Tuesday, June 30, 2015

ISIS a Response to Conditions Where State has Collapsed, MGIMO Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 30 – ISIS is an adaptive response to territories where the state has collapsed and which have to get by “without the state as a form of organization of society” and thus present themselves as opponents of the state as such, according to Nikolay Silayev, a specialist on security in the Caucasus at MGIMO.

            It thus poses a threat to any place where the state is weak or can be described as having failed, he continues, but it is ever less of a problem in the North Caucasus where he says the state is recovering. In his view, “the state is always stronger than any bands” at least in the long run (kavpolit.com/articles/kavkaz_2020_vozvraschenie_gosudarstva-17893/).

            ISIS is “not what we are accustomed to understand by the term ‘state,’” Silayev says. Rahter “it is a new type of uprising organization” that perhaps can best be described by saying it is “post-modern.” It “actively hands out franchises to the leaders of radical Islamists beyond the borders of the Near East and the latter quickly unite to this movement.”

            “In other words,” he says, “this is an anti-system movement to the extent it brings together people who are not included or do not want to be included in contemporary society and the world economy.”

            “Radical political Islam is good as the institutional framework for the new statelessness,” Silayev continues, because “in radical Islam there simply is no category of the state, and shariat law functions as the regulatory base.” In certain respects, it is even “neo-liberal” because it seeks to reduce the state to as little as possible, although it provides no normal property guarantees.it

            “In an economic crisis,” when the state cannot collect as much in taxes as it did and thus must cut back services, “ISIS looks stronger because it does not link itself to many things which are part and parcel of contemporary nation states.” It “doesn’t support infrastructure, education, health care or social security … “in general this is a medical economic state.”

            Silayev says he does “not believe that an ordination territorial state will be formed out of ISIS,” as some think given that ISIS barbarians—and that is what they are, he argues -- will destroy the defenders of a state and then become the state itself only to be overthrown in turn by new barbarians.

            Asked about the case of Varvara Karulova who sought to join ISIS and how dangerous that makes ISIS for Russia, Silayev replies that too much is being made of her case: “When one girl from a good family unexpectedly falls into the network of ISIS, then a hullaballoo is raised; but when hudnreds if not thousands of guys from the North Caucasus do so, the [Moscow] press is silent.”

            That means that ISIS does pose a threat to the North Caucasus, Silayev continues, but for the time being, it doesn’t threaten the Russian Federation as a whole.

The Shaman Who Stood His Ground against Russia’s Oil Companies

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 30 – Sergey Kechimov, a Khant reindeer herder and shaman, has been charged with threatening Russian oil workers with a gun when their work appeared certain to contaminate the holy lake of which he is the guardian.  He is now at risk of a lengthy jail sentence, according to a write up on Snob.ru (snob.ru/profile/29449/blog/94445).

            In what appears to be almost a scene from Edward Topol’s now-classic novel, “Red Snow,” and something that is certain to attract broader notice at this time of mounting environmental disasters in the Russian Federation, the shaman’s actions and the Russian authorities’ response are indicative of a growing problem there.

            As Mariya Favorskaya writes, the shaman has lived next to Lake Imlor his entire life and protected it as best he can for the numerous other Khants who come there to conduct the rites of their animist faith. But now, that lake is under threat from Russia’s oil industry which “year after year” has come closer to this ancient but surviving world.

            What the oil workers have brought, the Snob.ru journalist says, is “toxic contamination, trash, and fires.” They’ve destroyed the pastures of the reindeer, and most local people have retreated from the onslaught of new workers who have come to develop the Surgut area’s oil industry and others who have followed in their wake.

            But Sergey has decided to remain to protect the lake against the oilmen and the poachers. He is the last person living on its shores, and he takes his responsibilities to nature and his gods very seriously, Favorskaya reports.  Last September, he shot a dog that came with some oilmen and befouled the lake.

            That was the beginning of the shaman’s real problems.  Several days later, some officials appeared and demanded that he sign a document in Russian, a language he speaks poorly and almost cannot read. Then it turned out that by signing, he had acknowledged threatening to shoot the oilmen and steal money from them.

            For his action and admission, he is now threatened with two years in prison when his case comes up for a hearing on August 17.  Local people believe, Favorskaya says, that the oil workers simply want to use this case to intimidate the Khants and then take all of their land away from them.

            Kechimov has a public defender who promises to protest the entire proceeding because Sergeyy was never shown the charges translated into his own language. Meanwhile, the local Ob-Igor peoples webpage is seeking to mobilize support: 93 percent of its visitors support Kechimov against the oilmen (vk.com/mooun.hmao?w=wall-17147709_3601%2Fall).

            The oil and gas company he’s up against, Surgutneftegaz, has big plans for Lake Imlor. It estimates that under the lake itself are more than a million tons of oil, and it has no intention of losing access to that even if it has to destroy the focus of local culture and the life of the Khant shaman.

            There have been oil leaks from the firm already, but worse, the company has built roads in a place where until a few years ago, there were none. As a result, poachers, hunters and fishermen have all arrived and left destruction behind, showing absolutely no respect for the taboos around the lake.

            Under Russian law, of course, the Khants don’t own the lake, although it has been designated a natural preserve. Instead, because all oil and gas is state property, Moscow can hand it over to the oil company and clearly intends to do just that. The shaman’s attempt to stand his ground is thus likely to fail, and he probably will be railroaded into prison.

            And thus will be destroyed yet another important cultural site in the Russian Federation, all in the name of feeding the export pipelines and enriching those around Vladimir Putin.

‘Moldova has Left Russia’s Sphere of Influence,’ ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 30 – Local election result in Moldova show that Moldovans are disappointed in the Customs Union and do not want Russia as “a big brother,” according to Svetlana Gamova of “Nezavisimaya gazeta.” Instead, they highlight the continuing importance of geopolitics in Moldova and the fact that that country “has left Russia’s sphere of influence.”

            In today’s paper, reporting on the Moldovan election results announced yesterday, Gamova, who head the Moscow paper’s “department on countries of the near abroad” said that the results showed that earlier public opinion polls had been wrong producing many unexpected results (ng.ru/cis/2015-06-30/1_moldavia.html).

            In Chisinau, where a third of Moldovans live, a representative of the pro-European Liberal Party was elected mayor rather than the candidate of the pro-Russian Party of Socialists, a pattern that was repeated in smaller cities and towns across the country, according to the Moscow journalist.

            “All Moldovan voters see Moscow as being behind the socialists,” she writes.  “Last fall, when the leaders of the Socialist Party appeared on television meeting with Vladimir Putin in Moscow that helped them get into parliament and become the largest fraction.” But Russia’s failure to provide a market for Moldovan products has led to massive disappointment.

            That disappointment in Moscow is so profound, local political analyst Andrey Andriyevsky says, that while some in Moldova may call for closer ties with Russia even in the future, “one can say with a great degree of certainty that these parties and politicians will no longer guide Moldova either at the local or the national level.”

            According to him, “the Socialists made a mistake by constructing their program in parallel with the Soviet past and this played against them. Just as did their constant counterposing of Russian to the European Union. Moldovans were disappointed in the EU earlier,” but now they are disappointed in Russia.

            Being disappointed in both, Viktor Stepaniuk of the Popular Socialist Party says, “Moldovans today want to remain between the unions (east and west) and at the same time work with the one and the other.” That reflects the fact that “in every Moldovan family there is someone working in Italy or Spain and someone else working in Russia.”

                To the extent he is right, that would suggest that while Moldova indeed has left Russia’s sphere of influence, it has not yet joined the EU’s, largely because the latter has not reached out to it and helped integrate its economy with the Western one.