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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Blackmailing with terrorism

The Kremlin seeks to nullify NATO guarantees
30 November, 2015 - 17:48
Sketch by Viktor BOGORAD

We must be consistent and methodical in assessing the actions of Russian authorities, and a lot of their actions will then no longer seem strange and self-defeating. This thought occurred to me in connection with the statements of a Kremlin-friendly spin doctor who said Vladimir Putin knew about imminent terrorist attacks in Paris in advance. Note that he is alleged to be not involved in the deed, but still knows of preparations for it. I remember the old Soviet truth that all rumors about the omnipotence and omnipresence of the State Security benefited the State Security itself, and were spread by it. The message is clear, though: you cannot defeat terrorism without Russia, and any rumor that the ISIL is controlled by the Kremlin will be beneficial for the Kremlin and none else.

The logic is simple: make friends with the Kremlin, and it will influence the terrorists. The Kremlin is now blackmailing with terrorism, just as it did with the use of nuclear weapons lately, but we still assess the current, upgraded model of Russian totalitarianism by Soviet standards, when they respected silly conventions, and even argued that human rights situation in the USSR was better than in the US. Now, human rights and activism in this field are openly labeled as the work of foreign agents and a path to the collapse of Russia.

Another example of pronouncements having the opposite effect is offered by prophecies of the collapse of the Kremlin regime in the coming hours and days. On the face of it, it looks like statement of an extreme opposition to the regime, even though it actually prevents the emergence of a real opposition, weakens the will to resist, paralyzes will, and brings about intellectual collapse.

What I am speaking about here is the fact that the incident which happened in the Turkish skies can be assessed in different ways. In the context of the recent demarche of the Baltic States, it is a blow to the Kremlin. The actions of the three Baltic countries, which reject any alliance with Russia, and the blockade of Crimea launched by Ukrainian activists of different ethnicities, are encouraging in that they show that Europeans have not forgotten how to act against the will of the elite and the majority in Europe and in their own countries. That is, they are still able to refuse to become a totalitarian mass, still can focus on values and principles.

It is through this confrontation, which is exact opposite of Russia’s “senseless and merciless revolt,” that Europe became Europe. It is now actively and voluntarily de-Europeanizing, though. For example, it disapproves of the actions of Turkey, and President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman is in the lead here. And this is not pro-Kremlin stance, but truly pro-European – he does not want to share the marginalized Baltic leaders’ fate. No, he would rather like to be in the high society led by Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande.

They may be correct, yes. But still, there is strong evidence that Putin deliberately put the downed bomber’s crew in the harm’s way. Back on October 17, after a Russian drone was shot down, the Turkish prime minister said that the samewould be done to any intruding aircraft.

According to experts, the Su-24 was flying at a height most convenient for an attack on it. It is beyond belief that the Russians did not notice combat-ready warplanes of the Turkish air patrol and did not know how dangerous was their own aircraft’s situation.

Russia has already responded to Turkey’s actions by stating its intent to position its latest air defense systems in Syria. However, the ISIL has no air force, unlike Turkey, Israel, and the countries taking part in the anti-ISIL bombing campaign. Even before, it was clear that the Russians fought not the terrorists, but the moderate opposition, that is, they were simply saving the al-Assad regime. What we see now is an obvious threat to military and political presence of NATO in the region, and a prospective threat to Israel as well.

The Kremlin seeks to nullify NATO guarantees, just as it did when provoking the Baltic countries. If the alliance does not protect Turkey, it will end. For now, it has been calling on everyone to make peace. However, the Kremlin’s objectives are different.

Turkey, meanwhile, could have remained neutral, like it was during the World War Two. The legacy of Kemal Ataturk included a good relationship with the USSR as well. Only Joseph Stalin’s territorial claims pushed it to join NATO in three years after the creation of the alliance. Even though the claims were then withdrawn, Turkey still agreed to a deployment of US missiles, which was the origin of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I mentioned it to show that Russia’s open and broadly-based relations with Turkey in recent years were a great achievement in terms of the history of our relations and the interests of Russia. Putin’s provocation was deliberately aimed at the elimination of this achievement. Experts have estimated the likely cost of the breakdown of economic ties with Turkey. The consequences will be devastating. But the fact of the matter is that the current Kremlin regime is barbaric by nature, delighting only in land grabs and destruction and detesting even robberies. If it ever stops, it will self-destruct. That is the actual, the real problem facing the Kremlin – how to overcome this contradiction without sacrificing power. They do not care in the slightest about the nation and its people.

Millions of people in Russia have been trapped, but they do not see it or do not want to. Their lives depend on their creating, first of all, a certain type of social relations, on reproducing it. Meanwhile, the regime, I repeat, is barbaric, that is, destructive, and it is leading the country into a big war. The regular Russians can be excused for failing to notice it. But highbrow gentlemen are very mistaken if they believe that their careers may be associated with the war, that they will maintain their status and income after it. The war is intended to be primarily an internal upheaval, a way to reshuffle the elites. The first will be last. The Russian people will enthusiastically support these changes. But all these Alexei Kudrin-led United Civil Fronts, the Carnegie Endowments, all these economists and political scientists, but especially economists, who are talking to no end about the development strategy, about reforms, about the modernizing society…

And, as always, the collapse of their plans and hopes will come as a complete surprise to them.

By Dmitry SHUSHARIN, Moscow-based historian and political journalist, special to The Day