RUSSIA’S LONG ROAD TOWARD RESURGENCE

17.03.2018 

Russia in the 90’s

The modern day Russian Federation emerged after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Not only did this change the fate and the standard of life for millions of Soviet people but it also changed the trajectory of development for all mankind. In the first few years of the newly created Russia, the “team of democrats”, with active support from Western countries began its shock economic reforms.

The declared goal of these reforms was to liberalize the Russian [centrally-planned] economy by transitioning it to a market economy. Meanwhile, many believes that the real goal was the seizure of former Soviet property by the “new power holders” and the dismantling of the Soviet industrial economy.

When USSR collapsed, a relatively small group of individuals acquired ownership of tens of trillions of dollars [through a rapid onset of privatization]. Losses suffered by the Soviet production complex as a result of its planned destruction were much higher.

Modern factories were dismantled and exported to scrap metal, machines and equipment were sold for a symbolic 3-5% of their real value, inventory was stolen and all of this was carried out under direct orders or control of the new ruling elite. The territories of the former USSR faced economic and social chaos. The World Bank estimates that only 1.5% of Russia’s population lived in poverty in 1988, but by the mid-1993 that number rose to 39% to 49%. In many regions, people came close to starvation. Wages were paid through goods not money. The resulting hyperinflation reached its peak in the fall of 1992, when retail prices for food and cigarettes increased daily, sometimes multiple times a day.

The main anti-inflationary measure was a further reduction of the monetary supply. This came at the cost of unpaid wages and pensions, unfulfilled government and private contracts. A significant number of enterprises started bartering services.

It is important to note that the goals and methods of economic policies employed by the authorities in the 1990s were formed strictly on the basis of instructions of international financial organizations, primarily the IMF.

Crime flourished. Banditry and racketeering were firmly embedded into everyday life of Russia in the 90’s. Criminal behavior became fashionable.  Law enforcement agencies were not able to deal with these new phenomena in any effective way. Various sects and criminal activity spread rapidly.

Another phenomenon that received direct support from external sources was aggressive separatism and nationalist extremism. By 1992, a bandit formation was formed on the territory of one of Russian regions, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The actions of the federal center, before the First Chechen campaign in December 1994, demonstrate that this formation likely appeared with the consent and support from the new “liberal team” that established itself in Moscow.

The presence this black hole and territorial anarchy allowed for massive collusions and schemes throughout Russia. It gave rise to abductions and human trafficking, large-scale theft of petroleum products, drug trafficking, arms trade and much more.

Thus, in 1993-1994, more than 700 trains were attacked on the Grozny branch of the North Caucasian Railway with the total or partial looting of about 6,000 wagons and containers worth more than 22.5 billion rubles. Production of false remittance advices was an emerging new craft, which earned more than 4 trillion rubles. During this period of 1992-1994, about 1800 people were kidnapped and illegally detained in order to obtain ransom in Chechnya. Until 1994, Russian oil continued to flow to Chechnya, while it was not paid for and resold abroad. At the same time, the federal center continued to transfer money to Chechnya from its budget. In 1993, 11.5 billion rubles were allocated to Chechnya.

The change in the trajectory of Russia’s development

In mid and second half of the 1990s, negative events in Russia continued to develop in virtually all sectors of everyday life.

Significant percentage if not most of senior officials were incompetent or corrupt. IMF and the so called “macroeconomic policy and reform advisors” continued a very precise external destructive influence. Moscow was flooded with various “financiers and businessmen” from the United States, Israel and countries of Western Europe with questionable enterprises. The state debt kept growing, production was falling, imbalance in trade increased, monetization of the economy sharply reduced, and a financial pyramid of state treasury obligations emerged.

Background: At the beginning of the reforms in 1991, the monetary supply was 66.4% of GDP, which was consistent with global practice. As of June 1, 1998, the money supply was only 13.7% of GDP for 1997.

All of this lead to the most difficult time for Russia, the “Crisis of 1998”. The situation was further aggravated by the fall of raw material prices in the world and the economic crisis that occurred a year earlier in South-East Asia.

Oil prices (BRENT) fell almost 2-fold, from about 24 dollars per barrel in early 1997 to about 10.5 dollars per barrel by November-December 1998. By the way, it was the IMF who was accused at that time by the national governments in provoking the Asian crisis and the consequences for the global economy.

As a result, in August 1998, the situation in Russian economy became critical. The IMF and the World Bank refused to fulfill their earlier obligations and refused to extend any more loans. On August 17, 1998 the government declared a technical default. At the same time, it was announced that the ruble will not be stabilized against the dollar, the ruble immediately depreciated by a factor of 3.

In September 1998 there was a change of government. Primakov becomes the new Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. Primakov was a former diplomat and intelligence officer who negatively treated those whom he called “pseudo-liberals” and “persons dependent on certain banking structures.” Maslyukov, a former experienced Soviet executive manager, becomes the first deputy chairman. This new government takes extraordinary measures: economic policy changes, reduction of tariffs, value-added tax on food is reduced, and the default is overcome.

Background: By the time Primakov assumed government, the debt of enterprises and organizations to the budget was 50 billion rubles, and the budget debt to enterprises amounted to 150 billion rubles. Debts also accumulated between the enterprises themselves. Federal authorities demanded cash-only payments. Direct clearing settlements were banned in accordance with the recommendations of the IMF i.e. For one side to repay its debt to another, it had to use cash, as did the other side. However, recall that by this time the Russian economy was deliberately demonetized. The volume of monetary supply was reduced by 4-5 times below the average level of other governments of the world. This meant that there was no money and repayment of debt was practically impossible. This promoted a furtherance of debt with respect to wages, pensions, and taxes, lack of capital and other negative phenomena. All of this was done under direct control and through recommendations of the IMF and international advisers. Primakov’s government, contrary to recommendations of the IMF and prior practice, initiated mutual settlements between government and enterprises. At the outset, it allowed to liberate 50 billion rubles.

Almost everything was done in direct contrast to the recommendations of the IMF. It is here, in this moment, that the history of Russia took a turn. The country persevered. Major structural changes in economics took place, there was a rise in economic efficiency of export, and industry began to show signs of recovery. The crisis turned out to be difficult, but short-lived. It is interesting that under Yevgeny Primakov, the thesis about the need to defend the national interests of Russia, became a constant theme in the speeches of both the minster and his subordinates.

It was in the spring and summer of 1998 that the young politician Vladimir Putin’s influence in Kremlin sharply increased. On May 25, 1998 he was appointed first deputy head of the presidential administration of the Russian Federation, responsible for working with the regions. After 2 months, on July 25, 1998, he became director of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.

The 1998 crisis was the signal and the first wakeup call for the new Russian elites, whose interests were directly tied with the territory and potential of the Russian Federation as a state i.e. those who controlled mineral resources, the military-industrial complex, metallurgy and industry. For these elites, preservation of their newly acquired capital and effective influence was only possible in conditions of the preservation and development of the state as a system-forming factor.

Accordingly, they began a search for a “new leader”, one capable of changing the current situation and ensuring national interests of the state and this part of the elite. At the same time, the new leader had to emerge in Kremlin not as a revolutionary, but through a soft transfer of power with subsequent democratic legitimization. Accordingly, they were choosing the best candidate from those who surrounded president Yeltsin at that moment. Yeltsin’s deteriorating health contributed to this “soft” scenario but the president’s associates, the so called “family” opposed it.

Background: The “family” are relatives and the closest associate of President Yeltsin who controlled all of Yeltsin’s direct contacts with other statesmen and elites. Famous representatives of the family were: Yeltsin’s daughter, Berezovsky, Diatchenko, Voloshin, Korzhakov and others. Many members of the so-called “family” were connected with international financial capital.

The other part of the Russian elite that formed in the 90’s, was comprised, for the most part, of those who acquired speculative financial capital, having established strong ties with the “international financial community”.

They began to act as agents for international interests on the territory of the former USSR and perceived themselves as part of the world oligarchy. These elites sought to maintain the status quo in Russia through control and influence on Yeltsin’s family and his closest associates. They also understood that Yeltsin’s health was a matter of serious concern and actively engaged in the analysis of candidates for possible successors. For them, the main task that Yeltsin’s successor was supposed to provide – was their personal immunity and carte blanche for further operations on the territory of Russia.

There was a conflict between these two competing interests. At the same time, President Yeltsin, despite, to put it mildly, his ambiguous role in the history of Russia, was well aware of the threats and challenges, facing the government as well as the destructive role of a number of individuals in his environment.

Exactly one year after the 1998 crisis, the Second Chechen War began. On August 7, 1999, a large detachment of militants, supported by Al Qaida, invaded Dagestan (a constituent entity of the Russian Federation).  Two days later, on August 9, 1999 Vladimir Putin was appointed as an acting Prime Minister and lead the operation against the militants. In September, 1999 about 8,000 militants operated in Dagestan. However, as early as September 15, 1999 the entire territory of Dagestan was liberated from militants, and on September 30, 1999 federal troops were stationed on the territory of Chechnya. The second Chechen campaign begins.

By the new year of 2000, significant successes of the federal troops and local forces that supported Moscow were already evident. These successes were not only military but also political.

On December 31, 1999 Yeltsin announces his early resignation and the appointment of the young and popular prime minister Putin to the post of Acting President.

Against the backdrop of the chaos of the 1990s, the restoration of the territorial integrity of the state and the economic recovery that begins, bring Putin an unconditional victory in the March 2000 elections. He becomes the second president of Russia. In April 2000, the active phase of the campaign in Chechnya comes to an end.

It seems that Putin was perceived by Yeltsin not only as an energetic politician of a conditionally “patriotic bloc”, but also as a compromise figure for elite groups. At the same time, apparently, Yeltsin was confident that Putin would at least keep his promise to ensure personal immunity to Yeltsin and his family.

The Putin Era: Forming New Russia

Immediately after assuming office, the new president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin faced many critical challenges, both to the Russian state and to himself personally, as an individual who sought to strengthen the “power vertical” and approach the problem of national development in a more systematic way.

Those with financial power sought to maintain their influence on the political decision-making processes. A significant part of the Russian oligarchy was conducive to the conditions of the 1990: a weak centralized authority, high level of corruption among official, legislative and judicial practices that ensured their personal interests.

At the same time, the Russian Federation had an enormous foreign debt. As of January 1, 2000, the external public debt of the Russian Federation was $158 billion, with the annual GDP (in current USD) of only $259 billion. Federal budget revenue in 2000 was 1,132 billion rubles, or only $40.48 billion USD.

The national tax system, while having nominally high tax rates, allowed big business to evade the tax burden through the use of offshores, legal loopholes, and a shadow economy. During this period there was no tax on extraction of natural resources by mining firms.

Excise taxes were set at a level of .7 to 2 dollars per ton of oil, depending on the enterprise, which was less than 1% of the market value of oil in the world at the time. Other mineral extraction fees were set even lower. The relatively high, income tax rate of 35% was easily bypassed by using a variety of schemes. For example, firms entered into contracts with their own subsidiaries registered in tax havens, and then sold oil at market prices using offshores, where all the profits were stored.

At the same time, the general level of taxation was overestimated. This was the reason for massive tax evasion by many companies.

That is why Vladimir Putin undertook to reform the tax system soon after his election as president in 2000. Overall, the tax reforms of 2000-2004 were successful. One of the most important events for Russia’s economy and its subsequent growth was the introduction of a mineral extraction tax (MET) on January 1, 2002.

Background: The tax rate for crude oil was set in absolute terms (in rubles per ton of extracted oil) and was applied using two coefficients calculated according to certain formulas. The first of these coefficients characterized the level of internasal world oil prices.  The second, introduced in 2007, characterized the degree of depletion of a specific oil deposit.

The introduction of MET and a highly progressive oil export tariff scale in 2002-2004 dramatically increased the fiscal efficiency of the tax system and led to a radical redistribution of revenues generated by the oil sector in favor of the state.

As the calculations on the total tax burden on the oil sector show, the share of taxes in the gross income of the oil sector increased from 28.1% in 2000 to 63.1% in 2008.

As a result of the reforms, by 2004 federal budget revenues increased 2.4 times compared to 2000, and by 2007 more than 6 times. Russia’s foreign debt, in contrast, fell to $121.7 billion by 2004, and by 2007 to $52 billion.

Background: In August 2006, Russia managed to fully pay off Soviet-era debts to the Paris Club member countries. This was preceded by several rounds of complex negotiations: not everyone wanted to lose out on income generated from interest on the loan. This meant that Russia had to pay a 1 billion euro fine. Nevertheless, these early pay offs allowed Russia to save $7.7 billion. Moreover, this allowed Russia to become a creditor instead of being a debtor state.

Putin’s actions to reform the economy, strengthen the vertical of power and the rule of law provoked active resistance from a significant part of the oligarchy, those who can be called the “supranational elites.” These oligarchs were supported by Western leaders and media. A struggle with them took place under the guise of traditional democratic and liberal slogans.

In February 2000, the first of these oligarchs, Gusinskiy, was arrested. A number of other oligarchs, as well as US president Bill Clinton and Israeli Politician Shimon Peres, immediately jumped to his defense. Gusinskiy was released from custody and hid in Spain.

In December 2000, another odious oligarch, Boris Berezovskiy emigrated to London without waiting for the results of the investigation into the “Aeroflot case”.

Background: The ‘Aeroflot case” was a criminal investigation and litigation concerning the embezzlement of funds owned by Aeroflot, and the appropriation of free foreign currency funds of the airline in the amount of 252 million dollars, by the Swiss firm Andava, the main shareholders of which were the top managers of Aeroflot and Boris Berezovsky.

Further, in the first half of 2002, a series of articles appeared in the European press incriminating the leaders of another Russian company, Yukos, of money laundering. These articles were provoked by the French tax police who discovered Swiss bank accounts through which hundreds of millions of dollars have passed. In Russia itself, YUKOS was accused of tax evasion, undervaluation of its taxable worth, and the sale of petroleum through phony intermediaries.

Against this background and in the run-up to the 2004 elections, Mr. Khodorkovsky, the main owner of the Yukos company, begins to oppose Putin, with direct support of the US and the Israeli establishment. Khodorkovskiy, with the help of former intelligence and security services officials, creates the Open Russia civic organization, attempts to seize information channels, conducts active and largely successful liberal propaganda campaigns aimed at the youth, with particular emphasis put on Russian regions, and finances opposition parties. However, Putin’s popularity is very high. He is backed by the majority of the national elites and by the “power ministries.” Everyone clearly remembers the chaos of the 1990s.

Khodorkovskiy commits strategic errors, demonstrates his lack of understanding of Russia’s society, and in the end demonstrates his inability to influence Russia’s political processes. During the March 2004 elections, Vladimir Putin scores an overwhelming victory with 71.31% of the vote.

In 2004, Russian-U.S. relations deteriorate. Earlier, in early 2003, Russia took a tough stance on US intervention in Iraq. At the end of 2004, the situation in the relationship is aggravated by the interference of the US and Western countries in the political crisis in Ukraine. In December 2004, Congressman Ron Paul stated that the US government sponsored the presidential campaign of the leader of the Ukrainian opposition.

After the statements of Ron Paul and L. Kraner, the head of the press service of the US President, Scott McClellan, officially confirmed that over the last two years the US spent about $ 65 million “on the development of democracy” in Ukraine.

Disgraced Russian oligarchs also actively participated in the financing of events in Ukraine. According to Forbes investigation, Berizovsky alone, spent more than $ 70 million to support the “orange revolution”.

With time, Russian-U.S. relation deteriorate further. On May 4, 2006, while in Vilnius, Vice-President Richard Cheney, delivered a speech that many now call “Vilnius”, following the example of Fulton’s Churchill speech. According to Cheney, the US is not satisfied with “the use of Russia’s mineral resources as a foreign policy weapon pressure, violation of human rights in Russia and the destructive actions of Russia in the international arena.” It is important to note that the turn of the US policy towards the Russian Federation took place long before the war in Libya in 2011 and the Crimean events of 2014.

Background: The US Vice President openly expressed his displeasure that many countries receive Russian mineral resources at prices well below market prices. For example, until 2005, Ukraine bought Russian gas for only $50 per thousand cubic meters. This was a price set out in the intergovernmental agreement meant to last until 2019. After the first “orange revolution” inspired by the West in Ukraine in 2005, the new Ukrainian government unilaterally broke this agreement, and started purchasing gas at market price. By 2009 the price of gas in Ukraine is $360 per thousand cubic meters. The profitability of the remaining industrial Ukrainian enterprises falls rapidly and tariffs for the population significantly increase.

Apparently, it was during this period that the American establishment and financial elites, who were interested in Russia’s natural resources, decide to pursue a strategy of uncompromising confrontation in order to change the political trajectory of Russia’s development, oust the post-soviet changes and balkanize the state. That is, they seek to complete the goal that did not work out in the late 90’s.

In August 2008, a new round of confrontation between Russia and the United States was caused by invasion of the Georgian troops into South Ossetia. Russia cleared this “unrecognized” territory, which by that point was almost fully captured by the Georgian army. Afterwards, Russia officially recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

In domestic politics, Putin’s second presidential term, from 2004 to 2008, is characterized by the continuation of reforms. In September 2005, the implementation of the “National Projects” was launched in Russia to resolve the most urgent social problems: health care, education, housing policy and agriculture. 6 billion dollars were allocated towards these programs.

Enforcement systems are also enhanced. In fact, during this period, organized crime stops being a factor that significantly influences Russian society.

At the same time, many measures were half-hearted. The level of corruption in the state apparatus remained high. The society expected radical changes that did not happen. On the one hand, the population experienced an increase in income, on the other hand, there is a growing stratification of society. It is impossible to form a new national idea and cultural strategy that the population can adopt. The new elite, including the supreme bureaucracy, grew and increased its power and influence on political decision making. The judicial system remained imperfect. Lawmaking was not effective enough and trailed behind the executive.

Same tendencies are seen during the presidential term of Dmitry Medvedev, from 2008-2012. During this period, Russia faced the problem of obsolescence of production capacities that remained from the Soviet era. Modernization of Russian economy became the main task of the new president.

It should be noted that despite numerous problems, high level of corruption and ineffectiveness of many initiatives, modernization and reindustrialization of the Russian economy has borne fruit.

The country managed to maintain its positions in traditionally strong sectors of the economy: in the military-industrial complex, mining, and science and technology sectors, even during the financial crisis of 2008 which took a hard hit at the economy.

Background: According to the World Bank, Russian crisis of 2008 “began as a crisis of the private sector, provoked by excessive borrowing in conditions of a major triple shock – terms of trade, capital outflows, and tight external borrowing.

However, by the second half of 2009, the country overcame its economic recession. In the third and fourth quarters of that year, Russia’s GDP growth, taking into account seasonality, was 1.1% and 1.9% respectively.

In 2012, during the next presidential election, Vladimir Putin wins again, gaining 63.6% of the vote. Putin and Medvedev switch roles, with the latter becoming prime minister.

Elections take place under difficult circumstances. Russia’s system of government is structured in such a way where all decision-making powers are tied to the president and his administration. Therefore, despite the fact that during Medvedev’s rule, Putin continued to remain unofficial leader, Putin, as a Prime Minister, had very few instruments of operational control compared to the president. Medvedev in turn, was a political figure that was more liberal, soft and subject to influence.  Many experts associate this personal characteristic of his with an insufficiently quick reaction during the South Ossetian conflict.

At the start of the conflict, Premier Putin was in Beijing at the 2008 Olympics and Russian troops began operations in South Ossetia only after his return to the country, that is, at least 2 days later than they could have.

In the political sphere, during Medvedev’s presidency, some liberalization is observed. Up to a point where pro-western opposition forces, which openly declared their goal of changing the country’s constitutional system, receive grants and subsidies from government sources. This could be the reason why various representatives of the opposition, supported by outside forces had decided that they had a chance to seize power. This was further facilitated by a recession in the economy, a decline in the power vertical and increasing confrontation with the U.S.

Opposition received generous support from varied pro-western foundations through the employees of the Georgian, Polish, and Baltic special services.

At the end of 2011 and the start of 2012, there are massive rallies of the opposition. Protests unite very different political movements that can be separated into two parts: Ultra right and ultra left radicals and liberals, including representatives of sexual minorities. The leaders of these protests took all possible measures and methods of “color revolutions”. Media distorted information, by multiplying the number of protestors, providing disinformation about the actions of authorities with respect to the protests, inciting hysteria and an atmosphere of fear. Western media ran fake news stories.

For instance, Fox News provided video coverage of protests in Moscow on December 7, 2011, by showing violent acts such as arson. This footage was actually taken in the Greek capital of Athens during nationwide protests in Greece.

The protests did not receive any widespread distribution or public support. Even in Moscow where the opposition sources were concentrated, the largest protests collected no more than 40 thousand people with a population of 12 million (0.3%). In other Russian cities, protests were much more modest ranging from a few hundred to 2 thousand people.

Meanwhile, public leaders of oppositions fully demonstrated their negative qualities both personally and professionally: extreme egoism, hypocrisy, cowardice, inability to consolidate or engage in mutual compromise. Segregation and discriminatory rhetoric became the norm for the leaders of the protests.

They divided the population into the “creative class” which was a small group of people that had liberal views. The rest were considered “cattle”, who were denied the ability to fully exercise their rights.

These events allowed Kremlin’s political advisers to adopt the idea that manifesting real shady faces of the Russian liberal opposition’ leaders is the best method of ensuring support for the ruling regime. The wave of protests was failing by the end of 2012.

Modern Russia

The electorate expected the new “old” president to focus on reforming the state apparatus, the process of elite formation, elimination of clans within the government, genuine battle against corruption, and economic development.

Protectionism and the merger between the new economic elite with the bureaucracy was visible at every level of society. It became a critical problem that delayed the country’s development. The courts were ineffective, many criminal cases concerning corruption, negligence, and abuse of authority never resulted in sentences, and those punishments that were meted our were remarkably mild.

In July 2012, the Krasnodar Kray in southern Russia experienced a flood that killed 172 people. The overall number of victims reached almost 35 thousand. These consequences were the result of incompetence and idleness of local and regional authorities. Planned measures to protect the territory against flood that should have been implemented in the previous decade were not implemented. No alert about the looming menace was issued.

Even more severe damage was avoided only thanks to a timely response by Russia’s EMERCOM, the participation of numerous volunteers in dealing with the flood, and the president’s personal involvement in the process. In spite of the impact on the public opinion and the evidence of negligence by officials, only a few local officials were ever convicted.

Background: Only three local officials were sentenced to imprisonment in penal colonies. According to Russian law, such colonies have no guard force, only supervision by colony administration. They enjoy free movement throughout colony territory between the wake-up and reveille, and can leave the colony without supervision if the administration permits it. The convicts could be allowed to live together with their families not only on colony territory but outside it as well. They could have money on their person, wear ordinary clothing, etc.

During that same 2012, another corruption scandal broke out. Since 2007, the country’s defense minister was a civilian official with education in economics, Anatoliy Serdyukov, who was appointed to carry out “long overdue reforms within Russia’s MOD.” Russia’s military operations during the 2008 conflict with Georgia revealed a mass of problems related to troop command systems, obsolete weapons, equipment, and communications.

However, Serdyukov teams actions, particularly those related to the so-called “optimization” of MOD’s property holdings, the closure of military academies and the destruction of the military health care system, caused growing astonishment within the majority of experts and career soldiers. On top of that, Serdyukov deliberately replaced the top leadership of the MOD, appointing civilian specialists from the private sector in the place of career soldiers.

Background: By 2011, out of 10 Deputy Defense Ministers, only two were military, including the Chief of the General Staff.

In the fall of 2012, Russian investigative agencies discovered large-scale embezzlement at the MOD and the linked Oboronservis commercial entity. Financial losses were estimated at no less than $100 million, resulting in criminal cases launched against almost 20 individuals, many of whom were close to Serdyukov.

After many inspections and a lengthy investigation that lasted for over a year, Serdyukov was also formally charged with negligence. However, in February 2014 the Main Military Investigative Directorate of the Russian Investigative Committee decided to cease investigating Serdyukov since he was covered by the amnesty issued on the 20thanniversary of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Other key individuals named in the corruption scandal received insignificant prison terms.

Background: The main defendant in the corruption scandal, the former MOD Property Department head E. Vasilyeva was sentenced to 5 years in prison, but spent only 3 months there.

Nevertheless, the corruption scandal led to far-reaching changes, at least in the MOD. The new minister became Army General Sergey Shoygu, who earlier headed the EMERCOM. Shoygu’s appointment was greeted with enthusiasm by the Russian military. The previous leadership’s military reforms were reviewed and swiftly corrected.

Background: On May 22, 2013, Defense Minister Shoygu listed Serdyukov’s greatest errors. Among them was the closure of several academies and the reduction of the number of cadets at the remaining ones which caused a shortage of military specialists in troop units and in the navy, the elimination of military medicine system, the collapse of defense orders, belated signing of contracts with defense enterprises.

It is under Shoygu’s leadership that Russia’s continued and modified military reforms continued, thanks to which the Russian military assumed a “new look” within only a few years. At the same time, it has been argued that the success of recent reforms owes a great deal to the unpopular measures undertaken during the Serdyukov era.

In foreign policy, after Putin’s return to Kremlin, the state system stabilized which lead to a deterioration of relations with the United States and their satellites in Europe. US officials publicly called Putin’s victory “a loss of democracy,” in fact considering it a threat to the next phase of the US global expansion. The characteristic features behind the American establishment became quite obvious: they wanted an unstable state, an economy that is easily controlled by the world bank capital and MNC and degrading population, in effect a colony which would be sold as a “true democratic Russia”.

In any other case, Russia was a threat to “the whole civilized world”. However, in the information space, Western propaganda found nothing better than to resume the use of and to strengthen its traditional narratives.

However, the world was already different. There was disappointment with the consequences of the “Arab Spring” and there was an increasing amount of questions about the real role of the Western elites in world conflicts. It was during this period that the audience began to lose their confidence in the mainstream media (MSM).

Background: The western media’s coverage of the 2008-armed conflict in South Ossetia became one of the turning points in discrediting the MSM. During the conflict and immediately after its termination, MSM accused Russia of aggression and unprovoked invasion of a territory belonging to a sovereign state. The facts, testimonies, and eyewitness reports were hushed or deliberately distorted. The United States and its allies also accused Russia of aggression. However, as early as 2009, an international commission responsible for investigating the circumstances of the war of 2008 in the South Caucasus region, concluded, with irrefutable evidence that the armed conflict was provoked by Georgia. The West did not, in turn, consider it necessary to condemn the Georgian aggression.

The Kremlin immediately took advantage of this, both within the country and in the global information space. In late 2012, the well-known television channel, Russia Today expanded its capacity and moved to a new building. In 2013, state financing of this channel increased many times. It is interesting to note that in the broad strata of Russian society in the period 2012-2013, the words “liberal”, “universal values”, “the entire civilized world” received negative-abusive connotations.

2012-2014 became the period that determined the course of the world in subsequent years. The conflict in the Middle East became worse and ISIS appeared. At that time, instead of actively preventing terrorists from consolidating themselves on the territory of Syria and Iraq, the US and the EU tried to use that political moment to shift the legitimate government of Syria and to secure a geopolitical foothold in the region. In practice, they actually helped to strengthen terrorist quasi-state entities in the territory of Syria and Iraq. Similarly, the West began to operate in Ukraine, where in autumn of 2013 the political crisis began.

Background: The crisis in Ukraine (2013-2014) is a political crisis caused by the decision of the Ukrainian government to suspend the process of signing the Association Agreement with the European Union. This caused massive protests in Kiev and a number of other cities in Ukraine, which were supported and coordinated by the West. These protests grew into street riots and armed clashes with the forces of law and order.

Events in Ukraine moved rapidly from organized protests to unrest. As a result of political deception that took place under the guise of Western “intermediaries” who acted as guarantors on the part of the opposition, the president of Ukraine made concessions and fulfilled the basic demands of the protesters. However, the opposition, using the withdrawal of law enforcement forces as an opportunity, seized government buildings, and an unconstitutional coup took place.

Background: Putin commented on the events of the winter of 2014: “We were approached by our American partners, they asked us to do everything, almost literally a direct request that Yanukovych avoid using the army, so that the opposition can clear the plazas and administrative buildings and move on to implement the agreements that were reached to normalize the situation”. The President noted that the Russian Federation agreed to help the US, but a day later a coup d’état was carried out in Kiev. “They should have said something. There is a term “excess of actions”, we did not want the coup to happen, but this is how the events developed. We did everything to normalize the situation. There was not one word against those who committed a coup d’etait, on the contrary, they had full support.

The West, once again, bet on the radical nationalists and the oligarchic circles, who seized power in Ukraine. A routine practice of using “unknown snipers” and creating sacred sacrifices, named by the Ukrainian media as the Heavenly Hundred, was also used. That situation caused a backlash in the south and east of the country, where a wave of protests, under federalist and pro-Russian slogans, arose against the actions of the ultra-right nationalist organizations and in defence of the status of the Russian language. The new Kiev government began to actively apply force. They sent armed nationalists to the various regions, providing them with complete freedom of actions without any consequence from law enforcement agencies.

Background: On February 20, 2014, in the Cherkassy region of Ukraine, eight buses filled with Crimeans, who participated in rallies against the coup, were attacked. The busses were stopped by groups of armed supporters of Maidan, four buses were burned, people were beaten, and sustained fractures, burns, craniocerebral injuries and were subjected to mockery. About 30 Crimean residents went missing and at least 7 were killed.

During this time, nationalists from the western regions of Ukraine began to infiltrate the territory of Crimea in order to consolidate the anti-Russian forces and provoke a civil conflict.

There were murders, abductions of dissenters, seizure of administrative buildings. With this in mind, local authorities in the Crimea changed the executive bodies of power. The new Crimean authorities refused to recognize the legitimacy of the coup and turned to Russia for support.

Background: On February 27, Russia moved to active operations in Crimea. Over the next few weeks, independence of Crimea was proclaimed, a referendum was held on its status and Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation. In the east of Ukraine, where Russia has not moved to active action, civil confrontation gradually developed to an armed conflict, and the slogans of the federalization of Ukraine have been replaced by the requirements of the independence of the regions. To suppress anti-government speeches, the Ukrainian leadership announced the beginning of a military operation in mid-April. Civil war broke out.

Events in Ukraine, the annexation of the Crimea and the civil conflict in the east of the country caused further confrontation between the West and Russia. The sanction war began. Both Russia and the West rendered direct support to opposing sides.

In fact, relations between the Russian Federation and the West began deteriorating to the state of the “cold war”. At the same time, the Kremlin does not take any active measures as it did with Crimea. It does not provide direct support to the pro-Russian population in Eastern and Southern regions on Ukraine, as it was done for residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. As a result, the new Kiev regime is given a carte blance for actions in other dissenting regions like Kharkov, Odessa and Kherson. Ultra-nationalist formations are introduced into these regions and law enforcement personnel are replaced by people from the west and centre of the country.

Political repressions and mass arrets begin. Total control over information space is established. These measures prove to be effective. Moscow loses its avenues of influence within Ukraine.

At the same time, the situation on Russia’s southern borders is growing more complex. ISIS successes in Iraq and Syria have spread radical ideas among the population of Central Asia and some southern regions of Russia. During the summer of 2015, ISIS included no fewer than 3,000 militants with Russian citizenship and another 2,500 citizens of Central Asian states. The leadership and command staff of ISIS special services and subunits consisted mainly of emigres from Northern Caucasus. Starting in 2015, having a command system and well developed propaganda outlets, ISIS intensified its recruitment on the territory of former USSR. Russian intelligence noted an upsurge of extremist activities on the country’s territory. This, and the prospect of loss of influence in Syria, the last place with Russian presence on the Mediterranean, led Russia’s leadership to provide military assistance to the government of Syria.

Background: On August 26, 2015, Russia and Syria entered into an Agreement on Stationing a Russian Armed Forces Aviation Group on Syrian Territory. Slightly later, in late September 2015, the land portion of Russia’s military operation in Syria began, which included special operations troops, artillery, combat engineers, and also an enlarged complement of instructors and advisors. According to some report, Russian military advisors were present in the ranks of SAA units operating on the most difficult sectors of the front already in the spring of 2015.

The Russian group of forces in Syria demonstrated its high effectiveness. Battlefield situation dramatically changed already in the first months.

In 2016, SAA went on the offensive on every key sector of the front. In the rear areas, Russian advisors and instructors facilitated the regrouping, rearmament, and training of Syrian forces. In late 2016, Syria’s second largest city, the strategically important Aleppo, returned under the control of government forces. By the end of 2017, government controlled the majority of Syria’s territory including Homs, Palmyra, Deir-es-Zor, and the outskirts of Aleppo. ISIS has ceased to exist as a quasi-state terrorist formation.

Since the start of operations in Syria, Russia encountered the opposition of the US and its allies, which from the start actively supported the armed opposition. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary in the Obama Administration, said that Russia aim was not fighting extremists but supporting the “Assad regime,” “while the rest of the world community…is cooperating with the US within the ranks of the anti-ISIS coalition in Syria which also fights against other extremists.” The US official’s term “world community” was an apparent reference to the 60-some countries in the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). However, during the previous two years, the US and the “world community” have failed to reconquer a single square meter from ISIS, not to mention “other extremists”. And they were also unable to achieve their main goal, the toppling of Assad.

The conflict in Syria in any event made the US-Russia relations even more complex. As part of its anti-Russia strategy, the West opted to continue and expand sanctions war that started in 2014 under the pretext of events in Ukraine. These measures had their results.

In particular, the limitations on access to world finance and international credit instruments were painful. Sanctions and the fall of energy prices were one of the causes of ruble devaluation in 2014. In August-October 2017, the ruble was the most rapidly falling currency out of 170.

Background: Sanctions were one of the reasons for the large-scale outflow of capital from Russia, which in the first 10 months of 2014 reached 110 billion dollars. On April 27, 2015, Vladimir Putin noted during e legislative council meeting that sanctions cost the Russian economy $160 billion.

2015 and the first half of 2016 were the most difficult for Russia’s economy. However, the West and its sanctions unwittingly helped drain the Russian bureaucratic swamp. Both the state apparatus and major corporations were forced to act. The food embargo was introduced as an answer to the sanctions already in 2014. The embargo had its greatest effect on the economy of Ukraine and Baltic States.

Background: The embargo was introduced in 3 phases: in 2014 on the EU, US, Australia, Canada, and Norway, in 2015 on Iceland, Liechtenstein, Albania, and Montenegro, in 2016 on Ukraine.

Positive consequences of the embargo in Russia include the significant increase in agricultural production and food processing. Negative ones include retail price increases of goods that fell under the embargo. In the first phase, food prices increased by 10%-25%. However, the annual 2016 food price inflation stood at 4.6%, and in 2017 it dropped to 1.1%.

Assessing the results of the sanctions war on various sectors of Russia’s economy as of early 2018, one could say that the embargo and sanctions overall had positive consequences, if not for the whole of the economy then at least for its manufacturing component. The national manufacturing sector finally experienced long-awaited and necessary changes which were not implemented since the break-up of USSR. One could also identify positive institutional changes in the military and space industries.

Background: Roskosmos head Oleg Ostapenko stated that “overall one can discern a positive impact of sanctions on our branch.” He added that new technological solutions are being implemented more rapidly, and likewise standardization measures are also carried out more swiftly.

The introduction of sanctions accelerated the process of import substitution in the space industry, which was already ongoing for several years. The Russian financial sector was forced to remember the lessons of late 1990s, in other words, how to operate under the conditions of an unfriendly international financial environment.

On the other hand, a number of Russian corporations, particularly in the fuel and energy sector, attempted to (and succeeded) to recoup their losses induced by sanctions and drop in energy prices using the budget and national reserve funds.

In the meantime, the Russian government continued to seek ways to reduce tensions. The victory of Donald Trump in presidential elections in November 2016 gave rise to hopes in Russia that bilateral relations would improve.

Background: On November 14, 2016, in the first phone conversation between President Putin and President-Elect Trump, the two speakers agreed that “the state of Russia-US relations is extremely unsatisfactory, and spoke in favor of active efforts to improve them and to work on constructive cooperation on a widest range of issues”.

Nevertheless, there has not occurred a single genuine summit meeting between the two countries in the first year after the election. Moreover, right after the election highly placed members of the Washington establishment accused Russia of meddling in the election and swaying its outcome.

Background: According to this version of events, “Russian secret services” organized a cyberattack on DNC servers and published email messages embarrassing to Hillary Clinton, and also used social media to manipulate US public opinion.

Limited Russian successes in propagating alternative points of view on international events using RT, Sputnik, and other instruments allowed the Washington establishment, with the help of mainstream media, to paint a picture of so-called “Russian propaganda” and to accuse Russia of unleashing a “hybrid war”.

Russia’s successes in this area were greatly exaggerated, as was the influence of Russian state media on the world audience, in order to increase budgets for “combating propaganda” and stepping up censorship of alternative media both in the US and the world at large. By 2018 this campaign acquired the character of mass hysteria.

Thus on January 10, 2018, Democratic senators published a 200 page report titled Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for US National Security, in an effort to push Trump toward harsher sanctions. The report called for creating a new global front against the “Russian threat”, including European allies.

Background: In the 2 years of investigating the so-called “Russian meddling”, not a single convincing fact or piece of evidence has been presented.

US-Russian relations are at their lowest point since Russian independence. On December 28, 2017, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced in a New York Times editorial:

“On Russia, we have no illusions about the regime we are dealing with. The United States today has a poor relationship with a resurgent Russia that has invaded its neighbors Georgia and Ukraine in the last decade and undermined the sovereignty of Western nations by meddling in our election and others’.” One should particularly note the use of the phrase “resurgent Russia”. Apparently the phenomenon of a “resurgent” Russia as a center of world power is behind the observed actions by the Capitol Hill establishment.

On March 13, 2018 the Secretary of State Tillerson who was not known for his love for Russia was replaced with a more aggressive individual, the CIA Director Mike Pompeo. His nomination was enthusiastically received by both the Democrats and the more hawkish Republicans.

Backgorund: “We hope Mr. Pompeo will turn a new leaf and strengthen our anti-Putin and anti-Russia policies,” said the Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer. For his part, the well-known GOP hawk Lindsey Graham emphasized that “one couldn’t pick a better person.”

Presidential Election 2018

By the time of its March 2018 presidential elections, Russia found itself in a complex situation. In spite of certain successes in overcoming crises and challenges posed by the sanctions war, Russia’s economy is continuing to experience difficulties.

Background: In the fourth quarter of 2017, Russia’s GDP growth dropped to an annualized rate of 1%, and during the entire 2017 Russia’s economy grew by about 1.5-1.6%, which is considerably lower than the Ministry of Economic Development September 2017 forecast of 2.1%.

Disposable incomes are not growing. Small and medium business is still hidebound by excessive bureaucracy. Conditions necessary for their development still do not exist. Financial sanctions, tight monetary and credit policy, low demand, and negative expectations have led to a shortage of private sector investments.

On the other hand, while two years ago the ruble exchange rate was tightly linked to world oil prices, that dependence has greatly decreased.

In 2015, the ruble-oil correlation was around 80%, by 2017 it dropped to about 30%. The record low inflation rate of 2.5% in 2017 stopped the rise in prices. In spite of the expanding sanctions, Russian assets such as the Russian state obligations, Eurobonds, and the ruble, continue to appreciate.

The state is stimulating the economy through investment in global infrastructure projects such as the Crimea Bridge, and the Power of Siberia gas pipeline.

Overall, the Russian economy is displaying a variety of trends, and the likelihood of a dramatic worsening is extremely low. The situation is more complicated when it comes to social relations.

During the entire period of existence of new Russia, the question of fighting corruption and clannishness has always remained a tool of political warfare. However, there were no systemic measures until 2016. Only in 2017 did the ruling team start to take systemic measures.

Background: In 2017, Russia adopted a range of measures to combat the growth of corruption. In December 2017, State Duma adopted after the third reading the law on a registry of officials who lost public trust and were discharged for bribery.

Several highly placed officials had criminal cases launched against them. The total sum of bribes uncovered in 2016 reach about $41 million, or about $18 million more than a year earlier. In 2017, that sum reached $120 million. This increase was not the result of its growth in corruption bur rather due to different approaches to combating it and heightened attention by law enforcement.

It is remarkable that in 2017 the number of launched corruption cases decreased by 11.2% by comparison in 2016, while the sum of bribes increased by almost a factor of 3. It indicates that the attention of law enforcement shifted from “petty” corruption to combating bribery among top officials.

Background: The sums mentioned refer only to cases concerning Article 290 of Russian Federation Criminal Code, Receiving Bribes.

Thus in 2016-17, individuals charged with bribery and arrested included the Minister of Economic Development Ulyukayev, several current and former regions heads, dozens of highly placed officials and managers of state enterprises.

At the same time, a significant portion of Russia’s population is skeptical, and believes that the law enforcement are using corruption for political and electoral reasons and are not touching people close to ruling clans.

This public perception was formed over the course of the last 2 decades and it obviously can’t be changed in a year or two. This has been effectively used by opposition figures. Opposition also has been using quite correct, given Russian realities, slogans of budget inefficiency, absence of social mobility among youth, problems in health care and education systems.

Nevertheless, due both to Vladimir Putin’s actual successes and to opposition composition and their views, it has not been able to select a competitive candidate for 2018 elections or propose a rational alternative development plan for Russia, acceptable to any sizable portion of the population. One also ought to distinguish the so-called “liberals” from among the opposition as a whole.

Background: Liberal oppositionists include mainly representatives of humanist and creative intelligentsia, some small and medium businessmen (mostly in retail, financial), IT and service sectors, a proportion of college students, and office workers in big cities, mainly Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, and Novosibirsk. Their electoral base does not exceed 5% of the population.

Rank and file oppositionists’ aspirations include positive changes in daily life, such as less bureaucracy, more entrepreneurship, an open society, in other words, creating a European model of democracy from the 1990s. Therefore, and traditionally, contemporary West is idealized. This has been effectively used by that part of Russia’s elite whose interests are tied to global financial capital and establishment and who see Russia as, at best, West’s raw materials base.

These individuals who call themselves leaders of protest opposition understand they lack broad popular support and can’t directly compete with Putin.

Background: All early March polls suggest Putin will win a decisive victory in the first round.

At the same time 2018 elections are perceived as a chance to change the direction of the country’s development and to use external forces to topple the “Putin regime”, up to and including a coup d’etat. Therefore they have chosen the tactic of attempting to discredit the elections as such. Already several weeks prior to the elections, the liberal media and the social media have launched a large-scale campaign promoting non-participation in the elections and, at the same time, accusing the government of planning mass forgeries.

The aim is to create the necessary image for MSM and “the entire world community” in order to continue the campaign to declare the elections illegitimate, with the support of external forces.

Background: For the last several years, media resources of “liberal opposition” have been focusing on youth aged 12-20 years. Most of that audience cannot yet take part in presidential elections, since the voting age is 18. This fact demonstrates that the opposition is not seeking to come to power using the existing elections process, but through discrediting the system and implementing a scenario resembling in some ways the Kiev Euro-Maidan or Arab Spring.

Moreover, the combination of “international support” and “illegitimate” elections results could be used both to launch street protests which would draw large numbers of 14-16 year old youths, in the hopes of creating images of “the bloody Putin regime beating children.”

Nevertheless, protests alone, even protests involving tens of thousands of participants will not be able to destabilize the existing Russian Federation state institutions. They would require assistance in the form of pressure by international crises, escalating instability close to Russian borders, or even a new theater of military confrontation or the threat of global war.

International crisis pressure would have to be based on several unrelated but major charges against Russia’s leaders. The British provocation in the form of “the Skripal poisoning” fits into this scenario perfectly, as does the alleged preparations by the Syrian government to use chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta, as do the provocations in eastern Ukraine. It is entirely possible that the world will see, during the 2-3 weeks immediately after the elections, several other improbably brazen anti-Russian provocations.

Even if they fail to damage Russia’s statehood, they will serve as an excuse to strengthen Russian sanctions in 2018, expand efforts against the so-called Russian propaganda and, most importantly, to significantly increase US defense spending as well as defense spending of several other NATO countries.

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Professor Stephen F. Cohen: Rethinking Putin – a review

[This analysis was written for the Unz Review]

I have recently had the pleasure of watching a short presentation by Professor Stephen F. Cohen entitled “Rethinking Putin” which he delivered on the annual Nation cruise on December 2, 2017 (see here for the original Nation Articleand original YouTube video). In his short presentation, Professor Cohen does a superb job explaining what Putin is *not* and that includes: (but, please do watch the original video before proceeding).

  1. He is not the man who de-democratized Russia (Elstin and the White House did)
  2. He is not the leader who created corruption and kleptocracy in Russia (Elstin and the White House did)
  3. He is not a criminal leader who ordered the murder of opponents or journalists (no evidence)
  4. He did not order the hacking of the DNC servers (no evidence)
  5. He was not anti-US or anti-West from the get-go (Putin changed over time)
  6. He is not a neo-Soviet leader (he is very critical of Lenin and Stalin)
  7. He is not an aggressive foreign policy leader (he has been a reactive leader)
  8. He is not somehow defined by his years at the KGB.

Professor Cohen ended his talk by suggesting a few things which might form a part of a future honest biography:

  1. As a young and inexperienced leader placed at the helm of a collapsing state:
  2. He rebuilt, stabilized and modernized Russia in a way to prevent future collapses
  3. He had to restore the “vertical” of power: “managed democracy” (i.e. restored order)
  4. He needed a consensual history patching up Czarist, Soviet and post-Soviet eras without imposing one, single, version of history
  5. He needed Western support to modernize the Russian economy
  6. He wanted Russia to be a great power, but not a super-power
  7. He never favored iron-curtain isolationism; he is an internationalist (more European than 90% of Russians, at least in the beginning).

The key thesis is this: Putin began as a pro-Western, European leader and with time he realigned himself with a much more traditional, Russian worldview. He is more in line with Russian voters today.

Professor Cohen concluded by addressing two topics which, I presume, his audience cared deeply about: he said that, contrary to Western propaganda, the so-called ‘anti-gay’ laws in Russia are no different from the laws of 13 US states. Secondly, that “by any reckoning, be it flourishing inside Russia or relations with Israel, by general consent of all, nobody denies this, Jews under Putin in Russia are better off than they had ever been in Russian history. Ever. They have more freedom, less official anti-Semitism, more protection, more official admiration for Israel, more interaction, more freedom to go back and forth”.

This is all very interesting important stuff, especially when delivered to a Left-Liberal-Progressive US audience (with, probably, a high percentage of Jews). Frankly, Professor Cohen’s presentation makes me think about what Galileo might have felt when he made his own “presentations” before the tribunal of Inquisition (Cohen’s articles and books are now also on the modern equivalent of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum). In truth, Professor Cohen is simply true to himself: he opposed the crazies during the old Cold War and now he is opposing the same crazies during the new Cold War. His entire life Professor Cohen was a man of truth, courage, and integrity – a peacemaker in the sense of the Beatitudes (Matt 5:9). So while I am not surprised by his courage, I am still immensely impressed by it. Some might think that delivering a short presentation on a cruise-ship is hardly a sign of great courage, but I would vehemently disagree. Yes, nobody would shoot Cohen in the back of the neck like, say, the Soviet ChK-GPU-NKVD would have done, but I submit that these methods of “enforcing” a single official consensus were far less effective than their modern equivalents: the conformity imposition techniques (see: Asch Conformity Experiment) so prevalent in the modern Western society. Just look at the results: there was far more reading and thinking (of any kind) going on in the Soviet society than there is today in the modern AngloZionist Empire (anybody who remembers the bad old USSR will confirm that to you). As one joke puts it: in a dictatorship, you are told to “shut up”, while in a democracy you are encouraged to “keep talking”. QED.

Turning to Professor Cohen’s talking points, numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 are basic facts. Nothing to be debated here – Cohen is plainly setting the factual record straight. Number 5 is much more interesting and controversial. For one thing, we are talking views/intentions, which are hard to judge. Was Putin ever pro-Western? Who knows? Maybe his closest friends know? My own belief is that this question must be looked at in combination of issue #8: Putin’s service in the KGB.

There is still a huge amount of misinformation about the old Soviet KGB in the West. To the average American a “KGB agent” is a guy called Vladimir, with steel gray-blue eyes, who beats up dissidents, steals Western technological secrets, and spies on the wives of politicians (and even beds them). He is a hardcore Communist who dreams about nuking or invading the USA and he speaks with a thick Russian accent. Alternatively, there is Anna Kushchenko (a.k.a. Anna Chapman) – a devious sex doll who seduces Western men into treason. These prototypes are as accurate as James Bond is an accurate representation of MI6. The reality could not be more different.

The Soviet KGB was first and foremost a huge bureaucracy with completely different, and separate, directorates, departments, and sections. Yes, one such Directorate did deal with dissidents and anti-Soviet activists (mainly the 9thDepartment of the 5th Directorate) but even within this (infamous) 5th Directorate there were some Departments which, in coordination with other KGB Directorates and Departments, dealt with more legitimate tasks such as, for example, the early detection of terrorist organizations (7th Department). Other Directorates of the KGB dealt with economic security (6th Directorate), internal security and counter-intelligence (2nd Directorate) or even protection of officials (9th Directorate).

Putin was an officer (not an “agent” – agents are recruited from outside the KGB!) of the First Main Directorate (PGU) of the KGB: foreign intelligence. Putin himself has recently revealed that he was working inside the most sensitive Department of the PGU, the “Department S” which are “illegals”. This is very important. The PGU was so separate from all the other Directorates of the KGB that it had its own headquarters in the south of Moscow. But even inside the PGU, the Department S was the most secret and separated from all the other PGU Departments (no less than 10). As somebody who has spent many years as an anti-Soviet activist and who has had personal, face to face, dealings with KGB officers (of various Directorates) I can confirm that not only did the KGB as a whole get some of the best and brightest in Russia, but the PGU got the best ones of those and only the very best ones from that select group ever made it to the legendary Department S. Now let’s look at what kind of skill-set was required from PGU officers in general (besides the obvious two: being very bright and very trustworthy).

First and foremost, a PGU officer has to be a top-notch specialist of his area of expertise (in Putin’s case: Germany, of course, but also the rest of Europe and, since Western Europe was – and still is – a US colony, the USA). While Soviet people were told that the West was the enemy, the PGU officers had to understand why and how the West was that enemy.

In practical terms, this implies not only knowing and understanding the official cultural, political, social and economic realities of the enemy’s polity, but also the real power relations inside that polity. Such an understanding is not only useful to approach and evaluate the potential usefulness of each person you interact with, but also to be able to understand in what environment this person has to operate. The notion of PGU officers being bigoted commies is laughable as these men, and women, were very well read (they had unlimited access to all the Western information sources, including anti-Soviet ones, classified reports, and all the anti-Soviet literature imaginable) and they were ultimate realists/pragmatists. Of course, like in any organization, the top leaders were often political appointees and the bureaucrats and counter-intelligence officers were much less sophisticated. But for officers like Putin to reallyunderstand the reality of the Western society was a vital skill.

Second, a good PGU officer had to be likable; very, very likable. Being liked by others is also a crucial skill for a good intelligence officer. In practical terms, this means that he/she has to not only understand what makes the other guy tick but how to influence him/her in the right direction. When dealing with ‘illegals’ that also meant being their best friend, confessor, moral support, guide and protector. You can’t do that if people don’t like you. So these intelligence officers are masters of being good friends and companions; they are good listeners and they know a lot about how to make you like them. They also understand exactly what you like to hear, what you want to see and what words and actions place you in a relaxed and trusting mode.

Now combine these two: you have a man who is top notch specialist of the West and who is superbly trained to be liked by Western people. How likely is it that this man had many illusions about the West, to begin with? And what if a man like that did have misgivings – would he have shown them?

My own gut feeling is that this is not very likely at all.

What is far more likely is this: Putin played the “West best’s friend” role for as long as possible and he dumped it when it was clearly not productive any longer. And yes, in doing that he did realign himself to the mainstream Russian public opinion. But that was just a useful side-effect, not the cause or the goal of that realignment.

Look at the Professor Cohen’s points 9-13 above (I would summarize them as “fix Russia”). They all make sense to me, even that “he was a young and inexperienced leader”. There is a huge difference between being a skilled PGU officer and being the man who rules over Russia. And even if Putin did lose some of his illusions, it would have been primarily because the West itself changed a great deal between the 1980s and the 2010s. But Putin must have indeed always known that to implement Cohen’s points 10-13 he needed the West’s help, or, if that was not possible, at least the West’s minimal interference/resistance. But to believe that a man who had full access to the real information about the two Chechen wars would have any kind of illusions left about the West’s real feelings about Russia is profoundly misguided. In fact, anybody living in Russia in the 1990s would have eventually come to the realization that the West wanted all Russians to be slaves, or, more accurately, and in the words of Senator McCain – “gas station” attendants. Putin himself said so when he declared, speaking about the USA,

they don’t want to humiliate us, they want to subjugate us. They want to solve their problems at our expense, they want to subordinate us to their influence“. Putin then added, “nobody in history has ever succeeded in doing this and nobody will ever succeed“.

First, I submit that Putin is absolutely correct in his understanding of the West’s goals. Second, I also submit that he did not suddenly “discover” this in 2014. I think that he knew it all along, but began openly saying so after the US-backed coup in the Ukraine. Furthermore, by 2014, Putin had already accomplished points 9-13 and he did not need the West as much anymore.

Now let’s look at points 6 (Putin’s view of the Soviet period), 12 (consensual history) and 14 (Russia as a great power but not a super-power). And again, let’s consider the fact that officers of the PGU had total access to any history books, secret archives, memoirs, etc. and that they were very free to speak in pragmatic analytical terms on all historical subjects with their teachers and colleagues. Here I submit that Putin had no more illusions about the Soviet past then he had about the West. The fact that he referred to the breakup of the Soviet Union (which, let’s remember, happened in a totally undemocratic way!) as a “catastrophe” which was “completely unnecessary does in no way imply that he was not acutely aware of all the horrors, tragedies, waste, corruption, degradation and general evil of the Soviet regime. All this shows is that he is also aware of the immense victories, achievements, and successes which also are part of the historical record of the Soviet era. Finally, and most importantly, it shows that he realizes what absolute disaster, a cataclysm of truly cosmic proportions the break-up of the Soviet Union represented for all the people of the former USSR and what an absolute nightmare it was for Russia to live a full decade as a subservient colony of Uncle Sam.

I am certain that Putin studied enough Hegel to understand that the horrors of the 1990s were the result of the internal contradictions of the Soviet era just as the Soviet era was the result of the internal contradictions of Czarist Russia. In plain English, this means that he fully understood the inherent dangers of empire and that he decided, along with the vast majority of Russians, that Russia ought to never become an empire again. A strong, respected and sovereign country? Yes. But an empire? Never again. No way!

This fundamental conclusion is also the key to Putin’s foreign policy: it is “reactive” by nature simply because it only acts in response to when (and what) something affects Russia. You could say that all “normal” nations are “reactive” because they have no business doing otherwise. Getting involved everywhere, in every fight or conflict, is what empires based on messianic ideologies do, not normal countries regardless of how big or powerful they are. For all the sick and paranoid hallucinations of Western Russophobes about a “resurgent Russia” the reality is that Russian diplomats have often mentioned what the goals of Russian foreign policies truly are: to turn enemies into neutrals, neutrals into partners, partners into friends and friends into allies. And this is why Professor Cohen is absolutely correct, Putin is no isolationist at all – he wants a new, multi-polar, international order of sovereign countries; not because he is a naïve wide-eyed idealist, but because this is what is pragmatically good for Russia and her people. You could say that Putin is a patriotic internationalist.

And now to the homosexuals and Jews. First, both assertions made by Professor Cohen are correct: homosexuals and Jews are doing great in modern Russia. I would even agree that they are doing better than ever before. Of course, both Professor Cohen and I are being factual and very superficial when we say that. And since I discussed both of these topics in some detail in the past (see here and here) I won’t discuss them here. Rather, I would simply state that in both cases we are talking about a rather small minority of whose treatment is, for some reason or other, considered as THE measure of humanity, kindness, civilization, and modernity in the West. Well, okay, to each his own. If in the West, the treatment of these two minorities is The One And Only Most Important Topic In The Universe – fine. I personally don’t care much (especially since I don’t feel that I owe any special consideration to either one of them). This being said, I would also claim that Putin’s number one concern is also not for any specific minority. However, and that is where this is indeed very interesting, his concern for the majority does not at all imply any kind of disregard or disrespect for the fundamental freedoms and rights of the minorities but includes his concern for all minorities (and, in this case, not just two minorities which are treated as “more equal than others”).

This is where various right-wingers and assorted Alt-Righters completely “lose” Putin. The very same Putin who told an assembly of Orthodox Jews in Moscow that 80-85% of Bolshevik leaders were Jews (see subtitled video here), the same Putin who crushed the (overwhelmingly Jewish) oligarchs of the Eltsin era as soon as he came to power, and the same Putin who completely ignored all the hysterics of Bibi Netanyahu about the Russian role in Syria is also the same Putin who went out of his way to protect Russian Jews inside Russia and who considers that Jews and Russians are forever joined in their common memory of the horrors of WWII.

[Sidebar: I personally wish that Russia would denounce Israel for what it is, an illegitimate racist rogue state hell-bent on genocide and expansion, but I don’t have relatives there. Neither am I the President of a country with very strong ties to the Russian-speaking Jewish communities worldwide. In my opinion, I am accountable to nobody else but my conscience and God, whereas Putin is accountable to those who elected him and still support him].

Guilt by association, the punishment of all for the actions of some, scapegoating, the vicious persecution of minorities in the name of some ideal – this has all been tried in the past, both in Russia and in the West. The Nazis did that and so did the Soviets. And both the Nazis and the Soviets inflicted untold horrors upon the many peoples of the Soviet Union and beyond. Putin is acutely aware of the dangers of nationalism, just as much as he is aware of the dangers of imperialism, and he said so many times: Russia cannot afford any more nationalistic conflicts as they almost completely destroyed Russia in the 1990s. Just look at modern Ukraine and you will see what a Russia torn apart by nationalist ideologies could have looked like had Putin not cracked down, hard, on various nationalists (including and mostly Russian ones).

Far from catering to (an admittedly powerful) Jewish lobby in Russia, Putin is, in fact, trying to assemble as many different peoples and minorities as possible to his project of a New Russia; and that project includes Russian Jews, not only for the sake of these Jews, but mainly for the sake of Russia. The same goes for another crucial minority in Russia – Muslims. They also very much form a key part of the project Putin has for Russia. Of course, racists, nationalists and other less than bright folks in Russia will still dream about expelling all Jews (or Muslims) from Russia. Simply put – that ain’t happening (for one thing this would be physically impossible) and Putin and those who support him will fight such projects with every legal tool at their disposal. Here again, you could say that Putin is a patriotic internationalist.

In the meanwhile, the West is still stuck in its old, ideological ways: imperialism, nationalism and messianic exclusivism on one hand, and a complete surrender to post-modernism, cultural self-hatred, petty minority politics and moral relativism on the other. It is, therefore, no surprise whatsoever that both mainstream camps in the West completely misread Putin and can’t figure out what he is up to.

Professor Cohen is right: the real Putin has absolutely nothing, nothing at all, in common with the pseudo-Putin the Western media presents to its infinitely gullible and zombified audience. Alas, nobody will listen to Cohen, at least not until the regime in Washington DC and the power structure which supports it, and whose interests it represents, come crashing down. But I do believe that Professor Cohen will eventually go down in history as the most intellectually honest and courageous Russia expert in the USA.

Russia and Islam, connecting the dots and discerning the future

June 18, 2017

This article was written for the Unz Review

Russia has often been in the news over the past years, mostly as the demonized “Empire of Mordor” responsible for all the bad things on the planet, especially Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton, the Russian intervention in Syria and, of course, the “imminent” Russian invasion of the Baltics, Poland or even all of Western Europe. I won’t even dignify all this puerile nonsense with any attention, but instead I will focus on what I think are important developments which are either misunderstood or completely ignored in the West.

First, a few key dots:

1) The Russian intervention in Syria

There are so many aspects of the Russian military intervention in Syria which ought to be carefully studied that I am confident that many PhD theses will be written on this topic in the future. While I have mostly focused my work on the purely military aspects of this campaign, it is important to look at the bigger picture. To do that, I will make the admittedly risky assumption that the civil war in Syria is pretty much over. That is not my conclusion only, but also an opinion voiced by an increasing number of analysts including a Russian general during an official briefing. With the fall of Aleppo and now the latest Syrian-Hezbollah-Russian move to cut off the US controlled forces from their planned move to the Iraqi border, things do indeed looks pretty bleak for the terrorists, the “good ones” and the “bad ones”. In the Syrian-Russian-Hezbollah controlled areas, normal life is gradually returning and the Russians are pouring huge amounts of aid (food, medical supplies, mine clearing, engineering, etc.) into the liberated areas. When Aleppo was under Takfiri control it was the center of attention of the western media, now that this city has been liberated, nobody wants to hear about it lest anybody become aware of what is a huge Russian success.

Even more impressive is the nature of the Russian forces in Tartus and, especially, in Khmeinim. The Russian military TV Channel “Red Star” has recently aired two long documentaries about the Russian facilities in Syria and two things are clear: first, the Russians are going to stay for a very long time and, second, they have now completed an advanced resupply and augmentation infrastructure which can accommodate not only small and mid size aircraft and ships, but even the immense An-124. The Russian have dug in, very very deep, and they will fight very hard if attacked. Most importantly, they now have the means to bring in more forces, including heavy equipment, in a very short time.

Again, this might be a premature conclusion, but barring any (always possible) surprises, the Russians are in, Assad stays in power, the Takfiris are out and the civil war is over.

Conversely this means that: the USA lost the war, as did the KSA, Qatar, Israel, France, the UK and all the other so-called “friends of Syria”. The Iranian, Hezbollah and the Russians have won.

So what does all this really mean?

The most radical consequence of this process is that Russia is back in the Middle-East. But even that is not the full story. Not only is Russia back, but she is back in force. Even though Iran has actually made a bigger effort to save Syria, the Russian intervention, which was much smaller than the Iranian one, was far more visible and it sure looked like “Russia saved Assad”. In reality, “Russia saved Assad” is a gross over-simplification, it should be “the Syrian people, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia saved Syria”, but that is how most people will see it it, for better or for worse. Of course, there is more than a kernel of truth in that view as without the Russian intervention Damascus would have probably fallen to the Daesh crazies and all the other Christian or Muslim denominations more or less wiped out. Still, the perception is that Russia single-handedly changed what appeared as an inevitable outcome.

The Russian success was especially amazing when compared to the apparently endless series of defeats for the United States: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan and now the latest mess with the Saudi blockade against Qatar – the Americans just don’t see to be able to get anything done. Just the contrast between the way the US betrayed Hosni Mubarak with how the Russians stood by Assad is a powerful message to all the regional leaders: better to have the Russians on your side than the Americans.

2) How Russia transformed Turkey from an enemy to a potential ally

To say that Turkey is a crucial ally of the US and a vital member of NATO is an understatement. For one thing, Turkey has the 2nd largest army in NATO (the US being the biggest one, of course). Turkey also holds the keys to the Mediterranean, NATO’s southern flank and the northern Middle-East. Turkey has a common border with Iran and a maritime boundary with Russia (over the Black Sea). When Turkey shot down a Russian SU-24 bomber (with US complicity) the situation became so tense that many observers feared that a full-scale war would break out between the two countries and, possible, the NATO alliance. Initially, nothing happened, the Turks took a hard stance, but following the coup against Erdogan (also with US complicity), the Turks suddenly did an amazing 180 and turned to Russia for help. The Russians were only glad to help, of course.

We will never really know what role the Russians really played in saving Erdogan, but it is pretty clear, even by his own words, that Putin did something absolutely crucial. What is indisputable is that Erdogan suddenly moved away from the USA, NATO and the EU and turned to the Russians who immediately used Turkey’s ties with the Takfiris to get them out of Aleppo. Then they invited Turkey and Iran to negotiate a three way deal to end the civil war. As for the Americans, were not even consulted.

The example of Turkey is the perfect illustration of how the Russians turn “the enemies into neutrals, neutrals into friends and friends into allies”. Oh sure, Erdogan is an unpredictable and, frankly, unstable character, the Americans and NATO are still in Turkey, and the Russians will never forget the Turkish support for the Takfiris in Chechnia, Crimea and Syria or, for that matter, the Turkish treacherous attack on their SU-24. But neither will they show any external signs of that. Just like with Israel, there is no love fest between Russia and Turkey, but all the parties are supremely pragmatic and so everybody is all smiles.

Why does this matter?

Because it shows how sophisticated the Russians are, how instead of using military force to avenge their SU-24, which is what the Americans would have done, they quietly but with great resolve and effort did what had to be done to “de-fuse” Turkey and “turn” it. The day following the Turkish attack Putin warned that Turkey would not “get away with just some tomatoes” (referring to the Russians sanctions against Turkish imports). Less than a year later, the Turkish military and security services got almost completely de-fanged in the purges following the coup against Erdogan and Erdogan himself flew to Moscow to ask to be accepted by the Kremlin as a friend and ally. Pretty darn impressive, if you ask me.

3) Russia and the “Chechen model” as a unique case in the Muslim world

Many observers have commented in awe at the miracle Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov pulled-off in Chechnia: after the region was absolutely devastated by two vicious and brutal wars and after being a “black hole” for assorted terrorists and common thugs, Chechnia turned into one of the most peaceful and safe parts of Russia (even while neighboring Dagestan is still suffering from violence and corruption). I won’t revisit it all and describe all the dramatic changes in Chechnia, but I will focus on a often ignored aspect of the “Chechen model”: Chechnia has become an extremely strict and traditional Sunni Muslim region. Not only that, but it is also one which has basically comprehensively defeated not only the Wahabis themselves but also their Wahabi ideology. In other words, Chechnia today is unique in that this is a Sunni Muslim culture which is strictly Islamic but with no risk whatsoever of being re-infected by the Wahabi virus. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this unique feature.

In the 1990s most of the Muslim world supported the Wahabi insurgency in Chechnia in a completely knee-jerk reaction I call “wrong or right – my Ummah”. This is largely the result of the very sophisticated AngloZionist propaganda aimed at the Muslim world which completely distorted the truth about the conflict taking place there (the same happened in Bosnia, by the way). Nowadays, however, the “Chechen example” is attracting a great deal of attention in the Muslim world and the personality of Ramzan Kadyrov is slowly becoming somewhat of a hero. Even the Saudis who financed a great deal of the Chechen insurgency and who threatened Russia with terrorist attack during the Sochi Olympics, now have to be very courteous and “brotherly” with Ramzan Kadyrov. The truth is that the Saudis are directly threatened by the “Chechen model” because it proves something the Saudis want to categorically deny: the traditional and strict Islam does NOT have to be Wahabi or, even less so, Takfiri.

Think of it: the biggest threat to the Saudis is, of course, Iran because it is a powerful, successful and dynamic Islamic Republic. But at least Iran is Shia and that, in the minds of some Sunnis, is a grievous heresy and almost a form of apostasy. But the Chechens are potentially much more dangerous to the Saudi ideology – they are anti-Wahabi (they call them “shaitans” or, literally, “devils”) and they are willing to fight anywhere in the Muslim world to counter the “good terrorists” supported by the CIA and the House of Saud. Time and time again, Ramzan Kadyrov, and many other Chechen leaders and commanders, have repeated that they are willing to fight for Russia “anywhere on the planet”. They have already been deployed in Georgia, Lebanon, Novorussia and now they are fighting in Syria. Each time with devastating effectiveness. They are true Muslim heroes, recognized as such even by the non-Muslim Russians, and they want absolutely nothing to do with the Wahabis whom they hate with a passion. As a result, more and more people in the Muslim world are expressing their admiration for the Chechen model.

The Chechen model also is noticed and hotly debated inside Russia. Russian liberals absolutely hate it and, just like their western curators, they accuse Kadyrov all sorts of unspeakable crimes. Their latest invention is that homosexuals are jailed and tortured by Chechen security service. This kind of stories might be taken seriously in San Francisco or Key West, but they get zero traction with the Russian public.

Chechnia is ideally located to influence not only the Caucasus but also other Muslim regions of Russia and even Central Asia. The large number of Chechens in the Russian special operation forces also makes them very visible in the Russian media. All this contributes to the high-visibility and popularity of a viable traditional Sunni model which is the exact opposite of what is happening the EU. Let’s compare the image of Muslims in the EU in Russia.

A couple of important caveats first. First, the picture was not always quite as rosy, especially not in the 1990s when Chechens were seen as thugs, brutes, crooks and vicious terrorists. Some Russians have neither forgotten nor forgiven (and, of course, some Chechens still hate Russians for what they did to Chechnia during the two wars). Second, this table compares what I call “ethnic Muslims” in Europe, meaning people coming from Muslim countries or families but who are not necessarily true, pious, Muslims at all. In fact, most of them are not. This is why I put “Muslims” in quotation marks. When I speak of Chechens, I refer to those conservative Chechens who support Kadyrov and his strict adherence to Islamic values. So, in a way, I will be comparing apples and oranges, but I do so because I want to show the greatest contrast possible and I believe that these apples and oranges play a crucial role in the development of the societies they live in now.

“Muslims” in the EU “Kadyrov Chechens” in Russia
Seen as alien/immigrants/”others” Seen as neighbors/locals
Seen as disruptive of the local culture Seen as representing a conservative/traditionalist strand in the Russian society
Seen as potential terrorists Seen as the prime victims of, and allies against, terrorism
Seen has disloyal to the native people Seen as the most loyal defenders of the Motherland
Seen as criminals and hooligans Seen as “law and order” types
Seen as lazy welfare leeches Seen as hard-working and skilled businessmen

Again, these are not scientific findings, they are not backed by careful opinion polling and they do compare apples and oranges. So take them with a big bag of salt. And yet, I think that what this table shows what are deep and contrasting trends inside the EU and Russian societies: the EU is on a collision course with the Islamic world while Russia is not. In fact, Russia represents a model of how a (nominally) Christian society can coexist with a large Muslim minority to the benefit of both communities. Russia also represents a unique example of how two very different religions can contribute to the development of a *joint* civilizational model.

Now an attempt at discerning the future

So let’s connect the dots above: First, Russia is arguably the single most important actor in the Middle-East, far eclipsing the United States. Second, Russia has successfully built an informal, but crucial, alliance with Iran and Turkey and these three countries will decide of the outcome of the war in Syria. Third, Russia is the only country on earth where Sunni Islam is truly safe from the Wahabi virus and where a traditionalist Sunni society exists without any Saudi interference. Combine these three and I see an immense potential for Russia to become the force which will most effectively oppose the power and influence of the Saudis in the Muslim world. This also means that Russia is now the undisputed leader in the struggle to defeat international Takfiri terrorism (what Trump – mistakenly – calls “Islamic fundamentalism”).

The AngloZionist rulers of the Empire have been very clever, if also very short-sighted: First they created al-Qaeda, then unleashed it against their enemies, then they used al-Qaeda/ISIS/Daesh to wreak havoc on a number of secular regimes just to “re-shape” a “new Middle-East” and now they are finally using al-Qaeda/ISIS/Daesh to set the West on a direct collision course with the entire Muslim world (1.8 billion people!) which will prevent the imperial slaves, that is all of us, the common folks living the the EU and USA, from ever looking at the real cause of our problems or, even less so, overthrow our rulers.

Thus we see the disgraceful and, frankly, stupid propaganda against Muslims and Islam as if somehow there was a real Muslim or Islamic threat. The reality, of course, is that all those Muslims who do represent a real threat for the people in the West are invariably associated with western security services and that since 9/11 the vast majority of terror attacks have been false flags. True, there were some apparently “real” (that is: undirected by western special services) attacks, but the number of victims in such, frankly, amateurish attack was minuscule and blown out of proportion.

Just like the “thug life” musical propaganda in the USA resulted in large numbers of US Blacks being killed, mostly by shooting each other, so the “Islamic terrorist” hysteria in the media will result in a few genuine terrorist attacks. But if you add up all the numbers you quickly realize that this paranoid hysteria is completely out of proportion with the real danger.

Somebody wants us all the be afraid, really afraid.

Sadly, this hysteria has affected many, not only in the official Ziomedia, but also in the so-called ‘alternative’ media. The result? Just as the rulers of the Empire need it, the West and the Islamic world are now on a collision course. Who is your money on in this clash? Just take a look at the clowns we have for leaders and tell me that the West will win this one!

The West will, of course, lose this war too, but the consequences of this defeat are not the topic of this article. What I am trying to illustrate here is that the West and Russia have taken to radically different approaches to the challenges of an increasingly more influential Islamic world. I would compare Russia and the West to two swimmers caught in a powerful riptide: the West is determined to swim directly against it while Russia uses this riptide to get where she wants. Again, who do you think will fare better?

But this is not just about the West anymore, this is about the multi-polar world which will replace the current AngloZionist hegemony. In this context, one of the most interesting processes taking place is that Russia is becoming a major player in the Muslim world.

Only 10 to 15 percent of Russians are Muslim, that amounts to about 10 million people. Most Muslim countries are way bigger. And since 85 to 90 percent of Russians are not Muslims, the influence of Russia in the Muslim world cannot be measured by such relatively modest numbers. However, when we consider the central role Russian Muslims play in the Russian policies towards the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle-East, when we take into account that Russian Muslims are mostly Sunni and very well protected against the virus of Wahabism and when we recall that traditional Sunni Islam has the full backing of the Russian state we can truly get a sense of the unique combination of factors which will give the Russian Muslims an influence far in excess of their relatively modest numbers.

Furthermore, the Russians are now closely collaborating with Shia Iran and with (mostly) Hanafi Turkey. Most Chechens belong to the Sha’afi Sunni tradition and about half are adherents to Sufism. It might be because Russia is not a majority Muslim country that she is the ideal place to re-create a non-denominational form of Islam, an Islam which would be content to be Islam and with no need to subdivide itself into competing, sometimes even hostile, subgroups.

Russia only has an observer status in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) due to the fact that she is not a majority Muslim country. Russia is also a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which brings together China, Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan , Russia , Tajikistan , Uzbekistan , India and Pakistan. Let’s look at the approximate number of Muslims in the SCO countries: China 40’000’000 , Kazakhstan 9’000’000, Kyrgyzstan 5’000’000, Russia 10’000’000, Tajikistan 6’000’000 , Uzbekistan 26’000’000, India 180’000’000, Pakistan 195’000’000. That’s a grand total of 471 million Muslims. Add to this figure the 75’000’000 Iranians which will join the SCO in the near future (bringing the grand total to 546’000’000) and you will see this stunning contrast: while the West has more or less declared war in 1.8 billion Muslims, Russia has quietly forged an alliance with just over half a billion Muslims!

Russian nationalists (as opposed to Russian patriots) did try their best to infect Russia with her own brand of Islamophobia, but that movement was defeated by an absolutely uncompromising stance by Vladimir Putin himself who went as far as stating that:

I need to say that, as I have repeated many times before, from its beginning Russia had formed as a multiconfessional and multiethnic state. You are aware that we practice Eastern Christianity called Orthodoxy. And some theorists of religion say that Orthodoxy is in many ways closer to Islam than to Catholicism. I don’t want to evaluate how true this statement is, but in general the coexistence of these main religions was carried out in Russia for many centuries. Over the centuries we have developed a specific culture of interaction, that might be somewhat forgotten in the last few decades. We should now recall those our national roots.”

Clearly, as long as Putin and those who support him remain in power, Islamophobia will have no future whatsoever in Russia.

[Sidebar: while this is never mentioned anywhere in the western literature, there are real political prisoners in Russia and there is one group of people which the Kremlin has truly persecuted on political grounds: the Russian nationalists. This topic would deserve an article on its own, but here I will just say that since Russia is a state where the rule of law is official policy, the Kremlin has to resort to some creative ticks to jail these nationalists including accusing them of “attempting to overthrow the state by using crossbows” (I kid you not!). Nationalists are often persecuted on charges of violating laws against hate speech, for distributing extremist literature, etc. Basically the authorities harass them and try to disrupt their activities. Again, the western champions of civil rights and various Putin-haters never speak about these very real political persecutions in Russia. Apparently western human rights organizations live by the motto of the “Angel of Death” of the French Revolution’s infamous “terror” period, Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, who famously declared “pas de liberté pour les ennemis de la liberté” (no freedom for the enemies of freedom). It is clear that as soon as Putin came to power he immediately realized the potential danger to the Russian society posed by these nationalists and he decided to clamp down on them every bit as hard as he did on the Wahabi recruiters and neo-Nazis propagandists in Russia.]

Furthermore, Russia has now become the most influential member of the SCO which represents the strategic interests of over half a billion Muslims worldwide. In the Middle-East, Russia has made an amazing comeback – from a quasi-total departure in the 1990s to becoming the single most influential player in the region. Russia has successfully convinced two very powerful potential competitors (Iran and Turkey) to work together and now this informal alliance is in a very strong position to influence the events in the Caucasus and Central Asia. At this point it is already clear that what we are seeing is a long term process and long term strategic goal of Russia: to become directly involved in the struggle for the future of Islam.

The struggle for the future of Islam

The Islamic world is facing an immense challenge which is threatening its very identity and future: the Wahabi-Takfiri ideology. That ideology, by its very nature, represents a mortal threat to any other form of Islam and a moral threat, literally, to every non-Takfiri Muslim living on the planet. The Takfiri ideology also represents a real existential threat to all of mankind, very much including Russia and Russia cannot simply sit back and wait to see who of the AngloZionist West or the wannabe Caliphate of Daesh will prevail, especially since the two are also loacked in a weird symbiotic relationship between the western deep state and special services and the Takfiri leaders. Furthermore, assuming the West is willing to seriously fight terrorism (and so far there is no sign of that whatsoever) it is also obvious that Europe is useless in this struggle (due to an acute lack of brain, spine and other body parts) and that the USA, being protected by large oceans, are not facing the same threat as the states of the Eurasian landmass. Russia therefore has to act on her own, and very forcibely.

This is not a struggle which will be determined by military means. Yes, being willing and capable of killing Takfiris is important, and Russia can do that, but at the end of the day it is the Takfiri ideology which must be defeated and this is where the Russian Muslims will play an absolutely crucial role in the struggle for the future of Islam. Their status as a minority in Russia actually serves to protect Russian Muslims simply because there is absolutely no possibility whatsoever for any type of Wahabi Islam to gain enough traction in Russia to threaten the state. If anything, the two wars in Chechnia are the best proof that even in the worst possible conditions Russians will always hit back and very hard at any attempt to create a Wahabi state inside, or next to, Russia. President Putin often says that Russia has to sent her forces to fight in Syria not only to save Syria, but also to kill the many thousands of Russian citizens who are currently in the ranks of Daesh before they come back home: better to fight them there than to fight them here. True. But that also means that Russia will have to take the ideological fight to the rest of the Islamic world and use her influence to support the anti-Takfiri forces currently struggling against Daesh & Co worldwide.

The future of Russia and the Muslim world are now deeply intertwined which, considering the current disastrous dynamic between the West and the Muslim world, this is a good thing for everybody. While the leaders of the AngloZionist Empire are using both Russia and the Muslim world as bogeymen to scare their subjects into submission to the international plutocracy, Russia will have to become the place where the Islamophobic myths will debunked and a different, truly multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic civilizational model offered as an alternative to the monolithic Hegemony dominating the world today.

Modern secularist ideologies have given mankind nothing except violence, oppression, wars and even genocides. It is high time to kick them into the trash heaps of history where they belong and return to a truly tolerant, sustainable and humane civilizational model centered around spiritual, not materialistic, values. Yes, I know, for the media-brainwashed zombies out there religion is not exactly associated with the ideas of tolerance and compassion, but that is just the inevitable consequence of being exposed to particularly nasty and hypocritical forms of religion. That, and a basic lack of education. These things can be remedied, not so much by debating them ad nauseam, but simply by creating a different civilizational model. But for that Russia and the Islamic world will need to look inside themselves and focus on healing their own (still numerous) pathologies and dysfunctions (especially spiritual ones) in order to create such a spirituality-centered alternative to the Almighty Dollar. In the words of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, “acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved”. I think that this is a future worthy of fighting for.

The Saker

It’s the Russia, Stupid

It’s the Russia, Stupid

JAMES GEORGE JATRAS | 16.06.2017

It’s another week in Washington and another horror show. This time it was Attorney General Jeff Sessions being grilled by Senators on whether, when, and how he might have met with certain Russians, or any Russian, or someone who might actually know a Russian. In addition to fishing for any inconsistency that could be used to support an accusation of obstruction of justice or perjury – the usual sleazy methodology of politically motivated investigations here – the transparent aim was to further poison the well on any possible initiative to improve ties with Moscow.

The strategy appears to be working. The Russian Embassy in Washington confirms that for the first time since the Russian Federation’s founding the State Department did not send pro forma national day greetings. Perhaps the bureaucrats were afraid they would be tainted and themselves become targets of multiple investigations into «collusion» with the Kremlin. (Luckily, this intrepid Washington analyst has no qualms about such associations.)

Or more likely, they themselves are part of the Russophobic mob undermining the White House. It has been reported that soon after the inauguration Trump sought to open dialogue with the Kremlin and set an early summit with President Vladimir Putin. This produced a hysterical counteraction from the Deep State. As reported by conservative columnist and former presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan:

«The State Department was tasked with working out the details.

«Instead, says Daniel Fried, the coordinator for sanctions policy, he received ‘panicky’ calls of ‘Please, my God, can you stop this?’.

«Operatives at State, disloyal to the president and hostile to the Russia policy on which he had been elected, collaborated with elements in Congress to sabotage any detente. They succeeded.

«‘It would have been a win-win for Moscow,’ said Tom Malinowski of State, who boasted last week of his role in blocking a rapprochement with Russia. State employees sabotaged one of the principal policies for which Americans had voted, and they substituted their own».

So much for constitutional government and the rule of law…

But now it gets even worse. This week Congress moved legislation designed to codify in statute sanctions imposed on Russia by Barack Obama over Ukraine and evidence-free charges of Russian election interference. Provisions for a presidential waiver, which are standard in any sanctions legislation, are unusually narrow. Congressional proponents are clear that their aim is to take the matter out of the president’s hands. Democrats, seemingly devoid of any other policy agenda or ideas, vow to keep banging the Russia drum through the 2018 Congressional elections.

When all is said and done, there are lots of reasons the political class hates Trump. His heresies on immigration and trade are near the top of the list. But make no mistake: for the Deep State and its mainstream media arm, demonizing Russia and Vladimir Putin personally is a dangerous obsession. (There is reason to suspect «Russian collusion» figured in the thinking of a fanatical Leftist’s shooting attack on Republican Congressmen: «The shooter also signed a petition calling for an investigation into Trump-Russia ties, confirming he was radicalized by the mainstream media’s obsession with conspiracy theories about Russia interfering with the election».)

It remains to be seen whether Oliver Stone’s extended interview with Putin on the Showtime network will have any impact. So far the commentary seems to be divided between descriptions of the substance of the discussion and attacks on Stone for talking with such a bad, bad man: «Speaking after the interview, Stone refuted allegations that he became an unwitting messenger of pro-Putin propaganda or of dishonest information given by the president».

With regard to substance, relatively little attention has been accorded in American media to Putin’s flat accusation that U.S. «special services» have supported terrorists, including in Chechnya. Of course anyone paying attention would know that arming jihadists is a standard part of U.S. policy, going back at least to Afghanistan in the 1980s and repeated in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, and today in Syria. Indeed, as early as the 1950s the U.S. had established a very close relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist elements as a weapon against Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and Baathists in Syria and Iraq, who Washington thought were a little too cozy with the Soviet Union and far too socialist and secular for the taste of our pals in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

There is a real symbiosis between the anti-Russian imperative in American foreign policy and support for radical Islamic elements. It did not end when the Soviet Union and communism collapsed but rather was intensified. This is why Moscow’s constant calls for a common front against terrorism are always rebuffed. Such cooperation doesn’t make any sense for anomenklatura whose number one goal is hostility to Moscow and for whom jihadists are at worst «frienemies» – people who may be troublesome but useful.

We can only imagine how completely different the world would be if the U.S. were to recognize that Russia is a country that in many respects is not that different from the United States or Europe and that we had common interests. But for the U.S. Deep State, that would amount to switching sides in a global conflict, where we see jihadists essentially as «freedom fighters» against a geopolitical adversary. These same clueless «elites» are then puzzled when their carefully nurtured, cuddly, «moderate» jihad terrorists attack us back here at home.

This irrational pattern is at the root of the hostility of American policymakers toward Russia and any prospect of normalizing bilateral ties. In large part, it’s what underlies the «soft coup» being directed against Trump, of which the Sessions pillorying was an episode. (A late report based on unreliable, unverified sources suggests that Special Counsel on the Russia probe, Robert Mueller, is expanding his investigation to include potential obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump. Mueller, a close personal friend of ousted FBI Director James Comey, has already packed his team with partisan Democrats.)

Those behind this attempted coup think we can continue to treat Russia as though it were a minor power of the magnitude of Serbia, Iraq, Libya, or Syria, or even Iran. They think if we just keep pushing, pushing, pushing, either the Russians will collapse or back down. They will do everything possible to box Trump in and prevent him from pursuing any path other than the disastrous course laid out by Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama. They can see no other outcome than removing Putin and returning Russia to the condition of a Yeltsin-era vassal state – a term Putin used in the Stone interview – or, better yet, its territorial breakup along the lines suggested by the late Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Will the Oliver Stone interview change any minds? It’s too soon to tell. But if the soft coup against Trump succeeds, it might not matter, since then America could not be considered a self-governing constitutional republic even in a residual sense. We may have already passed our own Rubicon and just don’t know it yet.

Ramzan Kadyrov on Western Intelligence services provocations

April 20, 2017

Ramzan Kadyrov on Western Intelligence services provocations

Russia: EXCLUSIVE Western intelligence did ‘everything possible to destroy’ Russia – Kadyrov

 

 

Apr 19, 2017

“Western and European intelligence agencies have done everything possible to destroy the sovereign state of Russia,” Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov stated in an exclusive interview with RT in Grozny on Tuesday.

“For all these years, Western and European intelligence agencies have done everything possible to destroy the sovereign state of Russia. And the Chechen Republic was chosen as an arena for a showdown and there were fierce battles here in the last 10 years and not only with a certain group of bandits but with soldiers highly trained by Western special services. According to our data, they represented more than 50 states. Russia defended and proved that it is a strong state and that it will not allow anyone to joke with the state and with the people.”

“The people said that they wanted to live within the Russian Federation. We don’t need this war. I’ve never been against the federal centre, I’ve never been behind. I have always been with my people. And my people obliged us to serve by faith and truth. And my religion also obliges us to be loyal to the supreme commander-in-chief, the president. If this country and the president allow you to build mosques and pray, you must die for this president. Therefore, I am a convinced infantryman. Wherever I am, I’m a convinced infantryman; I’m one hundred percent ready to fulfill any order, for this we are preparing day and night. It’s not just words. I am indebted to Vladimir Putin because he helped in the most difficult days of our republic, in the most difficult days after the death of my father, our first president; he personally helped me, reached out his hand. I will never forget this.”

 

 

Apr 19, 2017

Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov said Western countries have “accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of all sins” without providing any evidence, in an exclusive interview with RT in Grozny on Tuesday.

“[They] were forced to leave Syria; their situation is very difficult. We see what Western side is doing. Western countries bomb government troops without consulting first and violate all international laws and then again accuse Russia. The chemical attack has not been proven; they accused Assad of all sins. Please provide us with any evidence or information if you have such a thing. They once killed Saddam Hussein, they wanted to destroy Egypt, they destroyed Libya. Here is the same thing: without conscience, without honour, they continue to do their own thing. And the whole world including the European Parliament and other Western institutions are silent, they don’t say a word.”

“They don’t look at the life of people. There are so many disabled children, orphans; we help them as we can. I have been calling for the Arab countries, let’s help them together. Well, if you think that Assad is to blame, the people are not guilty of anything. People suffer a humanitarian catastrophe, we must help, we are Muslims. But the Western countries, Europe don’t want to help anyone. They only want to use all the resources against Russia; they want to see us kneeling before them.”

‘Everyday they write articles on nonsense’ – Kadyrov on media claims

 

RT spoke exclusively about the issue with the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov after Russian newspaper’s report caused controversy over its claims that quote ‘over a hundred men’ were recently detained in the Chechen Republic because of their alleged homosexuality – accusations local authorities deny.

Russia: Gay prisons in Chechnya ‘unconfirmed facts’ – Chechen leader Kadyrov

Ramzan Kadyrov alluded to recent media reports of arrests and killings of gay men in the Chechen republic, during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday. The leader stated that the claims were “unconfirmed facts.”

“So-called good people are writing that in our republic, it is even awkward to say, the people are being detained and killed” he stated.

He went on to make an example of a man named Tepsurkayev Hasu who was reported to have been killed while he was “alive and healthy at home.”

In early April, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta published a report of mass arrests of gay men in the Chechen Republic. The article claimed that around 100 people were detained while at least three people were killed. Novaya Gazeta later published material on special prisons for homosexuals, where they have been allegedly tortured.

“I would like to inform you that those provocative articles that are written about the Chechen Republic, about the people, about those events that allegedly take place, about detentions.”

President Vladimir Putin, President of Russia (Russian): [off camera] “Which ones?”

“So-called good people are writing that in our republic, it is even awkward to say, the people are being detained and killed. They even gave one name – Tepsurkayev Hasu, he is our main person in ideology, the Sufi. They said that he was killed but he is at home. They insulted him first then accused authorities of killing him, and he is alive and healthy at home.”

“Such unconfirmed facts around the republic happen two or three times a year, and since the beginning of the year, this is the first situation of this kind. Generally, in terms of security, our republic is in good standing. We do not have street crime; we do not have serious terrorist threats. The republic, so to speak, is confidently moving forward.”

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia (Russian): “But there was a demonstration [against the crime], there was an attack on the unit of the National Guard so not all the questions apparently have been solved, but, of course, all of them are being resolved. I see that they are resolved well and of course it should be done on the basis of economic and social development. The fact that you manage to comply with the decrees of the President of Russia from 2012 is very important.”

 

Russia’s human rights commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said on Thursday the complaints about alleged persecution of gay men in the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya may be a provocation.
“TASS – On April 1, Novaya Gazeta published an article on its website entitled “Honor Killing” which referred to some alleged abductions and possible killings of Chechen residents over their non-traditional sexual orientations or on suspicion of being gay. The paper cited anonymous sources in law enforcement agencies and also victims, without revealing their names.

Moskalkova said according to some claims “more than 100 homosexuals went missing in Chechnya,” but no such cases have been registered with the Prosecutor-General’s Office, the Investigative Committee, the Interior Ministry and Chechnya’s prosecutors.

On Wednesday, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said at the meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that media publications on the alleged detentions and killings of civilians in Chechnya were a provocation. “I feel awful to speak about this. They claim we’re arresting and even killing people. They even named one of the victims.” In the final run, the man who had allegedly been killed was found safe and sound at home.
The Civil Society and Human Rights Council under Chechnya’s leader said it had scrutinized the article and found no confirmations at all, even indirect ones, that the alleged incidents actually took place. A corresponding statement by the regional council was published on the website of the Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights on April 4

Religious Affairs Adviser to Chechnya’s leader, Adam Shakhidov, said that the Novaya Gazeta (New Newspaper) would be sued in court for slander shortly.”

Kadyrov: West will use every resource to bring Russia to her knees

April 20, 2017

Kadyrov: West will use every resource to bring Russia to her knees
RT reports:
The US and its Western allies will use any opportunity to harm Russia, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov told RT. He believes the rise of terrorism in Syria was similar to what happened to his native Chechnya two decades ago.

“The West, Europe do not want to help anyone. The important thing for them is to use every resource against Russia. They want to see us kneeling before them,” Kadyrov said in an exclusive interview with RT’s Arabic channel.

“This will never happen,” he added.

The Chechen Republic in southern Russia was the scene of two military campaigns in the 1990s and early 2000s. Ramzan Kadyrov said his father’s choice to pledge his loyalty to Moscow was the choice of the Chechen people.

“[Ramzan Kadyrov’s father Akhmad] said: if I am the leader of the republic, you let the Chechen people have its word. If the people say that they want to be part of Russia, I will agree to that too. If they say against it, so will I. That was the arrangement. And the people said they want to live as part of Russia,” he said.

Kadyrov reiterated his loyalty to Moscow, both as representative of the Chechen people and as a devout Muslim.

“My people have entrusted me to serve in good faith. And my religion also obliges me to be loyal to the commander-in-chief. As long as this country and this president allow you to build mosques and pray, your duty is to die for this president,” Kadyrov said.

Kadyrov said that Chechens in the 1990s were lured by false promises of people whose sole interest was demolishing Russia. He personally took up arms and fought against the Russian army when he was a teenager, and that is not an experience he wishes his children to have.

“When I took place next to my father with arms in hands, I was younger than my oldest child is now. She is 18 now, and I was 15 or 16. I don’t want my children or children of Chechens or children of anyone in Russia to see what I saw,” he said.

He says foreign special services were involved in the effort to provoke chaos in Chechnya.

“The Western and European special services over the years did every possible and impossible thing to destroy Russia as a sovereign state. They chose the Chechen Republic as the stage for their game,” he said.

“That was not some bandit gang. There were fighters well trained by the special services. Our intelligence says fighters from 50 nations were involved. But Russia prevailed and has proven that she is a strong nation.”

He said the same orchestrated devastation that Chechnya saw two decades ago can now be witnessed in Syria. A battalion of troops from the Chechen Republic currently serves in Syria as military police overseeing the transition period in Aleppo, a city that had lived for years divided between pro-government and anti-government forces.

“What they saw there is the same thing we had here. The same scenario, the same masters,” he said.

Kadyrov, who is accused by critics of violating human rights and putting sharia law above that of Russia’s federal laws, said his critics stir controversy surrounding his name to attack the country and its president.

“They seek any opportunity to stand against [Vladimir] Putin. And Kadyrov is convenient for them. This name is well known and talked about,” he said. “Why wouldn’t they talk about people, who got busted taking bribes? Nobody ever talks about them.”

“They think they can use our people and our youths against Russia again. This won’t happen. They really don’t like it when 50,000 of our people sing the anthem of Russia. Or when we carry the biggest flag of Russia,” he added. “What they would like is for us to march with banners against Russia.”

“They tricked us once, and a second time. But there won’t be a third one.”

The Chechen leader said his alleged suggestion to target relatives of terrorists an example of distorted reporting by his critics.

“They just distort my words however they like. I was talking about people actively supporting terrorists,” he said.

“They are terrorists too. They may not take arms themselves. But why should we help them [with benefits], feed them and provide for them, when they are helping to kill us. They are accomplices of terrorism. We don’t want such people to live here.”

Blackwater Training Syria Terrorists

Local Editor

They wear the latest and most advanced body armor and helmets, camouflage gear and anti-ballistic sunglasses: the fashion statement favored by frontline private security companies across the world’s combat zones. Blackwater fighters are in Syria training terrorists who have found a new way of cashing in on the self-styled “caliphate”.

Blackwater Training Syria Terrorists

Blackwater became the most high-profile of Western ‘security’ contractors in Iraq, gaining notoriety as the most violent and aggressive of the corporate military firms that spotted a highly lucrative trade following the “liberation” of the country in 2003. Such firms were largely immune from scrutiny or prosecution: that changed after a particularly bloody day in Baghdad.

The small group, of about a dozen drawn mainly from Central Asia, has been an enthusiastic user of social media. At the end of 2016, it placed advertisements in Facebook looking for instructors who were prepared to “constantly engage, develop and learn”. The company’s YouTube pages provide free guides ranging from weapons maintenance and laying ambushes to battlefield first aid.

The leader and founder of the term Malhama, a private military contractor that means business and a firm which is “fun and friendly” according to its online brochures – is an Uzbek using the nom de guerre Abu Rofiq who claims to have served in the VDV, a Russian military airborne unit.

Although it was a commercial concern, Rofiq has stressed the religious aspect of its work meant helping “oppressed Sunni Muslims” militarily, beyond Syria.

Chechen and other Caucasian groups have been active in other fronts, carrying out attacks in Russia and states allied to the Kremlin in the region.

Blackwater’s training and arming of the militants had begun as a slow and often chaotic process in Syria.

As the uprising descended into a vicious bloodbath, the flow of arms into Syria went up massively in quantity and quality. Some “moderate” opposition fighters trained and armed by the Americans in Jordan and Turkey surrendered with their weapons to extremist groups on crossing the border.

Abu Rofiq is said to have seen the training opportunities for terrorists after first going to Syria in 2013. He began to bring in experienced fighters from the Caucasus before starting Malhama with a dozen others in the beginning of 2016. The company has been working with Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the new name taken by al-Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, as well as Ahrar al-Sham, a terrorist group which had been backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

There has been a strong presence of extremists from the Caucasus in Syria for a while. They have built up a reputation as the fiercest and most dedicated of the foreign fighters. One of the most effective military chiefs of Daesh was Abu Omar al-Shishani – of Chechen and Georgian background. He was killed in July last year in a US airstrike in the town of Al-Shirkat in Iraq – a significant loss, the terrorists acknowledged, to their leadership.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

14-03-2017 | 09:48

 

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