Monday, March 31, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Kyiv’s Suspension of Military Industry Cooperation with Moscow Creating Problems for Russian Forces

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 31 – Moscow’s denunciation of the accords it had with Ukraine on the naval base in Sevastopol following Russia’s seizure of Crimea has attracted a great deal of attention, but a Ukrainian response, one that creates serious problems for the Russian military so far has not.

            In response, Vladimir Mukhin writes in today’s “Nezavsimaya gazeta,” “Ukraine has stopped its military-technical cooperation with the Russian Federation.”  While Russian officials are downplaying the significance of this move and stressing that Moscow can work around it, Kyiv’s decision at least in the short term harms the Russian armed forces (

            What is most intriguing, Mukhin continues, is that the impact of this Ukrainian decision will be felt first in Russia’s Strategic Nuclear Forces.

            According to Vladimir Yevseyev, the director of the Moscow Center for Social-Political Research, Russian dependence on Ukraine in this sector and especially in supporting its RS-20B inter-continental ballistic missiles is very clear, and it is these missiles which give Russia a kind of parity with the United States.

            While the Russian missiles are aging – many were built in the 1980s – they could easily serve until 2019-2021 if they continue to be served by the specialists of the Yuzhnoye complex in Ukraine.  If that support element disappears, Russia will face a problem until it can find or develop a replacement.

                Yury Netkachev, a retired lieutenant general, says that “the freezing of military cooperation [between Russia and Ukraine] is in the first instance beneficial to the Americans,” who he says have every interest in preventing Russia from relying on the RS-20B. Indeed, he suggests, some in the West would be willing to see chaos in Ukraine if that was the price of cutting off such support to Russia.

            In Mukhkin’s words, “Kyiv has the chance to put sticks in the wheels of the defense capacity of the Russian Federation in other directions as well.”  Igor Frolov, a Russian specialist on the defense industry, says that Moscow relies on Ukrainian-manufactured engines for some of its ships and helicopters. 

            Russia, “of course,” the “Nezavisimaya gazeta” writer continues, “will be able to resolve the  problems connected with its dependence on the Ukrainian military-industrial comple but for this it will need time,” perhaps several years. And consequently, some Russian military and military industry officials are hoping Moscow and Kyiv can agree to restart cooperation.


Window on Eurasia: Russia’s Germans, Invoking Crimean Precedent, Want Their Republic Back

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 31 – Russia’s Anschluss of Crimea and Moscow’s various declarations about the right of nations – or at least some of them – to self-determination continue to echo through the Russian Federation, most recently among the Russian Germans who viewing the Crimean events want rehabilitation and the possible restoration of their republic.

            On Friday, the International Union of German Culture and the German Youth Organization met in Moscow to discuss the implications of Moscow’s policies in Crimea for themselves.  Heinrich Marten, president of the Federation of the National Cultural Autonomies of the Russian Germans, made this link clear.

            He said that Vladimir Putin’s decision to talk about the rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatars “means that the state has again returned to the problem of rehabilitation” more generally, including among the Russian Germans whose “wounds have not yet healed.”   For them too, “rehabilitation is not a closed issue” (

            Over the last two weeks, Russian Germans have been working on a package of documents concerning this issue and have formed a working group consisting of the leaders of the national cultural autonomies, experts in state administration, historians, political scientists and sociologists.

            This group has had “more than 15 meetings and discussions” with senior officials in the Presidential Administration, the Council of the Federation, the regional development ministry, and the foreign ministry. And as a result, there is now a draft program “on the rehabilitation of Russian Germans.”

            The document itself has sparked discussion and dispute within the Russian German community with some complaining that it does not insist on the restoration of a German Republic in the Middle Volga but others saying that it is right to focus on German national districts in Omsk, and the Altay, and still a third group calling for “extra-territorial’ autonomy.

            The Volga German Autonomous Republic existed between 1924 and 1941, when Stalin, following Hitler’s invasion of the USSR disbanded it and exiled the 350,000 ethnic Germans there to Kazakhstan and Siberia. The Russian Germans were rehabilitated in Khrushchev’s time, but their republic was never restored. Many left to go to Germany.

            Any German demand for the restoration of the republic poses some serious problems for Moscow in addition to those associated with restoring a people and its institutions to land now occupied by someone else.  On the one hand, given the continuing centrality of World War II in Russian political thinking, it is difficult to imagine how this could be done without offending many Russian nationalists.

            And on the other, given Putin’s interest in dividing Europe and especially Germany from the United States, it is almost equally difficult to imagine that the Kremlin leader would see as a step that would win him additional support in Berlin something he would want to reject in any public way.

                That suggests that the most likely outcome of this new upsurge in Russian German activism  in the wake of Crimea will be greater Moscow support for that community but no move to allow them to restore their republic.  But the genie is out of the bottle , yet another unintended and for Moscow unwelcome consequence of what it has done in Ukraine.

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s Republics Should have Referenda on Independence, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 31 – Confronted with Moscow’s seizure of Crimea and its demands for the federalization of Ukraine, the Ukrainian foreign ministry has countered by calling for every republic within the Russian Federation to hold a referendum about their future status and possible independence.

            Moscow has been pushing for the federalization of Ukraine for two reasons. On the one hand, federalization of Ukraine, given that predominantly ethnic Russian federal subjects would be adjacent to the Russian Federation, would give Moscow permanent leverage on Kyiv and prevent the integration of Ukrainian identity and the Ukrainian political system.

            And on the other, the federalization of Ukraine is something Moscow feels it can use and expect to get support for both because it is a federation and because the United States not only is a federal system but has often pressed others to adopt federal arrangements as a means of sharing power with various groups and areas within a state.

            But there are two problems with this Russian position: the Russian Federation is a federation in name only. There is no fiscal or legal federalism – Vladimir Putin has done everything he can to eliminate even the beginnings of either after 1991. And consequently, its push for “federalism for export” is suspect on its face.

            And the other is that federal systems are both rare and difficult to create, a reality many in the US have been slow to recognize.  At present, only about one country in ten has a federal system even nominally, and those that do have taken decades or longer to create the constitutional, legal and even more societal supports for power sharing on a territorial basis.

            Without that foundation, as the Russian experience shows, every effort to build power locally looks to the center like the first step toward secession, and every effort to build power in the center looks to the periphery like another move toward return toward hyper-centralization, thus creating a situation which is unstable by its very nature.

            As a counter to this Russian push to permanently injure their country by seizing part of it and making another part a place for continued Russian interference, the Ukrainian foreign ministry has called on the Russian Federation to live up to its own principles and even have referenda in its non-Russian republics about the future (

            Before instructing others, the foreign ministry says, Russia should improve the situation in its own country with respect to national minorities, many of whom are sadly without the rights in fact that the Russian constitution specifies and that they as human communities have every right to demand.

            “Why shouldn’t Russia give real and not declarative content to federalism” in its own country? the Ukrainian foreign ministry asks.  Moreover, it continues, “why should [Russia] not conduct referenda about broad autonomy and if necessary about independence in the national subjects of the federation?”

            At a minimum, Kyiv says, Moscow ought to think about giving languages other than Russian the status of state languages, a step it has demanded of Ukraine and other countries but has not been willing to take itself.

            Given that and given the aggressive stance of Moscow toward Ukraine more generally, it is obvious that “this aggressor is demanding only one thing: the complete capitulation of Ukraine, its division, and the destruction of Ukrainian statehood. Namely in that way and in no other” are Russia’s demands evaluated in Ukraine.

            Russia, of course, has a long history of making demands on others that it is in no way ready to fulfill for its own people.  But even though the Ukrainian counter-suggestion is not going to find support in Moscow or – one fears – in the West, it does have the effect of highlighting the duplicity of the Kremlin and the problems Moscow itself faces.

            There are 21 non-Russian national republics inside the borders of the Russian Federation. They are increasingly non-Russian given Russian flight and non-Russian fertility rates. Many have all the conditions necessary for independence, save having been made union republics in Soviet times, the precondition the West decided was the limit of self-determination in 1991.

            Some in the Caucasus have already taken up arms to press for independence, Chechnya being only the most dramatic in that regard. Others like Tatarstan, which like Chechnya refused to sign the Russian Federation treaty, have large groups within their populations who want independence. And still others want at least a re-division of power and fiscal arrangements in their favor.

            Moreover – and this is especially important now – many non-Russians in these republics are horrified and angry about the increasingly xenophobic ideology of the Kremlin, an ideology that both puts them at risk of attacks by Russian groups and leaves them as second-class citizens in what has been their own country.

             Indeed, at the present time, the suggestion of the Ukrainian foreign ministry about what should happen in the Russian Federation deserves the support of all those who favor freedom and a law-based state; the demands of the Russian Federation in contrast are, given their obvious motivation, unworthy of any discussion whatsoever.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow has ‘No Alternative’ to Annexing South Osetia, Russian Analyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 30 – Ever since the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008, South Osetian leaders have wanted their republic to be annexed by the Russian Federation and combined with the larger North Osetian Republic. But Moscow had been reluctant to take that step.

            On the one hand, the Kremlin clearly believed that any act of annexation would generate far more serious reaction abroad than simply creating another “unrecognized” territory on the former Soviet space.  And on the other, Moscow viewed the combination of the two Osetias as something that could trigger more instability in the North Caucasus

            But now in the wake of the Crimean Anschluss, an act that many in the West appear to be on the way to accepting and more sadly to legitimating and with suggestions that South Osetia could enter the Russian Federation as a separate federal subject, Moscow’s calculations may be changing.

            Although Russian diplomats continue to press Tbilisi to sign peace agreements with South Osetia and Abkhazia, a step that would point to a continuation of the status quo (, a leading Russian analyst of the North Caucasus is arguing that Moscow now has “no alternative” to annexing South Osetia and nothing to fear if it does.

            In an essay on, Yana Amelina, a senior specialist at the influential Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, says that what she calls “the Crimean precedent” is making the issue of the future status of the Republic of South Osetia “particularly significant” (

            “After Crimea,” she writes, the longstanding dream of many in South Osetia to become part of the Russian Federation “may quite quickly become a reality.” Indeed, she says, Osetians both south and north of the existing border of the Russian Federation say that it is hard to imagine a better time for taking such a step.

            At a March 19 conference on “The Situation in Crimea and Ukraine. Prospects for Development and Search for a Way Out” in North Caucasus, “all who touched on this theme” spoke in favor of annexation, including the first president of the republic, a leading Osetin historian and Amelina herself.

             Mira Tskhovrebova, the deputy chairman of the South Osetian parliament, created “a small sensation by declaring that ‘Crimea has changed everything’ and ‘if this is a window of opportunity, it beyond doubt must be used.’” If Moscow gives the go ahead, she continued, we can organize a referendum for unification just like in Crimea.

            The arguments for unification, Amelina says, are well known: Such an action would allow the Osetins to develop, it would provide greater security for them and for others in the region, and it would allow Osetia to become “an advance post of Russia” in the Caucasus as a whole.

            According to Amelina, there are no good arguments against unification, especially since concerns about “’ what will the West say’ have lost their importance” for Russia.  And she insists, there are compelling reasons to move now so that the Osetins in the south will have better socio-economic prospects.

            Moreover, she says, “the time of small states, which objectively do not have the geopolitical, human, material, and moral resources needed for all-around development is passing.” And it can pass “very quickly” if Russia recognizes the need to make such “fateful choices.”