Russia’s quasiwar in eastern Ukraine is in no small measure a product of long-felt anti-Western tensions within Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin that are rapidly spiraling out of control.
With the downing of the Malaysian airliner over territory controlled by pro-Russian insurgents, the rift between Russia and Ukraine has become an international conflict. Citizens of the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, Britain, Belgium and other countries have been killed in a war that many people in the West might have thought had little to do with them.
We do not know who pulled the trigger, but we know that the armed rebels operating in the east of Ukraine have always had the vocal support of high-ranking Kremlin officials.… Seguir leyendo »
Many of the great empires of the past thought of themselves as having grand global missions. The European colonial powers of recent centuries liked to think of themselves as bringing the advantages of Western civilization to less fortunate lands. The Soviet Union — at least among its more idealistic adherents — was dedicated to spreading the gospel of Communism. In turn, the United States embraced the spread of free-market capitalism and democracy as its international mission.
Today, the president of my country, Vladimir Putin, also has a grand vision of what Russia’s place in the world should be. The problem is that no one really knows exactly what his goals are or how he plans to achieve them.… Seguir leyendo »
For most of the post-Soviet years, Russia has been torn by a question that haunts its people and their rulers: Do Russians want their country to be an imperialist power feared by other nations or a land whose primary concern is its citizens’ well-being?
President Vladimir V. Putin has resolved the issue, or so it seems. He has decided to tip the balance in favor of ambitious expansionist politics rather than domestic development. Prosperity for the people is all very well up to a point, but it has a downside: It produces independent-minded individuals who may try to vote their ruler out of office.… Seguir leyendo »
The annexation of Crimea, the media offensive against Kiev and the threat of military force against Ukraine are President Vladimir V. Putin’s ultimate response to Russia’s own failures. His latest actions are a veiled recognition that all of his other efforts to prove that Russia is regaining the Soviet Union’s status as a global superpower have come to nothing.
Mr. Putin and his cronies preside over a country with the planet’s largest land mass and the vast material wealth that comes with it. Russia is one of the world’s largest producers of oil, gas, diamonds and nickel. It boasts one of the largest mechanized forces of any army and a nuclear arsenal that is comparable to or even larger than that of the United States.… Seguir leyendo »
President Vladimir Putin’s decision to slip soldiers in unmarked uniforms into Crimea this month and escalate the race for control over other Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine shows that former assumptions about Moscow’s political behavior no longer apply. The United States and the European Union may still consider sanctions as a tool to check Moscow’s foreign policy, but to Mr. Putin, the threat of such sanctions means little: He has already factored them into his plans.
The chain of events the Kremlin has set in motion contains a message not only for Western policy makers, but also for the Russian plutocrats and corrupt officials who keep much of their wealth in the West.… Seguir leyendo »
Russia is not the West; Russians are different. This is not news; it’s been that way for centuries. The news is that the differences are accelerating.
Through the past 25 years, the Western world and Russia have been drifting in opposite directions, their hopes and social visions increasingly at cross purposes. Russia today is a country where many people find solace in traditional values that many in the West reject. Moreover, the country’s ruling elite is trying to bend this conservative rebound to its own ends. That is why the Kremlin is waging its own culture war — stoking the values of religion and nationalism as it rails against “foreigners,” sexual “deviants” and a “degenerate” West.… Seguir leyendo »
Russians tend to think about politics in terms of weather-report jargon. In late December, for example, when President Vladimir Putin began to set his prisoners free, many people began asking: Is this a thaw?
The conclusion to that question — discussed over holiday dinner tables and on social networks — was nearly unanimous: It is not. Opinions differed only in the degree and the timing of the next big freeze.
This is strange, considering the formidable list of those who were granted amnesty: the former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky; two members of the punk band Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova; the 30 Greenpeace activists arrested in September during a protest against drilling in the Barents Sea; four of the young people held in detention since the May 2012 clashes between protesters and the police (the so-called Bolotnaya Case); the teacher Ilya Farber, charged with bribery; and thousands of less-known people, including minors, war veterans, pregnant women and mothers, who are now being granted amnesty.… Seguir leyendo »
Vladimir Putin kept Pope Francis waiting nearly 50 minutes when the Russian president came to the Vatican last month to discuss world peace, family values and other issues. The pope did not seem to mind. Mr. Putin’s tardiness — attributed in this case to traffic problems — is not news. Besides, he has proved dependable in more important ways. In September, the pope wrote to the Kremlin asking Mr. Putin to help find a peaceful solution to the crisis over the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. The Russian leader complied.
A threatened American military strike was averted. The United Nations official in charge of coordinating the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile says that the country has lost the ability to make more, and the Assad regime’s entire stockpile is sealed and set to be destroyed by mid-2014.… Seguir leyendo »
Ukraine is leaving Russia for Europe. That’s what many observers see as the likely consequence of the Association Agreement that Ukraine and the European Union are expected to sign at a summit meeting in Vilnius at the end of this month. But those who expect Ukraine to embark on a fast transformation should not be complacent. Bitter disputes persist within the Ukraine-E.U.-Russia triangle, complicated conflicts that are about selfish interests, not universal values.
The breakup of the Soviet Union was not a single explosion. It remains a slow-motion, centrifugal process, with pieces of the Russian empire drifting farther and farther away from Moscow as others remain caught in the Kremlin’s orbit.… Seguir leyendo »
Moscow's mayoral election may seem like just another Russian election. The incumbent, Sergei S. Sobyanin, a loyal ally of President Vladimir V. Putin, is projected to win by a wide margin. His only real challenger stands practically no chance.
Still, the Moscow campaign is a big deal. The challenger is Aleksei A. Navalny, 37, an anti-corruption activist turned politician. In July, many in Russia watched in disbelief as this harsh critic of Mr. Putin was cleared by the Kremlin to take part in the race. Now Muscovites are watching with amusement as their city is transformed into a lively political stage, the likes of which Russia has never seen before.… Seguir leyendo »
I sensed something was different when a good friend of mine, Katya Vladyshevskaya, the mother of a beautiful 4-year-old, called me a month ago and asked if becoming an election monitor made any sense. Well, yes, I said, why not, it should be a good thing.
But as we talked, I was struck by the very idea of a young person — not a journalist, not a civic activist, not one of the usual suspects, in other words — becoming actively interested in the electoral process.
It was not just talk. Katya actually became a monitor. She spent 15 hours on Sunday at a Moscow polling station, where she witnessed barefaced fraud by the station’s head and tried to lodge a formal complaint.… Seguir leyendo »
The official Russian calendar lists Oct. 30 as the day to commemorate political prisoners, but the day is not yet “ours.” The notion of acknowledging the crimes of the Soviet state has not been fully accepted by Russian society, let alone the current political establishment.
Many Russians still believe that the entire issue is “foreign,” that it is being imposed on us by the West, that to confront the past would be divisive. Divisive not because they are committed Stalinists, but because many believe that condemning the crimes of the Soviet regime would demean them, or demean their parents and the older generations of true believers in Communism, darkening their memory and depriving them of something important.… Seguir leyendo »