New Russia! Magazine column, “Ukraine Slipping into Paramilitary Arms Race.” Here’s the opening paragraph:
Max Weber defined a state by its power to uphold its “claim on the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force.” The fledgling Ukrainian state’s ability to maintain its monopoly on violence is quickly disintegrating as militant separatists, volunteer militias, oligarch backed paramilitary groups, and criminal gangs fight to control the streets of its southern and eastern cities. Ukraine is on the verge of becoming a failed state. The expansion of these forces, on both sides of the conflict, is a disturbing trend. They undermine any political solution to the crisis and gives prominence to armed radicals ready to solve disputes through the barrel of a gun. But peel back the veneer and the emerging Ukrainian civil war looks more like a gang war between competing oligarchs.
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By Sean — 4 years ago
By William Risch @williamrisch
The Russian occupation of Crimea over the weekend has alarmed President Barack Obama, the UN, NATO, the EU, and, last but not least, the people of Ukraine. A week ago, it looked like the Euromaidan protest movement , which began in late November over President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign an Association Agreement with the EU, and grew into a mass movement against Yanukovych’s authoritarian rule, had won. After an agreement with the political opposition on February 21, Yanukovych and his entourage fled Kyiv. The next day, Ukraine’s parliament, the Supreme Rada, overthrew Yanukovych. Most importantly, Ukraine had avoided civil war, despite significant differences over things like historical memory , relations with Russia, and attitudes toward the Euromaidan protest movement in Western and Eastern Ukraine. Pro-Yanukovych elites in Eastern Ukraine pledged their loyalty to Kyiv and accused Yanukovych of betraying them.
Then came Crimea.
On February 27, unknown armed men seized Crimea’s parliament in Simferopol. Then Russian military forces, some stationed in Crimea, took over or surrounded Ukrainian military installations. They claimed to be protecting Crimea’s citizens, of whom about 60 percent are ethnic Russian. Speaker of Russia’s Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, claimed that Russians had been killed there. Yet on March 2, the speaker of Crimea’s parliament said he knew nothing about it.
Ukraine, rather than facing civil war, is threatened with partition by Russia.
Take Kharkiv, an eastern industrial city. Hired thugs, some from Russian cities like Voronezh and Belgorod, came to a meeting of “patriotic Kharkivians,” stormed the governor’s office, dragged out about 30 Euromaidan activists inside, and beat them up and humiliated them on Freedom Square. They hoisted Russian flags from the governor’s office. Russians from outside Ukraine were involved. Over the weekend, Euromaidan activist Vitaly Umanets discovered an invitation from “Ukrainian Civil Self-Defense” to residents of Belgorod and Rostov-on-the-Don, Russian cities bordering Ukraine, to take part in organized resistance in Donetsk and Kharkiv while posing as ordinary tourists at the border.
Many in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea distrust the new regime. Yet this weekend’s acts of violence in Kharkiv and Donetsk, or fake stories about such acts in Crimea, are reminiscent of fictitious and semi-fictitious accounts of violence against ethnic Germans that Nazi Germany used to justify annexation of the Sudetenland and the conquest of Czechoslovakia and Poland. Russia’s Federation Council on March 1 had approved use of force in Ukraine “for the normalization of the political situation in this country.” With the Russian media since late November portraying Euromaidan protestors as extreme nationalists and hirelings of the West, Putin most likely is using Russian forces, and provocateurs from across the border, to take not just Crimea, but also Eastern Ukraine, and maybe even install a more loyal regime in Kyiv.Post Views: 346
By Sean — 11 years ago
If you want to know anything about the political economy of CIS countries, there is no better place to turn than the Financial Times. Always erudite, FT’s special reports provide a broad evaluation of the region’s economy, politics, culture, and society often without the usual ideological claptrap about the incompatibility between capitalism and authoritarianism. Take for example the business daily’s most recent special on Kazakhstan.
I think that FT understands the essence of post-Soviet politics as a combination between one man rule, family circles, elite clans, and bureaucratic pressures. There is no total one man rule, only a network of alliances between competing elites. At the center stands, in the case of
, Nursulatan Nazarbayev, who parcels out power and pieces of the political and economic pie to maintain the integrity of the state. I think this description of Nazarbayev’s power is spot on: Kazakhstan
The canny Mr. Nazarbayev has built an authoritarian regime with greater skill than most of his regional counterparts, cleverly balancing competing interests. He has promoted the influence and wealth of his family, not least his three daughters and their husbands, but he has appeared to be aware of the dangers of alienating others and provoking international criticism by betting everything on the bloodline. Since the 2005 election, Mr. Nazarbayev has begun to address the succession question by encouraging the development of institutions to which the presidency could devolve some power. In key reforms this year, he increased the role of parliament and local governments. Parliamentary elections are to be held in August to legitimize the changes.
The question is whether post-Nazarbayev
can remain as unified. Like Putin, Nazarbayev has become his own worse enemy. He’s successfully tamed the elite by becoming its center but by doing so he has perhaps created a system that cannot survive without him. KazakhstanTags: Nursulatan Nazarbayev|Kazakhstan|Financial Times|CIS|post-Soviet politics|Russia|Putin|political economyPost Views: 251
By Sean — 11 years ago
The following is a fascinating article titled “Time of the Strikebreakers” by Oleg Aronson published in the Russian edition of the Index on Censorship. Aronson argues that the biopolitical nature of contemporary Russian politics has turned democracy into a limit rather than a means of political action. This rendering of democracy has made revolt the only politically viable negation of the state’s biopolitical grip. As he writes, “life itself uses revolt to falsify politics, to point out the falsity of its claims.” The philosophical echoes of Negri, Agamben, Foucault, and Deleuze in Aronson’s treatise brings an fresh analysis of present Russian political condition.
Aronson is a kandidat in philosophy and a senior research fellow at the Institute of Philosophy and the Russian Anthropology School. He is the author of many articles on contemporary philosophy, film theory, and mass media. His most recent books are Bogema: opyt soobshchestva (2002) and Metakino (2003).
Thomas Campbell provided the English translation. Campbell is the author of many articles on Russian film in the journal KinoKultura and currently serves as the English language editor of The Contemporary Art in Russia newsletter.
Because of the article’s length, I provide an excerpt with a link to a complete .pdf version.
Time of the Strikebreakers
Index on Censorship (Russian edition), 26 (2007)
It is difficult to write about Putin’s Russia, something one does reluctantly. One hesitates to use the word Putin because by this act alone you intrude into the political arena, where your least utterance doesn’t remain mere hot air but can also turn on you and make you regret what you’d said. Such regret doesn’t arise because you were wrong or unfair, or because you were misinterpreted, but because your words are always addressed not to those who listen, but rather to those who eavesdrop. Some might be inclined to detect paranoia in this last phrase, to interpret it in the light of conspiracy theory, the “rise of the secret services,” or something of the sort. I have in mind something else, however: the specific shift in Russian political sensibility that has taken place before our eyes. A hypersurplus of mutually repetitive utterances has now been stockpiled, and their lack of content underwrites their existence in the mediaverse. It is simply impossible to listen to them any longer, just as listening itself has become a chore.
It is not so much the political situation (in which power, capital, and the mass media are concentrated in one and the same hands) that I would like to discuss, as it is the “nonpolitical” situation. When we examine the zone of the nonpolitical, the lifeworld of the ordinary man, however, politics is, all the same, one of the conditions that shape it. Politics has long since ceased being something in which people take part; instead, it has become something that shapes people. It has ceased being a clash of parties, social groups, views, and convictions; it has ceased being a concern only of the state and its institutions. Politics courses through our bodies—bodies that vote, work, watch TV, sit in cafés, smoke cigarettes, sleep, die, etc. Politics has long ago become biopolitics. This is not news. It is always the time you live in that is the news.
It is this that makes us speak out today: this strange time that we didn’t anticipate and where we find ourselves now. One struggles to find a precise description for this time. Or even an imprecise description, one that would nevertheless capture the situation of the time. In our case, defining even a few of the situation’s peculiarities means giving a chance to the absolutely mute, feeble forces of the nonpolitical. It means revealing the possibility of another politics—not a politics devised by the political scientists and political operatives, but one that grows out of the life of society itself. In our time it is extremely hard to imagine such a thing. For a start, however, it would be good to describe this “strange” time in some way. When does it begin? In what sense is it strange?
We would be mistaken to think that the time of this new political sensibility begins with the rise to power of the new politicians. Their rise is a symptom, rather. Many still remember (although the mass media have done everything they can to make us forget) Gorbachev’s perestroika and the first years of the Yeltsin administration. It was a romantic period, when the experience of democracy became part of our lives. And it was precisely because this experience was new that the very idea of democracy itself was perceived romantically. Ours was an anarchic democracy, one without the institutions that democracy depends on. In this sense it was a popular democracy independently of the fact that a significant part of the population might not have supported it. In turn, the spontaneity and popular character of the democracy in the late eighties and early nineties might not have manifested themselves had not revolt become a vital necessity in Soviet times (especially during the Brezhnev years).
I consciously use the word revolt here, rather than “resistance” or “social change,” because the latter were the bailiwick only of society’s politically active members. Revolt, on the contrary, is always nonpolitical in nature: it springs from life itself, not from its political realities. Revolt is born of hunger and fear, of humiliation and injustice that exceed the individual and thus become social phenomena. Revolt is a resistance of bodies that marks the limits of biopolitics.Post Views: 189