Putin underestimated the Ukrainians’ power of resistance 



2014/09/18 • Politics

Article by: Andriy Piontkovsky

“Russia is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” is one of the most famous quotes by laureate of the Nobel Prize for Literature Winston Churchill. These words from his October 1939 radio address, were probably inspired by the events of that epoch, Stalin’s pact with Hitler and the split of Poland. The phrase has a continuation, which is cited much less frequently. Incapable of solving the Russian puzzle, the author wonders: “But perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” 

The great Brit was mistaken in his assumption. There was no ‘Russian national interest’ in Stalin’s plan of World War II. This plan led to the deaths of tens of millions of Russians: a tragedy, whose consequences Russia still hasn’t recovered from. The key to understanding Russian foreign policy does really exist. In Russian history, it has almost always been determined not by national interests, but the personal interests of the dictator who led the country.

In 1939 the Soviet Union’s foreign policy was an affair of one person exclusively – Joseph Stalin. In 2014 it is the affair of a different person – V. V. Putin. The key to understanding Russian foreign policy today, just like in 1939, is the mentality of this person, the system of his life priorities, the goals he poses for himself. A fundamental priority of Putin’s activities at the current stage is the eternal retention of personal government. The lessons Putin learned from its loss by his colleagues Mubarak and Gaddafi were too visual. Russian foreign Policy carried out by Putin is completely subject to the noble mission of retaining power.

Putin began another cycle of his permanent ‘hybrid war’ with Ukraine not on February 20, as is impressed on the commemoration medals of the heroes who conquered Crimea, but in the middle of the previous year: by using pressure, blackmail, bribery, he forced Ukraine to step away from its intention to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union. Putin understood that the implementation of this agreement would lead first and foremost to a change of game rules within Ukraine itself. Ukraine’s ‘yes’ to Europe means a 90% ‘no’ to the post-Soviet model of criminal capitalism. Ukraine’s success, having chosen the European model of development is the death of Putinism, this weak philosophy of the lower KGB ranks, who are going crazy from ‘covering’ furniture shops and robbing oil companies.

The Ukrainian example would be too contagious for Russian society and made the fall of Putin’s regime irreversible in the short-term historical perspective. Therefore Ukraine, to Putin’s mind, has to either eternally remain within the system of post-Soviet patriarchy or be subject to dismemberment. The annex of Crimea was the first step in the execution of this sentence. The Crimean speech on March 18 was meant by Putin to be a propagandist presentation urbi et orbi of Crimea’s accession in the best light possible for the Kremlin. It seems to me that it was surprising even to the orator himself that it solved Putin’s personal problem at the very least, and even solved a bigger one, than the suffocation of the Ukrainian revolution.

Anything, even the most cruel authoritarian regime, cannot be based solely on violence. Such a regime necessitates some system-creating myth, which gives hope to part of the population for some time. And before our eyes, a new uplifting enlightened myth about Vladimir the Crimean, the gatherer of Russian lands, is born. Before March 18, control over Kyiv had been his goal, and the annex of Crimea – one of the instruments to achieve it. After March 18, the gathering of Russian lands, the ‘criminalization’ of the entire space of the former Soviet Union or even the former Russian Empire becomes, according to Kremlin myth creators, a mystical super-mission and the highest sense of existence for the Russian people who have finally gotten off their knees and received an appropriate national idea. And also the legitimization of Putin’s lifelong reign clad in the garb of the ‘Russian World’ Messiah.

Judging from TV hysteria and public opinion surveys, our Aryan tribe which has a unique genetic code, has descended from the Carpathian mountains and spread across half of the globe up to fort Ross in California, will swallow this uplifting discourse with the equal amount of fascination as it did way back when with the mobilizing motto: ‘kill in the toilet.’ This romantic reboot of the system-creating myth is also good for the ruler because it automatically presumes the availability of external enemies and national traitors, which means it will easily and forever explain the future total degradation of the economy and the necessity to thoroughly cleanse those who are disagreeable. Essentially, it is unable to form any other agenda to unite the Kremlin government.

However, as I warned half a year ago, Putin is simultaneously becoming a hostage of a new heroic myth, which conquered the hearts of easily moved Russians. The propagandist exploitation of this myth hides a serious threat, its logic requires dynamics, the picture of the “Russian World” universe, which is constantly broadening. Statics and any hint at a retreat in the fact of the external enemy are deadly, they bring about horrible doubts even among the most ardent supporters: “The Tsar isn’t real!” Now until his very last day in power he is condemned to be Vladimir the Real, flatter and lick the boots of his Aryan tribe.

‘Great Novorossiya’ project has narrowed down to individual Donbas districts 

Difficulties started growing unexpectedly fast. In his blindness caused by the triumph in Crimea, Putin lost sign of three important circumstance. One, the underestimated the level of resistance of the new Ukrainian nation to the colonial idea of the ‘Russian World.’ Back in his speech in March he promised the ardent Aryan ‘Novorossiya’ army eight oblasts, which were illegally given to Ukraine by the Bolsheviks, God be their judge. However, it turned out that in six out of eight regions ascribed to ‘Novorossiya’ there were not even enough half-witted grannies to organize regular mass gatherings with flags and Putin’s icons. In two oblasts in some cities, they managed to established an armed-to-the-teeth multicolored team of FSB and Intelligence colonels, MMM and RNE fascists, criminals, Kadyrov’s people, dressed-up Cossacks, insane veterans of the 35-year-old Afghan-Caucasus war. In order for them not to be kicked out of Ukraine, the constant presence of the Russian army is required, together with tanks, BTR’s, ‘Grad’ systems and even ‘Buk’ systems that sometimes shoot at Malaysian airliners. The ‘Great Novorossiya’ project has narrowed down to individual districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

Two, the Kremlin was caught unawares by the relatively hash sanctions on part of the U.S. and the European Union, which are quite palpable for the already stagnating Russian raw-material-based economy. The West’s primary reaction was quite conservative: they were ready to turn a blind eye towards the annex of Crimea, if Moscow had not simultaneously declared the project of ‘Novorossiya’ and especially the megaconcept of the ‘Russian World.’ Even the most conservative attempts to execute it could put under doubt the territorial integrity of at least two NATO member states. Obama and Rasmussen immediately stated regarding Ukraine: this country is not a NATO member and therefore military intervention on part of the U.S. and the NATO is out of the question. They cannot say the same about Latvia and Estonia.

The possibility of an armed clash with a nuclear superpower, led by someone living in a different reality, is a nightmare for the leaders of NATO countries. They don’t want to test their luck and this is why they are ready to use all economic and political means for the ‘Russian World’ chimera, which is dangerous for Russia itself and the countries surrounding it, to suffer defeat in Donbas and to be well-forgotten forever.

Three, economic problems that already appeared due to the sanctions and threaten to appear, sharply escalated the argument between two groups in the high echelon of Putin’s regime: the globo-kleptocrats and the national-kleptocrats. Tied by their ‘business’ and style of consumption to the West, the globo-kleptocrats are suffering severe financial losses and are feeling the growing living inconveniences. National-kleptocrats, ready to patriotically rob Russia and waste their lives at resorts in Crimea and the Emirates, instead see a historical chance in what is happening to finally shift their competition, the Yeltsin oligarchs, from the government steering wheel. As our Eurasian philosopher Dugin recommended several year ago: “It is smarter to allow to dismember stolen Atlantic empires to many Russian patriots, having divided them into small rations, so that problems with where to bury the surplus do not arise.”

The howling of the bulldogs fighting over the Kremlin carpet are heard in the shape of ‘analytical’ articles and interviews by talking heads appointed by them. For example, read Professor Karaganov, who recently wrote a manifesto, ‘Avoid Afghanistan-2’ to explode the anti-modernist non-competitive forces that are trying to shift more experienced and effective layers of bureaucracy and bourgeoisie under the flag of patriotism. Or, for the sake of diversity, colonel Girkin-Strelkov, who is angrily labeling traitorous hyenas who betrayed ‘Novorossiya’ in Minsk, who infiltrated the high echelons of power and even call themselves the President’s friends. As once Korchinsky between the Bolsheviks and Kornilov, and then Gorbachev between Yeltsin, Putin is becoming more locked between two groups of influence at the top of the government who are equally dissatisfied with his policies: between greedy oligarchs and stupid imperialists, between the sixth estate and ward number six. Both of them are acting on inertia by subjecting themselves and appealing to the President as the high judge, however their patience is reaching its limit, and their hands are crawling towards scarves and tobacco boxes.

Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
Source: Radio Liberty

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  • nysq1

    great article

    • Milton Devonair

      Yup. And the national interest of russia is surviving. That’s why the only thing russia ever has understood is greater violence. They are an ignorant people that don’t know the meaning of “no” or “no thanks”.

  • Kruton

    Stalin ruined Russia.

    • Arctic_Slicer

      Honestly I think Russia was ruined before Stalin even came to power.

  • Murf

    They act strictly in their own national (meaning the current leader’s) best interest.
    Quite frankly they do not give a rats ass about anyone else.
    Agreements are only adhered to as long as it furthers their interests.
    Allies are only maintained as long as they are useful or necessary.
    Nations are only respected if they are stronger than Russia, and they better be able to prove it. Weakness smells like raw meat to them.
    Weaker nations are like doormats; there to be walked on and occasionally beaten.
    Any body having dealings with Russia should bear this in mind at all times and conduct themselves accordingly.
    Nickels worth of free advice.

  • Rods

    Excellent article.

    The danger for all of us is that now economic growth has been abandoned as the preferred method of Putin staying in power and the nationalism volume turned to 11, it will require more and more regular hits to keep the population on board and whatever the latest nationalist ‘adventure’ is, it must always end up as a propaganda or actual win. A loss will be fatal as General Galtieri found after his Falklands defeat.

    The big worry is the path of escalation to secure a win at any cost will lead all the way to nuclear weapons. If the choice for Putin is nuclear or failure, I think we all know what he will do, providing wiser suits in the Kremlin don’t stop him.

    It is time for western government to dust off their 1950’s/60’s civil defence plans and massively increase their investments in R&D and production of ABM systems.

  • Arctic_Slicer

    “This plan led to the deaths of tens of millions of Russians”

    It actually led to the deaths of tens of millions of Soviets; not Russians. Many Russians did die but so did many Ukrainians and Belorussians, etc. Letting Russia claim all Soviet dead as their own allows Russia to hijack the history of other former Soviet states as their own.

    • Jason Finch

      Very true.

  • pieta

    Putin and elites of Russia don’t understand society at all. In XIX cent., russian intelectuals and elites truly belived that poles are just “romanized” russians, that betrayed great slavic nation. Now they are using the same arguments against ukrainians. Some time ago, communists and dictatorship followers said that slavic nations are incapable of thriving in democracy. If Poland can leave happily in democratic EU and NATO, so can Ukraine and Russia too. Talks about different culture or civilisation are truly hilarious. It’s like casting a spell on reality. The thought, that people are incapable of thinking for themselves is stupid. No. They are just scared. But there comes times, when they find courage. Even North Korea will one day fall. All it takes is few brave people. Like those in Gdansk shipyard. Or on Kyiv Maidan.

  • EulaliaPR76

    Look simple kid: Have you ever heard about Blackwater? Now the Yankies claimed that those US mercenaries have been in Iraq on their own private doing and that the USA could not be held accountable for their actions – since they act as private people.- Now, for one minute, can you grasp why I am bringing this to your attention when you tell Putin to get out of the Ukraine?– There are no regular Russian troops in the Ukraine. Hence Putin is not responsible what is going on there. At best there are some Russian “Blackwaters” floating around in the Ukraine. Now for godness sake be a bit consistent in your arguments. http://tiny.cc/gykltx here is more about Putin.