by Gordon M. Hahn
The situation in Russia with regard to democracy is bad enough. An accurate description will leave one who values democracy dejected. So one wonders why DC-tied propagandists feel the need to misrepresent matters. Paul Goble sure does and has a long record of doing so. Goble has been caught, shall we say, deliberately distorting the facts more than once during his career which ended at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (imagine!) after he was caught misstating the facts about Putin’s first state of the union address fifteen years ago, claiming Putin never used the word ‘democracy’ which he actually used more than ten or fifteen times, as I recall. More recently, as I detailed, he distorted the contents of a Novaya gazeta article (https://gordonhahn.com/2015/02/20/another-rusological-fail-u-s-experts-continue-to-lie-about-russia-and-ukraine/).
Now, he’s at it again. In one of his recent missives, he writes that the Russian daily Nezavisimaya gazeta wrote that amendments to existing law pending in Russia “would give FSB officers the right to use lethal weapons without warning against protesters and others” and “would establish that this would inevitably be held to be ‘justified’” (Paul Goble, “Even the Kremlin Doesn’t Believe Its Own Poll Numbers, ‘Nezavisimaya gazeta‘ Says,” Johnson’s Russia List, #133, 7 July 2015, http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs053/1102820649387/archive/1102911694293.html.)
While Goble tries to give the appearance that his focus is really on the implication that the amendments unmask the Kremlin’s insecurity about the level of its public support, in particular disbelief about Putin’s 89 percent approval rating. However, Goble’s real goal is to insinuate into readers’ minds the false claim that the new law will give to Russian police and security forces the “right” to shoot at demonstrators without cause.
The article to which Goble refers says something rather different about the proposed legislative amendments. It says that police and FSB forces would be required to warn demonstrators that they were about to be fired on and would only be allowed to shoot without warning only if police or FSB personnel are in danger: “In essence, they can allow FSB personnel to use weapons, special means, combat equipment and physical force based on the circumstances according to their own assessment of the situation. In principle, it is necessary to warn those who are about to be shot about the intention (to shoot), but if the FSB officer thinks there is an impending danger, then it is possible not to issue a warning. In principle, it is forbidden to shoot women, invalids, and minors, but if they commit a group attack, then it is allowed to shoot (them)” (ng.ru/editorial/2015-07-07/2_red.html). Another Nezavisimaya gazeta article says the amendments allow “the use of firearms in places of large gatherings ’for prevention of a terrorist attack,’ something that was banned previously in order to avoid accidental casualties. It is also permissible to shoot ‘in defense of critically important state objects” (www.ng.ru/politics/2015-07-09/3_stabilnost.html). None of this amounts to broad right of police and security forces to shoot demonstrators.
Thus, not even offering readers the Russian columnist’s description of the amendments’ details – no less citing the text of the amendments – Goble simply, cleverly, and deceptively offers readers the Russian columnist’s rather loose interpretation of the possible results of the amendments.
It is possible that the text of the law combined with frequently heavy-handed Russian practice and governmental arbitrariness increases the likelihood that unjustified shootings will occur. However, such a determination can reasonably be made only after reading the text of the law and certainly not by casually transmitting an interpretation of an analyst as fact for propaganda effect, as Goble does.
I should note that in all the 23 years of post-Soviet Russian history not a single peaceful or violent protestor has ever been shot at, not less shout and wounded or killed by Russian police or security forces. This include’s all 15 years of ‘Putin’s fascist Russia.’ Some U.S. allies cannot say the same for the corresponding periods; Bahrain just a few short years ago comes immediately to mind.
Finally, I bring to the reader’s attention – in the event it was overlooked – that the articles in which the criticism of the amendments to the Russian law appeared were published in the RUSSIAN and Russian-language daily, Nezavismaya gazeta, published in ‘Putin’s fascist Russia.’
Let the field of Rusology eschew such ‘analysts’ and reward more objective analyses. This is unlikely. More likely? More grave mistakes are in store for America’s Russia policy than some of the many I have highlighted over the years.
Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation, Chicago, Illinois; Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch; and Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor, MonTREP, Monterey, California. Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics and wrote, edited and published the Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report at CSIS from 2010-2013. Dr. Hahn has been a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2011-2013) and a Visiting Scholar at both the Hoover Institution and the Kennan Institute.