Connect with us

Russia

V is for victory, not vendetta

Published

on

This year`s two major celebrations of the WW2 victories, the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp and the capitulation of Nazi Germany, rested in shade. Calculative shade of politics.

In January of 1945, the Red Army came to the doors of the Auschwitz concentration camp and liberated the survivors of this horrendous sprout of Nazi politics. At the commemoration ceremony, held in Poland this year, the honorary guest was Ukrainian`s president Petro Poroshenko, not the Russian president Vladimir Putin. Why this chocolaty treat to Ukraine? According to the newest (dis)information, it was actually the 1st Ukrainian front of the Red Army that liberated the poor incarcerated people therefore ethnic Ukrainians played the biggest role in the liberation, not the Russians. The Russian foreign ministry has since debunked this claim because, as so often in the propaganda machines, the key detail somehow forgot to be addressed: the names of the units in the Red Army were assigned according to the territory where they were formed, not to the nationality of the people involved. The name “Ukrainian” in this sense therefore applies to the formation of the Red Army, implying it was originally formed on the Ukrainian territory but at the same time comprising of numerous ethnicities. The Russian foreign ministry has also released the corresponding historical documents, listing the quantitative data on different nationalities in the 1st Ukrainian Front; the number of Russian soldiers in the formation is still higher than Ukrainian. Somehow this seemed utterly relevant for the few propaganda hungry leaders of nations of Eastern Europe because they were well aware of the confusion and inevitable conclusion the name “1st Ukrainian front” will draw.

This, of course, is also in line with their propaganda machine against Russia, raging and blowing up steam ever since the start of the Ukrainian crisis which is just another case of the so many times before seen false flag operations. The democratically elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovyich, was ousted (effectively) in a coup d`etat in 2014, succeeded by the covertly neo- Nazi members of the People`s Front Party and its most visible figure, now prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. At this point, we also have to acknowledge that the leadership of Yanukovyich was not flawless and, in comparison to democracies in Europe, rested upon much stronger leadership figure and traditional political culture. But this was not his biggest crime. If this was his biggest crime, the lack of (western standards type of) democratic features, world politics should look much different today. First example that comes to mind is Saudi Arabia. I don`t see any western nagging about lack of democracy and the need to regime change, because they are a great ally to US in the Middle East and their world oil games. I see that calls for Iran, whose political system and level of democratic standards is at an incomprehensively higher level than in any other “ally” state in the Middle East. This is then, as always, just a geopolitical stretch of the Anglo-American power and the need to align the regimes to the desired agenda. But I guess that such discrepancies are not unexpected in a world, where the Nobel Peace Prize goes out to the President, waging wars in the name of his country`s financial and oil empire. So no, this was not the biggest crime of Yanukovyich`s regime. The biggest crime were the heavy ties with Russia which was blatantly visible after the new government took office, when the first few steps were alienating from Russia, Eurasian Economic Union and rapprochement with NATO, the EU and the IMF.

Therefore, ousting Yanukovyich, by no means perfect but still an elected president of Ukraine, in a revolution that reinstalled the anti- Russian power machine, taking actions against Russian culture and language in Ukraine, was the promotion of democracy, American style: “what we say is good for you is also always correct (and comes from a completely altruistic place)”. And after the official banning of the Russian language, a plebiscite was executed on the Crimean peninsula with the help of Russia, one of the most closely intertwined regions of Ukraine with its Soviet roots. West likes to forget that historical links are hard to break and such linkage between people should be celebrated, not judged. Former president of Kyrgyzstan once commented on the new grand game in Eurasia, saying “God and geography gave us Russia”. Of course, in the case of Ukraine, we must not forget about Sevastopol, home to the Russian navy fleet and many economic and infrastructural-pipeline bonds the countries share. This is also an important part of Russian protectionism over Ukraine, leftover (or an awakening) of hard realpolitik in the Russian bear.

After the mounting pressure in Ukraine, blasting over the Russian image on international stage, snubbing on the Auschwitz ceremony, came victory day. This should be a united day of joy over vindicated allies against the destructive Nazi ideology. Instead this day is being abused for political reasons, the worst kind of rape that can happened to a significant historical victory.

Of course, here we are referring to the celebrations of victory day in Russia and banning of the celebration by numerous world leaders, due to “Russian politics in Ukrainian crisis” (how come nobody questions the politics of Ukraine and other western powers?). Soviet Union lost millions of soldiers in the WW2 fighting and these losses were significantly larger than for any other major power engaged in the conflict. Winning the war is also part of the historical memory of Russian people and robbing these people of their sense of victory is an utter crime.

Victory day is a day of victory over Nazism. It has nothing to do with current world politics and its interpretation, it is a historical fact, and as such it should always be memorized and celebrated. Speaking of historical facts, here is also another one: the Red Army played a major role in the final destruction of the Nazis. Russians, as legal successor of Soviet Union, have the right to be proud of that historical fact. They have the right to demand the world to do the same. They have the right to demand respect.

Additionally, we should always remember that victory in WW2, from every battle, be it on the smallest scale, was a victory of people, not politicians. The defeat of Nazi Germany came as a result of numerous personal sacrifices for a better tomorrow. There were no politicians in the first line of defense. Accordingly, I am asking: Who are you, Mr. Obama, to boycott the memory of people who helped to liberate a huge part of Europe and vindicate over Nazism? Who are you, David Cameron, to dare to do the same? The message was clear: Not to rain on your parade, Russians, but we have more important, politically correct things to do.

The defeat of Nazism was a victory of people, not politics. If people would not be there to fight wars, politicians could draft as much resolution and strategies they would like, to no effect. WW2 was the clash of ideologies that sprung out of an economic disaster, caused by the imperialistic politics after ww1, for sure, but it was played out on the backs of people. And out of these numerous people, to whom we should be grateful everyday for their contribution, many of them were Russians. The story can be twisted as much as the westerns like, but the truth remains: the Soviet Union DID help to win WW2. No amount of propaganda can ever change that.

Russia

Forgiving Old Debts: Russia’s Diplomatic Maneuver

Published

on

With economies experiencing contractions across the globe and with governments in the third world most vulnerable, discussions of debt relief have been revived. Yet, forgiving old debts is nothing new to the Kremlin. For the Russian government, it has been just one part of a wider diplomatic toolkit to rekindle ties that have faltered since the end of the Cold War.

Once the primary backer of numerous states over large swathes of the globe, Moscow largely retreated from the non-Soviet space during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin and it continued to not be a primary concern during Vladimir Putin’s first two terms as head of state. However, Russia’s resurgence on the international arena over the past few years has not only made the country more willing to re-engage with the region but also more capable.

International media has primarily viewed this through the lens of military strength. Whether it is sending trainers and advisors to the Central African Republic, allegedly supporting rebels in Libya, or deploying Wagner Group forces to fight an Islamic State-offshoot in Mozambique, the focus has primarily been conflict-oriented. However, less explored is the quieter and more economic measures that the Russian government has taken in order to win hearts and minds outside of the West.

As part of a debt-for-development programme, Russia has forgiven approximately $20 billion worth of debt to various African governments that was accrued during the Soviet period. Beneficiaries include the Commonwealth nation of Tanzania and Francophonie member Madagascar, along with others. In forgiving these loans, the Kremlin has acknowledged a reality that many countries continue to deny: such debts are unpayable. At the first ever Russia-Africa Summit, Putin stated explicitly that “It was not only an act of generosity, but also a manifestation of pragmatism, because many of the African states were not able to pay interest on these loans.”

These measures have yielded concrete benefits for the previously indebted countries. For example, the decision to forgive Mozambique’s $40 million debt was done in conjunction with the United Nations World Food Programme, with the money that was intended for debt repayment instead being used to provide free school meals for 150,000 children over the course of five years.

While Russia will potentially be losing some money in the short term, debt forgiveness is likely to open new doors moving forward. Many of the countries that have seen their debts written off have significant economic and geopolitical potential. With improved political relations as a consequence, it is hoped that Russian companies will get preferential treatment should contracts be offered to international firms. This could help explain the Kremlin’s decision to forgive 90% of North Korea’s $11 billion debt despite the latter’s weak position. Russia has been eager to develop a trans-Korean gas pipeline that would transport fuel to South Korea. While the likelihood of this being realised remains slim, in the context of Pyongyang’s inability to repay the debt in any case, it is a reasonable gamble to make on the part of the Russian government.

This is somewhat similar to China’s efforts over the past few years, albeit in an inverse form. With Beijing less cash-strapped than Moscow, it is able to invest directly whereas Russia is using debt forgiveness to redirect cash payments away from servicing old debts and instead towards domestic reinvestments. Free projects, such as the Chinese-funded and constructed headquarters of the African Union, have been followed by ever-growing economic and political relations.

Russia’s debt policy has been used to strengthen existing alliances and partnerships. While not all Soviet-era allies have retained close ties to Moscow, many have done so continuously since the Cold War. One of the biggest beneficiaries of Russian debt forgiveness has been Cuba. In July 2014, ahead of a visit to the island nation by Putin, the Russian government wrote off 90% of Cuban debt. Though Russia was not only the country that showed willingness to restructure Cuba’s debt obligations at the time, it was by far the most generous. China restructured approximately $6 billion while Japan and Mexico forgave $1.4 billion and $478 million, respectively; Russia forgave $32 billion.

The decision did reaffirm the close relations between Moscow and Havana. Cuba has repeatedly voted in support of the Russian Federation at the United Nations on sensitive topics, such as Crimea, and Russian firms have received multiple drilling and mining contracts from the Caribbean country.

However, this strategy has its limitations. The overwhelming majority of these debts date back to the Soviet era and are therefore limited in scope. Some countries, such as Angola and Ethiopia (which saw most of their debts forgiven in the 1990’s), were primarily recipients of military support during civil wars so their debts were not as vast as other heavily indebted countries with other creditors. Since then, despite respite from Moscow, such countries have continued to become increasingly burdened by growing debts. While Ethiopia is often heralded as an example of rapid economic growth, its debt, both in total but also has a percentage of GDP, has grown considerably during the post-Soviet era.

While debt relief is undeniably beneficial to the third world, the fact that Russian-owned debts constitute a mere fraction of all foreign-owned debts in most cases means that the act of writing debts off cannot achieve much in of themselves. Consequently, in several countries, the gesture is mostly a PR move. In the case of Afghanistan, where Russia was the largest creditor due to loans handed out during the 1980’s, Kabul had for decades refused to recognise the debt. The decision to forgive the debt was therefore more of a signal of a desire to improve relations than any hope to achieve instantaneously tangible rewards.

The largest stumbling block for the Kremlin’s efforts remain structural issues afflicting the indebted nations, the nature of which vary considerably from country to country. For example, while Russia has forgiven a majority of Iraq’s debt to the country, which in turn helped revive talks over potential oil contracts, the continued instability in the Middle Eastern nation makes it difficult to reap many benefits. Though it is true that Baghdad has continued to purchase Russian T-90 tanks and attack helicopters, this is more of a sign that Russia has partially managed to pivot Iraq away from the United States’ sphere of influence as opposed to gaining economically.

With the onset of coronavirus, however, Russia might not be the leading debt forgiver for very long. In places such as sub-Saharan Africa, where economies are expected to continue shrinking while deficits are set to grow, other creditors could potentially step in and likewise forgive debts. In April of this year, G20 leaders agreed to extend debt relief in the form of a moratorium on debt repayment yet this can only serve as a short term solution. With many governments already increasing their borrowing, creditor nations are well positioned to leverage their position in order to improve geopolitical relationships as well as set the stage for favourable contracts for their firms. If more countries follow Moscow’s path, then the significance of what the Kremlin has done will only recede and lose much of its relevance.

Debt forgiveness can win friends but can only go so far. For Russia’s diplomatic maneuvers to stick, they will need to continue complementing it with other efforts, such as improving trade and boosting security partnerships, in order to truly make the most of its financial generosity.

Continue Reading

Russia

The Case of Belarus: Russia’s Fear of Popular Revolutions

Emil Avdaliani

Published

on

For Russia, the crisis in Belarus caused by the August presidential election result is of a geopolitical nature. Moscow might not be openly stating its geopolitical calculus, but in its eyes, the Belarus problem resembles the uprisings in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan and represents a similar problem in the long run.

Whatever the arguments propounded by world analysts that protests in Belarus are not about geopolitics and more about popular grievances against President Alexander Lukashenko, the issue will ultimately transform into serious geopolitical game.

For Moscow, the Belarus problem has been about geopolitics from the very beginning, though it was only on August 27 of this year that Vladimir Putin announced the creation of a special “law enforcement reserve” for use in Belarus should the situation get “out of control.”

The Russians understand that an “Armenia-style” revolution in Belarus could theoretically take place, but it would open the country more to Europe and thereby create geopolitical dilemmas similar to those created in Ukraine before 2014. The Russians further grasp that in Ukraine, the situation was out of control even before the Maidan Revolution. Moscow’s influence was not sufficient to stop Ukraine’s gradual shift toward closer ties with the collective West.

For the Russian leadership, events in Belarus are a continuation of the “revolutionary” fervor that has been spreading across the former Soviet space since the early 2000s. What is troubling is whether or not the Russians see this process as an expression of the popular will that is largely independent of the West. Several indicators point to an ingrained belief within the Russian political elite that in fact the West has orchestrated the popular upheaval in Belarus.

Russian history might be of help here. Throughout the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire fought the spread of European revolutionary thought along and inside its borders. It built alliances to confront it and fought wars to forestall its progress. But in the end, the Bolshevik Revolution and the subsequent policies of the Communist Party were largely based on European thought, though many western ideas were changed or entirely refashioned.

Similar developments took place during the late Soviet period. By the 1980s, popular disapproval of the Soviet system had grown exponentially. A revolutionary fervor for independence ran amok in the Baltic states, Ukraine, and elsewhere. True reforms would have served as a cure, but half-hearted economic and social measures only deepened the crisis. Military power was used in a number of capitals of Soviet republics, but again only half-heartedly. Thus was the entire Soviet edifice brought down.

Modern Russian leadership should see that there is essentially no cure for popular grievances and mass movements along its borders. Russian history gives multiple examples of how military intervention against revolutionary fervor can bring immediate results but leave long-term prospects bleak. The defeat of revolutionary passions can only take place by minimizing those economic, social, and state-system problems that usually generate popular upheaval. This is the dilemma now facing modern Russia. The revolutions that occurred over the past 20 years, and the situation today in Belarus, all fit into this pattern.

For the moment, Lukashenko has won this round of strife with the protesters, and his rule is highly likely to continue. But what is equally certain is that the protests gave birth to a massive popular movement in a country that was once famous for the quiescence of its population.

Russia fears that eventually, this revolutionary tide will close in on Russian society. Lukashenko has stressed this idea, saying in an interview that mass disturbances will one day reach Moscow. Many rightly believed this was a ploy by Lukashenko to scare the Russians into supporting him—after all, Belarus is far smaller than Russia and much less important than Ukraine. Still, Lukashenko was right insofar as he pinpointed possible long-term problems Russia could face as it moves closer to 2036.

Much depends on the West as well. It faces a dilemma in which it ought to pursue a policy of vocal condemnation and perhaps even impose heavy sanctions—but from a balance of power perspective, moves like those would distance Minsk and push it closer to the Russian orbit. This dilemma of morality versus geopolitical calculus will haunt the West in the years to come.

Belarus exports 10.5 million tons of oil products per year, including about six million tons through the ports of the Baltic states to world markets and another 3–3.5 million tons to Ukraine. Redirecting flows from the Baltic ports to Russian ones has been discussed, but this option is less attractive to Minsk because of the longer distances involved. This comes at a time when the Baltic states imposed sanctions on high-ranking Belarussian officials and the EU is pondering serious measures.

With each such move from the West, Russia gets another opportunity. Russia has professed interest in encouraging Belarus to redirect its oil exports to Russian ports and has agreed to refinance a $1 billion debt to Russia.

A broader picture might help put the events in Belarus in context. In the South Caucasus, the Russians appear to have reached the limit of their influence. They more or less firmly control the overall geopolitical picture, but have nevertheless failed to derail Western resolve to compete in this region. In Central Asia, Russia has more secure positions, but the region in general is less important to the Kremlin than the western borderlands.

It is thus the western front—Belarus and Ukraine—that is a major theater for Moscow. Since 2015, many have believed that Syria is Russia’s top geopolitical theater, but this assumption is based simply on the intensity of the immediate processes that are transpiring in the Middle East. With or without Syria, Moscow’s global standing will not be fundamentally damaged. Belarus is a different matter entirely. Changes there, and by extension a potentially anti-Russian state, would constitute a direct threat to Moscow.

For Russia, Belarus is the last safe buffer zone on its western border. Ukraine is lost, as is Moldova, and the Baltic states have long been under NATO protection. Only Belarus serves as a bridge for Russia to move militarily into the heart of Europe. To lose it would be tantamount to a complete “encirclement” of Russia by the West, as argued by Russian politicians.

This geopolitical reality also means that Belarus is the country that will remain most susceptible to Russian geopolitical influence. No wonder Russia is pushing to station its air base on Belarussian soil, reinvigorate the Union state, and intensify Minsk’s economic dependence on Moscow. As was the case with Ukraine, the upheaval in Belarus is about regional geopolitics.

Author’s note: first published in besacenter.org

Continue Reading

Russia

The Navalny case: Violent maintenance of the Cold War

Slavisha Batko Milacic

Published

on

We are currently witnessing the rise of the Cold War, through the media, after the case “poisoning” of Alexei Navalny. The case was used to raise tensions between Moscow and the European Union to the maximum.

Apparently, Alexei Navalny became a victim of poisoning. Yet none of this we can know for sure. However, after the mentioned event, an avalanche of statements “about the orderers of poisoning” was initiated by prominent European and American representatives. Without any critical review, avalanches began to fall in the direction of Moscow and President Vladimir Putin as the main culprit.

One of the first countries from which the avalanche of accusations started was France. Francois Croquet, France’s ambassador for human rights, said: “We know who is to blame.” A very undiplomatic statement for a diplomat, which went beyond the official framework of communication. Francois Crockett joined the wave of accusations against Russia with his statements before any investigation.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that in his opinion, “she (Russia) should have conducted an investigation, and when the culprits are found, they should be tried, to learn a lesson, because this is not the first case of poisoning.” ». The statement, very fierce, but outside the position held by the person in question. The statements of prominent diplomats call into question the international authority of France’s voice in the world.

These statements are aggressively joined by many politicians in Eastern Europe, especially those who feel revanchism towards Russia because of the Eastern Bloc, and further project of Russophobia, which are in line with the great energy battle over the construction of Nord Stream 2, which involved the case of Alexei Navalny.

What do we know so far about Navalny and his treatment. Navalny was initially treated in Russian hospitals, by doctors who did not detect any presence of poison, and then he was transferred to Germany, where it was determined that he was intentionally poisoned. His transport was organized by the “Cinema in the Name of Peace” organization, which was responsible for “rescuing” the group “PussyRiot”, which considered the act of imitation of abortion in the church to be an expression of artistic performance.

In the light of the situation with Russian opposition member Alexey Navalny admitted to the “Charite” hospital in Berlin with the symptoms of poisoning European and particularly German politicians and journalists opened yet another page of blatant Russophobia. Many of them push forward the theory of poisoning creating a classic image of the bloody Russian state trying to get rid of another enemy as in their vision it happened with Sergey Skripal. Even though no proofs are available and the statements of German doctors are scarce of details, this case is claimed to deepen the crisis in German-Russian relations. Some Bundestag members even call to cancel Nord Stream-2 as a punishment for the Russian government.

Despite the media hysteria encouraged by many politicians from the West, there are those who did not succumb to the first wave of Russophobia, and looked more soberly at the event related to Alexei Navalny and asked for additional evidence. For example the Vice President of the Flemish Parliament Filip Dewinter:

“Until now there is no real proof that Navalny was poisoned. I have the impression that countries like Germany are building up the pressure against Russia. The Navalny-issue is once again a perfect excuse to compromise the Russian authorities with violence and oppression against the ‘opposition’ … An objective and neutral investigation will tell“ stated Mr. Filip Dewinter.

His statements are not alone

Chairman of the “Prussian Society Berlin-Brandenburg” Volker Tschapke stated:

“Facing constant anti-Russian propaganda on different levels, I am not surprised with such an attitude, yet I can’t accept it. One of the key principles of any democratic society is the benefit of the doubt: nobody can be declared guilty until the proper investigation is conducted. Too bad, looks like this principle doesn’t work in Europe anymore. I’d like to wish Mr. Navalny to recover very soon and to call German politicians to stick to democratic values and stop pointing fingers at the Russian government without any substantial evidence base.“ said Mr. Tschapke.

Doubts about the case are also expressed by Member of the Parliament of Italy Paolo Grimoldi:

“I don’t trust the “institutional attack” to Navalny in Russia. He has many enemies, especially outside politics, in his life. In my opinion, it doesn’t look like an attempt to eliminate a political opponent. If any Russian top institutional level ever wanted to strike Navalny they would act more efficiently so let’s be serious and stop attacking Russia for nothing, stated Mr. Grimoldi.  

Divided statements regarding Navalny’s case tell us that, unlike in 2014, American power is declining and that European politicians do not make synergistic statements against Russia, but many of them view things with common sense and seek additional evidence for accusations against Russia. More and more Europeans are asking the questions: How is Russia threatening us? What will happen terribly for Europe if Nord Stream 2 is built? Most understand that the conflict in which America is pushing Europe with Russia has nothing to do with European interests, but with American ones.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Newsdesk22 mins ago

ILO: Developing countries should invest US$1.2 trillion to guarantee basic social protection

To guarantee at least basic income security and access to essential health care for all in 2020 alone, developing countries...

International Law2 hours ago

The UN reforms are required to make it functional

Today, the world we live in has become more unpredictable, insecure, and exposed to more vulnerability. Geopolitics is changing rapidly,...

Reports4 hours ago

Building confidence crucial amid an uncertain economic recovery

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to threaten jobs, businesses and the health and well-being of millions amid exceptional uncertainty, building...

Environment5 hours ago

No More Business as Usual: Green Deal Needed in Europe’s Recovery

Chief executive officers (CEOs) and senior representatives of around 30 European companies expressed today their support for the European Green...

Russia6 hours ago

Forgiving Old Debts: Russia’s Diplomatic Maneuver

With economies experiencing contractions across the globe and with governments in the third world most vulnerable, discussions of debt relief...

Economy8 hours ago

How U.S.’s Response to Covid-19 Could Precipitate 2nd Great Depression

On March 10th of this year, there were 290 daily new U.S. cases of Covid-19 (coronavirus-19). On March 13th, U.S....

Environment9 hours ago

Indigenous People in World Affairs

In late May, the world’s biggest iron ore miner Rio Tinto legally destroyed two historically significant sacred caves in a...

Trending