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Putin’s Russia as a State Sponsor of Terrorism

Putin’s Russia has become what the US Department of State calls a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

Here’s how: After the Anschluss of Crimea, Putin had three options. He could invade all or parts of Ukraine, or hope that pro-Russian demonstrators would flood Ukraine’s streets and assert their “people power.” The first option has not been pursued, perhaps because it’s too risky. The second failed, as the vast majority of Ukraine’s southeastern citizens have remained indifferent or opposed to unification with Russia.

That left Putin with one remaining option: terrorism.

Here’s why Putin’s Russia qualifies as a state sponsor of terrorism. According to Section 2656f(d) of Title 22 of the United States Code:

(1) the term “international terrorism” means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than one country;

(2) the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents; and

Trading Barbs with Putin

One of Ukraine’s richest oligarchs, Igor Kolomoisky, has just taken another rude poke at Russian President Vladimir Putin. And this time the Jewish Ukrainian businessman hasn’t just insulted Putin. By invoking Jewish support of Putin’s Ukrainian nationalist bogeyman—Stepan Bandera (1909–59)—Kolomoisky, who is president of the European Jewish Union and a leading Jewish philanthropist, has engaged in the ultimate provocation.

Could Russia Occupy Ukraine?

A Russian invasion of mainland Ukraine continues to worry Ukrainian and Western policymakers, despite statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Moscow has no such intentions. The illegal occupation of Crimea serves as one source of disbelief in Russian sincerity; a second source is Moscow’s refusal to recognize the Ukrainian government or the forthcoming May 25th presidential elections. A third is the continued placement of Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders. Estimates of their number have ranged widely, from 30,000 to 220,000, with most falling in the 50,000–80,000 range. (On April 4th, however, Ukraine’s first vice prime minister stated there were 10,000–15,000 Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders and another 22,000 in Crimea.)

Experts on Ukraine Still Getting It Wrong

When the West’s leading experts get elementary facts about Ukraine wrong, blithely encourage Russian expansionism, or make illogical arguments, I worry. As should everybody. After all, these are presumably the people influencing or making policy in the United States and Europe.

The latest two examples are Jacques Attali, the founding president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and Ian Bremmer, president of the New York–based consultancy, Eurasia Group.

Attali’s views on Crimea, Ukraine, and Russia are alarming, indeed, irresponsibly so. Bremmer’s rest on definitional ambiguity and faulty logic.

Is Putin Next?

Here are a few trick questions. Who was elected democratically—Viktor Yanukovych or Vladimir Putin? Who violated his country’s Constitution? Who enjoyed popular legitimacy? Whose rule was unstable?

The answer to the first question—Who was elected democratically?—is obvious. That was Yanukovych, back on February 7, 2010, in elections that were roundly considered to be fair and free. Putin, in contrast, was elected democratically in 2000, semi-democratically in 2004, and non-democratically in 2012.

Here are excerpts from three Final Reports of the Election Observation Missions of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR):

Russian election of March 26, 2000:

'Experts' on Ukraine

An astoundingly large amount of nonsense has been written about Ukraine ever since it came to occupy center stage in the public mind. That’s not surprising: most people in most countries barely knew the place existed or assumed it was “really” Russia. The number of Ukraine specialists outside of Ukraine is probably no greater than a few hundred in the entire world. Their expertise was of little interest to people who had no interest in or use for the country.

Putin’s Terrifying Warmongering

On March 8th, some 15,000 women and children lined the roads of Crimea, and Kherson Province to its north, in protest against Russian President Valdimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian women didn’t come out in force just because it happened to be International Women’s Day. They were also responding to Putin’s threat to implicate them and their children in further acts of war against Ukraine.

Putin had put the women—and the world—on alert at his March 4th press conference, where he declared that he was “not worried” by the prospect of war with Ukraine and that, were he to decide to attack, he intended to use women and children as a shield for Russian troops.

Here’s how the official Kremlin website translated Putin’s terrifying exchange with a Russian-speaking woman journalist:

QUESTION: […] Are you concerned that a war could break out?

Kissinger Misunderstands Ukraine

When a renowned American statesman such as Henry Kissinger exhibits alarming ignorance about Ukraine, you’ve got to worry. In a March 5th op-ed in the Washington Post, Kissinger got just about everything wrong, even though, remarkably, his prescriptions for resolving the Russo-Ukrainian standoff still managed to be worthy of consideration.

Consider this passage:

The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there. Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then. Some of the most important battles for Russian freedom, starting with the Battle of Poltava in 1709, were fought on Ukrainian soil.

Ukraine's Chief Rabbi Refutes Putin's Anti-Semitic Charges

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his supporters in Russia and the West have accused the Ukrainian opposition that led the fight against the criminal Yanukovych regime and the democratic Ukrainian government that succeeded that regime of being fascist, neo-Nazi, and anti-Semitic.

The following quotations—by Putin and his most unremitting academic supporter in New York City on the one hand, and by three of Ukraine’s leading Jewish officials on the other—should settle the issue. Putin is beyond redemption, of course, but Professor Cohen may want to take account of the evidence and, like a good revisionist historian, revise his views.

Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, March 4, 2014:

Will Putin's Invasion Backfire?

Back in the early 1990s, when the Russian chauvinist Vladimir Zhirinovsky first reared his loony head, analysts began discussing the “Weimar Russia” scenario. Accordingly, the chaos of the late-Gorbachev period (Weimar) would be followed by the emergence of a strong man à la Adolf Hitler (Zhirinovsky), who would impose order, consolidate the nation, and lead it to some imagined form of glory.

The scenario didn’t work for crazy Vlad, but it turned out to be useful in understanding subsequent developments in Russia. The chaotic period of Boris Yeltsin’s presidency in the 1990s proved to be similar to Weimar Germany in the 1920s: in both cases, imperial collapse, economic hardship, and political humiliation were blamed on democracy and the democrats. And Vladimir Putin turned out to be Russia’s version of the Führer. Both came to power legally, developed cults of the personality, dismantled democracy and made the trains run on time, employed chauvinism and neo-imperialism to legitimize their rule, remilitarized their states and promised to make them great powers, and made it their mission to in-gather ethnic brethren in neighboring states.

Ukraine's Opportunity for Genuine Democracy

After 23 years of formal independence, Ukraine stands poised to take the final steps toward genuine independence by liberating itself from what has become the legacy of Soviet communism throughout its former empire—rule by criminal and thuggish regimes and oligarchs. Ukraine finally has the opportunity to join the civilized world where constitutions and rule of law, not party hacks and bullies, reign supreme.

Ukraine's Day of Infamy

Tuesday, February 18, 2014, will go down in European history as a day of infamy. It was then that Viktor Yanukovych declared war on his own people.

In retrospect, his decision to kill and maim Ukrainians looks inevitable. In 2010, he arrogated to himself the powers of a sultan. Thereafter, he progressively dismantled all of Ukraine’s democratic institutions and undermined all its freedoms. Finally, he and his cronies systematically looted the country to the tune of more than $10 billion. Having consistently treated the Ukrainian people as second-class citizens whose sole function consisted in serving the needs of the ruling Regionnaires, Yanukovych finally took his disdain for the nation to its logical conclusion: he began to butcher them.

Yanukovych claims that he is Ukraine’s legitimate president, that the protesters reject the constitutional solutions that he, the supposed moderate, supports, and that they are responsible for the violence. Don’t believe him for a second.

Should There Be One Ukraine?

As the criminal Yanukovych regime’s violence, terror, and repression are driving Ukraine to armed conflict and, possibly, fragmentation, it may be worth asking whether Ukraine might not be better off without some of its southeastern provinces.

First let’s consider the bad reasons for a breakup—Ukraine’s diversity in general and the regional, ethnic, confessional, and cultural divisions between its “West” and “East” in particular. A good place to start is a recent article by Orlando Figes, professor of history at Birkbeck College, University of London, “Is There One Ukraine?” Figes, who should know better coming from the UK, writes about Ukraine’s divisions as if they were unique and as if diversity alone justified or led to breakup. He’s wrong on both counts. Ukraine’s diversity is pretty much the norm for all stable states everywhere.

A Russian Threat to Ukraine?

Let’s start with the alarming question many people are now asking and then consider other forms of possible Russian intervention in the ongoing Ukrainian Revolution. It was on January 31st that Vladimir Putin’s former adviser, the economist Andrei Illarionov, shocked Ukrainians with his claim that the Kremlin has already developed several scenarios ranging from “control over all of Ukraine” to “control” over several provinces. His views might have been dismissed as alarmist were it not for the fact that Ukrainians have been expecting a more forceful Russian response to the ongoing revolution for weeks.

Imagine two possible scenarios: (1) a full-scale invasion of all, most, or much of Ukraine and (2) a limited invasion of one or two provinces of Ukraine. In both instances, the point would presumably be annexation, occupation, or longer-term control.

Ukraine’s Three Revolutionary Breakthroughs

The end of the criminal Yanukovych mafia regime may be nearer than we think. Three developments in the last week mark sea changes that favor the democratic opposition.

First, the regime’s elite guards—the Berkut riot police—shot and killed several demonstrators. Another man was disappeared by a death squad, tortured, and killed. These actions were criminal, but they were also profoundly stupid. In killing at least five young men, the Yanukovych regime has provided the democratic revolutionaries with something every revolution needs: martyrs and symbols. The Ukrainian revolution of 2014 now has its Nathan Hale (hanged by the British in 1776), its Medgar Evers (killed by white racists in 1963), its Benno Ohnesorg (killed by the West German police in 1967), and its Steve Biko (killed by the apartheid South African regime in 1977).

As Yanukovych will soon learn, you can’t fight martyrs, and you definitely can’t fight symbols. They will remain permanently alive, inspiring the struggle and promoting implacability and irreconcilability. In martyring five men, the regime made them into invincible enemies who will hasten its end.

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