Russia/Eurasia Miscellaneous, March 2018: Putin’s ‘Missile Speech’, Putin-Sobchak, Russia-NATO, Gref, Medvedev’s Thaw

by Gordon M. Hahn

PUTIN’S ‘MISSILE SPEECH.’ Was Putin’s 1 March 2018 ‘missile speech’ a provocation or a response to NATO expansion, US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, and US development of an anti-missile defense system that surrounds Russia but is claimed targets Iran? The US is producing new high-speed and cheap interceptor missiles as noted in this article published a month before Putin’s speech (https://breakingdefense.com/2018/01/86000-5600-mph-hyper-velocity-missile-defense/).

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PUTINSOBCHAK. Putin’s leading liberal opponent in the Russian presidential election campaign, Kseniya Sobchak, excluded in convincing terms even the remote possibility that Putin was behind the 2000 murder of her father and his mentor, the late pro-democracy Mayor of St. Petersburg Anatolii Sobchak — a version of his death favored in the West and among some Russian liberal and intelligentsia circles. The family claims Sobchak died of a heart attack as do coroners. In the days around the funeral Kseniya was eyewitness to Putin, who had served as Sobchak’s deputy mayor from 1991-1996 and at the time was acting president of Russia. By helping Sobchak escape to Paris, Putin had saved him from arrest by hardliners in the Yeltsin administration, who feared Sobchak would succeed him as president, initiated corruption charges and sought to arrest him.  At the well-publicized funeral, Putin wept profusely. According to Kseniya in this latest interview, Putin also wept in their apartment and on the air discussing the issue and was extremely “crushed” by her father’s passing. Moreover, Putin was the only person, other than then first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, who helped Sobchak and his family. She strongly rejected even the possibility that Putin would have ordered her father’s killing (https://echo.msk.ru/sounds/2159498.html).

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RUSSIA AND NATO ROGUES. Years ago I warned of Turkey’s authoritarian tendencies dating back to its military coups decades ago. At the time of NATO’s first expansion in the mid-1990s I asked why Russia could not be brought into NATO given that the state of Russian democracy then was not all that far behind that of Turkey. Is Turkey’s new “rogue” status evidence that it would have been right or wrong then to bring Russian into NATO? Russia has done abroad nothing like Turkey’s recent military intervention into Syria: “Erdoğan has invaded Afrin, Syria (a city then controlled by America’s Kurdish allies), massacring women, children and the elderly; promoted the use of child soldiers in his fight against the Kurds; and undermined U.S. sanctions against Iran. A Manhattan Federal District Court’s guilty verdict against a Turkish banker accused of helping Iran evade sanctions speaks volumes about the growing threat posed by Erdoğan’s Turkey. Although Erdoğan was not charged in the case, ‘testimony suggested he had approved the [defendant’s] sanctions-busting scheme’ to launder billions of dollars for Iran beginning in 2012, according to the New York Times” (www.meforum.org/7239/crafting-a-us-response-to-turkish-intransigence).

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GERMAN GREF’S POLITICAL SUICIDE OR KRYSHA? Chairman of Russia’s largest bank, German Gref, has been taking some interesting gambles in the last half-year. In November of last year SberBank published a report — subtitled “Rosneft: We Need to Talk About Igor” — harshly critical of Rosneft chief Igor Sechin and his “unique,” “unilateral decisionmaking” and concluded: “To take a neutral, much less a bullish stance on Rosneft would require lots of things going right, first and foremost, inside one person’s head. We are not prepared to believe in that quite yet” (https://www.ft.com/content/dc7d48f8-1c13-11e8-aaca-4574d7dabfb6). Gref was close to former Russian Economy and Trade Minister Andrei Ulyukaev who earlier Sechin had set up or framed in a corruption sting leading to Ulyukaev’s being sentenced to eight years in prison. Then in January of this year, Gref issued some very critical remarks regarding the state of Russian politics and economics at the annual Gaidar Forum (www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgPOW1w5vtc). Could he be one of the first top ‘system liberals’ to jump from the regime if it starts to sink or are his days at SberBank numbered in Putin’s fourth presidential term starting in May?

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NO MEDVEDEV THAW? During the political thaw during the presidency of Dmitrii Medvedev, not one US media or think tank outlet wrote about the thaw. US intel-tied strategic communicators like RFERL’s Brian Whitmore claimed the political situation would be more harsh as a result of Medvedev’s presidency. Nothing could be more untrue. Here is a list of Russian liberal politicians and pro-democracy activists who have acknowledged just in the last few months aspects of Medvedev’s thaw or the overall thaw which I detailed in several scholarly research as well as analytical articles which I include at the end of the list:

Gleb Pavlovskii – former advisor to the Russian Presidential Administration during Putin’s first term, former direcotr of the Effecive Policy Institute in Moscow, and founder of the Russian website Russia Journal [Gleb Pavlovskii, Sistema RF: Istochniki Rossiiskogo strategicheskogo povedeniya (Moscow: Yevropa, 2017), p. 124].

Natalya Yevdokimova – member of the Russian President’s Council on Human Rights (https://echo.msk.ru/sounds/2157278.html).

GORDON HAHN’S ARTICLES ON THE MEDVEDEV THAW:

The Russian Federation in 2012: From ‘Thaw’ and ‘Reset’ to ‘Freeze’,” Asian Survey, 53, 1 (2013): 214-223.

Perestroika 2.0: Towards Non-Revolutionary Regime Transformation in Russia?,” Post-Soviet Affairs, 28, 4 (October-December 2012): 472-515, 

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2747/1060-586X.28.4.472#.VNIAL53F-uwPutin’s Return and the Thaw’s Fate,” Russia – Other Points of View, 14 August 2012, http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2012/08/putins-return-and-the-thaws-fate.html

Perestroika 2.0 and the Moscow Spring,” Fair Observer, 11 May 2012, http://www.fairobserver.com/article/perestroika-20-and-moscow-spring

Perestroika 2.0 Continues: Russia’s December Thaw and the Return of Politics,” Russia – Other Points of View, 2 January 2012, http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2012/01/perestroika-20-continues-russias-december-thaw-and-the-return-of-politics.html

1991 and 2011: Russia’s Second Revolutionary Wave Has Arrived,” Russia – Other Points of View, 16 December 2011, http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2011/12/1991-and-2011-the-second-russian-revolutions-second-wave-begins.html

The Thaw at the Polls – Tandem’s Liberalization Policy Rocks the Vote,” Russia – Other Points of View, 8 December 2011, http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2011/12/the-thaw-at-the-polls-tandems-liberalization-policy-rocks-the-vote.html

Assessing Medvedev’s Presidential Legacy,” Russia – Other Points of View, 4 December 2011, http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2011/12/assessing-medvedevs-presidential-legacy.html

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SAVCHENKO: FROM NATIONALIST HERO TO TERRORIST. Nadya Savchenko, one-time hero of the oligarchic-ultranationalist Ukrainian regime after being captured by Russian forces during the Donbass war and then released to return home, has been accused by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General of planning a terrorist attack. The alleged and doubtfully existing plot is said to have envisaged bombing Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkovna Rada, and then shooting those parliamentarians who survived. When called for interrogation, Savchenko gave a brief press conference outside the building of the SBU, a successor organization of the Soviet KGB, and said that during the Maidan uprising on 20 February 2014, the day of the infamous snipers’ massacre, she saw present Rada speaker and ultra-nationalist Andriy Parubiy leading a group of snipers into the Hotel Ukraine, which was under the Maidan demonstrators’ full control as the Maidan’s headquarters and from which numerous evidence shows numerous Maidan demonstrators were shot and killed or wounded (www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2018/03/15/7174663/; https://vesti-ukr.com/politika/281838-operatsija-savchenko-pochemu-ne-zaderzhat-nardepa; and https://vesti-ukr.com/politika/281746-bronezhilet-hrojsmana-ili-skolko-vesit-ljustra-v-rade). As I have documented in detail in my new book, Ukraine Over the Edge, and Ottawa University Professor Ivan Katchanovski has documented in even more detail, the snipers’ massacre was not ordered by then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, as the West claims. Nor was it perpetrated by the Berkut on Yanukovych’s orders, as the West claims, in league with Russian wet teams, as US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt strategically communicated. Rather, it was the work of ultra-nationalists among the Maidan demonstrators. Savchenko has run afoul of the hybrid oligarch-ultranationalist Maidan regime in Ukraine for supporting and pursuing peace talks with the Donbass rebels. She was not detained, despite allegedly having plotted a terrorist attack, indicating the Maidan regime or elements thereof are trying to pressure her in to giving up her efforts to establish direct peace talks with the separatist rebels. The regime has been rejecting talks for four years running. 

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About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, http://www.canalyt.com and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California, www.cetisresearch.org.

Dr. Hahn is the author of Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the ‘New Cold War (McFarland Publishers, 2017) and three previously and well-received books: Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction Publishers, 2002);  Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007); and The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media and has served as a consultant and provided expert testimony to the U.S. government.

Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia. He has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Kennan Institute in Washington DC as well as the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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About Gordon M. Hahn