memri
September 10, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8927

Russian Liberal Writers Believe That The West Has Lost Patience With Putin After Belarus And Navalny

September 10, 2020
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8927

If earlier this year the Russian ruble declined against both the euro and the dollar due to drop in energy prices, the more recent declines have been triggered by the crisis in Belarus and the poisoning of opposition politician Alexei Navalny. After Navalny was first hospitalized Izvestiya explained the effect on the value of the Russian ruble: So, the exchange rate is influenced by geopolitics: firstly, the protests in Belarus, and secondly, the information background around the state of Alexei Navalny.[1] The jitters in Russia increased when on September 6, 2020, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had previously separated the Nordstream 2 Russian-German pipeline from the Navalny case, now reversed gears and did not rule out acting against the project. Her partner in the German coalition, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, interviewed a day earlier, warned that Germany's continued backing for the pipeline would be determined by Russian cooperation on the Navalny case. [2]The question of whether Russia has to fear additional European and/or American sanctions is being debated in Russia and will be covered in two separate MEMRI Special Dispatches. This report presents two articles by leading Russian liberals. The first is by economic professor Vladislav Inozemtsev and the second by the Rosbalt Information Agency's managing director Nikolay Ulyanov. Both argue that the West has lost patience with Moscow as a result of the cumulative effect of Moscow's disdain for civilized practice and successive flouting of red lines.


Caption reads: Merkel: Navalny was the victim of a crime, Russia must answer serious questions. (Source:Liga.net.)

In his September 3, 2020 article for Echo of Moscow, Professor Inozemstev predicts that Vladimir Putin's video appearance at the UN General Assembly will fall flat:[3]


Vladislav Inozemtsev (Radiokp.ru)

"It became known that on September 22, Vladimir Putin will appear before the UN General Assembly session. Judging by his policy statements in the foreign press and the topics which he likes to address the young Russian generation, the president will have to recall the war, its lessons, historical memory and the inadmissibility of rewriting history. It is no coincidence that he recently appeared (personally or in the form of a broadcast transmission from the bunker in "Novo-Ogaryovo" [residence]) in the loftiest world assembly in the world exclusively in the jubilee (70th and 75th) year to the conclusion of that gigantic historical drama, which for him personally could not possibly be over. However, even if world leaders receive this part of the talk favorably, what else can they expect to hear? It can be argued with almost 100% certainty that the president will talk about the idea and principle of sovereignty (understanding it in 17th century categories: the sovereign is not the people, but the ruler himself; he defines the religion [ideology] and laws of the state; no binding universal norms and principles exist, etc.).

"Naturally, he will remind [people] that Russia is categorically opposed to unwanted interference in the affairs of other sovereign states - and if it does so, - it is only at the behest of the legitimate government (which we have witnessed from Afghanistan to Syria) or in response to persistent popular demands (as happened in many countries from the Baltics to Crimea). Most likely, he will develop the idea that he previously enunciated from the same tribune, namely how important it is that the veto power exists in the international system and repeat his proposal that the states vested with such a right should gather outside the General Assembly hall, holding their "five-power summits" and construction the global architecture that interests them.

"Finally, the ritual words will be uttered about the need to combat universal threats, including epidemics, invaluable Russian assistance in the form of a universal vaccine [against coronavirus] will be offered, and the president will note that the search for those responsible for the emergence of the virus is, of course provocative and inappropriate. In conclusion, he will probably highlight the difficult global economic situation, point out the inadmissibility of economic sanctions and the importance of cooperation between energy product producers and consumers, and he will also relate how Russia is successfully modernizing.

"However, all this, it seems to me, will be of little interest to the audience. The Russian president will not be viewed as the head of a great power, or even as a politician who transforms European borders. He will, in my opinion, be perceived primarily in three aspects:

"Firstly, [he will be perceived] as a terrorist who, over the past five years, has awkwardly denied [his involvement in the] attempted assassination of [Sergey Skripal] a former Russian intelligence agent in Great Britain; insisted that the Georgian citizen [Zelimkhan Khangoshvili], who had been shot in Berlin prior to this, actually deserved such an end; and, finally, [as one who] refused to even initiate an official investigation into the poisoning of A. Navalny, who was poisoned with the same poison that was used to eliminate former Russian citizens abroad. (World politicians may not know about less significant terrorist attacks: from the extermination of fugitive Chechens in Austria to the murder of Russian journalists in the CAR [Chechen Autonomous Republic]. But three aforementioned cases are well known). In addition, the ongoing [court] proceedings in Holland against Russia on charges of destroying a civil aircraft with all its passengers will remain as a backdrop to his speech.

"Secondly, [he will be perceived] as a person who really imagines himself to be the new "gendarme" [policeman] of [Eastern] Europe, which this time find expression in the open support for the illegitimate leader of neighboring Belarus, who lost the elections but categorically refuses to part with power. I would like to believe that neither before September 22, nor after this date, Russian troops will not invade a fraternal country. However, it is already obvious that Moscow is preparing to repeat the very same scheme, that failed in 2014 in Ukraine: to appease the authorities and people with loans and economic assistance, to support the security forces' efforts to 'stabilize' the situation and to effectively establish control over the neighboring country. Vladimir Putin's regime is so similar to Alexander Lukashenko's regime, that Putin cannot allow the Belarussian regime to fall - even if as a result of this support Putin will become as 'grounded from foreign travel' as the forgotten director of the Shklov Sovkhoz [state farm] currently is [ [Lukashenko, was formerly the director of Shklov Sovkhoz].

"Thirdly, [he will be perceived] as the head of a country which is known in the world as a spreader of disinformation and a technological saboteur: in recent years there were massive revelations of Russian espionage, influence networks and information gathering became especially widespread. Repeatedly Russia is being associated with the activities of the "brightest" hacker groups, and spying on its own citizens (which became possible thanks to the infamous "Yarovaya Law"[4] and falsification of network data) have become so widespread in Russia, that today our country is gradually being ousted beyond the boundaries of the civilized information field. Without a doubt, we can say that the President of Russia will be the only head of state speaking at the General Assembly, whose official website http://kremlin.ru has no protection, since its SSL certificate has been revoked by the so-called Root Certificate Authority (a kind of the world parliament of the Internet).

"Over the five years that have elapsed since Vladimir Putin's last appearance at the UN, Russia has become even further isolated from the world, it is even less ready to speak with partners in a language they can understand, it has more tightly wrapped itself in self-invented myths. Going on air, in order not to say a single word about what the envoys of dozens of states sitting in front of the speaker would like to hear, means simply condemning oneself to further universal disgrace. One can only regret that the Kremlin refuses to understand this.

Nikolay Ulyanov, (who ironically bears Lenin's original name) writing in Rosbalt.ru, claimed that Russia has zero credibility in the West:[5]


Nikolay Ulyanov (Source: Rosbalt.ru)

"A quite definite picture has formed among Western politicians and media, which can be characterized "as the institution of extrajudicial reprisals against political opponents in the interests of the Russian state outside its national territory".

"Firstly, there was a series of attempts on the life of political enemies abroad (terrorists, Islamists – whatever you name it), which began after the end of the second Chechen war (the most famous assassination was a killing of the 'Acting President of Ichkeria' Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev) and continues up to this day, the domestic intelligence services have shown the world that they have an extraterritorial license for murder from the state. When these assassination attempts began, Russian propagandists loved to recall, in supporting the rightfulness of this practice, the worldwide hunt for Nazi criminals by the Israeli special services after World War II. Both situations are similar, but not in all aspects. After all, the Nazi criminals were recognized as such by the Nuremberg Tribunal, that is, by all the victorious world powers. Additionally, the Israelis did not hide the 'authorship' of special operations abroad against Nazis. Russia, on the other hand, does not recognize the affiliation of those hunting the heads of the country's enemies to official bodies, such as the GRU. And those enemies were sentenced to death secretly, without relying on united international public opinion. It is clear that few are pleased with military operations by another country on their territory, and this is especially true of world leading countries such as Great Britain and Germany. Why did [Russian] domestic special services need to tease such countries with political assassinations is a big question. It is only clear that such special operations cannot be carried out without a signal from the political Olympus.

"Secondly, after the poisoning of the Skripals by 'tourists' from Russia, who were identified by the British special services as staff members of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Federation's Armed Forces, it was generally accepted in the West that our agents crossed the second line of "red flags" - they used on the territory of a state (with was not in a state of war with Russia) chemical warfare agents prohibited by an international convention. Moreover, with some unclear purpose, the Salisbury "heroes" were dragged into a self-exposure session on Russian state television, after which it became finally clear that, either very narrow-minded people hold high offices in the Russian Federation and the GRU, or the state does not care what politicians and the public of the world's leading countries think of it, and it is not interested in strengthening relations with them.

"Thirdly, in recent years, the geography of attempts on Russia's enemies has expanded from the Muslim countries of the Arab East, Ukraine and Great Britain (the latter in domestic 'patriotic' and military circles is considered to be a traditional centuries-old enemy and provocateur) to the territory of states that are essentially friendly to the political regime in the Kremlin – to Germany and Austria. Presumably, for the friends of Russia in these countries, and especially for their political circles, this came as a shock.  In Germany, which acts as a benevolent partner of Russia in many international dealings, an additional irritant was the story about cyber espionage against Bundestag members from Chancellor Merkel's party (of which the Russian special services were accused). There were reports, that the hackers tried to get the access to the email of Frau Merkel.

"Russia in all these stories did not officially recognize its involvement, and also did not cooperate with the authorities and law enforcement agencies of the aforementioned countries, which, undoubtedly, was perceived by their political leadership as an indirect confirmation of its [Russia's] guilt.

"In short, it turned out that public opinion in the West in recent years has been fully prepared for the fact, that certain agents can kill a political opponent, who poses a threat to the Russian state (according to the intelligence services or the country's leadership) with the help of a chemical warfare agent developed for military purposes in government laboratories. That essentially is committing an act of state terrorism.

"While the victims of assassination attempts abroad turned out to be former militants or rebels, Russia more or less was able to get away with it. However, the Litvinenko and Skripals cases broke with this pattern, and therefore caused such a response and international sanctions, which had not happened before. But the poisoning of Navalny by Novichok doesn't fit into the aforementioned pseudo-Israeli scheme.

"Russia here fell into its own trap: the enemy of the state, whose name President Putin and his press secretary Peskov defiantly never pronounce, the famous "Novichok" agent, Navalny's retention in an Omsk hospital for a day contrary to the wishes of the Navalny's family, which can be regarded as an attempt by the Russian special services to cover the traces of the assassination attempt. For the Western commoner, and for politicians, it will look like state terrorism against the political opposition in Russia. If earlier the poisoning of oppositionists in Russia did not receive international confirmation, then now the situation is different and very bad for the Kremlin and for the reputation of Vladimir Putin.

"In the Telegram channels close to the Kremlin, the presence of some officers in civilian clothes in the office of the head doctor of the Omsk hospital, while Navalny was there, was explained by the fact that a silent state guard had long been assigned to the oppositionist so that 'not a single hair from his head would be harmed' and the oppositionist would not become a sacrificial offering that the Kremlin's enemies would exploit for their own purposes. Obviously, this idea will now be actively promoted when explaining the poisoning of Navalny, and domestic propaganda will adapt the intrigues of foreign special services as one of the main versions. But, unfortunately, the authorities will not look convincing here either. It would be possible to speak about Navalny's protection and 'the preservation' of his hair at the behest of the supreme power, if the opposition politician had not been endlessly prosecuted, fined, and sent time and again to the police 'holding pen' under false pretenses. The authorities put his brother behind the bars, handed over the very dubious debts of his human rights organization to the 'Kremlin chef' Prigozhin (whose reputation for the Western world is obvious). So the Russian authorities will not be able to put this trump card into play, even if it corresponds with reality, - they will be accused of cheating.

"By the way, [I have a question] for those who reproach Angela Merkel for her hasty political assessment of the Bundeswehr laboratory results: how should the 'iron chancellor' have reacted to the story with Navalny after she has seen a printout of the opposition Russian politician's diagnosis of, taking into account Russia's refusal to cooperate on murders and cyber terrorism investigations on the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany...?"

 

[1] Iz.ru, August 27, 2020.

[2] Nytimes.com, September 7, 2020,

[3] Echo.msk.ru, September 3, 2020.

[4] The laws introduced by United Russia legislator Irina Yarovaya force mobile and internet companies to log the text messages, phone conversations and chat activity of customers for six months and to provide them to security services in the case of a court order. The laws entered into force in 2018.

[5] Rosbalt.ru, September 2, 2020.

Share this Report:

HELP BRIDGE THE LANGUAGE GAP – DONATE TO MEMRI’S 2020 SUMMER CAMPAIGN