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Putin underestimated the Ukrainians’ power of resistance 

Putin underestimated the Ukrainians’ power of resistance 
Article by: Andriy Piontkovsky
Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
“Russia is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” is one of the most famous quotes by laureate of the Nobel Prize for Literature Winston Churchill. These words from his October 1939 radio address, were probably inspired by the events of that epoch, Stalin’s pact with Hitler and the split of Poland. The phrase has a continuation, which is cited much less frequently. Incapable of solving the Russian puzzle, the author wonders: “But perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” 

The great Brit was mistaken in his assumption. There was no ‘Russian national interest’ in Stalin’s plan of World War II. This plan led to the deaths of tens of millions of Russians: a tragedy, whose consequences Russia still hasn’t recovered from. The key to understanding Russian foreign policy does really exist. In Russian history, it has almost always been determined not by national interests, but the personal interests of the dictator who led the country.

In 1939 the Soviet Union’s foreign policy was an affair of one person exclusively – Joseph Stalin. In 2014 it is the affair of a different person – V. V. Putin. The key to understanding Russian foreign policy today, just like in 1939, is the mentality of this person, the system of his life priorities, the goals he poses for himself. A fundamental priority of Putin’s activities at the current stage is the eternal retention of personal government. The lessons Putin learned from its loss by his colleagues Mubarak and Gaddafi were too visual. Russian foreign Policy carried out by Putin is completely subject to the noble mission of retaining power.

Putin began another cycle of his permanent ‘hybrid war’ with Ukraine not on February 20, as is impressed on the commemoration medals of the heroes who conquered Crimea, but in the middle of the previous year: by using pressure, blackmail, bribery, he forced Ukraine to step away from its intention to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union. Putin understood that the implementation of this agreement would lead first and foremost to a change of game rules within Ukraine itself. Ukraine’s ‘yes’ to Europe means a 90% ‘no’ to the post-Soviet model of criminal capitalism. Ukraine’s success, having chosen the European model of development is the death of Putinism, this weak philosophy of the lower KGB ranks, who are going crazy from ‘covering’ furniture shops and robbing oil companies.

The Ukrainian example would be too contagious for Russian society and made the fall of Putin’s regime irreversible in the short-term historical perspective. Therefore Ukraine, to Putin’s mind, has to either eternally remain within the system of post-Soviet patriarchy or be subject to dismemberment. The annex of Crimea was the first step in the execution of this sentence. The Crimean speech on March 18 was meant by Putin to be a propagandist presentation urbi et orbi of Crimea’s accession in the best light possible for the Kremlin. It seems to me that it was surprising even to the orator himself that it solved Putin’s personal problem at the very least, and even solved a bigger one, than the suffocation of the Ukrainian revolution.

Anything, even the most cruel authoritarian regime, cannot be based solely on violence. Such a regime necessitates some system-creating myth, which gives hope to part of the population for some time. And before our eyes, a new uplifting enlightened myth about Vladimir the Crimean, the gatherer of Russian lands, is born. Before March 18, control over Kyiv had been his goal, and the annex of Crimea – one of the instruments to achieve it. After March 18, the gathering of Russian lands, the ‘criminalization’ of the entire space of the former Soviet Union or even the former Russian Empire becomes, according to Kremlin myth creators, a mystical super-mission and the highest sense of existence for the Russian people who have finally gotten off their knees and received an appropriate national idea. And also the legitimization of Putin’s lifelong reign clad in the garb of the ‘Russian World’ Messiah.

Judging from TV hysteria and public opinion surveys, our Aryan tribe which has a unique genetic code, has descended from the Carpathian mountains and spread across half of the globe up to fort Ross in California, will swallow this uplifting discourse with the equal amount of fascination as it did way back when with the mobilizing motto: ‘kill in the toilet.’ This romantic reboot of the system-creating myth is also good for the ruler because it automatically presumes the availability of external enemies and national traitors, which means it will easily and forever explain the future total degradation of the economy and the necessity to thoroughly cleanse those who are disagreeable. Essentially, it is unable to form any other agenda to unite the Kremlin government.

However, as I warned half a year ago, Putin is simultaneously becoming a hostage of a new heroic myth, which conquered the hearts of easily moved Russians. The propagandist exploitation of this myth hides a serious threat, its logic requires dynamics, the picture of the “Russian World” universe, which is constantly broadening. Statics and any hint at a retreat in the fact of the external enemy are deadly, they bring about horrible doubts even among the most ardent supporters: “The Tsar isn’t real!” Now until his very last day in power he is condemned to be Vladimir the Real, flatter and lick the boots of his Aryan tribe.

‘Great Novorossiya’ project has narrowed down to individual Donbas districts 

Difficulties started growing unexpectedly fast. In his blindness caused by the triumph in Crimea, Putin lost sign of three important circumstance. One, the underestimated the level of resistance of the new Ukrainian nation to the colonial idea of the ‘Russian World.’ Back in his speech in March he promised the ardent Aryan ‘Novorossiya’ army eight oblasts, which were illegally given to Ukraine by the Bolsheviks, God be their judge. However, it turned out that in six out of eight regions ascribed to ‘Novorossiya’ there were not even enough half-witted grannies to organize regular mass gatherings with flags and Putin’s icons. In two oblasts in some cities, they managed to established an armed-to-the-teeth multicolored team of FSB and Intelligence colonels, MMM and RNE fascists, criminals, Kadyrov’s people, dressed-up Cossacks, insane veterans of the 35-year-old Afghan-Caucasus war. In order for them not to be kicked out of Ukraine, the constant presence of the Russian army is required, together with tanks, BTR’s, ‘Grad’ systems and even ‘Buk’ systems that sometimes shoot at Malaysian airliners. The ‘Great Novorossiya’ project has narrowed down to individual districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

Two, the Kremlin was caught unawares by the relatively hash sanctions on part of the US and the European Union, which are quite palpable for the already stagnating Russian raw-material-based economy. The West’s primary reaction was quite conservative: they were ready to turn a blind eye towards the annex of Crimea, if Moscow had not simultaneously declared the project of ‘Novorossiya’ and especially the megaconcept of the ‘Russian World.’ Even the most conservative attempts to execute it could put under doubt the territorial integrity of at least two NATO member states. Obama and Rasmussen immediately stated regarding Ukraine: this country is not a NATO member and therefore military intervention on part of the US and the NATO is out of the question. They cannot say the same about Latvia and Estonia.

The possibility of an armed clash with a nuclear superpower, led by someone living in a different reality, is a nightmare for the leaders of NATO countries. They don’t want to test their luck and this is why they are ready to use all economic and political means for the ‘Russian World’ chimera, which is dangerous for Russia itself and the countries surrounding it, to suffer defeat in Donbas and to be well-forgotten forever.

Three, economic problems that already appeared due to the sanctions and threaten to appear, sharply escalated the argument between two groups in the high echelon of Putin’s regime: the globo-kleptocrats and the national-kleptocrats. Tied by their ‘business’ and style of consumption to the West, the globo-kleptocrats are suffering severe financial losses and are feeling the growing living inconveniences. National-kleptocrats, ready to patriotically rob Russia and waste their lives at resorts in Crimea and the Emirates, instead see a historical chance in what is happening to finally shift their competition, the Yeltsin oligarchs, from the government steering wheel. As our Eurasian philosopher Dugin recommended several year ago: “It is smarter to allow to dismember stolen Atlantic empires to many Russian patriots, having divided them into small rations, so that problems with where to bury the surplus do not arise.”

The howling of the bulldogs fighting over the Kremlin carpet are heard in the shape of ‘analytical’ articles and interviews by talking heads appointed by them. For example, read Professor Karaganov, who recently wrote a manifesto, ‘Avoid Afghanistan-2’ to explode the anti-modernist non-competitive forces that are trying to shift more experienced and effective layers of bureaucracy and bourgeoisie under the flag of patriotism. Or, for the sake of diversity, colonel Girkin-Strelkov, who is angrily labeling traitorous hyenas who betrayed ‘Novorossiya’ in Minsk, who infiltrated the high echelons of power and even call themselves the President’s friends. As once Korchinsky between the Bolsheviks and Kornilov, and then Gorbachev between Yeltsin, Putin is becoming more locked between two groups of influence at the top of the government who are equally dissatisfied with his policies: between greedy oligarchs and stupid imperialists, between the sixth estate and ward number six. Both of them are acting on inertia by subjecting themselves and appealing to the President as the high judge, however their patience is reaching its limit, and their hands are crawling towards scarves and tobacco boxes.

Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
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