Monday, 17 March 2014

Russian strategy and its rhetorical camouflage

Russia aims to rebuild its power in the ex-Soviet Union by responding to separatist movements in two ways. Here's Norman Davies writing in 2008:
When separatists dare to operate within Russia's frontiers, they are to be extirpated without mercy. When they surface on the territory of Russia's neighbours in the so-called "Near Abroad", and especially in the vicinity of vital pipelines, they are to be encouraged.
Compare the fates of Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and - now - Crimea with that of Chechnya. Putin recently made spreading separatist views within the Russian federation a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in jail.

Russia covers up its real strategy in its "Near Abroad" with two kinds of rhetorical bluster:

1. For home consumption, Russia mobilises the anti-Nazi narrative of the Great Patriotic War, drawing on a mixture of popular jingoism and paranoia about foreign powers. This is stoked up by the Putin-controlled media. As we have seen, this anti-fascist fascism doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

2. For foreign consumption, Russia hijacks Western humanitarian interventionist ideas such as R2P ("Right to Protect") and engages in "whataboutery". "What about Kosovo" is a particular favourite? Unfortunately, this does not fit the chronology. NATO's intervention in Kosovo was in 1999. The "frozens conflicts" in Transnistria began in 1990-1992; South Ossetia 1991-92; Abkhazia 1992-93. The First Chechen War was 1994-96. If there hadn't been Kosovo, Russia would have cited US interventions in, say, Grenada and Panama. The Crimean invasion has exposed the sham of Russia's humanitarian interventionism. The only "humanitarian crisis" in Crimea was created by Putin and his fake "security forces".

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