By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia
Having suffered a crushing defeat in Ukraine, alienated all of Russia’s neighbors and isolated it from the West, Vladimir Putin is preparing to launch a new war within Russia’s borders, one that, if Moscow propagandists cleverly present it, will not be opposed by the West and might even be welcomed by it, according to Andrey Piontkovsky.
“The Russian political ‘elite’ simply cannot comprehend that no one in the post-Soviet space needs it as an instructor as to how to live and as a center of attraction,” the Russian analyst says; and it has failed to learn the learns of Putin’s “shameful Ukrainian adventure” (svoboda.org/a/28586228.html).
The fascist-like Russian “’elite’” does not have the support of a fascist-like people ready to sacrifice itself as did the Germans under Hitler in the 1930s or the Serbs under Milosevich in the 1990s. Russians abroad – in the case, Ukraine, supported Kyiv not Moscow; and Russians at home quickly lost interest in “’Crimea is Ours’” as a mobilizing slogan.
Moreover, Moscow did not understand that the West would not simply defer to Russia on what this “’elite’” thinks is properly its home turf, Piontkovsky continues. Instead, it imposed serious sanctions on Russia and isolated Russia from the West which has been a playground for moneyed new Russians for 20 years.
And finally, the Moscow “’elite’” failed to recognize that “Ukraine has left” Russia’s orbit forever, “and with it the entire post-soviet space. ‘The greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century’ in fact occurred in the 14th year of the 21st century” because the Anschluss of Crimea means that Russia will never recover what it has lost.
Putin and his “’elite’” can’t afford to march in place and so a number of developments suggest that together they are planning to take another “dose of the imperial narcotic” by launching “the third Chechen war.” Such a war is attractive because there is “no risk of further sharpening of relations with the West.”
That will be particularly true “if the propagandists are able to sell this war to [the West] as an action intended to restore the constitutional rights of gays,” the Russian analyst continues.
Putin’s use of Kadyrov to stop the fighting was clever as far as it went, “but the negative sides of this project have become ever more obvious.” Kadyrov is able to do what he pleases to Chechens and to others and the Russian taxpayer pays his bills, only so that the Chechen leader won’t seek “a formal exit from Russia.”
But that is just formally. Kadyrov “already long ago separated his republic from Russia de facto and the formal inclusion in a Putinist-Chechen union suits him since it solves for him his most important tasks.” He gets money, he gets freedom of action, and he gets Putin’s protection from the Russian siloviki who hate him.
“The ‘Kadyrov’ project stopped the genocide of the Chechen people and gave Putin the chance to preserve the illusion of ‘victory’ in war and the retention of Chechnya within Russia. But a high price had to be paid for this illusion – the oppressive reality of the insertion of Russia as part of Chechnya.”
That is becoming increasingly intolerable and hence unsustainable for Russians. There are two ways out: withdrawing from Chechnya and letting it go its own separate way, or “restoring Russian constitutional Ordnung in Chechnya.” Putin seems more inclined to choose the latter because he and his “’elite’” need another “good little war.”
But whether they can get one there easily is very much an open question, Piontkovsky suggests, and as a consequence, “the Chechen question will inevitably become the first and sharpest political crisis of post-Putin Russia,” one that it won’t be able to put off or avoid facing the inevitable separation of the two countries.
By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia