ISSUE 2-2002
Александр Куранов
Иван Задорожнюк Екатерина Щеткина
Виктор Коган-Ясный Илья Гайдук Игорь Некрасов
Yurai Marushiak Владимир Воронов
Роман Майоров
Игорь Некрасов
Olga Homolova

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles and/or discussions are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or positions of the publisher.


In the editorial of the previous issue, we commented on the results of the 2000 presidential election  when a hitherto unknown and unobtrusive candidate called Vladimir Putin was elected leader of the Russian Federation. We suggested that this was probably partly due to the terrorist attacks that had previously taken place on Russian soil and that the true motives for those continue to raise a number of questions. Vladimir Putin has recently been re-elected President of Russia for a fourth term with a record number of votes cast on the day of the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea. He is no longer either unknown or unobtrusive as he has been repeatedly named  "man of the year" and the most powerful polititian in various polls conducted in recent years, with hundreds of people working hard to build up his image in both Russia and the West. His popularity among Russian voters continues to reach dizzying heights, yet the events accompanying the election pose new questions which are no less serious than those that surrounded his first election in 2000.
Putin´s unequivocal victory, which was the result of a massive propaganda campaign designed to exert  pressure on voters reminiscent of the old Soviet methods rather than any manifestation of free will, can also be seen as a reflection of the uncertainty and weakness that prevails among the Russian intelligentsia, about which we enquire in our interview with two of its prominent representatives. Other articles focus on Putin's engagement in Syria and on Russia's neighbours, above all Ukraine, in whose backyard our previous editorial predicted the newly elected president would be testing the limits of aggression he could afford to employ. In an attempt to convey a variety of views and perspectives we bring you two interviews about the situation in eastern Ukraine. We also comment on a new law on the reintegration of the occupied territory of Donbas.
What we did not foresee in the previous issue was the deployment of chemical weapons on the territory of a NATO member state just before the election and the subsequent massive disinformation campaign followed by extensive mutual expulsions of diplomats and the introduction of new sanctions.  Although it was apparently rather unsuccessful , the attempt to demostratively eliminate a GRU runaway agent raises questions both about the timing of this terrorist act and about the evident determination of Vladimir Putin to test the limits of aggression he can dare use against the West. Meanwhile Russian officials frequently accuse the west of trying to influence Russian elections in various unspecified ways while failing to protect Russian citizens on British territory, thus mimicking the old Soviet style propaganda. No matter how absurd this kind of deliberate stirring up of conflict between Russia and the West may seem to be in the context of deepening problems of the Russian economy, the Salisbury attack may be a decisive, powerful attempt to launch a new era of "geopolitical isolation of Russia", which Vladislav Surkov announced in his outlandish article published in April in "Russia in Global Politics". For domestic consumption, this new era was heralded by the attempt to ban the popular social media network Telegram a few days after the attack.
Vladislav Surkov concludes his article by claiming that "Russia will undoubtedly trade, attract investments, participate in the exchange of knowledge, wrestle, collaborate, work in international organizations (...)" without contradicting herself. Leaving aside the fact that this agenda and the current Russian leadership's  recent activities are strikingly reminiscent of the era of building communism in one country, which did not end very well for Russia and her inhabitants, it will be interesting to see how Russia envisages her further relations with the West. Provoking new confrontations and further deepening the beseiged fortress myth is probably the simplest functioning model of legitimizing power, or perhaps even the only model left to Vladimir Putin and his camarilla. He does not realize, though, that Western democracies are much better prepared for this kind of confrontation despite the mighty Russian propaganda machine and its hybrid operations. Applying censorship and banning various modern communication tools of the Telegram type will hardly benefit the "great technological leap" which Vladimir Putin had promised before the election. Besides, a society whose fredom is constantly being restricted is hardly likely to be able to generate the kind of knowledge that Russia could offer in exchange. What is more, Western investments are unlikely to flow into Russia at a time of confrontation;  instead we can expect further economic sanctions and more import restrictions on Russian oil and gas to the west. Russia depends on this trade to such an extent that it can only survive for a couple of weeks without European money, notwithstanding her mighty army and the will to use it in other hotspots apart from Eastern Ukraine and Syria.

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