Putin’s new National Guard – what does it say when you need your own personal army?

The idea of creating a National Guard (NG) for Russia bringing together public security forces under a single command has been raised periodically and always abandoned for very good reasons, not least the lack of any apparent need to have a Praetorian Guard on steroids. In 2012, for example, I didn’t think it likely: it would upend the balance of power within the security agencies, create a monster, and not really meet any true security need.

So what does it say that Putin today announced that such a natsgvardiya was going to be formed? After a meeting with security luminaries include MVD Interior Troops commander (and new NG head) Viktor Zolotov – a trusted ex-bodyguard – he announced [my translation]:

Decisions have been made: we are creating a new federal executive body on the basis of the Interior Troops – creating the National Guard, which will handle the fight against terrorism, the fight against organised crime, and in close cooperation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, will continue to perform those functions which are [currently] performed by the OMON (riot police), SOBR (SWAT) and so on.

We will arrange, as we discussed with the Interior Minister [Vladimir Kolokoltsev], not only in the decree, but in a future federal law, so that there will be no discord in order to get everything working smoothly and clearly. I hope very much that the troops of the National Guard will effectively perform their tasks, as has been the case up now, and that they will strengthen the work on the areas that are considered priorities.

The NG will thus also take over the OMON and SOBR, making it a powerful paramilitary security force, with elements right across the country.

Meanwhile, the Federal Drugs Control Service (FSKN) and Federal Migration Service (FMS) will be brought under the MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs), albeit remaining separate services. (Again, an idea which had been mooted before.) This may be a consolation prize for Kolokoltsev but appears, unsurprisingly, to have been a bitter pill for FSKN chief Viktor Ivanov, moving from independent director to ministerial subordinate.

The creation of a National Guard is a big deal. We await details, but here are a few first observations:

1. No discussion, no lead time. As with so many crucial decisions, this came essentially unheralded, underlining the extent to which policy comes from a small, tight circlearound Putin. It is not just that they have good operational security; they also clearly see no reason to prepare the public in advance. This is just the way politics goes these days.

2. Big worries in a little circle. There is no real reason for creating the NG out of the Interior Troops (VV) and other forces unless you have a serious worry about public unrest. Let’s be clear, whatever Putin says the militarised security forces of the VV and now NG have little real role fighting crime or terrorism; they are public security forces, riot and insurrection control and deterrence assets. The OMON and SOBR do play a certain role, but detaching them from the investigations elements of the MVD actually reduces their value in fighting crime. (And the MVD will likely have to recreate some kind of SWAT forces of its own.)

3. Putin’s Own. The NG, as a federal agency, will be directly subordinated to the government, without a minister in the way. With Zolotov at its head, then it is even more clearly a personal, presidential Praetorian force, under a maximalist loyalist. This may not only be a force to keep the masses in check, but also the elite.

4. Upsetting the power ministry balance. In the past, there was a key desire to retain a degree of balance between the various security agencies. The MVD has now been weakened (and having the FMS and FSKN is by no means enough of a recompense), and the Federal Security Service (FSB) has a more direct rival in the domestic security stakes.

5. I see from the text of the law that FGUP Okhrany, the private security corporation of the MVD, is being transferred to the NG. This is a major blow to the MVD, as it made quite a bit of revenue for them. It also raises questions about the future of the Vnevedomstvennaya okhrana, the police’s private security department, which was often a good way for cops to do some paid overtime and eke out their salaries. Will they still be able to do this? If not, then that may well be a further encouragement to more petty and predatory corruption by cops seeing their real wages shrink (as bonuses have also already been cut) and options legally to make up the shortfall vanish…

Is Russia Insider sponsored by a Russian oligarch with the ties to the European far right?

The emails leaked by the Anonymous International last year give us a few insights into the workings of the English language pro-Putin propaganda website Russia Insider.

Its editor Charles Bausman launched the website in September 2014, and described the rationale behind the website as follows:

“It was started in September 2014 by a group of expats living in Russia who felt that coverage of Russia is biased and inaccurate. […] The problem is media control by a few corporations and interest groups, and their close ties with governments and business interests. Instead of challenging, questioning, and fostering open discussion, they tend to promote those interests.”

Ironically, this is what Russia Insider itself has been doing since its launch, namely publishing and republishing pieces of Russia’s disinformation warfare against the West and Ukraine.

Charles Bausman, editor of Russia Insider and a regular commentator for Russia Today (RT)
Charles Bausman, editor of Russia Insider and a regular commentator for Russia Today (RT)

The leaks reveal that Bausman, rather than relying on crowdfunding for Russia Insider, asks for money from a Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev via his associate Alexey Komov.

There were several interesting articles devoted to Malofeev in the international and Russian media. In the context of this blog, Malofeev is known for providing financial assistance to the pro-Russian extremists in Eastern Ukraine (for this very reason Malofeev was sanctioned by the EU, Norway and Switzerland), organising homophobic conferences in Russia, assisting French far right politicians in getting Russian money, and building European far right alliances.

Komov is a no less interesting figure. He is an employee of several organisations founded and funded by Malofeev, as well as a representative of the homophobic World Congress of Families in Russia. He is also an honorary president of the Lombardy-Russia Cultural Association, Russia’s front organisation in Italy established by the far right Lega Nord party. Komov even gave speech at the party’s congress at the end of 2013 that elected Matteo Salvini as its leader.

And here’s a series of communications between Russia Insider’s Bausman, Komov and Malofeev:

Charles Bausman to Alexey Komov (2 October 2014):
Alexey, take a look at our stats, - click the button in the footer. They are very, very strong. I still need money!!  Any chance of resuming the conversation?

Alexey Komov to Konstantin Malofeev (2 October 2014):
Charlie, however, has created a good website - http://russia-insider.com/en - a high-quality, pro-Russian and popular one. He wants to cooperate...

Charles Bausman to Alexey Komov (18 October 2014):
This has links in to my TV appearances. I've been on 4 times now. Any reaction from K?

In his last email, Bausman also sent to Komov his CV that gives us a few interesting details.

It is interesting to note that Bausman was born in West Germany (Frankfurt) in 1964, but then lived in Soviet Russia, “due to father’s long-term assignment” there in 1968-1972 (one wonders what that assignment was about). According to his CV, Bausman was educated in the US, but has been living in Moscow since the late 1980s. He also states that “in virtue of professional and family connections”, he has “multiple high-ranking connections to the European and American media”, as well as “investment and political spheres”.

What is not clear is whether Bausman has eventually received any financial help from Malofeev (the leaked mailbox belongs to a fourth party), but his willingness to “cooperate” with a Russian oligarch who is close to the Kremlin and has been providing funding for the war in Eastern Ukraine is quite revealing.

Moscow opts for conspiracy theories to explain the Flight 9268 crash

The crash of the Metrojet Flight 9268 operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia has presented Moscow with a dilemma: what explanation of the crash would be most useful for the Kremlin’s positioning both domestically and internationally? Essentially, there have been two options:

1. A mechanical failure.

The Russian media reported that Flight 9268 experienced technical problems and the pilot asked for a landing in a nearest airport. The Russian media also quoted various people in Russia – family members of the crew, technicians, and other third parties – saying that, in the past, there had been oral reports of the technical problems that the pilots and crew had with the aircraft. Explaining the crash of Flight 9268 with a reference to the mechanical failure was apparently the safest option for Moscow. Since Russia is engaged in the erratic campaign of saving the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria by bombing civilian population, anti-Assad rebels, and, occasionally, ISIS terrorists, the technical explanation presents a picture of a dramatic casualty in no way related to Putin’s Syrian campaign. Naturally, this explanation also points to the corrupt practices in Russia (an aircraft experiencing technical problems should never have been used by the Kogalymavia airline), but all the Russians are aware of the devastating corruption in their country, so “it’s fine”.

2. A terrorist attack.

Almost immediately after the crash, ISIS terrorists claimed responsibility for the incident. This directly linked the crash to Moscow’s Syrian campaign, and implied that ordinary Russians paid a costly price for Putin’s adventures. Hence, admitting that the terrorist attack was the cause of the crash of Flight 9268 could be a blow to Putin’s image domestically: for the Russian audience, he presents the Syrian campaign as something distant and, at the same time, beneficial for Russia’s international standing, but the terrorist attack brings the war back home. A similar situation in Spain (an al-Qaeda cell claimed responsibility for the 2004 Madrid train bombings) resulted in the withdrawal of the Spanish troops from Iraq. If Putin admits that an Egyptian cell of ISIS has been behind the crash and continues his Syrian campaign, his popularity in Russia my decrease. On the other hand, acknowledging the terrorist attack could still be useful for Moscow in terms of its international image: “the Russians are fighting the war on international terrorism, and Russia and the West are in this together, hence Russia is no longer a pariah state, so do lift the sanctions and accept us to the club of the global powers”.

Nevertheless, Moscow sees the first option as the most useful. After all, even the prospect of Russia’s heightened international standing can only be used by the Kremlin for the purposes of consolidating Putin’s regime, but Moscow’s cost-benefit analysis shows that the threats to Putin’s domestic image in the case of accepting the second option are more significant than the potential benefits.

Moscow’s current problem with the first option, however, is that British and US intelligence services increasingly point to the terrorist attack as the cause of the crash, thus narrowing Moscow’s maneuvering space. And the recent reports in the Russian and international fringe media hint that Moscow may have come up with a third option.

3. ‘The West did it’

On 6 November, Russia’s international Sputnik website published Finian Cunningham’s article that bluntly asked: “was it really terrorists, or was it British MI6 agents palming the deed off as terrorists?”. The same day, a conspiracy website published an article by Sorcha Faal arguing that the Russian intelligence service had allegedly captured and arrested “two CIA assets for masterminding the Sinai plane crash of Flight 9268”. The same argument was reproduced by Sean Adl-Tabatabai, a long time follower of David Icke who believes that a secret group of reptilian humanoids controls humanity. On 8 November, Russia’s chief propagandist Dmitry Kiselev, published an article implicating that an explosion on Flight 9268 could be a result of the agreement between the “Western coalition” and ISIS.

Thus, Russia’s third option is admitting that the terrorist attack was the cause of the crash, but this terrorist attack itself was a Western plot against Russia.

This version may seem absurd to everyone who is not prone to conspiracy theories, but it is also extremely dangerous. It means that, indeed, the consolidation of Putin’s criminal regime at home is far more important for the Kremlin than the international cooperation, and that Moscow is ready to escalate its war on the West. The Kremlin keeps on instilling anti-Western hatred into the Russian society by feeding it with conspiracy theories, and this hatred may lead to psychological acceptance of even more aggressive approach towards the West. As Voltaire wrote, “those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities”.

Russophobia doesn’t exist

Russophobia doesn’t exist, but fear and hatred of Putin’s regime does.

Vladimir Putin and his supporters have made the struggle against what they see as Russophobia a cornerstone of their ideology, Yevgeny Ikhlov says; but if one examines the characteristics they offer for this phenomenon, it is clear that Russophobia as such does not exist. At the same time, fear and hatred of Putin’s regime very much do.

The importance of this ideological theme to the Kremlin has been underscored, the Moscow commentator says, by the fact that immediately after Putin made his remarks about it, the World Russian Popular Assembly insisted that Russophobia included any attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church.

In defining the term, Ikhlov continues, the Russian Popular Assembly advanced five assertions regarding Russophobia, all of which he says are at the very least problematic. It asserts that the Russian people are being “subjected to Russophobia, they are the victims of genocide in Ukraine, they are a victim people, they are a divided people, and they have an identity which is being blurred.

Before considering each of these in turn, the commentator notes that the claim that an attack on the Orthodox Church is an attack on the Russian people is simply wrong. “Orthodoxy is not a church of the Russian people … moreover, it is not an exclusive attribute of ‘the Russian world.’” Asserting otherwise undermines “the very idea of the universality of Orthodoxy.”

The assertion that there is ethnic hatred toward Russians as such in the contemporary world is without foundation, Ikhlov says. The only place where one could speak about this would be in the Baltic countries, “but this is a manifestation of the most ordinary migrantophobia and diasporaphobia, which Russians also display.

Around the world, people recognize Russian culture as “a great world culture,” and Russians “have not encountered even that hostility which for long years surrounded Germans after the first and especially after the second world war.” Those who assert otherwise do not know what they are talking about.

The fact that there exists “fear and hostility to the Putin government” and that this is spreading and intensifying is quite another matter, Ikhlov says. A century ago, “every literate individual could clearly distinguish between the regime of Nicholas I and the Russian people and Russian intelligentsia.”

Thirty years ago, people found no difficulties in distinguishing bvetween the Russia of Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn and Russian communism. “And now,” Ikhlov says, they have no problem recognizing that the Russia of Boris Nemtsov is something entirely different than the Russia of Vladimir Putin.

Confusing or conflating “fear before the imperial policy of the Kremlin and the authoritarian mentality of the people with hostility toward Russians as an ethnos” is simply foolish nonsense, Ikhlov suggests.

The second plank in the attack on supposed Russophobia is that ethnic Russians are, it is said, being subjected to genocide in Ukraine.” There is no truth to that, and the word genocide should be used with care rather than tossed about whenever one wants to blacken opponents and play the victim.

Russians can claim to be victims, Ikhlov says; but most often and most seriously they have been victims of other Russians rather than of foreigners of one kind or another. But they are not a victim people in the sense that the Jews and Palestinians, Armenians and Tutsis are, and they should not claim otherwise.

Nor is it correct to label the Russians “a divided people,” as many of those now talking about Russophobia do. It is true that the collapse of the USSR in 1991 left many ethnic Russians beyond the borders of the Russian Federation, but “over the last quarter century much has changed” and the Russians in these countries are now “classical examples of a diaspora.”

Finally, Ikhlov argues, there is no evidence that Russian national identity is being blurred. “On the contrary, Russians very clearly set themselves apart from other ethnoses of the empire, having unwritten but in no way less obligatory criteria of what is required from a non-Russian to be recognized as a Russian,” even if various groups of Russians often fight about that.

Offensive Language: Putin began his verbal attack on Ukrainian statehood in 2004

Vladimir Putin stopped using the preposition “v” or “in” Ukraine in 2004, reverting to the older form “na” or “on,” in official government documents, an indication that the Kremlin leader did not view Ukraine as a country but rather as a Russian borderland, according to Andrey Illarionov.

Editor’s note: This is similar to the distinction in English between ‘Ukraine’ and ‘the Ukraine’ with the Russian “on Ukraine” being an archaism equivalent to ‘in the Ukraine’. See articles in TIME and Business Insider for more on the subject.

From the time he became president in 2000 through March 2004, Putin used the preposition “v” exclusively in official documents he signed, but beginning on April 5, 2004, he shifted to “na” and since Putin returned for his third term, such documents have used “na” exclusively.

In his own speeches, commentaries and responses to questions, Illarionov points out, Putin has gone from using “in” in 87.5 percent of the cases in 2002 to 70 percent in 2007 to 15.4 percent in 2012 to 8.2 percent last year, thus ever more often replacing it with the “on” and thus showing his lack of respect for Ukraine’s status as a state.

Since April 5, 2004, 99.4 percent of the official documents Putin has signed which refer to Ukraine have used “on” rather than “in.” Most of these 11 exceptions reflect either statements about the past or about the work of specific Russian officials of various kinds in Ukraine, he says.

“The last time the grammatical form ‘in Ukraine’ was used in official documents of the Kremlin was about five years ago on July 1, 2010,” concerning the presentation of an award to the head of ITAR-TASS in Ukraine. And that order was signed by then-President Dmitry Medvedev.

Since that time, “in” has not been used in the official documents of the Russian president and his administration even once. “In 2011-2015, 100 percent of the cases have used the form “na Ukraine,” Illarionov reports.

233176_600Graph 1: Use of “on Ukraine” (red) versus “in Ukraine” (green) in official Russian use, 1910-2008
Graph 2: Use of “in Ukraine” (blue) versus “in the Ukraine” (red) in English books, 1910-2008

This allows one to conclude, the Russian analyst says, that the decision to shift from “in” to “on” was taken “in the period between March 1 and April 5, 2004” – quite possibly immediately after Putin’s winning a second term as president and thus an indication of his intentions toward Kyiv at that time.

Certainly by April 16, 2004, Putin had made a decision to shift gears with regard to Ukraine. On that date, Illarionov recalls, Putin told the Ukrainian President Viktor Medvedchuk, “You know our position.” Working with Ukraine is “the top priority and the most important for us.”

“But however that was, the beginning of linguistic aggression by denying the statehood of Ukraine by the Russian authorities begins in March-April 2004,” Illarionov says. That was before the beginning of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in that year and long before July 2013 when Putin began his hybrid war against Ukraine.

“In other words,” Illarionov concludes, “the decision about the denial of the statehood of Ukraine was not provoked by any real actions of Ukrainians, be they from the Ukrainian authorities or Ukrainian society. This decision was taken by Putin personally, independent of the situation in Ukraine and as a result of his own ideas and in correspondence with his own plans.”

Nearly half of Russians say Stalin’s harsh rule justified, up from 25% in 2012

Forty-five percent of Russians now say that Stalin’s harsh repression was justified by the results he achieved as a result, a figure that is almost twice as high as in 2012, according to a new Levada Center poll. The same survey found that the share of Russians who believe that nothing justifies what Stalin did has fallen significantly.

As a result, only one Russian in four (25 percent) is either fully or partially opposed to the erection of statues and memorials to the Soviet-era dictator on the occasion of what Moscow will mark in May as the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II.

“since the last decade there has been a growth in the share of those Russians who give a positive assessment to what Stalin did”

Aleksey Grazhdankin, the Levada Center’s deputy director, says that “for the majority of respondents, the name of Stalin as before is connected with terror, but since the last decade there has been a growth in the share of those Russians who give a positive assessment to what Stalin did. It reached its highest level ever last year, he adds.

Part of the explanation for the increase in approval for Stalin, Grazhdankin suggests, is to be found in Russians’ assessment of the events in Ukraine. Seeing what instability can lead to, he says, many Russians are now “prepared to sacrifice the interests of a minority in order to preserve the current status quo and stability.”

Five years ago, 32 percent of the Russian sample said that Stalin was a criminal; now, only 25 percent do, and 57 percent say they oppose designating him as one. It isn’t that Russians love him, the Levada Center sociologist says. Rather, they see virtues in a strong leader when as they now think is the case their country is surrounded by enemies.

Stalin is most positively viewed by the least educated, those living in villages and small cities and the elderly

Not surprisingly, Stalin is most positively viewed by the least educated, those living in villages and small cities and the elderly. Young people are largely indifferent to him, while the most antagonistic to Stalin are the middle-aged and the relatively well-off populations of the large cities, such as Muscovites.

Stalin remains a divisive force for many, Ivan Nikitchuk, a KPRF Duma deputy who wants to rename Volgograd Stalingrad, an idea that the Levada Center poll found is supported by 31 percent of its sample, says that when Russians compare their situation now with what it was under Stalin, they draw the “correct” conclusion that it was better then than now.

Nikolay Svanidze, a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, in contrast, says that “the moral rehabilitation of Stalin which will intensify in advance of Victory Day would be a personal insult for millions of people.”

And Yabloko Party leader Sergey Mitrokhin says that the revival of support for Stalin reflects the failure of the country to undergo any “de-Stalinization” during the first two post-Soviet decades and consequently the Soviet dictator remains “an instrument” for some to resolve political tasks such as promoting a cult of a new leader, in the present case, Vladimir Putin.

Russians’ hatred easy to unleash but difficult to limit, reverse or overcome

Many are taking comfort in the notion that just as Russians appear to have reduced their hatred of immigrants when encouraged by the Kremlin to hate Ukrainians instead so too their hatred against the latter could be ended relatively easily if Moscow changed course — and in any case won’t expand to include others.

But in fact, as a panel discussion organized by Radio Liberty points out, there are two problems with the optimistic vision. On the one hand, it ignores that there was a reservoir of hatred among many Russians ready to be whipped up by the government for its own purposes. Moscow did not create it; it exploited it.

And on the other hand, such a view also downplays the danger that while Moscow may be able to exploit such hatreds, it could quickly lose control over them and not be able either to restrain them once they are unleashed or to prevent them from being extended to other groups that the regime either wants to protect or does not want to offend.

Indeed, to deal with this situation, the panel suggested, the regime will either have to offer new objects of hatred in the hopes of diverting Russians from one enemy to another or employ massive amounts of repression in order to limit the expression of that hatred. In either case, the problems involved with such feelings and their use are not limited or short term.

Thus, for example, any lessening of official anti-Ukrainian hysteria in the absence of any new target group almost immediately threatens to provoke new outburst of hostility toward migrants or toward other groups, including Chinese workers and industrialists in the Russian Far East whom Moscow has every reason to protect lest it offend Beijing.

(Indeed, that issue is so sensitive that the authorities have taken down an entire website after it featured an article showing that xenophobic attitudes and actions against the Chinese are on the rise there.)

Consequently, thanks to Putin’s actions in unleashing and exacerbating Russian hatreds in the current crisis, Russia and the world are entering a Martin Niemöller moment, one in which just because they hate someone else now, there are no guarantees that they will not hate others, including ourselves, later.

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.

‘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.