Screen grab from video released on April 3, 2016 showing Grad missile is fired by Azerbaijani forces in the village of Gapanli, Azerbaijan. Photo by AP
With Archives Move, Putin Makes an Unforced Error
Staunton, VA, April 4, 2016 – Vladimir Putin has committed many crimes, but his political tactics at least from his own point of view have been brilliant, keeping his opponents off balance and ensuring that he will retain the support of the Russian population. But now he has made what can only be described as an unforced error, one that is likely to come back to haunt him.
On April 3, the Kremlin leader announced that he was taking personal control of Russia’s Federal Archives Agency (Rosarkhiv), declaring that he is doing so because of the “special value” of documents contained there.
That Soviet and Russian politics has often been about controlling the past in the name of controlling the future is no news, and it is certainly the case that the chief current defender of that country’s security services and their checkered history should want to ensure that he has absolute control over documents that might be embarrassing or worse.
But that was true of his predecessors as well, and none of them chose to take direct control of the archives, not only because they viewed this as a technical issue but also because they were confident that they had subordinates who would do their bidding in that regard. By taking direct personal control, Putin has raised two serious questions:
On the one hand and most immediately, are there things in the archives that are so threatening to him and his regime that he cannot risk having anyone else be in charge? And on the other and more ominously, is the circle of people on whom he can totally rely now narrowing to the point that he has no choice but to assume personal control?
That such questions will now be asked is beyond question, and the answers, even if they are speculative or uninformed will harm Putin. Consequently, the Kremlin leader in this regard has done something even worse than a crime: he has committed a serious political mistake – and it is certain to haunt him in the future.
Only Beneficiary of Karabakh Fighting is Putin, Piontkovsky Says
Staunton, VA, March 4, 2016 – Vladimir Putin is the only beneficiary of the renewed fighting in Karabakh, Andrey Piontkovsky says; and to the extent that is so, Azerbaijan, Armenia and especially Georgia are likely to be the greatest victims of this policy, with all three finding themselves subject to ever greater Russian control and ever greater isolation from the West.
In a commentary April 4 for Kasparov.ru, the Russian commentator says that a close analysis of the situation shows that “for purely military reasons, neither Azerbaijan, nor Armenia are interested in the escalation of military actions.” Both had clear defensive advantages prior to the new hostilities.
That situation in turn means that one must consider whether some “third” outside force is behind the new events. Many in Moscow blame Turkey, but there are no good reasons to assuming that Ankara has any interest in isolating itself further as a result of some kind of military action in the Caucasus, Piontkovsky says.
And thus, the Russian analyst says, the party most interested in escalation almost certainly is Moscow itself. “Vladimir Putin as the greatest peacemaker has ALREADY offered his services for the establishment of peace in this region,” and it is clear what he expects to get out of this in addition to a propaganda boost.
“Not simply control over Azerbaijan and Armenia which to a significant degree Moscow has had already for a long time but also over Georgia,” especially if Moscow dispatches “peacemakers” to the region. To supply them it will need “a corridor to the Russian base in Gyumri in Armenia, and this corridor lies through the territory of Georgia.”
Moscow has been sending signals in recent weeks that it is running out of patience with Georgia, Piontkovsky says. Offering himself as a peacekeeper in this case could allow him to put even more pressure on Tbilisi, especially given the rapidity with which the West has called for ending the fighting over Karabakh.
As the Russian analyst puts it, “one of Putin’s goals is to keep the West in the position of constant concern and to remind that without him no problem of world politics can be resolved, especially if it is one that he has created.”