Putin’s Longstanding Plan for Long-Term Confrontation with West Accelerating: Illarionov

May 28, 2016
Andrei Illarionov. Photo by RFE/RL

One of Russia’s Most Fundamental Problems Again on View in Moscow

Staunton, VA, May 28, 2016 — At the end of Soviet times, it was often observed that one of the things that set the Russian Federation apart from the non-Russian republics was that those concerned with human rights issues and those focusing on ethno-national ones like historical preservation were separate in the case of the Russians but often united among non-Russians.

That meant not only that the non-Russian movements could draw on energy from both sets of concerns but also that the Russian ethno-national trends were often less informed by democratic and human rights concerns than were those in the non-Russian republics, a difference that has played out in the post-Soviet national movements since 1991.
In a comment on the Kasparov.ru portal, Yury Samodurov reports on a meeting two days ago where some 500 people called for the declaration of Moscow as a historic city and the formation of a supervisory council that would block the destruction of historical monuments by the state or developers.

To his “surprise,” the activist says, he “met at the meeting only ten acquaintances of which there was not a SINGLE one [he] knew personally or from television from Solidarity, [opposition parties] Parnas, Yabloko, supporters of Navalny or from the human rights community,” that is, from liberal groups.

That apparently happened, Samodurov continues, because “activists of these parties weren’t there or weren’t there in any numbers” since their organizations did not inform their followers that the meeting was to take place. Instead, the only groups that did were more conservative ones like Another Russia which actively spread the word.
“It seemed to [him],” he says, “extraordinarily indicative and strange that the circles of those defending the city and activists of democratic and human rights organizations almost do not intersect,” even though at the level of declarations, many in the latter say they are concerned about the same thing.
Moscow Said Deploying Russian Criminal World against Ukraine
Staunton, VA, May 28, 2016 – Many are now being distracted by the Kremlin’s charm offensive, but Moscow continues its hybrid war against Ukraine; and one of the most dangerous “fronts” in this conflict, a senior Ukrainian police official warns, involves Moscow’s deployment of senior Russian professional criminals to Ukraine to destabilize that country.

In a new report, Vadim Troyan, the first deputy head of Ukraine’s National Police, says that the Russian Federation has “opened in Ukraine ‘a criminal front’ by making use of ‘thieves in law’” as professional criminals are known to worsen the criminal situation in Ukraine.
Among the professional criminals now operating in Ukraine are “citizens not only of Ukraine but also of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and most of all the Russian Federation,” Troyan says, with most of them having the status of “thieves in law” in Russia and being “under the influence of the Russian special services.”
The purpose of such Moscow-controlled professional criminals in Ukraine is “to collect information and destabilize the criminal situation in the regions of Ukraine.” One of the reasons it is hard to root out such people is that they enjoy the protection of Russian officials and some in the media and have their own counter-intelligence operations.
These professional criminals are especially active in and can even be said to have their home bases in those portions of Ukraine occupied by Russia and not controlled by Kyiv, the police official says. And they are often used to promote “the economic interests of oligarchic and monopolistic capital” against the country and to steal and then export Ukraine’s national wealth.

Troyan was driven to make this report, his arguments make clear, by the fact that on May 17, the Verkhovna Rada did not pass a measure he had promoted that would have given a legal definition to “thieves in law” and thus improved the ability of the police to act against those who direct criminal activity but often at sufficient remove that they can’t be linked to specific crimes.

West Often Deals with Those Lacking Moral Scruples But Not Often Those Like Putin Who Openly Flaunt This

Staunton, VA, May 28, 2016 — David Satter makes an important point when he says that the West is “not accustomed to deal with people who operate in a [moral] vacuum” of the kind the characterizes the leadership of Russia today, Moscow commentator Igor Yakovenko notes; but he suggests that the West does have that experience but not so often in political life.

In a commentary on Kasparov.ru, he argues that after Georgia and Ukraine, no Western leader can fail to see that Vladimir Putin and his regime are lacking in any moral scruples and will do anything they can to advance their own power by any means whatsoever.
The American journalist, Yakovenko says, is wrong to think that there aren’t people in the West “who operate without moral scruples” and with whom political leaders must deal. In fact, the Russian commentator says, “in the upper reaches of business, there are many such people … [and] the moral vacuum in which they operate is described” in many novels.
He cites the characters of Arthur Hailey’s 1990 novel, The Evening News, who are quite prepared to sacrifice every moral principle including respect for freedom of speech for profit, and suggests that those characters have come to life in the upper reaches of Putin’s Russia today.
Indeed, Yakovenko continues, Deputy Media Minister Aleksey Volin, in explaining why the leadership of RBC had to be changed, uses arguments which are almost word for word taken from the sleazy characters presented in Hailey’s novel of a quarter of a century ago. It almost appears that Hailey was describing Russian political life now.
“Both mentally and morally, the real Russian Volin and the American literary figure [from Hailey’s novel] are twins,” he writes. “Both the one and the other exist within a moral vacuum” and act accordingly.
There does not exist any instrument to “measure the percent of moral idiots I society as a whole and among those in power in particular,” but “most likely, the Volins form a majority among Russians in places of power and at the top of Russian business.” Yakovenko says that he personally can’t rate the share of such people “in the power structures and business of the West.”

“But the chief distinguishing feature between the two is not in the share of moral idiots,” he argues, although this is an important indicator and it would not be a bad idea to learn how to measure it.”  The real difference is that social mechanisms which make it “extremely difficult” for people like Hailey’s hero “to say publicly what he says privately” do not exist in Russia.

There, Yakovenko points out, Russian officials are constantly “showing their moral idiotism in public, aren’t ashamed of doing so, and do not suffer as a result.”

In the West but not in Russia, concerns about reputation keep people from flaunting their lack of moral principles even if they don’t have them. “And even if this is recognized as hypocrisy, one must welcome it” for the simple reason that “as is well-known, ‘hypocrisy is the tribune which vice pays to virtue.’”

What is also striking and potentially very important for the future, Yakovenko points out, is that Russian culture as a whole has been moving in a positive direction in this regard over the last century while the position of the Russian ruling stratum, at least in the last two decades, has been moving in exactly the opposite one.

This divergence, he continues, is “camouflaged” by repeated official statements that the Russian people overwhelmingly support the Putin regime. But that is a complete myth, put out by the elite with the same lack of moral scruple or concern with accuracy that informs all of its other actions.

As a result, a gulf is opening between a regime totally unconcerned about morality and a population which increasingly albeit slowly is very much concerned about that. And “the more rapidly this gulf will be overcome, the less painful and bloody it will be, including for the representatives of those in power.”

“Unfortunately,” Yakovenko says, “the growing degradation of people in power is keeping them from understanding that.”

Putin’s Longstanding Plan for Long-Term Confrontation with the West Accelerating: Illarionov
Staunton, VA, May 28, 2016 — For the last decade, Vladimir Putin has pursued a plan to isolate his country from the outside world by pursuing rearmament and confrontation with the West, Andrey Illarionov says. Now, there is evidence that the Kremlin leader is stepping up his efforts in that direction even during the current charm offensive.

In an interview with Radio Liberty, the Moscow analyst argues that the West should stop viewing Ukraine or Georgia as the occasion for Putin’s actions and see them instead as symptoms of his much larger policy, one that he argues has been in place since at least 2006.
Putin’s goals over this period have been to prepare Russia, its people and its economy “for a much longer, more global and more serious confrontation with the external world” than many now assume. And these goals were put in place long before Russia sent troops into Ukraine and long before the West introduced sanctions.
The Kremlin leader’s “preparation for war against the outside world began not in 2014, not with the annexation of Crimea and not with the actions of ‘the little green men’ in the Donbass or in other places,” Illarionov says. They began much earlier as can be seen by examining Putin’s 2010 plan for Russian rearmament.
Not only is that plan continuing, he says, but despite what some think, Moscow’s efforts to realize it are even intensifying. In 2010, Putin put in place a program for the rearmament of Russia, one that he said at the time would cost 20 trillion rubles over the following decade. He has been spending more than that since by taking money from the Russian population.
But there is an even better indication that Putin is planning for a long-term confrontation with the West: his government is buying gold. While the Russian economy is getting worse, the government’s stockpiles of gold are growing because if the sanctions regime intensifies, Illarionov says, Moscow can always use gold to purchase what it wants.
The Russian government’s purchases of gold in the first quarter of this year, he notes, “broke all previous records.” But it is important to recognize that these purchases began not at the start of the war with Ukraine but “already in January 2006. Therefore, the strategic planning of confrontation with the outside world began just over a decade ago.”
These gold purchases mean, he continues, that “preparation for global confrontation with the surrounding world not only has not stopped but is continuing and its tempo, if we are to speak honestly, is increasing.” There may be periods when it appears that Putin is easing off as now in the view of some, but there is no indication that he has fundamentally changed course.