Saturday, March 17, 2018

Never has Russia Been So Alone and Never have Russians Been So Crude, Tsipko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 17 – Never has Russia had so few allies as it does today, Aleksandr Tsipko says; and never have its people been so crude, the direct result of the aggressive militarism of Vladimir Putin’s regime and the increasing identification of Russianness not with the country’s great culture but with support for Stalin.

            In an essay in Yezhednevny zhurnal, the Moscow social analyst says that writers like Andrey Fursov are promoting the notion that “Russianness” is defined not by that culture but by “a positive attitude toward Stalin and that hatred for him and is crimes constitutes “’hatred for historical Russia’”  (

                “One must call things by their right names: In essence, the currently fashionable attempts to tightly connect Russianness with the name of Stalin means an open betrayal toward all of great Russian culture and toward one’s own people,” Tsipko says. And one must acknowledge something else, far more troubling than the evil ideas of Zavtra and the Izborsky Club.

            That is this: over the last few years, there have been “radical changes in the consciousness of a significant part of the population of present-day Russia.”  As recently as 2011, a third or less of Russians viewed Stalin’s crimes as justified; now, “already half of the population” does.

            And that in turn means that “post-Crimea Russia at an accelerated rate is breaking with the basic values of European Christian humanism and the Russian culture which grew out of it,” Tsipko says. “This certainly is not accidental” but the result of the failure at the time of perestroika of Russia to become “an inalienable part of present-day European civilization.”

            “We in fact are moving not so much toward the greatness of ‘state sovereignty’ as to a certain inhumanity,” one that reflects the attitude that the millions of victims of Stalin’s crimes are somehow justified by his achievements, an attitude that in turn reflects a devaluation of human life as such.

            There is no other nation on earth which proclaims its love for a leader precisely because “he systematically destroyed above all its leading people.”  Since the spring of 2014 – and today is the fourth anniversary of the Anschluss – “we have been exiting not simply from Europe but from all that is important in European culture.”

            Tsipko continues: “Having stood in 2014 on the path of self-isolation from the present-day West, we at the same time have stood on the path of dehumanization. Russia for the last quarter of a century not simply has not been able to become an organic part of Western Europe; it has declared itself an enemy of the existing world order.”

            The root of this problem “is not so much in Crimea and n the Donbnass as in our understanding of Russianness as absolute sovereignty,” something that in the most profound way “contradicts present-day civilization.”  As a result, “never in its history has Russia been so alone as it is today.”

            According to Tsipko, “the rehabilitation of Stalin inevitably proceeds from the total militarization of consciousness as a result of life in a besieged fortress.” War having become the main value, human life has been devalued to the point that Russians show little concern for or regret over the loss of life in Syria or elsewhere.

            This “militarization of thought leads not only to the extinction of everything on which morality is based but also to the primitivization of thought.” As a result, he argues, “never in Russia have people who call themselves patriots thought so crudely and vulgarly as they do at present.”
                Such patriotism, he continues, the patriotism of the besieged fortress, “is incompatible with truth,” requires myths, and leads to aggression against everything and everyone who challenges it.  Tragically, today, “the militarization of consciousness is very useful for those in power” because it allows them to cover up their crimes.

            And that leads to many serious questions, the most important of which is this: “What will remain of Russia and Russianness if, as serious specialists say, antagonism with the US, including military, is something that is going to last a long time or at least for the next decade?”  Can Russia survive if it gives up all that made it European and great?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Russian Naval Construction ‘Weak Link’ in Putin’s Military Buildup, Vasin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 16 – At the end of February, Nezavisimaya gazeta carried a brief report on serious shortcomings in Russian naval construction and modernization (; but because it contained no specific numbers, most people were inclined to dismiss its findings, according to Aleksandr Vasin.

            But the independent Moscow military analyst says in an article published today that “the reality is even worse than was described” in that article. Indeed, he says, the Russian navy will not get the full complement of any of the categories of ships the Kremlin has promised or the modernization of existing ships it needs (

            The Russian military has never published precise figures on the number of ships by category it has or the number that it plans to have in the future. Such information, Vasin says, isn’t needed, “as people say.”  But political figures, including the prime minister and the president have given figures; and if one assembles them, it is not a pretty picture.

            Using these statements, Vasin has compiled a detailed chart which Novoye voyennoye obozreniye publishes with his article. It shows how many ships of various categories were planned, how many have been produced so far, and how many will be produced by the early 2020s.

            The striking fact is that in no case is Russian naval shipbuilding meeting what Putin and Medvedev promised; and in many cases, it is not producing anything close to the number promised and that the navy needs.  That is especially shocking, Vasin says, because of how it compares with Putin’s March 1 talk about a new generation of other kinds of super weapons. 

            The situation with regard to refitting and modernization is “just as bad,” he continues. Ships are in dry dock for far longer than they were scheduled to be, often because of a lack of money, or are not being released to the fleet because the equipment they were supposed to have installed wasn’t available – including defensive weaponry. 

            The question naturally arises, the defense analyst says. Who is responsible for these shortcomings? And who is reporting on them accurately to the Russian commander in chief, Vladimir Putin. 

With Putin’s Support Softening and Falsification Risks Rising, Kremlin Quietly Drops 70/70 Requirement

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 16 – For the last year, the Kremlin has sent a clear message to the heads of federal subjects that it expects them to get 70 percent of registered voters to the polls and have 70 percent of those who do take part cast their ballots for Vladimir Putin, the so-called “70/70” requirement.

            But this week, just a few days before Sunday’s vote, leaks from officials across the Russian Federation said that the center had dropped that requirement, fearful that the demand for 70 percent participation would lead to the kind of massive falsifications that could trigger demonstrations and protests (

            And while these reports did not suggest that the Kremlin had other concerns, it seems extremely likely that various recent reports showing that support for Putin has softened if not slipped especially in major cities may have been a factor as well because regional officials would have felt compelled to falsify those returns as well if their futures depended upon them.

            According to one regional official with whom the URA news agency spoke, the Kremlin is now far more concerned about the share of votes Putin receives than about the level of participation and “the results of the work conducted will depend not on percentages but on the number of votes for the main candidate.”

            Ilya Grashenkov, the director of the Center for the Development of Regional Politics, says that “in certain regions, even a 65 percent participation rate will be difficult to achieve.” If governors think they have to reach 70, they almost certainly will falsify the result and that will cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the voting.

            Another analyst, Gleb Kuznetsov of the Expert Institute for Social Research, a group known to be close to the Kremlin, says there is a recognition that “legitimacy is achieved only in honest elections. Falsified votes will not be useful for society, for citizens nor for those they choose.”

            And a third, political analyst Andrey Kolyadin, says that it will not be difficult for the governors to achieve the new percentages especially because “there is every chance that the first person will receive even more votes than he did in the last election.” 

            Meanwhile, an anonymous source close to the Kremlin told URA that the Kremlin had adopted the 70-70 formula earlier to divert opposition figure Aleksey Navalny into calling for a boycott.  Navalny “took the bait,” the source said; and instead of working together with other candidates like Grudinin, he pursued his quixotic quest.

            Had Navalny done otherwise, the source continued, Navalny “really could have influenced the course of the entire campaign.” It would have enlivened the opposition by suggesting the possibility of a second round, although it was clear to everyone that Putin was going to win and win more easily than that.