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Putin’s Russia en route to self-isolation

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A lot is currently going on in Russia, with one of the most discussed topics being the detainment of Navalny and replacing his suspended sentence with an actual jail sentence. We will not discuss the legal peculiarities of Russia, nor will we talk about how the international community will most likely agree to impose new sanctions against Russia. We will talk about how Putin’s Russia is deliberately taking the path of self-isolation, writes Zintis Znotiņš.

Yes, you read that correctly – Russia, i.e. Putin, is rapidly heading towards self-isolation. And it makes sense if you think about it. Essentially, Putin can only remain in power if Russia becomes isolated from the rest of the world. We could be witnesses to attempts to create a new version of North Korea.

Of course, there are no official documents or decrees issued by Putin that clearly state something like this, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.

What is needed to ensure the existence of an isolated regime? Such regimes are based on three pillars – the army, internal forces (both law enforcement and legislative institutions) and propaganda/agitation.

We’ve talked plenty about Putin’s announcements regarding armaments. If weapons can be generally divided into defensive and offensive ones, Putin’s Russia is establishing its defense doctrine based on its offensive weapons. This means that currently one of Russia’s most important tasks is to ensure, or at least create an illusion, that the Russian Armed Forces are capable of engaging in combat on any level. Naturally, supplying the army significantly worsens the livelihoods of the regular people. Is Putin concerned about such trifles? I don’t think he is. We can compare the current situation with the arming of the USSR in the early 40-ies and during the Cold War when USSR citizens were drowning in poverty because all of the money was used for armaments and to ensure that no one can freely leave the happy USSR.

What concerns internal forces, these can be divided into two segments – internal law enforcement structures and legislative institutions. If we look at the eagerness of law enforcement to suppress protesters, it’s clear that neither Putin, nor Lukashenko have to worry about this aspect. Law enforcement remains loyal. However, Putin should remember history, i.e. that during all the important events of Russia, the army and the police have sided with the people.

What concerns legislative institutions, this is where Putin can feel the safest. Currently, there are 441 State Duma deputies, and 335 of them represent the party United Russia. For those who don’t know, Russia is one of the unique nations where someone first became president and only then a party was established. Moreover, parties are usually created to achieve particular goals or “ideals”, regardless of its leaders, and United Russia was purposely created to support Putin: the charter of the party states that it’s goal is to support the president. This means that Putin can be certain that the legislative system is working for him. In Russia, legislature is more intended to be an imitation of democracy, but in reality it accepts and obeys Putin’s wishes.

For instance, a draft law is being reviewed that would amend Russia’s Criminal Code to punish (with a jail sentence of up to five years) those that falsify facts about World War II. Naturally, falsification in the sense of Russian law means any opinion that doesn’t correspond with Putin’s views. Another example – Putin has asked the State Duma to pass a law that forbids comparisons between Nazi Germany and the USSR. Does anyone have any doubts that Putin’s wish will be fulfilled? Lastly, everyone is aware that due to Russia’s actions it’s officials are being subject to different sanctions. Do you think that Russian officials then try to understand what they did wrong and attempt to improve in order to live in harmony? No, of course not, instead the Russian State Duma is considering to pass a law that would intend criminal punishment for persons that discuss sanctions being imposed against Russia. This means that, for example, if a foreign official or a regular citizen expresses an opinion that sanctions should be imposed against Russia because of its actions, they can get punished in Russia. Great idea, isn’t it? There is no doubt that the law in Russia is intended to blindly serve Putin.

Let’s look at propaganda/agitation. In order for any propaganda to be effective, it needs to be spread as widely as possible and any other opinions must be simultaneously silenced. And it’s well-known fact that if you begin brainwashing people at an early age, it will only be a matter of time until they truly believe you.

This means that it’s crucial to begin explaining to people what is right and wrong as early as possible. In Soviet times, schools had political information classes where children were taught about the wishes of the leaders of the party. Putin has expressed numerous times that he wants to resurrect the USSR. This is impossible on the same geographical scale, but it can still be done in the current territory. There is no need to reinvent the wheel – just use the previously acquired experience. In response to the high participation of pupils and students in the recent protests against the jailing of Navalny, Russian schools will now have a special post, i.e. advisor to the teacher whose responsibility will be to suppress such sentiments. A source close to the Russian Presidential Administration revealed that the participation of young people in the protests was discussed on the “highest level” and that the administration decided to activate “all of the existing projects concerning this issue”. Well, we’ve covered propaganda and agitation – in Russia already since the first grade until the graduation of a university young people will be told that Putin is great, Russia is friendly and everything outside of Russia is rotten. Just like in the good old Soviet Union.

What is the situation regarding the freedom of speech and media freedom in Russia? You’ve probably heard – the situation is prefect, i.e. these things simply do not exist.

What concerns the freedom of speech, in 2020 Russia was ranked 149th out of 180 countries. North Korea was ranked 180th.

The country is run by state propaganda and agitation, but there is one obstacle – the internet. Of course, the internet can be subject to control, but not completely. So, what is the solution here? The answer is – just turn off the internet. It may sound impossible, but Dmitry Medvedev has already talked about this, saying that if necessary Russia is legally and technologically ready to disconnect form the world wide web.

What can we conclude from all this? First, Putin has ensured that the army serves as an instrument of deterrence, and not because of its defensive potential, but because of its offensive capabilities. Even if these capabilities are non-existent, it’s important to make others believe in them.

Second, law enforcement authorities in Russia are vast and, at least for now, loyal to Putin. Moreover, legislators are ready to fulfill all of Putin’s wishes.

The media publishes only pro-Putin information, and if someone tries to express a different opinion, they are quickly silenced. An in order to ensure future stability, Russia has decided to brainwash children from a very young age. The only thing that could hinder this is the internet. However, the internet cannot be a problem if there is no internet.

You have to agree that such a situation cannot accidentally come together. This is the result of deliberate actions, and these actions are inevitably moving Russia closer to self-isolation. Nothing from the outside will be allowed in Russia. Can Putin truly benefit from such a situation? I would say yes, because he is fully aware of what could happen if the regime isn’t isolated. Putin’s Russia and North Korea already had numerous similarities, but it now seems Putin wants Russia to become indistinguishable from its ideological sister.

All views expressed in the above article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any views on the part of EU Reporter.

Russia

Stalinism or a feat of the people?

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The Second World War ended almost 76 years ago, but the debate around this topic has not finished to this day. And, if for Russians the Great Patriotic War is a sacred and untouchable page of history, in the Western community a revisionist approach flourishes among different circles, bordering on a deliberate distortion of historical facts and real events – write Evgeny Dumalkin and Alexander Arifov.

The most “fashionable" trend in the last few years has been attempts to lay the blame for the outbreak of the 2nd World War equally on Germany and the Soviet Union, led by Stalin, who is put on a par with Hitler. 

Despite the decisions of the Nuremberg Tribunal, politicians from different countries publicly make statements that not only Nazi Germany, but also the leadership of the USSR was behind the outbreak of war in 1939. Stalin is accused of a "criminal collusion" with Hitler, implying the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and in particular, its secret protocol.

Europe on the eve of the 2nd World War: geopolitical chaos

Another memorable date associated with the defeat of Nazism in Europe, makes us going back to the 1930s of the 20th century and once again analyzing the events that led to the most terrible war.

The regime of the Weimar Republic established in 1919, as well as the disunity of the political elite in Europe, became the fertile ground that nurtured Hitler and the national socialist regime in Germany. 

On one side was the vast and growing Soviet Union with its communist ideology. On the other hand, capitalist Europe, which tried its best to contain the USSR. 

The rise to power of the Nazis in Germany in 1933 further fueled the flames of ideological competition on the continent. The rapidly gaining strength of the political, economic and, of course, the military machine of Hitler gave a chance to establish a kind of «ram" against Moscow.

In the 1930s, the ideology of national socialism was rapidly gaining popularity in Europe - it was seen as the opposite and powerful force to communist ideas.

Such trends in politics, as well as the weakness of international institutions of cooperation - the League of Nations was almost obsolete, gradually losing any practical meaning - characterized the chaos that reigned in international relations at that time.

Hitler actively strengthened the position of Germany, including abandoning any deterrent mechanisms in military development. Britain and France actually condoned Hitler's expansionism by giving the green light to his aggressive policies. The partition of Czechoslovakia, and then its transformation into a protectorate, the Anschluss of Austria, the annexation of Danzig, and finally the Munich Treaty  - all these and many other actions of the German leadership, with the tacit consent of Europe, almost brought the continent to the brink of war. 

On this background, Stalin had his own "giveaway game" with Hitler, which resulted in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with the protocol on the Europe's division.

Both sides had stroke many agreements with Hitler and were sure that he was in their hands, and would go to war wherever he was told. They acted completely synchronously. The Munich Agreement and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact are two identical documents in their meaning, so it would be much wiser and more effective to admit that the Second World War was caused by the monstrously inept and short-sighted actions of both sides, but this is hardly possible to acknowledge outside of a narrow community of historians, who already understand everything.

Attempts to make adjustments to the nature and results of the 2nd World War pursue, in our opinion, quite specific political goals of an anti-Russian nature, and not the search for historical truth. It is more relevant and fair to speak out about the USSR people's feat which we are keen to depict on own families' examples.

Feat of the Soviet people

For the Soviet Union, the war with Nazi Germany was an extremely difficult, bloody test. The country has lost, according to some sources, up to 30 million people, including military and civilian casualties. More than 30% of the national heritage has been destroyed. Such damage is not comparable to what other countries, including Germany, have lost.

To this day, historians and researchers, both in Russia and abroad, argue about the tactics of the Soviet leadership, the military command and Stalin personally on the eve and during the war. Different opinions often heard that the losses were excessive. It is claimed that Stalin did not want to provoke Hitler, so there were such high losses in manpower and equipment in the first stage of the war. Other points of view are also expressed, for example, about the notorious "barrage detachments" and the famous order "no step back". 

In any case, even taking into account the miscalculations of the country's leadership and Stalin personally, the Soviet people showed incredible heroism, endurance and perseverance in the fight against German aggression. 

The words "unprecedented feat of the people" conceal incredible strength of spirit, will and devotion to the Homeland. Soviet propaganda added that soldiers used the call "For the Homeland, For Stalin". However, numerous testimonies show that people, first of all, fought for their land, homes and families. It is enough to recall the unprecedented scale of the partisan movement, which was not the case in Europe. 

One would't find a single family in the Soviet Union that has not been affected by the war. Moreover, people cherish the memory of their dead ancestors, pass this memory to their children. 

Our grandfathers told us: "War is a daily and hourly hard work. life in conditions of constant restrictions and deprivations: physical, material, moral, spiritual. There are some examples from the memories of our families' veterans:

  • To be with two children in German-occupied territory, one of whom died in his arms after picking up a child's toy, specially mined by the retreating Germans. To see how the invaders treated the Soviet people — it was not a struggle against the state of the USSR, it was a war with the people, children, women...
  • Once surrounded in the autumn, to sit for almost three days in the swamp, waiting for the Germans to remove the cordon on its banks to then reach Russian troops. Do not give up and pay for a lifetime of chronic kidney disease.
  • Fighting on the other part of the country, to come home in 1943 and personally evacuate the family from the Crimea raging in battles to Orenburg (1500 km).

There was a deep belief in victory, there was an understanding of something higher among those deaths, battles, the horrors of war, our grandfathers told us. It was a war of people who did not lose their human qualities.

A vivid confirmation of this family memory is the holding of the so-called "immortal regiments" processions in the cities of Russia and all over the world, where our compatriots live.

The war marked a sharp difference between the Nazis and the Soviet soldiers. The Nazis, driven by racial hatred and propaganda, brutally destroyed people in the occupied territories, millions of people were driven to work in Germany, were sent to concentration camps. 

The Soviet people, when the liberation of Europe from the fascists began, especially when the Red Army troops came to Germany, did not take revenge and did no evil towards the Germans.  It is enough to recall that Stalin emphasised: "The Hitlers come and go but the German people, and the German state remains."

The Soviet soldiers suffered the main hardships of the war. Of course, someone, especially in the West, can claim that the army was following Stalin's orders and the soldier was driven by fear. But the facts prove that a huge numbers of superhuman achievements and the mass scale of heroism both at the front line and in the rear, both from adults and  teenagers, were the result of the fact that the Soviet people understood and realized that they were defending not only the Homeland, but also the very fact of the future existence of themselves, their children and grandchildren.

Evgeny Dumalkin is the partner of Amaltheya Capital Partners, Moscow

Alexander Arifov is the CEO of Runa Bank, Moscow

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EU

Russia: Summoning of the Russian Ambassador to the EU

EU Reporter Correspondent

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European Commission Secretary General Ilze Juhansone and External Action Service Secretary General Stefano Sannino jointly summoned the Ambassador of Russian Federation to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov (pictured) to condemn the decision of the Russian authorities from last Friday (30 April) to ban eight European Union nationals from entering the territory of the Russian Federation. 

Ambassador Chizhov was informed of the strong rejection and firm condemnation by the EU institutions and EU member states of this decision, which was purely politically motivated and lacks any legal justification.

Secretaries-General I. Juhansone and S. Sannino also recalled Russia's expulsion of Czech diplomats and the executive order of the Russian Federation of so called “unfriendly states”, expressing their grave concern for the cumulative impact of all these decisions on the relations between the EU and the government of the Russian Federation.

They also noted that the EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response.

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China

G7 to discuss decisive action to counter threats like Russia and China

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Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab meets with Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi in Kent, Britain May 3, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson/Pool
Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab speaks at a news conference following a bilateral meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in London, Britain May 3, 2021 during the G7 foreign ministers meeting. Chris J Ratcliffe/Pool via REUTERS
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a news conference with India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar following a bilateral meeting in London, Britain May 3, 2021 during the G7 foreign ministers meeting. Ben Stansall/Pool via REUTERS

Britain on Tuesday (4 May) sought to agree decisive action from G7 partners to protect democracies against global threats like those posed by China and Russia.

Hosting the second day of a foreign ministers' meeting in London designed to lay the groundwork for a leaders' summit in June, Dominic Raab (pictured) will lead talks among the Group of Seven wealthy nations on threats to democracy, freedoms and human rights.

"The UK’s presidency of the G7 is an opportunity to bring together open, democratic societies and demonstrate unity at a time when it is much needed to tackle shared challenges and rising threats," Raab said in a statement.

In addition to the G7 members Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, Britain has also invited ministers from Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea this week.

Their first face-to-face meeting in two years is seen by Britain as a chance to reinforce support for the rules-based international system at a time when it says China's economic influence and Russian malign activity threaten to undermine it.

On Monday (3 May), having met with Raab, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was a need to try to forge a global alliance of freedom loving countries, though stressed he did not want to hold China down, but make sure it played by the rules. Read more

Tuesday's discussion also covered the coup in Myanmar, urging stronger action against the military junta in the form of expanded sanctions, support for arms embargoes and more humanitarian assistance.

In the afternoon talks will turn to Russia, including how to respond to a troop manoeuvres on the border with Ukraine and the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Raab said on Sunday he wanted the G7 to consider a joint rebuttal unit to tackle Russian disinformation and propaganda. Read more

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