Staunton, November 20 – Sectoral sanctions are not enough to stop Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, and no one in the West wants to fight a war against Russia. But because of the nature of the Russian elite, including Putin, the West has a means of stopping Putin in his tracks, a means it has not yet deployed, according to Igor Eidman.
The Russian analyst, who now lives in Germany, says that “the entire Russian political elite consists of criminals in terms not only of Russian law but even more that of Western countries.” Thus, he says, “the West could declare them criminals and seize [their] holdings” and those of their families and advertise the names.”
“For representatives of the Russian elite, this would be a real catastrophe,” Eidman continues, something that they would see as permanently damaging; and they would unite against Putin and his policies in Ukraine, forcing him to change course or if necessary carrying him out of the Kremlin “feet first.”
Taking this step, however, will not be easy for many in the West although for everyone it should be preferable, the analyst says. Seizing Russian holdings abroad, he points out, will lead to a decline in property values in places like London, and it would violate “the piety” Western countries show to “stolen private property if the thieves are aliens.”
But any who oppose this idea need to recognize that “if a war begins, then all this will be seized. Why wait for war if it is possible to take this step already now? Peace after all is more important,” Eidman argues.
And the world needs to recognize that Putin will continue his aggression until he comes up against forces he can’t overcome. His “new national idea” is nothing but “the very old idea of ordinary fascism.” His Russia “is still not Nazi Germany,” but it is very much like “early fascist Italy” or Spain under Franco, a regime based on nationalist ideology, aggression and xenophobia.
Given the West’s reluctance to stand up to him in the past, Putin has grown “ever more self-confident and now he has decided that his time has come.” He is thus prepared to confront the West with real violence, given that the West has “a pathological fear of cataclysms” and does not want anything to interfere with its peaceful life.
Indeed, if “God forbid,” Putin “seizes Kyiv, the West would react with nothing more than a new round of sanctions,” fearful that otherwise it would have to go to war. But as Eidman points out, there are other means to bring pressure on Putin. And some, such as the isolation of him at the G-20 meeting, have already been employed.
But the West cannot wait to see what Putin will do next, Eidman says. Putin today “feels himself a superman for whom everything is permitted. He does not respect his Western partners because he considers them weaklings to the extent that they follow the rules,” something he as a Chekist does not consider necessary.
Eidman cites the words of Lenin about Stalin: “he has concentrated in his hands unlimited power.’ That is what Putin has done. None of his entourage is able to propose anything … [And] Putin is proud that what is happening is his personal initiative.” What he may do next is “impossible to predict” given that he is someone “with nuclear weapons in his hands.”
In thinking about him, however, “one must keep in mind that the foreign policy of Russia is based on those same criminal methods as its domestic policy: lies, force, intimidation and provocation. Putin is a criminalized Chekist who has fully accepted the traditions of the criminal world.” And he and his entourage act like criminals when they deal with anyone else.
But because they only care about their own personal well-being and because so many of them have put the results of their theft abroad, the West has a very real chance to influence some of them by declaring them criminals and seizing their property and thus making it clear that if they stay with the chief criminal, they will lose everything.
In the course of his interview, Eidman makes a number of other observations. Two are particularly important. On the one hand, he points out, the situation in southeastern Ukraine is very different from that in Georgia because in the former case, Moscow manufactured the conflicts on its own rather than exploiting conflicts that had long existed.
And on the other, he argues that the pro-Moscow militants in the Donbass are effectively “Russian jihadists,” that Putin is prepared to use them and then dispose of them, and that they are not very popular among Russians as a whole, although they do have a constituency in Moscow among former Chekists and others “raised on anti-Western demagogy.”