Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Soviet System Did More to Destroy the USSR than ‘1,000 Banderas,’ Svyatenkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 23 – Most Russians are inclined to blame the disintegration of the USSR on the non-Russians, the dissidents, a nomenklatura conspiracy, Gorbachev’s failings, or Western special services. But the real truth, Pavel Svyatenkov says, is that the Soviet system did more to destroy the USSR than “a thousand Banderas.”

            In a commentary on the APN portal today, the Moscow commentator provides new details about a point others have made before and one with obvious implications for Russia now: there were many proximate causes for the collapse of 1991, but “the basis for the country’s disintegration was laid down by Lenin and Stalin” (apn.ru/index.php?newsid=35375).

            The Soviet Union “arose as a result of the conclusion of a Treaty on the Formation of the USSR … signed on December 29, 1922, by delegations of the RSFSR, the Ukrainian SSR, the Belarusian SSR, and the Transcaucasian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic (which included Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia),” Svyatenkov recalls.

            The very next day, the treaty was approved by the First Congress of Soviets of the USSR which “assigned to the Central Executive Committee to adopt amendments to the Treaty and finally ratify it at the next Congress.” But the Moscow commentator points out, that didn’t happen.

            Instead, “the Central Executive Committee unexpectedly decided to create a USSR Constitution” consisting of “two documents, the Declaration about the Formation of the USSR and the Treaty about the Formation of the USSR.” That effectively meant that the Treaty became the basic law or constitution of the Soviet Union. In 1924, the Second Congress agreed to that.

            “It is curious that earlier Ukraaine ratified not only the Constitution of the USSR but also and separately the Union Treaty … The remaining union republics ratified the Constitution of the USSR without making any mention of the Union Treaty,” a difference that raises questions about the legal status of these documents.

            The most important of these questions, Svyatenkov says, is the following: “Did the Union Treaty of 1922 exist as a separate document after the adoption of the 1924 USSR Constitution?” There are two possible answers: yes and no.  But the Soviet authorities took care to muddy the waters about this.

            That was an obvious mistake, he say. “If it had been clearly stated that the USSR Constitution replaced the Union Treaty, the latter could calmly be thrown into the dustbin of history.” But that didn’t happen, and right through the Soviet period, with all the new constitutions, no one could answer this question for certain.

            Some might ask why such “scholasticism” is appropriate. “What difference does it make whether it exists or doesn’t exist? But the legality of actions of the authorities are based on legal documents,” and failure to be clear about which ones exist and which ones have primacy can lead to disaster.

            That is exactly what happened in August 1991 and in the ensuing weeks, Svyatenkov continues.  And it happened because “the communists, having left this question about the Union Treaty unresolved destroyed the Soviet Union. Over the course of 70 years of Soviet power, there were at least ten occasions on which this could have been done. But it wasn’t.”

            Similarly, Stalin allowed Ukraine and Belarus to have seats at the United Nations, something his defenders say gave Moscow two extra votes and was thus a clever stratagem on his part.  But in fact it set the stage for the dismemberment of the USSR as well because those two republics could easily gain international recognition for breaking from the Soviet Union because they were already in the UN.

            For these reasons, Svyatenkov says, no one should believe the communists when they say their party fought against the disintegration of the USSR. In fact, it was precisely they who “created all the legal precedents for such a collapse. Lenin and Stalin put a delayed-action bomb under the USSR. For 70 years, it ticked and finally it blew up.”

            Those who wished the USSR ill only had to wait while it destroyed itself, he argues.

            “Now, Ukraine and Russia are at the brink of war,” again something that isn’t surprising given that for 70 years, “the communists taught us to be enemies and set one against the other in the framework of the USSR by trying to give Ukraine more sovereignty than it ever had in its history.”
            Again, Svyatenkov concludes, those who wish Russia ill simply have to sit back and watch because they can see that it was precisely the Soviets who gave Ukraine “more sovereignty than 1,000 Banderas” and thus set the stage both for the Soviet collapse in 1991 and the war now.

Hitler-Stalin Pact Still Casts a Shadow Over Europe 77 Years On

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 23 – Seventy-seven years ago, Hitler and Stalin reached the agreement on the division of Eastern Europe into spheres of influence, an agreement known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and one that continues to divide Russia from the rest of Europe and to cast a shadow on the entire continent to this day.

            If the countries that were its immediate victims and Europe as a whole view this agreement as the proximate cause of war in Europe and the division of the continent during the Cold War, Russian authors continue to insist that the pact was justified and, because it was justified, so too were Moscow’s annexations of other countries under its “secret protocol.”

            That this division of opinions about the events of August 23, 1939, and their consequences should continue simultaneously highlights how little Moscow’s thinking has changed from Stalin’s time and how dangerous others both near and far from the Russian border see this lack of progress for their own futures and that of Russia as well.

            Today, as it has done every August 23rd since 2009, the European Union will mark this anniversary as a Day of Remembrance “for the victims of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes” in order to “nourish [Europe’s] commitment to stand up for our common values and principles” (europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-16-2844_en.htm).

            In advance of that commemoration, which this year will be centered in Bratislava, the European Commission released the following statement declaring among other things the following:  
“On 23 August 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. It marked the beginning of one of the darkest periods in the recent history of our continent, bringing with it the deportation, torture and murder of tens of millions of people under totalitarian regimes. While the end of World War II marked the defeat of the Nazi regime, many Central and Eastern Europeans continued to suffer under other totalitarian regimes. 
“77 years after the Pact's signature, we will remember all the victims of the totalitarian and authoritarian regimes that have scarred parts of Europe during the 20th century. The Europe-Wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes keeps alive the memory of the victims and pays tribute to them. This commemoration also helps us to recall lessons learnt from this dark chapter in European history.
“Fortunately, the young generations of Europeans today have not experienced life under a totalitarian or authoritarian regime. However, we must never take our freedoms for granted. Therefore, the preservation of historical memory and our commitment to democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law, remain more important than ever.”
            Dalia Grybaukaite, the president of Lithuania, made a comment on Lithuanian radio on just how important such a commitment to such principles are for the countries of the region (eurobelarus.info/news/world/2016/08/23/gribauskayte-aes-v-ostrovtse-mozhet-byt-ispol-zovana-protiv.html).

            August 23rd, she said, “is the Day of Our Baltic Way and the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact” and represents a time to reaffirm that “the division” the 1939 accord imposed on Europe will never be restored. Unfortunately, she continued, Moscow continues to show itself in favor of such division and is prepared to use the most unconventional ways to promote it.

            Just how close her words correspond to the truth is shown by a new article in the authoritative Moscow journal, “Voenno-Promyshlenny kuryer” which says Stalin had no choice, that the West and Poland were to blame, and that countries neighboring Russia who oppose it deserve whatever fate Russia imposes on them, including dismemberment and annexation (vpk-news.ru/articles/31974).

Russia and Ukraine will Never Have Normal State-to-State Relations, Berezovets Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 23 – The last 25 years show that Russia and Ukraine will never have normal state-to-state relations because neither the Russian government nor the Russian people can accept Ukraine as an independent country with a different past, present and future than their own, according to Taras Berezovets.

            “A quarter of a century,” the head of Kyiv’s National Strategies Foundation says, “is a sufficient period of time to draw conclusions” not only about the lives of individuals but also about relations between countries like Ukraine and the Russian Federation (nv.ua/opinion/berezovets/25-let-ukrainy-so-strannym-rossijskim-bratom-202230.html).

            Russia’s relations with its neighbors over the last 25 years are “extremely instructive,” Berezovets says, suggesting that he would describe them in the following way: “the parents divorced long ago, but the children from the marriage … feel themselves and their responsibilities each in their own ways.”

            Russia, which always felt itself to be “the older child” remains accustomed to “feeling a certain special status.”  If all the others have gone their own way, the Ukrainian analyst says, “the odd older brother (in this case Rsusia- continues to live with its parents, feels itself their successor, and believes that it can live on the money its ancestors earned and put by.”

            The others refuse to accept either Russia’s claimed status or its approach. And that raises the question: “Will Russia be able to cure itself from this complex and cease to feel itself to have a special status after five or 25 years?”  Unfortunately, Berezovets says, the answer is “no” because it will continue to view itself as special and insist on dominating Ukraine and the others.

            No one should think that Russia is not and will not remain prepared to “pay an enormous price” including in terms of human lives in order to get Ukraine back. Russia, Berezovets continues, “has always been prepared to pay the highest price for the chance to dominate its neighbors.”

            “If we look at Russian history, then we note that the periods of peace are connected exclusively with those where Russia is weak.” Once the state recovers, then Russia will engage in aggression because “it is pathologically incapable of living in a state of peace” however much some hope for that.

            “Even the Soviet Union when not formally fighting wars, always took part in conflicts by sponsoring wars or terrorism throughout the entire world,” the Ukrainian analyst says. And that means something else: “with the death of Putin nothing will be changed.” He “a product of Russia and the Russian people,” or perhaps “even their victim.”

            The current Kremlin ruler is forced to follow the attitudes which predominate in Russian society, and on this issue at least, “any ruler of Russia is condemned to follow the very same imperial complexes: such is the will of the Russian people.”

            As a result, Berezovets says, “relations between Russia and Ukraine will never become normal. Even the representatives of the mysterious Russian counter-elite who should be helping Russia escape from the complexes of chauvinism and imperialism – Grigory Yavlinsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Irina Khakamada – do not have the necessary qualities for this.”

            As for Aleksey Navalny, he is even more nationalistic in his public remarks than Putin allows himself to be, Berezovets says. “The only potential Russian leader who could have arranged normal relations with Ukraine was Boris Nemtsov. And for that reason, they killed him. It is hardly likely that such a person will appear again in the coming decades.”

            According to Berezovets, “Ukraine would be able to have normal relations with Russia only if the latter ceased to exist in its current borders and was reduced to an axis from Kaliningrad to the Urals. With such a relatively European and relatively small Russia, Ukraine certainly could have more or less normal ties.”

            But is this going to happen? And if it is, when? Berezovsky asks rhetorically.  Ukrainians must make plans for Russia holding together for a long time to come because “Russia is united by an idea expressed already by the first International: rule on the basis of ideology.”  And that ideology now calls for it to dominate its neighbors.

            Ukraine must organize its relatins with Russia “not only as an equal state but also as a hostile state.” There need to be introduced such “defensive mechanisms” as visas because it is “completely illogical” that Russian agents can enter Ukraine without even having to get official clearance. Such a step is “vital” even though it will hurt Ukrainians working in Russia.

            Ukraine must build up its armed forces and make its border with Russia as defensible as possible.  And it must recognize that this is something it will have to do for a long time because Russia’s attitudes and actions have not only destroyed the economic and political ties between Russia and Ukraine: they have destroyed the human ones as well.

            “More than 60 percent of Ukrainians,” Berezovets concludes, “consider Russia a hostile stat. In order to cure this split, far more time will be needed than for the restoration of diplomatic or economic ties.”