not allowed to survive economically and socially, etc. I would call that the “Nuland stance” but applied not to the EU, but to the USA. Does that mean a new Cold War?
Yes, you betcha it does!
But I would immediately stress here that this new Cold War is entirely, 100%, the creation of the USA and that all Russia has now done is accept the new reality it is operating in. Neither Putin nor anybody else in Russia wanted this new Cold War, but it has been unilaterally imposed upon them by the US and its EU colonies for the past 20 years or more. Think of this: the true main reason why the US and EU are not imposing any meaningful sanctions on Russia is that they have already done so in the past and that there is nothing left to impose short of sanctions which will hurt the West as much, or even more, than Russia. The same goes for the so-called “international image of Russia”. Has anybody forgotten all the idiotic canards systematically and mantrically promoted by the Western corporate media about Russia before the crisis in the Ukraine? Here is a quick reminder taken from my past article on this topic:
- Berezovsky as a “persecuted” businessman
- Politkovskaya “murdered by KGB goons”
- Khodorkovsky jailed for his love of “liberty”
- Russia’s “aggression” against Georgia
- The Russian “genocidal” wars against the Chechen people
- “Pussy Riot” as “prisoners of conscience”
- Litvineko “murdered by Putin”Russian homosexuals “persecuted” and “mistreated” by the state
- Magnitsky and the subsequent “Magnitsky law”
- Snowden as a “traitor hiding in Russia”
- The “stolen elections” to the Duma and the Presidency
- The “White Revolution” on the Bolotnaya square
- The “new Sakharov” – Alexei Navalnyi
- Russia’s “support for Assad”, the (Chemical) “Butcher of Damascus”
- The Russian constant “intervention” in Ukrainian affairs
- The “complete control” of the Kremlin over the Russian media
I would say that this list is already long enough and that nobody in Russia needs to worry that anything the Kremlin does from now on will make it worse. Short of waging war on Russia it they did on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Libya or Syria – the USA has pretty “maxed out” its anti-Russian policies, and the fact is they don’t amount to much.
So what do you call a little bit of something bad, but not enough to really hurt you. Nietzsche would call it a power boost. Modern medicine calls it an immunization. The choice of words does not matter, only the actual phenomenon does: the US and EU did inflict a considerable amount of pain on Russia, but not enough to break it and, as a direct consequence of that, Russia has received a powerful “anti-AngloZionist immunization” which will make it far stronger than it was.
And that is good news for everybody.
For better or for worse, Russia is objectively the undisputed leader of the world resistance to the AngloZionist Empire. Yes, the Chinese economy is much bigger, but China’s military is not, and China is heavily dependent on Russia for energy, weapons and high-tech. I do think that China will inevitably take the lead in the struggle against the AngoZionist Empire, but this is still not the case today: China needs more time. Iran is most definitely the oldest and first country to dare to openly defy the AngloZionists (along with Cuba and the DPRK, but those are really weak), but Iran’s ambitions are primarily regional (which, by the way, is a sign of wisdom on the part of the Iranian leadership). As for Hezbollah it is, in my opinion, the moral leader of the worldwide Resistance, not only by its truly phenomenal military achievements, but primarily by its willingness to stand completely alone, if needed. But being a moral beacon does not mean being able to globally challenge the Empire. Russia, China, Iran and Hezbollah form what I would call, to paraphrase Dubya, the “Axis of Resistance to Empire” and Russia plays the key role inside this informal but strong alliance.
The other place where “it” is happening is, of course, Latin America, but the recent vote at the UN has clearly shown that Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba are the only ones who already dare openly defy the US hegemony (and the regime in Venezuela is currently fighting for its survival). Thus, while Latin America has a huge potential, but it is far from being realized, at least at this point in time.
A New Cold war has been in the making since the very day the previous Cold War officially ended. Thus, we can only welcome the new reality introduced by the crisis in the Ukraine: Russia has now openly accepted the US challenge and all the pretenses of some kind of US-Russian strategic partnership are long gone. As for the EU, its role has been so shameful and disgraceful that Russia will treat it exactly as it deserves to be: a thoroughly submissive US protectorate with no policy or opinion of its own. Now that the pretense of “partnership” is finally being dropped, we can expect a much more assertive, if not confrontational, Russia on the international scene. Of course, I don’t mean that Putin will start banging his shoe at the UN like (allegedly) Krushchev did, nor will Putin threaten to “bury” the West – Putin, Lavrov and Churkin are real statesmen and diplomats, and they will remain impeccably courteous – but you can expect many more “no” votes at the UN and many “we are so sorry” on many bilateral issues.
The big beneficiary of this new Cold War will be Iran, of course, but also China. Not only will Iran and China probably get the weapons they have been wanting so badly (S-300 and Su-35 respectively), China will get some very sweet deals on Russian energy prices (the Chinese are definitely smart enough to use this new situation without overplaying their hand – they will do it “just right”). Syria and Hezbollah will get more money, more weapons and more political support. Countries aspiring to eventually become members of the “Axis of Resistance to Empire” will get more financial and political aid (Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and, especially, Venezuela need all the help they can get) as will more or less pragmatic countries who did not fully sell out to the USA (the BRICS of course, but also smaller countries such as Argentina, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and all the others who abstained at the infamous UN vote recently). One should also not underestimate the assistance China can render to these countries or all the benefits these countries can reap from cooperating with the other BRICS countries.
As for the EU, it will get the gas it pays for, and it will have to deal with the economic aftershocks of its involvement in the Ukrainian crisis: it will have to keep the Ukrainian economy afloat, barely above the waterline at best, and it will have to deal with the inevitable flood of economic refugees and it will have the dubious pleasure of having to deal with the thorny problem “Ukrainian Taliban” now running loose in their self-styled Banderastan. The EU will have to deal with all that under the high auspices of a USA which barely hides its contempt for Europe or, as was the case with Nuland, does not even bother hiding it any more. As for Uncle Sam – what he can’t get, he burns down and that is what he will end up doing with the rump-Ukraine aka “Banderastan”: turn it into a larger Kosovo – a big pain for all its neighbors, but a place the US military machine can use as it wishes. Unlike Kosovo, however, rump-Ukraine will eventually fall apart, one way or another, but the fiction of a functioning state can be maintained for a long while, especially if there is a consensus in the plutocracies which run the West that form matters much more than substance and that as long as the appearance of a unitary Ukrainian state are there, all is well. Frankly, and no offense intended to any Ukie nationalist reading this, Uncle Sam has much bigger fish to fry than to deal with the problems of a “Kosovo v2” in Central Europe.
The trends I sketched out above are, of course, just general trends. There will be some “zigs” and some “zags” in this process, but barring some major and unforeseen event, this is where, I think, we are heading. Sure, there will be a Presidential election held in grotesque conditions, a completely corrupted oligarch like Poroshenko will buy himself a victory, while the US-backed regime in Kiev and the “Ukrainian Taliban” settle scores and murder each other. Russia will most likely not intervene militarily, unless the situation becomes really crazy, some form of US-Russian agreement is more likely, and the eastern Ukraine will try to find a way to make some money with Russia. The Crimea will see an unprecedented economic boom which will attract a lot of attention in the rump-Ukraine which will be desperate to get some small portion of the financial windfall enjoyed by Crimea. As they say “money talks”.
As for Obama, he will go down in history as the worst US President ever. Except the next one, of course.