The Kremlin and the nationalists versus Washington and the Other Russia
Unrest in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, opposition protest marches in Russia: all this is a sign that the entire former Soviet Union could turn into an instability zone. Washington has firmly decided to go ahead and implement an Orange revolution scenario in Russia.
Spring is a time of increasing activity by political aggressive citizens as well as psychologically unstable citizens. As the weather has grown warmer this year, events started developing rapidly – as if only winter had been holding them back. Attempts to hold radical opposition rallies – Dissenter Marches – have been made in Nizhny Novgorod and Moscow, and twice in St. Petersburg.
Russian nationalists have become more active as well. They have made their orientation clear: stating that they’re not siding with the authorities, but neither are they siding with the Orange forces in the Other Russia opposition coalition. The nationalists are a third force.
True, most Russian citizens probably don’t know about all these tectonic shifts in politics as yet. The national television networks give such events meager coverage. The Kremlin’s tame analysts discuss the events in such vague and convoluted terms that they seem to be aiming to put their audience to sleep. That’s probably true.
Yet the situation is growing more and more alarming. And one of the main symptoms of that is the increasingly harsh language used with reference to Russia by its “sworn friends” – the US State Department and so on.
Clearly, Washington has firmly decided to go ahead and implement an Orange revolution scenario in Russia. The Kremlin’s attempts to pursue an independent policy course are regarded by the USA as categorically unacceptable. The Americans don’t want “sovereign democracy” or an “energy superpower.”
Russia’s liberals are hoping that Orangism will bring them their longed-for standards of European democracy. They’re hoping in vain. In Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan – the “color revolution” countries – current events are demonstrating that such upheavals have a beginning but never have an end. Outgoing regimes are replaced by chaos rather than any form of new order. What’s more, it’s a special kind of chaos: managed chaos. Managed from Washington.
The US State Department recently released its Strategic Plan for foreign policy in 2007-2012. It includes quite a few “kind words” about our country. For example, it states openly that the priority objective for the United States is to counter Russia’s “negative behavior.” According to the Americans, we’re behaving badly when we sell arms to countries Washington doesn’t like or “exert pressure” on countries Washington does like. And the report drops a significant hint: “Elsewhere in Eurasia, people yearn for the hope kindled by the ‘color revolutions’ of 2003-2005.” We may read this as follows: “If any of you still think you can make your own decisions, we’re coming to get you.”
Meanwhile, the peoples of Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan – the states where “color revolutions” won – are now getting their fill of those revolutions’ fruit: both countries are experiencing severe political crises.
Kiev has had no legitimate authorities at all for several weeks. President Viktor Yushchenko issued a decree dissolving the Supreme Rada, thus effectively depriving the parliamentary majority’s government of any real powers. Yushchenko’s opponents declared his decree unconstitutional and started busing their supporters from other cities to Kiev. In other words, it’s clear that Orangism is that very same “permanent revolution” once envisioned by Trotsky.
Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine’s revolutionary sister, is also on the brink of sliding into chaos. The opposition is calling for the resignation of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev – although he swears he is prepared to carry out reforms and adopt a constitution that will reduce his powers. Felix Kulov, once Bakiyev’s ally in overthrowing the Askar Akayev regime, is not content to accept political compromises. Rumor has it that the disagreements between Bakiyev and Kulov have more to do with Kyrgyzstan’s largest gold mine than political power.
Two days that shook…
And something similar is being prepared for Russian citizens. Until recently, the prospect of an Orange triumph in Russia seemed highly improbable; but two days in mid-April shook that certainty substantially.
Radical opposition activists from the Other Russia coalition attempted to hold Dissenter March protests in Moscow on April 14 and in St. Petersburg on April 15. In both cases, they were repulsed by OMON riot police.
Undoubtedly, the Other Russia was deliberately provoking the authorities. Yes, Moscow’s municipal authorities had denied permission for a march – but they did give permission for a rally on Chistoprudnyi Boulevard (not an obscure location at all).
Nationalists from the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO) and the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) held a rally of their own that same day, without any disturbances, on Bolotnaya Square (a far less advantageous location in terms of publicity). Addressing the rally, KRO leader Dmitri Rogozin and DPNI leader Alexander Belov resolutely denied supporting the Orange forces; they made it clear that regardless of their disagreements with the Kremlin, they don’t seen that as an excuse to work under contract for Washington.
The Other Russia’s leaders disagree. Unlike the nationalists, they don’t want to engage in dialogue with the authorities; they want to overthrow them.
On April 14, the Dissenter March attempted to proceed from Pushkin Square to Chistye Prudy. The first arrests began at the very start of it. Among those who ended up in OMON police buses was Garry Kasparov – but his allies were undeterred, and decided to break through police lines. Then they were met with plastic shields and rubber batons on Rozhdestvensky Boulevard.
It’s revealing to note that by this time, opposition speakers were already addressing a rally at Chistye Prudy – and no one was trying to arrest them.
Another opposition rally was held in St. Petersburg the following day. It was also followed by clashes with OMON police. Once again, people were beaten and arrested.
So what is the outcome of all these turbulent events? At first sight, this seems like a victory for the Kremlin: its opponents were scattered, and it may now proceed to distribute awards to OMON personnel. In fact, however, the authorities have painted themselves into a corner.
Zugswang: that’s a chess term for a situation where no matter what a player does, their position can only get worse. And Grand Master Kasparov has set up a zugswang for his opponents.
Next time, the innocent bystanders who were beaten by police in April will turn up at opposition rallies deliberately. And with every event, the number of such “protesters” will grow.
There are only two ways to suppress a movement of this kind. The first was shown to be effective in Tiananmen Square, where opposition-minded students were simply crushed by tanks. And then China’s economic miracle dawned.
Obviously, the Kremlin won’t use the measures used in China.
The second way involves relying on the nationalists. A new party is being created on the basis of the KRO: it will be called Great Russia. Anti-Orange forces held an Imperial March in Triumph Square on April 8. Both Great Russia and the Imperial March organizers are willing to engage in “constructive dialogue” with the authorities. They are also prepared to solve the Orange problem themselves, without the OMON’s help. And then the West wouldn’t be able to accuse Russia’s leaders of “crimes against humanity.”
But is the Kremlin prepared to engage in dialogue with the nationalist forces?
There has been a shift of emphasis. Actually, the Kremlin now has a greater interest in cooperating with the nationalists than the nationalists have in cooperating with the Kremlin. And the sooner this fact is realized behind the Kremlin walls, the better the odds of preventing an Orange revolution scenario being implemented in Russia.