Monday, June 9, 2014

What to do when a leader tells you to go and fight, but then he leaves you there soon after the battle started because he just got a better idea?

Russian Ambassador Mikhail Zubarov gave a Russian TV reporter an interview right after the inauguration on June 7. Besides seeing "many positive things" in Poroshenko's inaugural speech, he made also this cardinal statement: " ... [following the elections and inauguration of Poroshenko] there will be now after all a gradual creation of already legitimate power structure" (6:40 in the video). At the very end, he also said that, in the near future, relations between Russia and Ukraine are to be normalized. 

It seems to me that I can now detect and identify the bureaucratic, anti-national callousness of the Ambassador and the policy which he now represents and implements. The closest case I can remember is the callousness and indifferent soullessness of the late Soviet bureaucrats and elite from the 1980s.

It almost seems that, at some point, Putin started to listen to the fascists in Kiev and to their Western patrons instead of the Russians, whether in eastern Ukraine or in Russia.

Since there seems to be a radical change in the course and position of Putin and the Russian government after Crimea joined Russia, if not its abandonment, which started to be clothed in silence and ambiguity, but more and more apparent, it does seem important to try to reconstruct the possible "crime" and its mechanism even with the very little information that one has.

Following the Crimea referendum, the anti-junta resistance had a momentum, but it lacked not only leaders, but also organization, structure, and resources ... unlike the US that has been working very systematically since the end of World War II and then again since 1991, Russia continued for most part to treat human capital the way it used to ... which is one of waste, neglect, indifference, and carelessness for most outside of the Putin guard, oligarchic circles and narrow-minded pettiness of various local bosses and despots. At that time, the US discovered the charm and power of networking--that is to say, it started turning the age-old wisdom into a new science of governance, power, and regime change.

This created a well connected and broad underlying structure and support for Maidan and the fifth as well as the sixth columns (the sixth column, a term now popular in Russia, is the same as the fifth column, but, instead of waiting in the shadows outside of the ranks of the enemy, is already planted within the ranks of the enemy--like the Party of Regions for example). In this way, many people were hired, paid, employed, trained, deployed, promoted, taken care of and seeded. At the same time, beginning with the profound callousness and hubris of the generations of Soviet bureaucrats and leaders, human capital and people came to be treated much like a dead, needless weight on the wings of business. So while the US was actually investing a great deal of money, effort, time, and resources into building its upward mobile (real or potential) clients, Russia was busy playing a generous uncle who is willing to cut a good deal to the same clients--in exchange for financing thus his own best enemies who, one day, would want to take over his own estate.

In a word, when the Russian government said that, over the course of the 23 years, it subsidized the failed project of Ukraine with more than $200 billion, the criminal truth is that these billions did not help the people, but the increasingly fascist and anti-Russian oligarchs of Ukraine. After the coup, Russian deeply discounted gas for Ukrainian oligarchs became Russian free gas, moreover, now supplied to a regime that knew and did not hide that they are, in fact, with Russia. As a Russian TV reporter correctly noted to Russian Ambassador Mikhail Zubarov, the result is that, among the Ukrainian politicians now left in Kiev, there is no pro-Russian left. And those who emerged in the east are nearly all new (except for Oleg Tzarev)--yesterday's "nobodies," who seem to be still treated as nobodies by the official Kremlin.

Russia is worth loving, but it is a tough love, which possibly only the most idealistic or most philosophic people can survive, endure, and sustain. American love, on the other hand, is one to be simply enjoyed and consumed.

This means that, as Sun Tzu already noted, strategies are a function of intelligence, but also of one's character and, importantly, one's self-knowledge, and war is a way of exacting nonnegotiable prices for mistakes, deficiencies, blind spots, sins, and our shadows. Yes, the US has a big, thick shadow, but so has Russia.

So, going back to the attempted reconstruction of Russia's own change of heart. I am afraid that, as Putin and Lavrov were treating Yanukovich's capitulation act of February 21, they happened to handle with a similar lightness of being and political ease a "deal" that was offered to them by the West, following the Crimean referendum. The point is that, besides certain venerable banking families and clans, the US is a master of brinkmanship--it does help to have a whole character built around it, a pedigree in it, and even an irresistible urge of tempting and crossing the limits and the edge again and again. The urge is almost gothic--in its morbid, dangerous, lethal capacity, and thus it is not only erotic, it is also addictive. But the more one does it, and the more often one gets away with it, the more proficient in it one also becomes. Practice makes perfect.

This near (self)destructiveness and urge to cross the line, as soon as one is seen, is and has been, however, met by one perennial desire on the part of the Russian elites---to be recognized as "partners" ("nashi partnyory," Putin himself constantly keeps saying to the self-amusement of his enemies and increasingly hard-to-conceal annoyance of even his most faithful fans). The Russian verhushka always wanted to be let into the club--like a student from a less endowed family who cannot be happy until she is inducted into the coveted, prestigious Greek society. And to get there, she just happens to keep going through repetitive and most fruitless cycles of initiatory humiliation and self-debasement.

Thus Russia constantly tries to get in--and to receive a respite from all the invasions and troubles--but the West has no real intention of making this ever happen, but is only happy to keep charging ever more self-defeating and dangerous entry fee--which tends to keep turning into a dire existential threat and hell for Russia itself.

So to bring this down to some simple, pragmatic idea of what might have happened between March 17 and mid-April. It seems to me quite likely that, first, the US issued very hard-pressing threats, which could have well included the ultimate threat of a nuclear attack or World War III. The general public does not know, but a key sword of psychological pressure (or incentive) with which the US kept swinging over the head of the Soviet leadership in the 1980s on thousands of occasions  was US nuclear brinkmanship. We now know that, on a regular basis, the US nuclear missiles were put on a final countdown around the Eastern bloc till the last second. Some people do seem to think that Hell (or Apocalypse) is both terrifying and sexy. And Gorbachev responded.

Besides a nuclear or other Armageddon, the West issued some additional terrible threats. Not a long time big fuss was made about the rather prudent and understandable move of the Russian government to prohibit its government employees and politicians from owning foreign assets, which could be seized, come under (Western) sanctions, or be used for intimidation or just as a vested interest. The legislation, however, left one huge unsaid, but essential exception: perhaps the most precious foreign asset--the children of the Russian leaders, politicians, and business elite, starting with Putin's own daughters, Medvedev's own son, and so on down to thousand of Russian VIPs who can much more easily imagine Ukraine becoming a fascist and anti-Russian NATO member state with US anti-missile defense system 400 miles from Moscow than having to send their children to Volgograd or Samara instead of Berkeley, Oxford, New York, or Vienna or having to exchange an unlimited VISA gold card or a new loaded Mercedes for modest humanism.

After communism, some people get hungry and thirsty, and some much more so than others. In this respect, Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs are much like comrades. They do think alike in a way. But so do American oligarchs. But American oligarchs do have a British imperial kinderstube in their blood, and, yes, there seems to be a certain difference between an oligarch who likes fast cars and women and an oligarch who, besides some of this, also knows some Shakespeare and approaches the never-ceasing urge for start-ups as a well groomed Machiavelli. In this respect, it seems that a good deal of the Russian political and economic elites somehow happen to be grandsons of the kulaks (actually named after a "fist") who were often serfs who turned overnight into new masters of a village and who did somehow make themselves hated, and not just by Stalin.

And so, having mapped the Russian elites' Achilles' heels reasonably well, the US introduced a relatively novel form of economic sanctions--personal sanctions--and threatened with more of them. And, for many surprisingly--after the first rounds of ridicule and dismissals were gone--the Russian government did not find that much of enthusiasm to defend millions of Russians in Ukraine when their own family assets and connections came under threat. In this respect. Russia has gone a long way from a time when one of Stalin's sons was early on captured by Germans and then, when offered a deal to exchange him for General Paulus after the Battle of Stalingrad and thus to save his life, Stalin replied: "Generals are not traded for a private." In this respect, the Russian leaders are incomparably more liberal and human when it comes to their own than the great Russian leaders of the past.

So what was about the proverbial carrot then? The US as a player keen much more on poker than on chess has a tradition of making deals the promises of which it does not intend to honor or, at least, remember the next morning. This tradition goes keep at least to the series of treatises with the American natives--interestingly, both these treatises and the natives happen to share a similar fate--they were assured, bargained with, and then violated with an astounding ease--for the negotiators always "made the killing." And that mattered. Actually, only that mattered--the rest was immaterial.

In this situation, I would think that a very likely false promise made was that, if Russia abandons Russians in Ukraine without showing it too much bluntly (though hard to conceal)--but, of course, with all the other "assurances," "guarantees," and pious understanding--then the West might at some point "let" Russia keep Crimea on top of a promise not to move--this time!--NATO into Ukraine. But, as before with Russia and in contrast with the American natives--without any other written confirmations.

What has, apparently, also aggravated the Russian government is that it both underestimated the Russian people in Ukraine themselves, as Shamir Israel already alleged with a reference to a Russian government insider and that it was also intimidated by the near total domination of the info space over Ukraine by Ukrainian and Western TV channels and media and hence by an apparently sharp anti-Russian sentiment. It is hard to make oneself be likable by one's own enemies and the more so if one trusts one's own enemies' statistics and is afraid of one's own shadow, which the enemy, moreover, paints as black as possible.

In a nutshell, the West squeezed and then teased with a deceptively easy compromise and way out and so, by the time Lavrov arrived in Geneva to sign on the agreement that was waiting there for him on April 17, he was already ready to forget and forgive not just the unconstitutionality of the coup, but also all about Banderism and fascism being the "dark soul" of the regime, and was eager to falsify and banalize (= to sell cheap) the nature of the conflict (for some, even civilizational conflict) as a problem of evacuating occupied buildings and not as a great political and geopolitical threat of the first order. Instead, Lavrov reduced himself to saying that the junta should talk more to the abused spouse and that it would be wonderful if the the fascist junta could go and write a new constitution for Ukraine before going to elections. On May 21, Putin's chief goal was then merely to "create favorable conditions for the presidential elections" run, faked, and counted beforehand by the fascist oligarchs in Washington and Kiev.

In this light, the constant military exercises of Russia along the borders with Ukraine might have been at one point in earnest, but then, already some time before the Odessa massacre and the beginning of the march against Slavyansk on May 2, these exercises were merely mimetic, faking moves that were misleading only their would-be beneficiaries--the millions of people who went bravely to cast their votes for freedom and Russia--against Putin's explicitly attempted dissuasion in the presence of the Swiss head of the OSCE on May 7, four days ahead of the referendum.

Now, all this leaves us, as a minimum with three or four interconnected questions of progressively diminishing importance:

1. Can Putin be saved?
2. Can Novorossiya be saved?
3. Can Russia be saved?
4. Can the world be saved--from fascism's comeback?

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