Sunday, August 28, 2016

If Russia Plans to Attack Ukraine, It Will Do So in the Next Several Weeks, Felgengauer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 28 – It remains unclear whether Moscow intends to launch a full-scale military attack on Ukraine, Pavel Felgengauer says; but if it plans to, there are compelling reasons – deteriorating weather in the fall and the new round of the Russian military draft in October – to think that it will begin in the next several weeks.

            The Russian military analyst says that “Russian forces have been brought to full military readiness and moved up to the borders of Ukraine.” And while this at one level at least is only “saber rattling,” it is clear that it is possible that this will lead to a full-scale military conflict (

            Indeed, if such an expanded invasion doesn’t begin, then it is far from understandable “why all this is being organized because the forces that have been moved forward are very serious.”  To be sure, Moscow has not called up the reserves, but it doesn’t have to because “even without them,” Moscow can assemble “more than 100,000 men” for an attack.

            Russian generals are in command of the forces of the Donbass, the so-called first and second corps of the DNR and LNR. And all of these are subordinate to the Southern Military District. But the forces in the Donbass will not move independently in any “principally new” direction without support from their Russian rear.

            Everything that is taking place now, Felgengauer says, “is very dangerous, but whether there will be a war is something we shall have to wait and see. It won’t be long. Various scenarios are possible,” but “the main thing for Russia will be to achieve strategic and tactical surprise.”

            “And if it does not do that now, then it will be [too] late,” the analyst says: In October, the weather will change for the worse, and the fall draft into the Russian army will introduce problems for commanders, including the rotation out of soldiers who have served their time, that would make any attack difficult if not impossible.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Moscow Creates a Frankenstein Monster as Pro-Kremlin Radicals Attack Even Russian Police

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 27 – Like its tsarist predecessors, the Russian government today has created a Frankenstein monster that may serve its short-term interests but that is already turning on its creators or at least promoting the kind of environment in which those not connected with the government will feel justified in using force in response.

            Two weeks ago, Aleksey Gorbachev, a political observer for “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” writes, activists from SERB (“the South East Radical Bloc”) attacked a Solidarity picket and in the course of that event even struck a policemen, something caught on camera (

            Attacks on police typically bring a rapid official response, but not in this case. On the one hand, Gorbachev says, the SERBs continue to act as if they do not expect to be punished – they were behind the attack on Yuliya Latinina; and on the other, the Moscow police have been unwilling to answer any questions even though required to do so within seven working days.

            According to the journalist, their dilatory behavior has less to do with official unwillingness to talk about the suppression of dissent than about their desire to not speak about why they are “not defending the honor of their uniform” in a case when the law is clear and the evidence is overwhelming.

            Nikolay Mironov, the head of the Moscow Center for Economic and Political Reforms, told Gorbachev that in the run up to the elections, the powers that be are so interested in attacking opposition groups that they are even willing to tolerate attacks on police by those carrying these out.

            Not only is this a manifestation of “double standards,” Mironov says. But by itself, it “legitimates force that comes not from the state” but from non-state actors. Russian officials often criticize Ukraine for allowing a situation like that to arise there, insisting that such things never happen in Russia.

            “But when force is not suppressed and in certain cases even permitted, then one should not be surprised by an increase in the number of violent crimes and postings on the Internet by criminals who are proud of their actions.” That is already quite often the case among youth gangs and groups.

            “Pro-government movements are making deviant behavior the norm and thus deforming the principles of morality,” Mironov says.  “Inaction on the part of the authorities is an indulgence which appears to be a kind of silent support. But the fact that these patriots can beat policemen strikes at the entire law-enforcement system.”

Russian Orthodox Church Views Paganism as Inherently Nationalist and Separatist

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 27 – According to the Russian Orthodox hierarch in Chuvashia, a Christian Turkic republic in the Middle Volga, Chuvash nationalists are seeking to revive traditional pagan faith to promote their separatist agendas, a view that reflects the views of the Moscow Patriarchate and one that bodes ill for followers of such faiths across Russia.

            Regional specialists, republic officials and leaders of the traditional pagan faith of the Chuvash combined their meetings a month ago, provoking local representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church to step up their criticism of paganism as a form of nationalism and separatism (

            Vitaly Stanyal, one of the organizers of these meetings said that the Chuvash have been doing this kind of thing for the last 25 years, that is, since the collapse of the communist system, and people in Chuvashia, scholars, activists and followers of the traditional pagan faith look forward to such meetings. 

            But Russian officials and the Russian church don’t, he continued, don’t.  “For many centuries, [they] have been struggling with ethnic religious with fire and sword. They have driven the Chuvash faith into the underground.” But “in spite of the diktat of Orthodoxy, the Chuvash popular faith lives in the memories and spirits of people.”

            What Russian Orthodox priests are saying now reflects the views articulated a year ago by Father Maksim Kurlenko, a priest who heads the youth department of the Cheboksary bishopric.  He said at that time that there was no real pagan faith anymore and that “the national intelligentsia is reviving it artificially.”

            “What is the result from ethno-religions?” he asked. “What is their contribution to culture.”  According to Father Maksim, those who appear under its banner don’t talk about religious issues but rather make “political demands,” including the expulsion of non-Chuvash from the republic and even its independence from Russia.

            In short, he said, “paganism is closely connected with nationalism. Pagan-nationalist organizations in essence are all separatist in attitude. As a result they are leading to the disintegration of a united Russia.”  For that reason if for no mother, Christianity and ethno-religions “cannot” coexist.

            The representative of Russian Orthodoxy continued: “The Church does not impose its worldview on anyone.” But these political demands are unacceptable. Any Chuvash can remain Chuvash and be “completely Orthodox” at the same time. “Any ethno-religion can grow up to the level of Orthodoxy” because “Orthodoxy is higher than paganism” in its holiness.

            Stanyal rejected these arguments and says they reflect the ignorance and arrogance of those offering them.  “If there is a nation, then anything that belongs to it is national. The respected propagandist of Christianity … approaches other faiths in a Nazi-like fashion, with hatred” and lies.  To say Orthodoxy has not been imposed on non-Russians is absurd.

            Vyachceslav Orinov, Chuvashia’s deputy minister for culture, nationalities and archives, agrees with Stanyal: “A Chuvash who does not know and respect his traditions is not a Chuvash. We are not mankurts and therefore we must preserve out name, our culture and our language” even as its members respect others.

            The Chuvash do respect others, including, he said, including “the Christian God, the Russian Orthodox Church, Allah and Islam. But this doesn’t mean that we must give up our own cultural traditions … When people respect nature and turn to God for support and help is that by definition paganism?  For God is one and he certainly is glad for all honest toilers.”