Staunton, VA, October 13, 2016 – Russian governments since the 19th century have a rich tradition of “administered xenophobia,’” that is, of government promotion of hatred of particular groups. Under Nicholas II, the regime promoted antagonism toward Jews, something the USSR continued while adding hostility to the West, Igor Eidman says.
After 1991, the Russian sociologist says, “administered xenophobia” was overwhelmed by “spontaneous” or popular xenophobia, even though the state-sponsored kind never entirely disappeared, as witness Boris Yeltsin’s attacks on “’persons of Caucasus nationality’”.
Over the last three years, spontaneous popular xenophobia against immigrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia has declined, according to surveys, Eidman says, a trend that one can only welcome — except for the fact that “xenophobia has not disappeared: it has simply changed direction from the southeast to the west” and increasingly reflects Kremlin efforts.
Society in Putin’s Russia ever more recalls the Soviet one of the past. There is being established a brotherhood of peoples for show which stands against ‘the hostile world abroad.’ Only now, the role of internal outcasts is filled by homosexuals instead of Jews. Hatred of gays hasn’t weakened for they are associated with the ‘rotting West, and ‘Gayeurope.’”
In recent years, the sociologist continues, “the Kremlin has been able to subordinate xenophobia to its interests. Having monopolized ‘the market of hatred,’ the authorities harshly drive petty players out of it,” including groups like the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI).”
And that is the bad news: “Having become part of government policy, xenophobia has only intensified. The level of hostility to people of another nationality … has reached 60 percent,” with “the main enemy of Russians” no longer traders from the south but rather “aggressive Yankees, Ukrainian ‘Banderites,’ or ‘Gayeuropeans.’”
As a result of Putin’s policies, “the negative energy of state xenophobia is directed not at migrants and representatives of national minorities but outside against the Western ‘enemy.’” Paradoxically, “having taken control over and limited anti-migrant attitudes at home, the Kremlin is doing everything it can to exacerbate them in the West.”
“The Soviet Union tried to export the Bolshevik revolution to Europe,” Eidman says; but “the Putin powers that be are just as actively involved in the export of xenophobia” because in this way they are “striving to weaken their European opponents” by promoting something that is destructive for democratic countries.”
“In the current conflict with the West,” the sociologist says, “xenophobia and hatred of migrants has become the Kremlin’s weapon.”
Staunton, VA, October 13, 2016 – Rumors and fears about the possibility of a third world war between Russia and the West have become so overwhelming that many have begun to forget that Vladimir Putin is still involved in an aggressive war in Ukraine and that it is far more likely that he will expand that conflict than that he will risk a nuclear exchange with the West.
The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine is anything but holding, and consequently, it is useful to consider what Putin, the Russian military and the Moscow-controlled militias in the occupied portions of Ukraine, including Crimea, might do next lest Ukraine get lost in the noise of Moscow’s rhetoric about World War III.
Independent Russian military analyst Pavel Felgengauer thus makes an important contribution with a discussion today of when and where the Kremlin leader is likely to direct his forces in Ukraine in the near future.
“Before the New Year or more precisely before the middle of January,” the analyst says, “a major war [in Ukraine] is improbable.” That doesn’t mean that there won’t be more local clashes intended to put pressure on Ukraine and that doesn’t mean that these actions are “the independent actions of the local militants.”
Opposite the areas controlled by Ukraine, Moscow has been forming a tank army consisting of two corps under Russian command. That is a major change from “’the Cossacks and brigands’” who were there before. This is “now something quite serious” that Kyiv and the West need to take into consideration, says Felgengauer.
Felgengauer says that he doesn’t think that attacks in the Mariupol direction are possible now, given the weather and the constraints Moscow faces given its recent military exercises and the change out of one group of draftees who are finishing their service with another cohort who are beginning theirs.
Moreover, the Russian army is reorganizing its forces. General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian General Staff, has said that “the number of tactical battalion groups in these fall months will be sharply increased from 66 to 96. In the course of 2017, they will increase further to 115 and by 2018 6o 125 — that is twice as many as now.”
For comparison, Felgengauer continues, Moscow sent 10 to 12 such groups across the Ukrainian border in August 2014, and NATO now has four such groups in Poland and the Baltic countries.
“Such a concentration of forces and resources in World War II fashion against the West is dangerous and against Ukraine as well,” the analyst argues. That will create a situation where the forces will be two to one or “even three to one.” Russia’s goal in this “is by any means not to allow the Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine and to achieve regime change in Kyiv.”
In the course of a new round of aggression, Russia is unlikely to choose Mariupol as its goal. Laying siege to that city, he says, would be “a long, bloody and difficult story because it is already prepared for defense. But Odessa is not very well prepared, nor are Kherson and Mykolayev.”
That makes an attack on Odessa more likely especially since “many in Russia consider it a Russian city” and because its “’liberation’” would trigger a patriotic explosion much like the annexation of Crimea. But the most compelling reason for thinking Moscow will move in that direction is that it can use its fleet and can achieve a link up with Transnistria.
Another reason for thinking Moscow won’t move until January and then will move toward Odessa is to be found in the words of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who has suggested to Western diplomats that there is a short-term “window” for talking about Ukraine but that it won’t remain “open” forever.
But there are two more compelling reasons to think Moscow will move in January, Felgengauer says. On the one hand, such a move unlike doing something against the Baltic countries would not involve Russia in a suicidal clash with NATO. And on the other, many in Moscow now feel that things are so bad in relations with the West that they have nothing to lose.