Saturday, September 24, 2016

Putin Says USSR Wouldn’t Have Fallen Apart Save for CPSU's Mistakes



Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 24 – Vladimir Putin at a meeting with leaders of the systemic parties said that the USSR did not have to fall apart but that it had done so as a result of mistaken policies of the CPSU which opened a Pandora’s box of discussions about problems in the history of the country and allowed nationalists and others to exploit the situation.

            At the same time, the Kremlin leader insisted that he wasn’t trying to “settle accounts” with the current KPRF because such actions invariably entail bad outcomes.  He said he would leave it to historians to sort out the facts of the case (rg.ru/2016/09/23/reg-cfo/putin-sssr-ne-nado-bylo-razvalivat.html).

            And Putin argued that while the USSR needed reforms, including “democratic” ones, the way in which the CPSU sought to carry them out was responsible for the disintegration of the country, an implicit suggestion that the Soviet Union could have survived well into the future save for the party’s actions.

            Putin has insisted for more than a decade that the disintegration of the USSR was “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century” and has argued this year that Lenin bore some responsibility for that outcome because the founder of the Soviet state created the non-Russian republics which were given the right to secede.

            But his comments yesterday suggest three things. First, Putin clearly wants to put the blame on the Communist Party for what happened in order to distract attention from the role of the KGB of which he was an officer and other security agencies, many of which played an equally fateful role concerning the end of the Soviet Union, as during the failed putsch.

            Second, while he may say that he isn’t settling accounts with the communists, he clearly is and will be seen as such, especially given recent reporting that the Kremlin leader wants to reduce the number of political parties and simply Russia’s political landscape. (See windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/09/will-russia-soon-cease-to-have-president.html).

            And third, Putin is unwilling to recognize what many now have that a liberal Soviet Union would have been a contradiction in terms because it was a country held together largely by force.  Tragically from his point of view, the same thing could be said about the Russian Federation – and consequently, he won’t liberalize because he won’t risk its disintegration. 


Putin Now has as Much Power as Hitler Did after the Reichstag Fire, Kokh Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 24 – Vladimir Putin has as much power as Adolf Hitler did after the Reichstag fire, the result of Russia’s “step by step” passage through “all the stages of the development of a classic dictatorship, according to Alfred Kokh, a former Russian deputy prime minister in Yeltsin’s time and now a political commentator.

            In an essay in the German publication “Bild” yesterday, Kokh adds that “now, Putin with the aid of an unprecedentedly dirty and dishonest election campaign has obtained a completely controlled State Duma which is capable of changing the constitution and overriding a veto” (bild.de/bild-plus/politik/ausland/wladimir-putin/russland-interview-alfred-koch-47949092,view=conversionToLogin.bild.html).

                The ability of the Duma to “override” a Putin veto is not a defense against his further accretion of powers but rather a way for the Kremlin leader to acquire even more, the Russian commentator says. “The Duma can name Putin tsar even if the latter theatrically will refuse to accept that position.”

            Given that Putin now has “the same total power” that Hitler had after the Reichstag fire, Kokh says, one should expect “the adoption of laws in the spirit of the German law on extraordinary authority adopted on March 24, 1933.” It will be “easy” for Putin to find the pretext to do just that.

            In other comments, Kokh says that no one should trust Putin on Ukrainian or Syrian or any other issues.  The Kremlin leader has frequently made clear he understands “sovereignty” as meaning that he has to fulfill agreements only as long as they work to his benefit. Given that view, no accord with him is worth much.

            As far as the sanctions regime is concerned, he continues, it should be lifted “only when all the demands of international law are fulfilled” and not just when there is some compromise which leaves Putin in violation. That includes the Russian Anschluss of Crimea which Putin says is not negotiable.

            Moreover, he adds, sanctions against Moscow should not be ended until Russia ends its counter-sanctions program, something that would be difficult for Putin to do given that “major Russian monopoly concerns, which are controlled by people from his entourage would lose gigantic profits” that they now are making as a result.

Media in Russian-Occupied Donbass Increasingly Like Those of North Korea, Study Finds



Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 24 – Ukrainians living in the Russian-occupied Donbass and those living in the rest of Ukraine exist in “two parallel realities” because the media in the Russian-controlled areas increasingly resembles those in North Korea while the media in the rest of Ukraine often fails to live up to the highest standards of journalism.

            That is the conclusion of a new study carried out by Kyiv’s Apostrophe portal and reported today by Elena Panchenko (apostrophe.ua/article/society/media/2016-09-24/luganskaya-kndr-chto-stalo-so-smi-na-zahvachennom-donbasse/7400).

            Following the Russian occupation, the survey found, the pro-Moscow authorities closed all but two of the local newspapers, forced them to hew an anti-Ukrainian line, blocked the majority of Ukrainian Internet sites, and created conditions in which journalists either fled to Ukraine or sought other kinds of work.

            The only “alternative sources” to what are mouthpieces for the official line are social networks and reports by those travelling to and from the rest of Ukraine.

            Since the Russian intervention, the pro-Moscow powers that be have arrested 62 journalists, most in the first months of their rule, although harassment and arrests of journalists have continued, and thus the survey concludes that now, “Ukrainian journalists can work in Luhansk only underground.”

            Most pro-Ukrainian local journalists left two years ago, not only because of their convictions but because life in Luhansk had become unbearable for more general reasons.  Most pro-Ukrainian internet sites are blocked, although a few providers have ignored the orders of the pro-Moscow authorities, Apostrophe says.

            The remaining local media provide useful materials on non-political subjects, like sports and cultural activities; but the outlets can do so only by avoiding political issues entirely or carrying pro-Moscow stories attacking Ukraine. That is the price of doing business under the occupation.

            The Russian controlled and the Ukrainian controlled areas of the Donbass live as a result “in parallel realities.”  They are checked and linked together only by the reports of those who travel back and forth between them. Unfortunately, the Apostrophe report says, those on the Ukrainian side aren’t always performing according to the highest journalistic standards either.

            Some outlets are highly selective in what they report about Russian-occupied areas, choosing only those stories which will show those regions “in a comic or stupid form.”  While this may be understandable given the Russian invasion, it really doesn’t help matters, Apostrophe concludes.