Pro-Imperialist think tank details how it helps Putin make decisions

Leonid Reshetnikov, the obscurantist and imperialist former SVR lieutenant general and head of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISI), says that his organization is “one of leading” organizations providing input to Vladimir Putin as the Kremlin leader formulates his foreign and domestic policies.

In the course of a long survey of his views on the world and Russia, Reshetnikov provides additional details on the way in which RISI is involved in “the development of information-analytic materials, proposals, recommendations and expert assessments for state structures including the Presidential Administration.

According to its president, RISI “is one of the analytic centers [in Russia] which supplies the Presidential Administration with analytic materials. Besides us, I think,” Reshetnikov continues, “the Kremlin above all relies on the reports of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,on the work of our special services … and on the work of other institutes.”

But “among these other institutes,” he suggests, RISI “occupied one of the leading places.”

Reshetnikov served for several decades in the SVR and ultimately was head of its analytic administration. Consequently, he says, he understands what ordinary people do not – just how reports are prepared for senior officials. Outsiders “think that someone writes something, gives it to Putin, he then reads it as says: ‘Fine! Let’s take this decision now!’”

That is not how things proceed. Instead, there is a constant flow of materials “from various sides,” and this is processed again and again at various levels in what is “an enormous analytic” process which “continues” at each level “right up to the very top,” that is, to Vladimir Putin.

The RISI president tells Lenta.ru that Russia’s foreign intelligence services did not have an analytic shop until “the end of 1943.” That was one of the reasons for the country’s failures in the first months after the Germany invasion. There was plenty of operational information, he says, but “there wasn’t any analysis” that sorted it out.

As a result, the country’s leaders were pushed now in one direction, now in another. Thus, Reshetnikov says, “Zorge wrote that war would begin on June 22, but some agent in Berlin reported that it wouldn’t begin at all, and a third asserted that the war would happen but it would start only in December.”

Now, he continues, the situation is different. There is an enormous analytic apparatus, and one of its strengths is that it contains and reports “alternative points of view” up the line so that the Kremlin will not be blindsided or trapped by a single position.

Asked about RISI’s role in the run-up to the annexation of Crimea, Reshetnikov says that “we of course constantly prepared analytic materials both on Crimea and on Ukraine … but I want to say,” he insisted, “that in the preparation of the reunification of Crimea, no one from Russia took part … it was something unexpected for all.”

Challenged by his interviewer that Putin has said that the Crimea operation was planned, Reshetnikov suggests that it “was planned when already everything had begun,” that the planning “went in parallel with events,” rather than in anticipation of them even though RISI and others had highlighted the attitudes of the Crimean population and Kyiv’s shortcomings.

“But unfortunately,” the RISI president says, “we did not allow for the possibility that these attitudes would move toward a more effective phase, one of action.” When that happened, Moscow, however, was ready to respond.


For background on RISI, Reshetnikov, and its and his recommendations, see “Kremlin Think Tank Confirms Close Links with Kremlin and with New Greek Premier” (February 1, 2015) at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/02/kremlin-think-tank-confirms-close-links.html; “Putin’s Personality, Agenda and Nuclear Weapons Make Him ‘Most Dangerous’ Leader in History, Piontkovsky Says” (March 18, 2015); and “Russia Must Stop Relying on Soviet and Western Answers to the Nationality Question and Use Tsarist Ones Instead, RISI Says” (January 14, 2014)

Russia hosting Europe’s neo-Nazis, nationalists and anti-semites, Putin supporters all

Even as Moscow denounces anything it views as a manifestation of fascism abroad and prepares to mark the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany, the Russian authorities are hosting tomorrow a meeting of Europe’s neo-Nazis, extreme nationalists, and anti-Semites who share one thing in common – their unqualified support for Vladimir Putin.

The meeting called the first “Russian International Conservative Forum” and nominally hosted by the Russian National Cultural Center – People’s House is in fact the work of the Rodina Party and says it includes only European rightists who support Putin on Ukraine.

The organizers say that those taking part are “exclusively” from parties officially registered in European countries and that they could not be if they were neo-Nazi because “this is a criminal ideology which is banned in Europe.” What these parties do share is opposition to their governments “which are US puppets.”

Further, Yuri Lyubomirsky, head of the Right to Bear Arms group and one of the organizers says, “all these parties actively defend the interests of Russia regarding Crimea and the events in Ukraine’s South-East.” And he expressed “hope for constructive cooperation” between them and like-minded Russians such as himself.

Not surprisingly, this action has outraged many in Russia from the communists to Yabloko party member Boris Vishnevsky to human rights activists who have called on the government to ban the meeting and say they will picket and possibly disrupt it if the authorities do nothing to stop this assemblage from taking place.

Just how noxious this meeting is and how it underscores just how few people in Europe Putin’s regime can get to openly support it as opposed to the far larger number who are not prepared to do anything to oppose the Kremlin is underscored by the list of those who are scheduled to speak or otherwise take part.

They include:

  • Jared Taylor, an American who calls for white supremacy.
  • Nick Griffin, head of the British National Party and a prominent Holocaust denier.
  • Roberto Fiore, head of the New Force party in Italy which pursues traditionalist and extreme right causes.
  • Udo Voigt. Former head of the rightwing extremist National Democratic Party of Germany and now a deputy in the European Parliament noted for his anti-semitic and xenophobic views and frequently found subject to legal sanctions for them.
  • Georgios Epitidios, a representative of Greece’s Golden Dawn party which is viewed in Athens as neo-fascist and neo-Nazi and whose party’s emblem is a stylized swastika.
  • Stefan Jakobsen, the head of the Party of Swedes and who is widely considered a neo-Nazi.
  • Daniel Karlsen, the head of the Danish People’s Party and one of the founding members of the National Socialist Movement of Denmark.
  • Gonsalo Martin Garcia, a leader of the ultra-right Spanish National Democracy Party.
  • Orazio Maria Gnerre, president of the European Communist Party Millenium which seeks the dissolution of NATO and the end of what he calls “the hegemony of liberalism and the unipolar world.”
  • Aleksandr Kofman, the foreign minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Peoples Republic.

And from Russia itself, among others:

  • Aleksey Zhuravlyev, a United Russia Duma deputy who has attracted attention for his calls to strip the rights of those in non-traditional families to have children.
  • Yegor Kholmogorov, a Russian nationalist who has said that “the war for Novorossiya is a national liberation war of the Russian people for its reunification and for the elimination of invented borders.”
  • Stanislav Vorobyev, the coordinator of the Russian Imperial Movement who has called for “Russian men to join the joint struggle for Novorossiya under the imperial flag.”

_81828459_81828458

Ivan Ovsyannikov of the Russian Socialist Movement notes that “the forum calls itself conservative, but this is a lie. These are not people like the British conservatives; these are parties of the extreme right wing.” And Boris Vishnevsky, a Yabloko deputy in St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly, concurs.

He says that he is horrified by any manifestations of interest in fascism in foreign countries but notes that he is not a citizen of any of them and consequently is “not responsible” for their laws. But he is a Russian citizen, and as such he feels entitled to ask: “Why should such forums take place in my country with the complete silence of state structures?”

“I do not know how any former [Waffen SS] legionnaires remain in Latvia,” he continues, but I consider that they are less dangerous for society that contemporary neo-Nazis who can freely assembly and disseminate their views” as such people plan to do in Russia’s northern capital on Sunday.

“And the views [of those planning to come] are xenophobia, hatred of aliens and dividing people into categories which always gives rise to bloodshed. To the manifestation of fascism in one’s own country one must react with the very same intolerance as to fascism somewhere else,” Vishnevsky concludes.

Hungary helping Moscow destabilize Ukraine from the west

Budapest has announced that it has handed out Hungarian citizenship papers to 94,000 people in Transcarpathia (Zakarpattia province) in Western Ukraine in expedited fashion, an action that creates yet another challenge for Kyiv and may very well have been coordinated with Moscow.

The Hungarian official responsible for nationality policy says that this is part of a broader effort to boost the size of the country’s population and points out that two-thirds of the more than 710,000 new Hungarians are from Transylvania in Romania and 17 percent are from the Voevodina in Serbia and only 14 percent are from Transcarpathia.

All three areas have been targeted by the Gabor Betlen Foundation which the Russian news agency Regnum reports, and all three are being destabilized by its actions as the Russian agency does not.

In a Ukrainian-language commentary today, however, Mikhail Pozhivanov, a former deputy in the Verhovna Rada and a former Ukrainian deputy economics minister says exactly that, adding that while “Transcarpathia is not the Donbas,” it is a place where Moscow with Budapest’s help hopes to destabilize the situation.

Hungary has been fishing in these troubled waters for some time, he writes, pointing to Hungarian support for the Transcarpathian Rusyns and the fact that one of that group’s leaders, who operated under the cover of a Russian Orthodox priest, was accused of promoting separatism by the Yanukovich regime and subsequently found guilty of that.

Over the past year, Moscow commentators have suggested that Hungary should take the lead in offering citizenship to ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine and even recognizing some kind of Transcarpathian “republic” there, possibly on the model of the LNR and DNR statelets Moscow has set up in eastern Ukraine.

Budapest has not been slow to respond to that idea, but its role in the Transcarpathia has expanded dramatically since the election of Viktor Orban as prime minister and the visit of Vladimir Putin to the Hungarian capital, during which the Russian president stressed the common ties and interests of Moscow and Budapest in Ukraine, according to Pozhivanov.

Budapest recognized the Russian Anschluss of Crimea, and it has been an active opponent of EU sanctions against Russia for its intervention in Ukraine. But the most dangerous thing it has done may be its stirring up of the Hungarian minority in the western part of Ukraine, something that forces Kyiv to divide its attention, the Ukrainian commentator says.

To argue that Hungary will succeed in creating a serious territorial challenge to Ukraine “would be an exaggeration,” Pozhivanov says.But to ignore the problem would also be a mistake, especially given Hungary’s actions and the all too obvious ways in which Budapest is coordinating them with Moscow.


Editor’s pick: For further historical perspective an analysis on the Hungarian-Transcarpathian issue, Professor Paul Robert Magocsi, an expert on Rusyn-Ruthenian affairs offers this short lecture:

Putin’s Strategy: Involve West in undermining Ukraine so Ukrainians will despise it too

Vladimir Putin’s Anschluss of Crimea and continuing aggression against Ukraine means that Ukrainians will never again accept ethnic Russians as “a fraternal people” or be prepared to defer to Moscow unless they are compelled to by forces beyond the capacity of today’s Russia to field. Instead, they will continue to pursue their European choice.

That puts Putin in a difficult position, but he appears to have found a way out, one whose implications some leaders in the West have ignored or may not even understand. By involving them in talks about undermining the integrity of Ukraine, Putin is laying the groundwork for Ukrainian hostility to Europe as well.

Such antagonism to Europe will not mean that Ukrainians will want to turn to Russia instead, at least not anytime soon. But any such hostility will mean that Ukraine will remain caught between Moscow and the West, not taken in by either and thus ever weaker, more divided, and more subject to manipulation by various means overt and covert from Moscow.

That Western leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Hollande should have fallen for this trap laid by Putin is appalling not only in terms of its immediate impact but even more because of its long-term consequences, but that the Kremlin leader should set it makes perfect sense from his point of view.

Those conclusions are suggested by Moskovsky komsomolets which notes that not Russia alone, but it together with France and Germany are now involved with Kyiv in the beginning of “the decentralization of Ukraine,” something the Moscow outlet clearly celebrates.

The paper reports that the three countries, along with Ukraine, have “discussed the beginning of the work of a special group in Minsk which will be concerned with the preparation of local elections in special regions of the Donbas,” thus giving to Putin yet another victory over Ukraine through the involvement of Western pressure.

It notes happily that yesterday “it became known that Poroshenko had signed a decree about the creation of a Constitutional Commission which is needed for “the development of agreed upon proposals for the perfecting of the Constitution of Ukraine taking into account contemporary challenges and requirements of society.”

And it concludes with the words of Mikhail Pogrebinsky, head of the Kyiv Center for Political Research and Conflict Studies, that Poroshenko is moving in this direction because “foreign players including the European Union want this,” again a source of influence Putin may be glad to get but that the EU should not be giving to an aggressor.

Moscow readying a massive Russian invasion of Ukraine

The Kremlin’s calls for a ceasefire and calls by the pro-Russian militants in the Donbas for a mass mobilization are all designed to distract attention from Moscow’s preparations for a massive invasion of Ukraine sometime in the coming days, according to Russian military analyst Aleksandr Golts.

And that conclusion is strengthened, he suggests, by something else: Moscow is moving troops from other regions of the Russian Federation and even from troubled areas of Central Asia toward the Ukrainian border in order to have sufficient forces for a large-scale invasion.

“Games at mobilization” are being launched “in order to mask preparation for another broad-scale introduction of Russian forces

In a Yezhednevny Zhurnal commentary today, Golts says that even as Vladimir Putin’s press secretary declared that the Kremlin leader is “extremely concerned about the development of the situation in the Donbas,” TASS in the same news item reported that a Kremlin aide had said Moscow can understand why the militants are calling for a general mobilization.

“The leaders of the self-proclaimed republics understand” what Moscow is saying, Golts says. They too are for talks but “only if” they get to keep the territory they have seized, and since that doesn’t seem to be on the table, they will continue to fight – and with the support of Moscow as well.

Golts notes in passing that the militants are unlikely to be able to raise the 100,000 troops they have promised to bring to the colors within ten days. There simply aren’t enough people under their control to allow them to do so: If they did, they would be drafting a larger share of the population than even Stalin did during World War II.

That in turn means, the independent Russian military analyst says, that these “games at mobilization” are being launched “in order to mask preparation for another broad-scale introduction of Russian forces.” The militants and Moscow did much the same thing last summer, and thus it appears likely a new invasion is in the offing.

And confirming that conclusion is a report by Ekho Moskvy picking up Tajik media stories that “approximately 3,000 Russian soldiers from the 201st Russian military base in Tajikistan will be sent to the border with Ukraine.”

Their places will be taken by Tajik soldiers, a step that raises some serious security issues. Given the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan, the threat of radical Islam to Central Asia is becoming ever greater. Pulling Russian troops out of the region now suggests just how important Moscow’s next moves in Ukraine must be in its calculations.

As Golts notes, “having [now] concentrated on the war in Ukraine, Russia risks losing Central Asia.” Indeed, he says, Moscow may soon face “a strategic nightmare” as a result. By sending troops from Central Asia to Ukraine, it may soon face the influx from Central Asia of “tens of thousands of refugees.”

‘Why Doesn’t Moscow Set Up an Institute for Enslaving Other Countries?’

Why don’t Russia and the other former Soviet republics have an special institute to produce specialists who know how to “enslave other countries,” having organized pro-Moscow revolutions in them, seized power via coups, and exported “pro-Russian ideology” to them?

That outrageous question is posed today by Erlan Esenaliyev and Ermek Taichibekov, two ethnic Kazakh journalists who proudly identify themselves as Russian imperialists and argue that it is high time Russia created just such a training center so that it won’t be at a loss in knowing how to export its revolutions.

What is important about this article is not that it is much of an indication of what Moscow is about to do – although some would say it has already taken many steps in this direction – but rather as an indication of the radical expansion in recent months of what people in that Russian world think it is entirely reasonable to say.

A year or even six months ago, not even the most fevered Russian imperialist would have asked the question that Esenaliyev and Taichibekov do, and consequently, just as the dangerous ideas of Aleksandr Dugin and his ilk have spread into the mainstream so thoughts like those of these two may do as well.

And just as Vladimir Putin has pursued a policy in Ukraine of two steps forward and one back, to suggest to some in the West that he is reasonable, the appearance of such articles may make it possible that many in Russia and then in the West may find other slightly less outrageous ideas more acceptable than they would have had the more outrageous ones not been said.

In their article, Esenaliyev and Taichibekov say that the events in Ukraine over the past year show that [Russians] do not have any well-developed technologies for seizing entire states” and thus have not been as able as they might be to come to the aid of pro-Moscow forces, who thus fell victim to “small numbers of Ukrainian Nazis and Russophobes.”

Thinking that Russia can get by with ideas that worked a century or more ago, like an atamanshchina, is a mistake, the two says. “The 21st century requires completely new approaches, more contemporary ones, more advanced, and more certain to produce the necessary results.”

Russia together with the member states of the Eurasian Union, Esenaliyev and Taichibekov say, need a special institute where they can prepare “systematically and at a high professional level” specialists who will know how to “extend” the borders of Russia, enter “any corner of the world in a short time with minimum costs,” and “replace any political regime” that Moscow doesn’t like.

If such an institute were to be created and if it were to work “on a conveyor system,” then, they say, “ten years from now, the borders of Russia could be extended to an enormous extent. And again people throughout the world would begin to speak about Russians as a great nation, and Russia would become again as before a world super power.”

Basing troops in former Soviet republics simply isn’t enough, they say, because these troops “sit in their barracks and do not have increase pro-Russian attitudes among the populations there.” It would be far more effective to send “a thousand specialists on expanding the borders of Russian influence” there and elsewhere – including into the US and the EU.

According to these two writers, the US and Britain have been doing this for a long time. “We see how they take over markets, lands, trading points, influence for their goods and services. [They] are occupied with this enslavement system for centuries,” with “the result we know.” Russia, the two say, can do no less.

“Many of the recent misfortunes of Russia and the CIS,” they write, reflect not just the actions of foreign enemies and corruption. They are the product, the two insist, “in the first instance of the lack of systemic institutions for enslavement and the broadening of spheres of influence.”

Russia must move in this direction now, Esenaliyev and Taichibekov say, because if it doesn’t, it will find itself feeding others rather than feeding off them.

Metropolitan Volodymyr’s Death Highlights Moscow Patriarch’s Failure in Ukraine

The death on Saturday of Metropolitan Volodymyr, the longtime head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, simultaneously highlights the failure of Moscow Patriarch Kirill in Ukraine, Russian commentators say, and likely accelerates  a wholesale re-alignment of Orthodox bishoprics and congregations in Ukraine.

Volodymyr, who died at the age of 79 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease which in fact forced him to give up his day-to-day management of his church earlier this year after serving as its metropolitan since 1992, was a major figure not only in Ukraine but in Russian Orthodoxy more generally.

In 1990, he finished a close second to Metropolitan Aleksii in the voting for a new Moscow patriarch, and in the two decades since that time, he has played a key role not only in the expansion of the bishoprics of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine but also in the retention of its congregations, which otherwise might have left that hierarchy.

While many Ukrainians viewed Volodymyr as little more than Moscow’s man in their country, Russian commentators remember him as something more than that and at least some are worried that his death will lead to the further decline in the position of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.

In a comment on Forum-MSK.org, that site’s editor, Anatoly Baranov said that Volodymyr “was one of the most interesting officials of the Russian Orthodox Church” and almost became its patriarch on two occasions, first in 1990 when he lost to Aleksii and then in 2009 when he was nominated but withdrew.

Volodymyr’s withdrawal allowed Kirill to be elected, a misfortune, Baranov says, because “if the intelligent and experienced Kyiv metropolitan had become head of the Russian Orthodox Church, it is likely that the events in Ukraine would have developed in an entirely different way.”

“The aggressive and often stupid foreign policy of Patriarch Kirill is far from the least important factor underlying the Ukrainian crisis,” the editor says. What happened was this: “the Kremlin began to openly define the policy of the Russian Orthodox Church, and Patriarch Kirill did not find in himself the courage to conduct his own.”

Metropolitan Volodymyr was “another man” entirely, Baranov continues, especially with regard to the level of his authority in society outside of Russia.  And he concludes: “the tragic events in Ukraine not by accident coincided with the deterioration of the health of the Kyiv metropolitan, and his life ended along with the disappearance of that Ukraine which he knew.”

Volodymyr’s authority was truly enormous, and with his passing, Moscow and the Moscow Patriarchate are going to find it ever more difficult to retain their positions among the Orthodox in Ukraine.  Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill implicitly recognized this in their message of sympathy on Volodymyr’s death.

But their words are unlikely to slow the process of the Ukrainianization of Orthodoxy in Ukraine at an organizational level, and with that process accelerating, both the Kremlin and especially Patriarch Kirill are going to see their leverage religious and political decline there, in the post-Soviet states, and internationally as well.

Some Orthodox writers have been referring to Volodymyr’s as “a Soviet church functionary,” one of the last of a generation that will inevitably disappear.  But unlike Kirill, who remains very much what he was, the late Volodymyr was someone who made an attempt to change. That gave him an authority Kirill very much lacks.