2015 January 30 Friday
Putin's Russian Ukraine Invasion Seen As Counter-Revolutionary

Alexander Etkind sees Russia's invasion of parts of Ukraine as Russiaís Preemptive Counter-Revolution.

Today, corruption is the norm, and show trials, though still occurring, do not happen on Stalinís industrial scale. Putin and his circle are mainly concerned with survival and enrichment. He fears Ukraineís 2014 uprising as a ďrevolutionary plagueĒ only because it might erupt in Moscowís own squares. Putinís desire to preempt such an outcome explains the Kremlinís brutal response.

I recall reading an argument once that Britain's war against Napoleon's France might have prevented a domestic uprising by mobilizing lots of young men to go fight in Europe and by making people unite against the foreign enemy. Does the invasion of Crimea and the fighting in eastern Ukraine help Putin label his opponents as tools of the West? Does the fighting change attitudes in Russia in a way that cuts opposition to how he rules?

I think Etkind is on firmer ground to describe Russia as suffering from clientelism.

Putinís regime is simply a Russian version of clientelism, with wealth and economic opportunity distributed on the basis of political fealty. The systemís crimes have been evident for years, and it is tragic that no international power has been able to punish it.

I gave up having high hopes for post-communist Russia back when Yeltsin was a drunken and not very effective ruler during the collapse period. Far too few of the Russian people see it as their role to try police the behavior of the state. Russia lacks the mediating layer of private organizations that could restrain the state and keep it more honest.

There is some good news from Russia though. Mark Adomanis says alcohol consumption is declining and a rising fraction of young people see drinking as a loser thing to do.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2015 January 30 09:55 PM 

Black Death said at January 31, 2015 6:21 AM:

I've always liked Russian history. I speak a bit of the (difficult) language and have visited a couple of times. It's a fascinating place.

When I first studied Russian, back in the depths of the Cold War, one of my teachers, a native Russian woman who had lived there during Stalin's time, used to say that there was nothing new in Russian history and that the history of the country could be rationally discussed without any mention of Communism. Stalin was just another cruel (but rather effective) tsar. The drunken Yeltsin, the corrupt Putin - all have their antecedents in Russian history.

Russia's relationships with her neighbors are interesting - many of them don't like her for example. The hatred of the Poles for the Russians is a constant. Most of the other Eastern European countries that were occupied during the Cold War also bear negative feelings. Russia's relations with the Ukraine (and the Ukrainians) is a difficult subject. Right now the forces are at work again. This is none of our business. The Russian economy is in free fall and the nation poses no threat to us.

jaakkeli said at January 31, 2015 2:11 PM:

Might be a good idea to support those neighboring countries with functional governments, though, since the other alternative really is that we all get nuclear weapons and the world seems to think nuclear proliferation is a bad idea (and it probably is). Russia's history towards neighbors is so full of unpredictable brutality (Stalin isn't even close the worst) that there really isn't any other option but to defend with all possible means.

Russians are not only an existential threat to neighboring countries but to peoples, many of us have lost most of our ethnic group to the various massacres and genocides that every once just happen when you're next to Russia and what's left can't defend itself - unless we use the means modern technology offers to even the scales.

Nick said at January 31, 2015 2:21 PM:

Here's a chilling article by a retired CIA specialist on the Smolensk "crash": http://www.iwp.edu/news_publications/detail/prof-poteat-interviewed-on-suspicious-smolensk-plane-crash Russia may not be strong enough to seriously endanger the U.S. through conventional means, but the nuclear threat can never be discounted. Furthermore Russia can commit virtually any crime short of overtly declaring war on European nations without serious consequences. Non-EU countries are fair game for invasion and annexation and economic warfare against the EU and the U.S. by proxy, will continue. Russia has suffered enormous tragedies in the past century, she can handle these sanctions and a tanking economy far better than the west can handle moderate disruptions.

John said at January 31, 2015 2:40 PM:

"Russia lacks the mediating layer of private organizations that could restrain the state and keep it more honest."

On the other hand, you can have a situation where "the mediating layer of private organizations" are even worse than the state and even end up amplifying the excesses of the state. This is arguably the case in the US and the West.

Black Death said at February 1, 2015 7:29 AM:

Putin wants to control the eastern Ukraine and Crimea (both have ethnic Russian majorities). He wants to keep the Ukraine out of NATO and does not want to see Sevastopol become a NATO naval base. These are, from a Russian perspective, reasonable goals. He does not want any more ethnic non-Russians in his empire - he's got too many already. The last thing he needs is more troublesome Ukrainians, Poles, Romanians, etc. He does not want to see a Western-backed Ukrainian-style coup in Moscow. Russia's GDP is about the same as Italy's or Brazil's and is dwarfed by the US/EU/NATO combination. Russia certainly has the military strength to make trouble along its own borders but has virtually no ability to project power over long distances. The sanctions are causing considerable damage - foreign goods have become almost unobtainable because of the ruble's collapse. Relations with the Western nations are pretty sour, but nobody thinks this is going to end up as a shooting war, let alone a nuclear one.

jaakkeli said at February 1, 2015 11:45 AM:

"He does not want any more ethnic non-Russians in his empire - he's got too many already. "

I am sure this is why Russia is publically and shamelessly funding for example a Finnish communist faction that wants Russia to annex Finland. Their intentions are not at all unclear or unstated, they are flooding us with propaganda about rebuilding the empire. The only question is whether they're delusional enough to think they'll get any support beyond the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe.

Russian minorities are just the most convenient cover for expansionism. Really, you can't know any Russians and still think that Russians don't want non-ethnic Russians in their empire. It's like saying Americans don't want democracy. Ruling over non-Russians and trying to russify neighboring peoples is the whole raison d'Ítre of Russian identity and it will not go away.

Jim said at February 2, 2015 6:14 AM:

To describe Stalin as just another cruel czar is beyond bat-shit crazy. He made Ivan the Terrible look like Mother Theresa. Hell, he made Count Dracula look like Mother Theresa.

Black Death said at February 2, 2015 2:24 PM:

@jaakell -

I take it you're from Finland. I've visited your country, and I understand your people's feelings toward Russia. Putin wants to control his near abroad, not occupy it. He only wants the ethnic Russians in his empire. He wants the eastern Ukraine and Crimea, for example, which are majority Russian, not the western part, where Russians are in the minority. But he seeks to be sure that the Ukraine doesn't get too cozy with the West and do something foolish like join NATO. Putin well understands the forces of nationalism that tore the old USSR apart. He wants to dominate the near abroad, not occupy it. The last thing he desires is 5 million hostile Finns forcibly included in his empire, but he does want to be sure that Finland gives him no trouble. Supporting some crazy fringe party that touts the glories of Rodina sounds just like something Putin would do. But I think we both know what their chances of success really are. I know lots of Russians and have visited the country several times, and I don't know any who think they ought to be ruling in Warsaw or Budapest or Prague or Helsinki, as they once did. But they don't want to be threatened by those countries either.

@Jim -

The comparison was made to me by a native Russian woman who had lived through Stalin's terror. True, Ivan the Terrible didn't kill as many people as Stalin did, but there were a lot fewer in Russia then, and he didn't have access to the modern methods of mass murder that Stalin (and Hitler) employed. But what made Ivan so Terrible (and so much like Stalin)? From Wiki:

The oprichnina (Russian: опри́чнина, IPA: [ɐˈprʲitɕnʲɪnə]) is the period of Russian history between 1565 and 1572 during which Tsar Ivan the Terrible instituted a domestic policy of secret police, mass repressions, public executions, and confiscation of land from Russian aristocrats. The six thousand political police enforcing the policy were called oprichniki, and the term oprichnina also applies to the secret police organization[1] and to the territory in which, during that period, the Tsar ruled directly and in which his oprichniki operated.[2]

Under conditions of mass terror, universal fear and denunciations, the apparatus of violence acquired an entire overwhelming influence on the political structure of the leadership. The infernal machine of terror escaped from the control of its creators. The final victims of the Oprichnina proved to be all of those who had stood at its cradle.


Sound familiar?

Seth W. said at February 4, 2015 2:46 PM:

@ Randall.

I love the way you call Russia "Putin's regime". As if it were North Korea or Iran.

I hope we can soon move on from this United States regime into a democracy.

Check it out said at February 4, 2015 3:13 PM:

"Today, corruption is the norm, and show trials, though still occurring, do not happen on Stalinís industrial scale."

Oh, ok, yeah, sure. Comparing Putin with Stalin. Give me a break Randall.

Well, in totalitarian America, nonstandard freedom of speech is frowned on, and the police snuff it out. The authorities require any demonstrators to get a permit, thereby allowing them to eliminate the Constitutional right to redress of grievances based on a pretext. The Constitutional right to protest is all or nothing; so soon as you allow the Fascists to demand a permit, the right vanishes. They come up with a pretext to ban what they find distasteful. As usual, the Constitution that is so precious states absolutely nothing about a permit. He who would understand class society must study the pretext.

American society punishes differences, and if the police discover that you are emotionally different, they will punish you based on pretexts. American Fascism is one of the least tolerant societies the world has ever seen. It demands conformity. Thus, so few Americans speak a foreign language. The police annihilate the unenforced Bill of Rights. How naive it is to assume that freedom of speech and of the press somehow enforce themselves! The police TASER, shoot, club, gas, assault, beat and illegally arrest the people they are supposed "to serve and protect." They have woefully excessive authority, which they viciously abuse. The police enjoy de facto immunity from prosecution and are not held morally accountable for their behavior. There are written and unwritten laws; the former are not the important ones. Instead, written laws bear but a faint resemblance to the unwritten laws, which are the reality that guide behavior. The unwritten law indicates that the police are never arrested or prosecuted for their crimes. The police, in other words, are free to do whatever they want and commit with impunity whatsoever crime they wish. All history shows that you have the devil to pay when society ceases to hold a group morally responsible for its behavior.

Check it out said at February 4, 2015 3:55 PM:

The justice system in the U.S. is corrupt. The police do not arrest their fellow police. Internal affairs is a whitewash intended to obviate actual punitive action by the people. The men at internal affairs never met a complaint they could not obliterate with the most outrageous casuistry, sophistry and pretexts. Prosecutors do not prosecute their fellow prosecutors, and judges do not judge their fellow judges. Prosecutors become judges and judges become prosecutors. Prosecutors know the judges, who are on friendly terms with the prosecutors. Judges and prosecutors have offices next to each other. And all the Fascist police, prosecutors and judges have the same employer! Having one and the same employer is a totalitarian annihilation of the pre-guilty defendants such as the world has never seen. Additionally, for some strange reason, the prosecutors office is entrusted with turning over to the defense certain key documents needed to defend oneself, but the prosecutor has a vested interest in delaying or withholding delivery of the documents, and to do so he will invent 1001 pretexts. It is outrageous, criminal, corrupt, nasty and barbaric, but you are powerless under Fascism to claim your rights.

Ordinary citizens are illegally arrested constantly -previous police assault and abuse, of course-.
Ordinary citizens are literally kidnapped and locked in hospitals based on the pretext that they need to be diagnosed.
Police and courts constantly commit the crime of ignoring exculpatory evidence.

While being processed like cattle in jail, ordinary non-criminal citizens are often asked if they have suicidal thoughts; regardless of all the times they say no, still someone maliciously puts them down as suicidal. If you are "suicidal" you are deprived of social company (ostracism), stuck in solitary confinement, denied a healthy diet and exercise and sunlight and bathing facility -in other words, you are exposed to the very conditions that encourage suicide in the first place! Doctors at jails often promise that they would reverse the "errors" and take them out of solitary, but they never do. Prisoner requests move at glacial speeds, whereas commands from the Fascist bullies to keep order are executed at lightning speed. The way in which guards can be sadistic is proverbial. In practice guards and nurses do everything to get through their shift with as little exertion and trouble as possible. They thus brutalize the prisoners over whom they have absolute control, and the guards have no compassion. Come on Randall, you're not a kid. You remember much better days back in the 70's maybe even the 60's, do you not??? How do you possibly justify all these fascism??? Have you still not gotten over 9/11, to see that the U.S. is all about Stalinism?

Sadistic nurses continually try to get the "prisoner-patient" to sign forms that could be used as "evidence" against them. They continually resort to physical abuse. They deliberately withhold analgesic medication and vitamins unless they sign.

You try asking a guard about the Constitutional rights prisoners are entitled to and he'll tell you something like "none I'm aware of, that don't make no difference in here".

Indeed the Bill of Rights is not worth the paper it is printed on. If it is human rights abuses alleged in American propaganda that you want, forget about Russia and head straight for the county jail.

Randall, the goal of humanity remains the classless society. You can go ahead and call me a communist, like many idiots have already done; you and others here can yell all sorts of insults without any real arguments as it is the rule around here, you can pretend to ignore that what I've stated is a lie. You can ignore that it is the United States of America the country with the largest populations of people in prison -more even than China!- Go ahead, continue deluding yourself thinking that Americans really have more rights and freedom than Russians.

I f***en love the U.S.A. so I have to say all this with rage in my heart and tears in my eyes, but I will continue to expose "Miss Liberty" naked for you and others to look upon and see that it stopped being what it used to be. Come on man! Write about that too!

Seth W. said at February 9, 2015 2:34 PM:

I think the U.S. is becoming pretty fascist, yes. I think we really have to pay attention at how much things have changed, since it is also becoming pretty frightening sometimes. Let's hope we have the wisdom to reverse so many wrong things before it's too late and corner ourselves into a totalitarian American regime.

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