Russia’s “Liberals” & the Crimea Question

Alexander Sytin writes on Facebook about Russia’s so-called “liberal” opposition and why they cannot and will not garner support among the population on their current trajectory.

For more than a year now, he begins, the Russian “liberals” have been discussing two questions:

“What will happen to Russia after Putin?” and “What should be done about the future fate of Crimea in this context?”

This latter question has become something of a political litmus test. Sytin compares it to the period of the Bolshevik revolution when the question was “are you for the Reds or the Whites?”

He says that he has no political ambitions and has no desire to place himself in any “political camp”. Most terms like “liberalism”, “democracy”, “communism”, and “fascism” are nothing more than “empty labels which have lost all meaning in our post-modern era…”

Nevertheless, Sytin continues, “I think that sovereignty and, therefore, the territorial integrity of Ukraine, has been recognized by the international community since the proclamation of its independence, [so] it should be fully restored.”

And whatever decision is made should be made locally and “…not by the unilateral will of the Kremlin.”

The only significant position is that of the Western governments who “are not inclined to accept the results of the “referendum” nor the accession of Crimea to Russia. Everything else is just words… demagoguery: “annexation,” “reunification”, “the restoration of historical justice”, all of these statements speak only of the position of the speaker – no more!”

And as for the first question, Sytin says, it is “…similar to the debates [between] the Westerners and Slavophiles during the reign of Nicholas I, [and] there is absolutely no sense [in it].”

“The liberal discourse today in Russia is not a question of change in Russia, [but rather] the integration of “leaders of liberalism” into the existing power structure, with Putin or not is a secondary question. They want to inherit / participate / privatize the system of government which was created in the last decade and a half.”

And they are not interested in a Russia “without its imperial component”. All they are interested in is a seat on the board of “Russia Inc.”

The reason Russians do not go out to protest is not because they are committed to the current group of elites, or even to the annexation of Crimea. In fact, nobody really cares about Crimea now except a few “frostbitten patriots”, and Kremlin propagandists. But people don’t take to the streets because they see no difference between what they currently have and what the so-called “liberal” opposition is offering them.

“This is implicitly felt by those representatives of the liberal party, who speak of the absence among them of a “moral authority”.”

And when Khodorkovsky is interviewed, he is always asked about Crimea.

“And he cannot answer this question, because it has no answer to the main eternal Russian question: who will be the successor, as well as what will be possible with this successor…”

The Kremlin really shot itself in the foot by incarcerating Khodorkovsky rather than letting him either go abroad like Gusinsky and Berezovsky, and let him reside there with them in relative obscurity. Or Sytin jokingly says that the Kremlin should have given Khodorkovsky a position in the government, and then blamed him for the economic crisis. But everybody still wants to talk about Crimea.

“Real democratic liberal opposition to the current Russian regime does not exist and I do not see any prerequisites for its appearance.”

It is possible to train the future leaders, but who would teach them? Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Alexei Kudrin? Then the Regime can rest easy because “with or without Putin it will exist forever.”

“What will the outcome of this whole situation be? There are two options, as Inozemtsev explains, either a more or less long period of decay followed by decomposition and the almost inevitable end of… [those currently in power] or defeat in a cold / hybrid / hot war (desired by the Kremlin). Therefore the only question that can replace the question of what will happen to Russia after Putin is: as a result of any sociopolitical, economic and temporary perturbations will the present regime give way to the new? In other words, what is the mechanism for the transfer of power from the current ruling elite to the new?”

And what should be done about Crimea? Sytin leaves that in the hands of the Ukrainians. They should take their case to international court and have it decided “at the highest level.”

“Claim that the sanctions regime cannot be reviewed every six months, but it will remain the same and subject to change only in being made stricter, as long as the territorial integrity of Ukraine is not fully restored.”

It also needs to be emphasized “…that the sanctions are not the result of the failure of some sort of the Minsk agreements, but a response to the aggressive policy of the Kremlin, posing a threat not only to Ukraine but also to the entire world order. Moscow says that the problem of Crimea is settled and closed? And exactly the same attitude should be in relation to the sanctions – the question of which is settled and closed.”

He concludes:

“I was asked to submit recommendations for a future mythical President of Russia about what to do about Crimea. The answer is simple: convene an international conference under which to issue the relevant procedural forms to return Crimea to Ukraine.”

After three months out from under the thumb of Russian domestic policy, the lives of peoples living in Crimea will improve, and nobody in Russia will even remember what happened.

As for Ukraine, they must do their part too. By ensuring some autonomy for the peninsula, and lustration (but not reprisals) will be necessary for the leaders of the “Crimean Spring”.

“At the same time, especially at first, it will be necessary to carefully monitor to ensure the path to power in the peninsula is firmly closed to Russian nationalist radicals.”

 

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