Per Rudling, Associate Professor of the Department of History at Lund University in Sweden and author of The Rise and Fall of Belarusian Nationalism, 1906-1931. His most recent article with Tarik Amar is “What Standards Should Be Applied When Deciding to Accept Funds?” published on the History News Network.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
“Regime change” may be an American term, as Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin explained to reporters, but it sounds like Russia is going to force their own version. “Sometimes there are cases,” Churkin explained, “when leaders become obstacles to a people’s way out of a situation. In those situations, some leaders make the brave decision in regards to their political future.” Cynical? Maybe. Opportunistic? Certainly. Don’t count on the Russians to pass up a good opportunity to get rid of their Georgian irritant. As Kommersant notes, “Moscow considers the removal of Saakashvili a matter of principle.”
The Russians are claiming that they want a cease fire with Georgia but there just isn’t anyone to talk to. After all, as Chunkin stressed, “What decent person will talk to him now?” Clearly not the decent Russians, who have essentially cut Georgia into two. Russian forces have taken Gori and other strategic towns and are said to be converging on Tbilisi, which Saakashvilli vows his troops will defend to the death. The real question is whether Saak will go down with his ship.
How quickly the South Ossetian War has become more about Russia and the United States, East and West, George Bush and Vladimir Putin, than about the poor South Ossetians caught in the middle. Today was just another example of the sheer cynical chest beating of it all. You had the American dyarchy standing up condemning Russia’s war machine. “Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century,” Bush said. Cheney declared that Russia’s actions “must not go unanswered.” Presidential Candidates McCain and Obama, always ready to look Presidential, also weighed in. McCain called for NATO intervention and reminded Russia that to be part of the civilized world means to respect its values. Obama condemned Russia’s military push saying that “There is no possible justification for these attacks.” I don’t know. When you think of it, Russia is kind of showing a bit of restraint, as horrific as that might sound. They could have easily turned Georgia into a parking lot.
The dyarchy in Russia was of course not without rebuttal. Putin lashed out at the US for its backing of Georgia and especially for airlifting some 2000 Georgian troops out of Iraq. “The very scale of this cynicism is astonishing,” he said, “the attempt to turn white into black, black into white and to adeptly portray victims of aggression as aggressors and place the responsibility for the consequences of the aggression on the victims.” Dmitri Medvedev even has his own Hitler moment by comparing Western support of Georgia with appeasing Hitler in 1938. He then went on to accuse Georgia of trying to commit genocide in South Ossetia. “The form this aggression took is nothing less than genocide because Georgia committed heaviest crimes — civilians were torched, sawed to pieces and rolled over by tanks,” he said. You see, fascism really is the gift that keeps on giving.
And what about the people caught in the middle? South Ossetians are finally beginning to bury their dead. Hundreds of volunteers are flooding into the war zone from neighboring Chechnya, Dagestan, North Ossetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria. Murat Dryaev was one such volunteer. He met his demise before he was able to put his hand on a rifle. As Tom Parfitt writes in the Guardian:
Murat Dryaev, 29, a construction worker, left for the war on Thursday and was brought home in a coffin two days later. He lived with his parents at the end of a stony track in Novy Batakayur, a village 10 miles from the North Ossetian capital, Vladikavkaz. Yesterday his relatives sat in vigil around his open coffin, adorned with roses and his photograph.
“He went to defend his sister and her children who live in South Ossetia,” said his wife, Ira, weeping over her husband’s pallid face. “But he never reached the place where they hand out weapons.”
Dryaev and his group of volunteers were hit by Georgian artillery fire. It is not known how many others died.
“His three-year-old daughter still thinks he’s coming home,” said his sister, Larisa. The dead man’s mother, Teresa, sat at the head of the coffin. “She’s been speechless, like a living corpse,” said Larisa. “She begged him not to go but she couldn’t stop him.”
The volunteer factor, though currently small, will certainly be a nagging problem once the smoke clears.
I think its about time for Georgia and the world to face it. South Ossetia is now Russia’s and it was Saakashvilli that gave it to them.
Estimates of refuges from South Ossetia are about 30,000 many of which were taken into North Ossetia by Russian buses. Other Russian supplied aid–food, medicine, mobile hospitals, search teams, and water–is said to be pouring into South Ossetia.
As for the Georgians, the number of civilian casualties as a result of Russia’s armor assault and aerial bombing is unknown. Two days ago Georgia reported about 130 dead, 37 of which were civilians. Suffice to say that they most certainly are mounting. The UNHCR is beginning to send humanitarian relief to Georgia where an estimated 100,000 people have been displaced. About 56,000 people are said to have fled Gori alone.
Let’s all hope that the dick swinging will end tomorrow and some kind of cease fire will be brokered.Post Views: 675
By Sean — 4 years ago
Thus far I’ve been silent on the Russian military occupation of Crimea. I’ve found the deluge of media on the crisis quite overwhelming. I do have a stance: Russia has violated Ukrainian sovereignty, an irony considering Moscow’s often paeans to sovereign integrity. I agree with Mark Adomanis that Russia has made a grave mistake that will cost their economy and international standing. And like him, I don’t support invasions of countries on principle so there’s no reason why I would support Russia on this. I’m not sure if taking Crimea amounts to “a blunder of historic proportions,” however. It’s too soon to assess the final fallout. It’s clear to me that Putin has the upper hand here. The West has little leverage—targeted economic sanctions and visa bans just don’t rattle Putin very much. Ending trade talks, G8 preparations, and other agreements under negotiation will do little. The US and EU just have nothing Putin wants or cares enough about. The Russian president clearly believes he can weather any storm western powers conjure over him. The only measure I think that will put pressure on Putin is if Russia’s elite is targeted. By one calculation 20 of Russia’s richest lost $9.5 billion when the Russian market crashed last Monday. Continued economic dips could mobilize Russia’s elite against their president. The question is when Russia’s elite have enough collective wherewithal, strength and gumption to challenge him.
Putin is going to take Crimea. The question is in what form: as part of Russia or as a protectorate. And to do it, he’s going use the next week’s referendum as the excuse. Basically, he’s going to claim that the Crimeans voted to join Russia. He will assert to no end that it was done “democratically” and “by the law.” Both houses of Russia’s Duma are ready to accept Crimea. Few outside of Russia will recognize the vote, of course. It’s not even legal under the Ukrainian constitution which stipulates any attempt at succession must be put to a national referendum. Whatever happens, Crimea will become a contested sovereign space like other “frozen conflicts” in the region.
This move could also open up a can of worms for Putin. If he’s ready to accept Crimea’s referendum on leaving Ukraine, will he welcome other republics in the Russian Federation to hold votes on succession? Probably not. Still, it’s a potentially dangerous precedent.
Crimea joining Russia is inevitable if only because the referendum ballot is rigged. The ballot asks voters two questions. 1) Do you support joining Crimea with the Russian Federation as a subject of Russian Federation? and 2) Do you support restoration of 1992 Crimean Constitution and Crimea’s status as a part of Ukraine? There’s a box next to each question indicating a “Yes” vote. There isn’t a place to mark “No.” Further the ballot states, “Ballots left unmarked or marked with both answers will be disqualified.” As Volodymyr Yavorkiy, a member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, told the Kyiv Post, “There is no option for ‘no,’ they are not counting the number of votes, but rather which one of the options gets more votes. Moreover, the first question is about Crimea joining Russia, the second – about it declaring independence and joining Russia. In other words, there is no difference.” Indeed, as Halya Coynash put it: “There is no possibility of voting for the status quo.”
This vote will be a farce for many reasons. There is little time to properly organize or propagate it let alone educate voters on its implications. Plus monitors have to quickly organize and make sure the vote is run without machinations. Schemes might already be in the works. As the Kyiv Post noted, 2.5 million votes have been printed even though there are only 1.5 million voters. The situation is ripe for ballot stuffing. Crimean Tatar leaders are calling for a boycott. But it won’t matter. It’s likely that a small minority of Crimeans will decide the majority’s fate since there’s no minimum hurtle for passage. So on March 16 Crimeans are left with a non-choice: Russia or a protectorate of Russia. There just isn’t any room for no.
Image: BBCPost Views: 1,138
By Sean — 11 years ago
A few weeks ago, the Russian body politic heard from the Liberal-Left when about 3000 supporters of Other Russia clashed with police in St. Petersburg. Now the Right is planning a march for April 8th titled, “Imperial March.” The march is being organized by Alexander Dugin. The organizers boast that 1500 participants will attend. This list includes a virtual who’s who of the Russian far right: writers Alexander Prokhanov and Maxim Kalashnikov, television host Mikhail Leontyev, the National Bolshevik Front (a breakaway group from Eduard Limonov’s organization), the Ukrainian party Russian Bloc and the Ukrainian Labor Conference. As Kommersant explains:
“Among the people, there is great disappointment with the Orange, but the Orange are now raising their heads, as the recent March of Those Who Disagree in St. Petersburg showed,” Zarifullin said. “We need an imperial project that supports Putin. We don’t want a Maidan in this country.” Zarifullin made it clear that he considers pro-Kremlin groups such as Our, the Youth Guardian of a United Russia, Young Russia and the Local allies.
“We are also fighting the Orange revolutions,” Youth Guardian organizer for the Central Federal District Alexey Shaposhnikov said, “but they can be fought differently.”
“They, of course, will receive a permit to march,” observed Yulia Malysheva, leader of Mikhail Kasyanov’s People’s Democratic Union of Youth. “They are a completely Kremlin project, Putin-Jugend. I hope they have the brains not to dress up like Santa Claus this time,” she added, referring to an action by government supporters the day after the first March of Those Who Disagree.
National Bolshevik leader Eduard Limonov asked rhetorically “Who needs them? They are corrupt and disgraceful. Three strange men with beards will show up and march together.”
Orange Revolution. That is so 2004. Like the Other Russia march, I’m sure that the Imperial March will be little more than a fart in the wind. Though I won’t be surprised at all if the Western media doesn’t use the it as an opportunity to douse its readers with cries that Russian fascism is right around the corner.
Post Views: 470