Friday, March 29, 2013

270 Why is Russia bashed in the western Media ?

This a an article from 2008, but time has proven its value since it was written. 
To put it in a few words: 
Of course its not you or me who bash the Russians its the small group that controls the Media. They feed us a selected set of 'facts' and with that technique you can make any group of people believe whatever you like. 

This question and answer I found very interesting: 
What I don't understand is how this anti-Russian feeling is transmitted to American neoconservatives. Many of them are third or later generation Americans. What keeps fueling this hate for Russia?

Answer from The Saker: 
What I believe is a very strong socio-cultural attachment to a Jewish identity defined not by religion or Israel (most Neocons do not believe in Judaism or speak Hebrew) as by a *specific narrative* which includes a tremendously bloated (= opgeblazen) perception of an almost eternal anti-Semitism out there, the always present myth of a possible "second Holocaust" and a need to prevent it at all costs. In other words: paranoia.


How a medieval concept of ethnicity makes NATO commit yet another a dangerous blunder

Acting as one - which of course they are - President Bush and the US House of Representatives announced yesterday that they both favor the entry of the Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. That Dubya would take such an idiotic position is of no surprise of course, but that the House would pass such a resolution unanimously is quite shocking: not a single Representative had the brains to understand what kind of message such a vote would send to Russia. Either that, or they did not care. I am not sure which is worse. Not even the fact that most Ukrainians want nothing to do with NATO could influence the crazed Neocons who nowadays run the USA: as always, knew they were right. So let's look at the bigger picture here and consider what exactly is going on.

NATO was founded with the unequivocal mandate to protect its member from any aggressor i.e, the Soviet Union. Considering that Stalin had just absorbed all of eastern Europe into his communist empire the establishment of NATO made sense. For all the bombastic statements about D-day, the RAF, Patton and Montgomery western strategists knew full well that it was the Soviet Union which had defeated Hitler and that the Western Front was little more than a sideshow to the real thing.

The only thing which the West could oppose to the might of the Soviet Army was the power of the US nuclear arsenal. It was therefore absolutely essential to demonstrate to the Soviets that any attack on Western Europe would involve the vital interests of the USA. Thus "a nuclear tripwire called NATO was laid down along the Iron Curtain to draw a line in the sand" (at least this is how the media pundits and the talking heads would have phrased it). Soon, however, the Soviets detonated their own nuclear device and it became clear to all the parties involved that a war, any war, could potentially rapidly escalate into MADness, as in Mutually Assured Destruction. Later, MAD was revised to a more elegant "flexible response", but the underlying ideas always remained the same: making a war unwinnable. 

The thing to remember here is that NATO was created as an organization of last resort, something like the sniper's hand grenade: something which could only be used in a truly desperate, hopeless, situation; something which only an existential threat could justify.

When in the late eighties the Soviet leaders agreed to withdraw from Europe and to dismantle the Soviet Union they were given all sorts of promises by the West about how the West would never take advantage of this situation; they were given solemn promises of Western support and they were told that new democratic Russia would forever be considered a friend and a partner.

Not a single one of these promises has been kept. Not one. Quite to the countrary, the West embarked on what can only be called a systematic campaign to encircle and threaten Russia.

The USA withdrew from the ABM Treaty, the US Navy continued to aggressively patrol right off the Russian territorial waters, and the The West has not only absorbed all of eastern Europe into NATO, but it has even admitted the Baltic countries (nevermind that two of the latter endlessly violated the human rights of their not-so-small Russian minority). The West bombed Yugoslavia, a Russian ally, in a clear violation of the UN Charter. The West has even given full support to the crazed Chechen separatists even though the latter committed numerous atrocities reminiscent of the worst moments of the civil war in Sierra Leone. After 9/11, when the American public suddenly discovered Wahabi terrorism, this pro-Chechen stance was rapidly abandoned in favor of the new priorities of the GWOT.

Now US Neocons are pushing for the deployment of elements of an anti-ballistic missile system (clearly directed against Russia) in eastern Europe. Frankly, short of declaring war on Russia on behalf of Yakut separatists I don't see how the West could have been more vindictive, provocative and hostile to Russia.

But why does the West hate Russia so much?

First, it's of course not "the West". What we are taking about here are the western political establishment or, in other terms, the Neocons which now are firmly in power in most key western nations.

And what is a Neocon, if not a former Trotskyite? (just need to google 'neocon' and 'trotsky' and see for yourself). Of course, the Neocons have adapted their ideology to new circumstances, but the core of this ideology and the psychological makeup of its proponents has not changed very much since the times of Trotsky. But then, what is a Trotskyite?

Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the term "Trotskist" really only had one possible meaning in the Russian language: it simply meant a Jewish Bolshevik.

While most Russian Jews were not Bolsheviks at all (many were Mensheviks, Bundists, Anarchists, etc.) a majority of Bolsheviks was Jewish and a super-majority of members of the secret police, the infamous ChK, were Jewish Trotskists. These were the folks who butchered the Russian peasantry, the Russian nobility, the Russian intelligentsia, the Russian Orthodox clergy in what can only be considered a systematic campaign to exterminate any expression of the Russian culture (which, at that time, very much included the Ukrainian culture and people too, hence the many years of terror in the Ukraine and the carefully orchestrated "Golodomor" or famine).

There are many theories for why these Jewish Trotskists hated everything Russian or Orthodox with such a passion, some of them good, and many of them nonsense. Whether the Ukrainian pogroms are the cause of this hatred, or the Czarist discriminatory policies towards Jews, or whether there are far more fundamental religious reasons behind this hatred is besides the point. What matters is that Trotskists indisputably suffered from a Russophobia of a truly genocidal magnitude and that this hatred made them kill far, far more people than Hitler could have ever dreamed of exterminating.

The modern Neocons, who are the descendants and intellectual heirs of the Trotskists (primarily in an ideological sense, but sometimes even literally) still very much feel this hatred - hence all this talk about a "resurgent Russia" and the danger it presumably represents for the West.

The crucial thing to understand here is that far from seeing themselves as the butchers of Russia, the Trotskyite/Neocons see themselves as greatly victimized by the Russians. Why is that? Because, as any history book well tell you, the original Trotskists were eventually themselves persecuted (and often executed) by Stalin and his goons.

Stalin himself was a Georgian who could not even speak Russian properly, and his accomplices, whether ethnically Russian or not, can hardly been seen as a manifestation of Russian identity. Still, Stalin skilfully used the Russian national sentiment to promote his policies and, later, to get the Russian masses to fight the Nazis (who had originally been greeted as liberators from the Red Terror). Following the Soviet victory in 1945 Stalin never returned to the original Bolshevik "internationalism".

Stalin's purges did imprison and kill many Jews, but there were still plenty left in the Party apparatus. The point here is not to make ethnic distinctions, at least not at this stage, the point is to realize that when one Bolshevik group replaced another one of these groups had a very strong ethnic component. Here is how I would characterize the two groups:

a) The Trotskists: they were primarily intellectuals who truly believed in the ideas of communism; their aim was to spread communism to the rest of the world; they viewed terror as something which accelerates the course of history towards the inevitable triumph of communism; they believed in the Party as the collective vanguard of the people. Lastly, though Trotskists had no interest in, or need for, Judaism (or any other religion) most of them definitely saw themselves as culturally Jewish, communist 'internationalism' notwithstanding. While this might sound rather bizarre to the modern reader one needs to remember that the Russian Empire was in its nature and structure multi-ethnic (just as the Byzantine or the Ottoman Empires had been) and that at the turn of the 19th century 97% of all Jews of the Russian Empire spoke Yiddish and not Russian in their homes. There was no such thing as a "Russian Jew" in 1917. There were Jews, and there were Russians (a baptised Jew was, by the way, considered as Russian; even more interestingly, Karaites were not considered Jews at all).

b) the Stalinists: they were basically criminal thugs who believed in nothing besides power, and while they were more than happy to use the communist ideals as a justification for their struggle for power they did not care in the least about "world communism" and any other ideological nonsense. What they wanted is power in the Soviet Union. Period. For them terror was both a means towards the goal of absolute power and an end in itself, a method of ruling over Russia. Stalin understood that as long as the Party could exist as an aggregation of factions and individuals (as it had been originally; see democratic centralism) his power would not be absolute, he therefore aimed at transforming the Bolshevik into a party which he would absolutely control. Since many, if not most, top Party officials were Jews, Stalin's purges did, of course, affect many Jews, but it would be a mistake to think that these purges were aimed at Jews as such - they were aimed at the Party and its internal diversity. Ethnicity did not matter in the least to Stalin at least as long as he did not feel that some ethnic group might threaten his power.

We can observe exactly the same psycho-political divide among the Nazis, by the way. In this case, the ideologues, the "true believers" would be Goebbels , Himmler, SS and Hitler himself and the "petty thugs" - Roehm, Goering and the SA. I suppose that the same types can be found in any revolutionary movement which combines "intellectual terrorists" with petty criminals.

This digression is important because Stalin's purges and the gradual erosion of the influence of Jews in the CPSU between the 1930s to the end of the Soviet Union has left a very bitter sense of victimization in the Jewish circles which eventually spawned off the Neocon movement. This sense of victimization culminated in the mass emigration of Soviet Jews to Israel and the USA which was only made possible by a major political confrontation between the West and the Soviet leaders. The fact that non-Jews had no right to emigrate at all was given no attention whatsoever by the western political elites. Neither was the fact there were still plenty of Jews inside the Soviet elites. The order of the day was clear: "let my people go!!" said the US Congress lead by Neocon Senator "Scoop" Jackson and Representative Vanik and let go they were indeed.

The historical facts are important here, but they are not crucial. What is crucial is the Jewish/Trotskyite/Neocon narrative about Russia: pogroms, Stalin's purges, "anti-Semitism", the "dissident movement" and struggle over emigration, the Soviet assistance to Arab countries and the Soviet nukes aimed at the USA - this is what shapes the Neocon worldview. The fact that no pogrom ever took place in Russia proper (they all occurred in the Ukraine), that Stalin's purges were not anti-Jewish at all, that Jews constituted high proportion of the Soviet Nomenklatura right up to the fall of the Soviet Union, that non-Jews had even less rights to emigrate than Jews or that US nukes were also aimed at the Soviet Union (and that influential generals suggested that only ethnically Russian areas of the Soviet Union should be included in the SIOP) did not matter: this simplistic anti-Russian narrative fully permeated the worldview and cultural fabric of the Neocons. Today, this narrative is still the prime factor defining Neocon policies towards Russia.

Whether the Neocons nowadays hate everything Russian or Orthodoxy Christian more than they hate everything Arabs or Muslim is debatable (it probably depends on the individual Neocon anyway). What is sure is that these two hatreds are of a similar order of magnitude and that they are without equivalent. Once this is fully understood, the West's policies towards Russia since the end of the Soviet Union suddenly make perfectly good sense: Russia, just like Iran, is considered as an "existential threat" by the Neocons, although political expediency does not make it possible for them to openly say so.

It is important to note here that for a typical modern person, "ethnic politics" just make no sense and any analysis based on ethnicity just sounds too bizarre to be true. The danger here is to assume that because one believes that ethnic policies are plain racists, everybody else must think likewise. Sadly, this is not the case. There are plenty of people out there who very much think in ethnic or even racial categories, and Jews are amongst those most inclined towards this kind of thinking (for an earlier article on this issue please check out Daddy, what's a Neocon? Ethnic mafia wars in the USA).

The late Israel Shahak used to say that Jewish extremists have reversed the old Friends of the Earth slogan "think globally - act locally" into a far more omnious "think locally - act globally" (locally' should not be understood in a strictly geographical sense here, but also as a parochial, 'single-issue priority setting' meaning). The truly crazed idea of admitting the Ukraine and Georgia into NATO can only be understood in the context of such an Neocon ideological mindset.

Could there be a pragmatic reason to admit the Ukraine and Georgia into NATO? Of course, not! Both of these countries are highly unstable politically, their ruling elites are corrupt to the bone, their military forces are not even close to meet NATO standards and their geographic location truly begs the question of what kind of threat an entry into NATO would protect them from. Of course, Dubya explained that NATO was not an anti-Russian alliance at all, but that is laughable. NATO can *only* be anti-Russian as nothing else can justify its existence.

By the way, American strategists fully realize that NATO is becoming meaningless in any other context besides a war ("cold" or "hot") against Russia. This is why they talk about "coalitions of the willing" or a "league of democracies". From the Neocon point of view NATO has become useless (see the mess in Afghanistan) and only ad-hoc coalitions can work jointly for the promotion of the interests of the Neocon Empire. Thus NATO *sole* role remains to isolate Russia politically and threaten it militarily and that can only be explained by the Neocon's deep hatred and fear of Russia. The fact is that a medieval concept of ethnicity shared by a very small group of people has been allowed to become the determining factor in the formulation US and Western policies towards the only major nuclear power besides the USA. This is both frightening and sad because, as with any policy based on threats and violence, this will result in even more blowback for the US and its European allies.


peter saker said...
I went to college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison between 66 70, and I can clearly remember the student union where the two tables , Trotskyites and Stalinists, argued bitterly and the passers by could view the whole spectacle. The Young Americans For Freedom table was rarely seen and small, and of no size to be relevant. The Trotskyites were mostly Jews from New York, socialists, but felt Trotsky never betrayed Judaism, and Stalin was the son of pogroms- that's the line, not necessarily the truth. The other table, derisively labeled Stalinists', were the old fashioned lefties, and didn't care for world capitalism, and felt no affinity for Jews. Many Jews were in both groups, divided by the degree of identification with Judaism as an international force.
Many of the Trotskyites ended up as scoop Jackson democrats when they matured, and never shook the belief in world socialism. Stalinists, the believers in socialism built one country at a time end reflecting local culture, are probably still present day democrats, but are much more sympathetic with local movements, although many retain the authoritarian streak to be sure. Out of that ideological soup was born the present day political scene in the US. Since the USSR fell, the fervor and purpose of the new right was blunted, and their remnant was subsumed into a remaining movement, one with some millitant fire in the belly. (e.g. the National Review).
American Goy said...
Very very good Saker.

2 things.

1) Stalin died after WW2, when he tried a new campaign of terror/arrests/executions, the "Jewish doctor's plot". He was stopped cold because he died "from natural causes". Make of that what you will.

2) Saker is correct that Jews were prominent and were a very important bloc in the early Bolshevik/Communist party. The percentage of Commissars and Cheka personnel who were Jewish was frightening, and definitely over 50%. These people felt no compunction in murdering hundreds of thousands of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, because to them these people were of no consequence.

If you look at early Bolshevik slogans and goals, it was all about "World Revolution". Russia and the Soviet Union was unimportant; what was to set the world on fire, to overturn the status quo and make a (dare I use this cliche) new world order, one in which the early Bolsheviks would hold sway.

Evidence: When the Nazi armies liberated (as sad as it sounds, this is exactly what happened) the Ukraine and the Baltic states (Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania), they found a huge number of volunteers to round up the Jews and shoot them/murder them/guard camps.

In Poland during the Soviet-Polish War of 1920, there are hundreds of documents, witness testimonies about how Polish Jews welcomed the Red Army and gave it their support.

Similarly, the 1939 Soviet attack and occupation of eastern Poland - hundreds of documents, hundreds of witness statements about how the Polish Jews welcomed the Red Army in parades, giving the (fist to the air) communist salute, and then speedily denouncing their Polish neighbors to the NKVD, joining the Soviets as informers and even as the secret police personnel.

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Poles were taken - some were shot in Katyn (the reserve officers - i.e. the intelligentsia of the nation - lawyers, doctors, businessmen, bankers, teachers, professors etc.), while the "lesser" Poles (not the intelligentsia) were taken to Siberia, to labor, but really concentration camps.

In 1945, after the liberation of Poland by the Soviet Red Army, again, the dreaded UB, the Polish security service or the Polish NKVD, was staffed almost exclusively with Jews, with nary an ethnic Pole in it.

This phenomenon even gave rise to a distinctly Polish word, Judo-Komuna, or Jewish-Communism, to describe exactly what was going on.

I realize WHY Jews wanted to change the social order of the world in 19th and 20th centuries - they had no power, they were kept down by every country's government and each country's ethnic elites, they were artificially kept from places of real political power.

That is why the early Bolshevik/Communist slogans were all against nationalism and instead focused on inter-nationalism, to abolish ethnicity and make all Europe "Soviet", and each country a "Soviet Republic".

This is why the Communists liquidated the intelligentsia of each country they gobbled up, the most educated and smart of each ethnic group were seen as a danger, able to keep patriotic and nationalist feelings alive, and so had to be killed.

This is REAL history, one that will NEVER be taught in American (or really, at this point, any nation's ) schools. What, you think Sarkozy will allow something like this to be taught? The current neocon Polish government is basically slavish in it's obedience to the neocon movement. And America, at this point, is simply an attack dog kept on a short leash by the neocons...
What, you think Sarkozy will allow something like this to be taught?

Sarkozy's only "contribution" to the French education system, at leas so far, has been to suggest that each French schoolboy and schoolgirl "adopt" one Jewish child murdered by the Nazi. Of course, "adopting" would only be knowing the name of the murdered kid and maybe something about his/her life. Such "think local" proposal (see the Shahak quote in my article) proved to be too much EVEN for the usually almost hysterically philosemitic French political class and it has been quietly dropped.

We therefore have no reason to suspect that Sarkozy and his fellow Neocons will ever show any interest at all in the mass murders of the entire Polish intelligentsia in Katyn or any other Neocon proto-history - they are too busy with the "sacred memory of the Holocaust" which, as we know, represents the pinnacle of evil in world history.

The duty of memory of the paleo-Neocon's victims thus falls to the rest of us.
petey said...
"that the House would pass such a resolution unanimously is quite shocking: not a single Representative had the brains to understand what kind of message such a vote would send to Russia."

well, rep. paul is opposing something:
I don't know what Ron Paul did about this one. Here is what I found on

Apr 1, 2008: This bill passed in the House of Representatives by voice vote. A record of each representative's position was not kept.
Votes for Identical Bill S. Res. 439
Feb 14, 2008: This bill passed in the Senate by Unanimous Consent. A record of each representative's position was not kept.

There is little doubt in my mind that Ron Paul is smart and courageous enough to oppose such a bill. Heck - he openly defined the Israel Lobby many times in the past. But I also know that, as any politician, he needs to pick his fights. He might not want to fight the Israel Lobby and the Ukies (in the USA) at the same time.

If you can get any info about his position on this resolution, please let us all know!


Anonymous said...
NATO Marches Eastward:
We're on a dangerous collision course with Russia, no matter who wins the White House
by Justin Raimondo
Anonymous said...
Compared with Raimondo, you have a much longer historical perspective. What I don't understand is how this anti-Russian feeling is transmitted to American neoconservatives. Many of them are third or later generation Americans. What keeps fueling this hate for Russia?
Anonymous said...
Also, VS, this may sound paranoid, but are these neocons really pushing for global conquest or just the extinction of national and Christan identity in Europe and her American offspring? The same neocons are the strongest advocates for open borders and non-European immigration.
Lysander said...
For hatred of Russia, think beyond neoconservatives. It is true that many non-neocon cold warriors (Pat Buchanan, for example) considered the matter settled in 1990 with no hard feelings. Many within the U.S. establishment, however, look to world dominance as a modern day version of manifest destiny. Russia, indeed any powerful country, stands in their way. They have also taken a dislike to China even though it has none of the Bolshevik history of Russia.

NATO is definitely a threat to Russia but beyond that it is meant to be a second international forum to grant legitimacy (or the pretense thereof) to U.S. action abroad. On rare occasions, the U.N. is less than slavishly devoted to U.S. aims and so NATO would act as plan B.
petey said...
"Apr 1, 2008: This bill passed in the House of Representatives by voice vote. A record of each representative's position was not kept."

so it was by acclamation and it's not possible to see how many opposed it. not everyone will read their comments into the record as paul did. i'm not trying to imply that any large number of these cowards opposed the motion, i'm just sayin'.

"Votes for Identical Bill S. Res. 439 Feb 14, 2008: This bill passed in the Senate by Unanimous Consent. A record of each representative's position was not kept."

that's the senate, not the house. there is no ron paul equivalent in the senate. the strongest neocon opponents there are liberals and hence not so principled :D
@Petey: . the strongest neocon opponents there are liberals and hence not so principled :D 

I suppose the smiley indicates that you are kiddin, right?

--Begin totally off topic--

Anyway, ever since he decided not to run outside the Republican Party Ron Paul has become far less relevant to what is going on and the entire "RP Revolution" ended up being what the French call a 'wet fireckraker'. Which is really a bloody shame, I think.

Though the chance of any politicians putting their country above their persons was slim to begin with, I was still hoping for a 'Antiwar Party' uniting Paul, Buchanan, Kucinich, Gravel, McKinney, Nader and whoever else was willing to set ideolgy aside for a moment and stand up for the republic. Had this happened, Ron Paul would have been the obvious and, I believe, uncontested leader. But let's face it and let's stop kidding ourselves: the man let us all down...

--End totally off topic--

@Anonymous: What I don't understand is how this anti-Russian feeling is transmitted to American neoconservatives. Many of them are third or later generation Americans. What keeps fueling this hate for Russia?

What I believe is a very strong socio-cultural attachment to a Jewish identity defined not by religion or Israel (most Neocons do not believe in Judaism or speak Hebrew) as by a *specific narrative* which includes a tremendously bloated perception of an almost eternal anti-Semitism out there, the always present myth of a possible "second Holocaust" and a need to prevent it at all costs. In other words: paranoia.

Also, VS, this may sound paranoid, but are these neocons really pushing for global conquest or just the extinction of national and Christan identity in Europe and her American offspring? The same neocons are the strongest advocates for open borders and non-European immigration.

I will probably disappoint you here but I believe that Europe has long ceased being Christian in any meaningful way a long time ago. Jean Marie Le Pen can make plenty of speeches about "l'Occident Chretien" but there is no such thing in reality. There is only a post-Christian civilization which is so preoccupied with material issues first and foremost and that's about it. I don't think that there is anything in Europe today which the Neocons would want to destroy or otherwise negatively affect other than a respect for international law (which is totally lacking in the USA mainstream).

The Saker
petey said...
"I was still hoping for a 'Antiwar Party' uniting Paul, Buchanan, Kucinich, Gravel, McKinney, Nader and whoever else was willing to set ideolgy aside for a moment and stand up for the republic."

well it may just happen still, a former congressman named bob barr is considering a run, and he'd fit the bill nicely, except with mckinney maybe, as the one has made faintly white-racist noises, and the other faintly black-racist noises. but then the KKK and the NOI sometimes worked together, and these two, who, seriously, are far from either the KKK or the NOI, may be able to get along.
Anonymous said...

I completely agree and sympathize with your assessment of RP. I still voted for him in my state's primary although McCain was the uncontested winner already, but really, what a colossal betrayal. He had and still has millions of dollars in the bank! Why, oh why, did he just give up? Loyalty to the party? What party? What about his country? What about the millions of Americans who believed in him? What a loser.

I am getting upset just thinking about this. To think I placed so much hope in him.

269 Russia and Islam (by: The Saker)

This blog:

The best blogger I know calls himself 'The Saker'.
He was a military analist in the days of the cold war, and still has an enormous knowlegde about Russia.

Last weeks he wrote seven articles on the subject: Russia and Islam.
I decided to put them all on this blog.
I also include a few exchanges of The Saker with people who reacted to his articles.


Russia and Islam, part one: introduction and definitions

Today, I am beginning a series of articles on the very complex topic of Russia and Islam, a topic which is mostly overlooked in the West or, when it is mentioned at all, is often completely misunderstood.  I have been researching this fascinating topic for many months already and there is so much to say about it that I have decided to write a series of installments, each one covering one specific aspect of this topic.  The nature of the current relationship and interaction between Russia and Islam is a very complex one, with spiritual, political, social, economic, historical and geostrategic aspects.  Without already jumping to my conclusions, I will say that the dialectical relationship between Russia and Islam is, I believe, currently undergoing some profound and very dynamic changes which makes it impossible to confidently predict its future.

But first, it is important to stress here that Russia and Islam are not mutually opposite or mutually exclusive concepts.  While relatively few ethnic Russians are Muslims, Russia has always been a multi-ethnic state, even when it was just a relatively small principality centered on the city of Kiev.  

The word "Russian" in English is used to express two very different Russian concepts: the word "Russkii" means "Russian" as in "part of the Russian ethnicity or culture" and the words "Rossiiskii" which means "part of the country of Russia".  Likewise, when Russians speak of "Russkie" they mean the Russian ethnicity whereas when they speak of "Rossiiskie" they refer to the nation-state, to a geographical area.  Take for instance the current Minister of Defense of Russia, Sergei Shoigu.  He is an ethnic Tuvan through his father (and an ethnic Russian by his mother).  If we ignore his maternal lineage, we could say that he is not a ethic Russian ("Russkii") but he is a Russian national ("Rossiiskii").  By the way, Shoigu is not an Orthodox Christian, as most ethnic Russians, but a Buddhist.  Likewise, Russia's Minister of Internal Affairs between 2003 and 2011 was Rachid Nurgaliev, an ethnic Tatar, who was born as a Muslim but who eventually converted to the Orthodox faith.  Again, he would be considered as a "Rossiianin" (Russian national) but not as a "Russkii".

So while relatively few ethnic Russians are Muslims, there have always been many other (non-Russian) ethnic groups included in the Russian nation, including many Muslims, and these ethnic groups have often played a crucial role in Russian history.  From the Vikings who founded the Kievian Rus', to the (mostly Muslim) Mongols who helped Saint Alexander Nevsky defeat the Teutonic Knights of the Papist Northern Crusaders, to the two Chechen special forces battalions who spearheaded the Russian counter-offensive against the Georgian Army in the 08.08.08 war - non-Russians have always played an important role in Russia's history and the existence of a fully legitimate historical "Russian Islam" cannot be denied.  Put differently, if "Russkii Islam" is really a minor, almost private, phenomenon, "Rossiiskii Islam" is an phenomenon present throughout the 1000+ years of Russian history and an integral part of Russia's identity.

This is particular important to keep in mind when one hears the mis-informed opinions of those who would have Russia as a part of the so-called "Western Christendom".  Let's make something clear, the most frequent and meaningful form of interaction the Russian nation has had with Western Christianity was war.  And every single one of these wars was a defensive war against a Western aggression.

It is true that a good part of the Russian Imperial nobility, which was often of Germanic ethnic extraction, and almost totally composed of active members of the Freemasonry, wanted Russia to become part of the Western civilization.  However, this has always been a fashion only amongst wealthy elites, the already very westernized classes, what Marx would call the "superstructure" of Russia.  The Russian Orthodox masses, however, were culturally far closer to their Muslim or Buddhist neighbors than to the westernized elites who took over the reigns of power in the 18th century under Tsar Peter I.

While before the 18th century nobody would seriously claim that Russia was part of the Western civilization, after the 18th century there has been an almost continuous effort made by certain members of the Russian upper classes to "modernize" Russia, which really meant *westernizing* it.  From Tsar Peter I, to the Decembrist Freemasons, to the Kerensky regime, to the Eltsin years, Russian "Westernizers" never gave up their struggle to turn Russia into a Western state.  I would even claim that the entire Soviet experiment was also an attempt to westernize Russia, albeit not along the usual Papist or Masonic models, but along a Marxist one.  What all these models have in common is a visceral dislike for the real Russian culture and spirituality, and a obsessive desire to "turn Russia into Poland".  The perfect expression for this disdain/hatred for the Russian culture and nation can be found in the following words of Napoleon who said : “Grattez le Russe, et vous trouverez le Tartare'’ (scratch a Russian and you find a Tartar).  Coming from the "Masonic Emperor" who used the sanctuaries of the Russian Orthodox Churches as stables for his horses and who, out of spite, attempted to blow-up the entire Kremlin, these words reveal the roots of his real aversion for the Russian people.

In contrast, 500 years before the (mostly Muslim) Mongols who invaded Russia usually treated the Russian Church and the Orthodox clergy with utmost respect.  Sure, they did not hesitate to burn down a monastery and kill everybody inside, but only if the monastery was used by Russian insurgents in their struggle against the invaders.  And yes, some Mongols did force Russian princes to walk through their pagan "purification fire", but these were not Muslim, but pagans.  The undeniable fact is that when Russians were subjected to the Muslim yoke it was always far less cruel and barbaric than what the Papist, Masonic or Nazi invaders did every time they attempted to invade and subdue Russia.  This is why there is no real anti-Islamic current in the Russian popular culture, at least not before the Soviet era which, unfortunately, fundamentally upset a delicate balance which had been reached before 1917.

In the past, westernizing forces saw themselves are "Europeans", as opposed to "Asians", and it is quite remarkable to see how these westernizing forces have become anti-Muslim nowadays (more about that later).  While they wholeheartedly support the freedom to organize so-called "Gay pride" parades or the actions of  "Pussy Riot" group, these Westernizing forces are categorically opposed to the right of young Muslim girls to wear a scarf on their heads while in school.  

Frankly, I do not want to spend any more time discussing the pro-Western forces in Russia mainly because they really have been weakened to the point of representing less than 1 or 2 percent of the population by now.  I have to mention these forces here, mostly as a leftover from almost 300 years of unsuccessful attempts to westernize Russia, but this is not were the "interesting stuff" is happening nowadays.  Nowadays, it is the heated debates about Islam inside and amongst the various anti-Western or "patriotic" groups which is so interesting, and this will be the topic of a future installment.  But next, we will need to look at the current spiritual condition of the majority of the Russian people.


Russia and Islam, part two: Russian Orthodoxy

Most people assume that Russia is a Christian Orthodox country and that the Russian Orthodox Church is the spiritual leader of the Russian people.  This is a very superficial view and, I would even say, a fundamentally mistaken one.  To explain what I mean by this, I will have to explain something absolutely crucial and yet something most fundamentally misunderstood by the vast majority of people, including many Russians.  The Russian Orthodox Church as an institution and the Orthodox spirituality of the Russian people have been severely persecuted since at least 300+ years.  So crucial is this phenomenon that I will need to make a short historical digression into the history of Russia.

From the moment Russia was baptized into Christianity by Saint Vladimir in 988 to the 17th century rule of Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich, the Orthodox Church was the organic core of the Russian civilization.  In the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
In its past, Russia did know a time when the social ideal was not fame, or riches, or material success, but a pious way of life. Russia was then steeped in an Orthodox Christianity which remained true to the Church of the first centuries. The Orthodoxy of that time knew how to safeguard its people under the yoke of a foreign occupation that lasted more than two centuries, while at the same time fending off iniquitous blows from the swords of Western crusaders. During those centuries the Orthodox faith in our country became part of the very pattern of thought and the personality of our people, the forms of daily life, the work calendar, the priorities in every undertaking, the organization of the week and of the year. Faith was the shaping and unifying force of the nation.
The 17th century, however, saw an abrupt and violent change to this state of affairs.  Again, in the words of Solzhenitsyn: 
But in the 17th century Russian Orthodoxy was gravely weakened by an internal schism. In the 18th, the country was shaken by Peter's forcibly imposed transformations, which favored the economy, the state, and the military at the expense of the religious spirit and national life. And along with this lopsided Petrine enlightenment, Russia felt the first whiff of secularism; its subtle poisons permeated the educated classes in the course of the 19th century and opened the path to Marxism. By the time of the Revolution, faith had virtually disappeared in Russian educated circles; and amongst the uneducated, its health was threatened.
By the time Tsar Nicholas II inherited the throne in 1896 the Russian society was suffering from a deep spiritual crisis: most of the ruling class was highly secularized if not completely materialistic, almost every single aristocratic family had joined the Freemasonry, while the rest of the country, still mostly composed of peasants, was nominally Christian Orthodox, but not in the deep way the Russian nation had been before the 17th century.

Russian Tsars often ended up being real persecutors of the Russian Orthodox Church, in particular those upon whom the Russian aristocracy and the West bestowed the title of "Great".  Peter I, the so-called "Great" decapitated the Russian Orthodox Church by abolishing the title of Patriarch from the head of the Church and replacing him by "Synod" run by a laymen bureaucrat with the rank of "Chief Procurator" who did not even have to be Orthodox himself.  De-facto and de-jure in 1700 the Russian Orthodox Church became a state institution, like a ministry.  Under Catherine I, also called the "Great", monastic were persecuted with such viciousness that it was actually illegal for them to possess even a single sheet of paper in their monastic cell, lest they write something against the regime.

Other Tsars (such as Alexander II, or Alexander III) were far more respectful of the Church and Tsar Nicholas II, who was a deeply religious and pious man, even restored the autonomy of the Church by allowing it to elect a new Patriarch.

And yet, by and large, the Russian Orthodox Church underwent a process of quasi-continuous weakening under the combined effects of overt persecutions and more subtle secularization from the 17th to the 20th century.

In the 20th century during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II,  Russian Orthodoxy saw a short but amazing rebirth immediately followed by a mass persecution under the Bolshevik rule whose viciousness and scale was previously unheard of in the history of the Church.  Again, in the worlds of Solzhenitsyn:
The world had never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized, and tenaciously malevolent as that practiced by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot.  The 1920’s in the USSR witnessed an uninterrupted procession of victims and martyrs amongst the Orthodox clergy. Two metropolitans were shot, one of whom, Veniamin of Petrograd, had been elected by the popular vote of his diocese. Patriarch Tikhon himself passed through the hands of the Cheka-GPU and then died under suspicious circumstances. Scores of archbishops and bishops perished. Tens of thousands of priests, monks, and nuns, pressured by the Chekists to renounce the Word of God, were tortured, shot in cellars, sent to camps, exiled to the desolate tundra of the far North, or turned out into the streets in their old age without food or shelter. All these Christian martyrs went unswervingly to their deaths for the faith; instances of apostasy were few and far between. For tens of millions of laymen access to the Church was blocked, and they were forbidden to bring up their children in the Faith: religious parents were wrenched from their children and thrown into prison, while the children were turned from the faith by threats and lies...
This is a complex and tragic history which I cannot discuss in any details here so I will insist on only one important consequence of these events: the Russian Orthodox Church eventually split into at least 4 distinct groups:

a) The "official" or "state" Orthodox Church, which eventually became the Moscow Patriarchate.  Largely composed of modernist clergymen, this "official" Soviet Church not only denied the reality of the persecution of Christians in Russia, it often actively collaborated with these persecutions (by denouncing "subversive" clergymen, for example).

b) The "Josephites" composed of the followers of Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd, they openly refused to submit the Church to Bolshevik regime and were eventually martyred for their stance.  Some joined the following group:

c) The "Catacomb Church".  This was an illegal, underground, organization, lead by secret bishops, which rejected the right of the Bolsheviks to take over the Church and which went into deep hiding, practically disappearing from public view.

d) The "Russian Orthodox Church Abroad": composed of exiles, this was organization created by Metropolitan Anthony of Kiev who, with the blessing of Patriarch Tikhon, united around itself most of the Orthodox Russian who had fled the Soviet Union.

It is important to stress here that even though the Josephites, the Catacomb Church and the Church Abroad did have very few practical means to communicate with each other, they were all in communion with each other and recognized each other as legitimate branches of the One Russian Orthodox Church, although each one in unique and specific circumstances.  Not so with the first entity, the official "Soviet" Church which was denounced by all three groups as at the very least illegal and possibly even as the satanic tool of the Bolsheviks.

Why is all this so important?

Because the current official "Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate" is a direct descendant of this first group, which was unanimously rejected by literally tens of thousands of saints who were martyred for their faith by the Bolshevik regime.  In patristic theological terms, the Moscow Patriarchate and its members are "lapsed", i.e., those who did not have the courage to resist the persecutors of the Church and who therefore severed their communion to the Church.  The fact that they created an ecclesiastical entity in conditions prohibited by canon law makes them "schismatics".  The fact that they developed a specific teaching ("Sergianism": the idea that the Church can be "saved" by way of comprimise with evil) to justify such actions makes them "heretics" (please note that in a theological discourse terms like "heretic" are not insults, but simply indicators of a specifc spiriual condition/status).

The above is an extremely superficial and even simplistic mini-overview of a long an extremely complex topic and I ask for the understanding of those who know about this and who might be appalled at how much I have not discussed here.  I am aware of that, but this is simply not the time and place to write a halfway decent history of Russian Orthodoxy in the 20th century.  The only other historical detail I will add here is that during WWII, Stalin did very substantially ease some of the worst persecutions against the Church and that these persecutions did, in part, resume under Krushchev.  Again, I apologize for the extreme "shorthand" of the outline above, and I ask that you take only the following two important concepts with you:

a) Russian Orthodoxy has been continuously weakened for the past 300+ years
b) The organization currently officially representing Russian Orthodoxy has major legitimacy issues and is often viewed with deep suspicion, even by very religious people.

I now need to say a few words about the modern "Moscow Patriarchate" as it is today, over two decades since the end of any anti-religious persecutions.

First, it is by far the most "Soviet" institution of the Russian polity.  Or, to put it in other words, it is by far the least reformed "leftover" of the Soviet era.  To make things worse, it is also currently run by a notoriously corrupt individual, "Patriarch" Kirill I, a sly and utterly dishonest individual, known for his shady business dealing and for his rabid adherence to the so-called "Ecumenical Movement" (a heresy from the Orthodox point of view).  To top it all off, there is some pretty good evidence that Kirill I might be a secret Papist Cardinal, something called a "cardinale in pectore" which, if true,  is probably used against him by the Russian security services to make sure that he does whatever the Kremlin says.

For all its faults, the Moscow Patriarchate fulfills and extremely important role for the Russian state: that of ideological substitute for the now officially abandoned Marxist ideology.

One often can hear the statement that about 70% of Russians are Orthodox Christians.  This is wrong and highly misleading.  According to data published in Wikipedia, about 40% of Russians are Orthodox Christians.  Better.  But what does that really mean?  Mostly that these Russians identify with the Russian Orthodox traditions, that they try to live by Christians ethics and that they refer to themselves as "Orthodox".  But if we take the figures published annually by the Moscow city authorities on the attendance of the single most important religious service in the Orthodox tradition - Easter (called "Paskha" in Russian) we see that only about 1% of Moscovites actually attended it.  What about the remaining 39%?!

It is impossible to come by one "true" figure, but I would estimate that no more than 5% of the Russian population could be considered as "deeply/consciously, religious".  And yet, the Moscow Patriarchate plays a crucial role in the Kremlin's power structure: not only does it provide a substitute for the now defunct Marxist ideology, it serve as a "patriotic education" organization, it offers a series of well-recognized symbols (beautiful churches, religious singing, icons, crosses, etc.) which can all be used a national symbols (rather than spiritual symbols).  Those national symbols are recognized, if not necessarily fully endorsed, by far more than the 40+ percent of Russians which are nominally Orthodox.  To paraphrase the American expression "to rally around the flag", Russians are nowadays encouraged to "rally around the cross" even if on a deep internal level they don't really understand, or care, what the symbol of the Cross really means in Orthodox Christianity.

Let me give you an example of what all this ends up looking like.  Read the transcript of the speech which Vladimir Putin made at the Council of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate (click here).  It is all about patriotism, patriotism and more patriotism.  Not a single word in all this is devoted to spiritual topics.  Not one.  This speech could have been made to an assembly of officials of an ideological department of the CPSU.

For the Moscow Patriarchate, this tight collaboration with the Kremlin also has an immense advantage: it grants it a legitimacy which history so unambiguously denies it.  While there are still remnants of the Catacomb Church in Russia, and while outside Russia there still is an Orthodox Church Abroad, these organizations are tiny compared to the huge Moscow Patriarchate, with its 100+ bishops, 26'000+ parishes and 100'000'000+ official members.  And when any of these small groups succeeds in gathering the funds to open a small parish somewhere in Russia, the Moscow Patriarchate can always count on the local riot police to expel them and "return" the building to the Moscow Patriarchate.

I apologize once again for the extreme degree of over-simplification I had to settle for to write this (already too long!) overview.  What I have done is mention what I believe are essential background factors which must be kept in mind when looking into the topic of Russia and Islam. 

In particular, it has to be clearly understood that the official Orthodox Church, the Moscow Patriarchate, is not an important factor at all in the dialectical relationship between the Russian society and Islam, if only because inside the Russian society the status of the Orthodox faith is an extremely weakened one.  In other words, the topic of "Russia and Islam" should not be confused with the topic "Orthodox Christianity and Islam".  In many ways, modern Russia is neo-Orthodox, para-Orthodox or even post-Orthodox but most definitely not truly Orthodox.

This, however, begs the obvious question: if the dominant ethos of the Russian society is not Marxist any more, and if it is not really Orthodox Christian either, than what is it?  Other than being predominantly anti-Western or anti-capitalist, what does the Russian society today stand for (as opposed to against) and how does Russian society react to the values offered by Islam.  This will be the topic of the next installment of this series.

wikispooks said...

I have no issue with any of that; so far as it goes. There is a glaring ommission though: The role of Judaism in the rise of the Bolsheviks and their subsequent roles in Christian peasant persecutions and WWII - I suggest that is the elephant in the room which still cannot be honestly and accurately researched or debated
@wikispooks:There is a glaring ommission though: The role of Judaism in the rise of the Bolsheviks and their subsequent roles in Christian peasant persecutions and WWII

True. I had to prioritize so I excluded this, and many other, important topics.

I suggest that is the elephant in the room which still cannot be honestly and accurately researched or debated

That is not very fair. I did cover this topic many times, including in this post:

and I also discussed it in many other posts and comments. While one can disagree with my opinions and conclusions, I assure you that I do research this topic honestly and as accurately as I can. Do you find the article I mention above dishonest?


Russia and Islam, part three: internal Russian politics

In the first two installments of this series on Russia and Islam we have seen that the reasons why neither the modern European civilizational model nor the traditional Orthodox faith can, at this point in time, provide a viable and positive source of ideological or spiritual inspiration for post-Soviet Russia.  While in the past three hundred years the ideologically dominant philosophical and political paradigm has been the "Westernizing" one, the absolute disasters which inevitably resulted from any "liberals" coming to power in Russia (Kerensky, Eltsin), combined with the West's betrayal of all its promises made to Gorbachev (NATO would not move East) has finally resulted in a collapse of this model.  The vast majority of Russians today would agree on the following basic ideas:

a) The West is no friend to Russia, never was, never will be, and the only way to deal with it is from a position of strength.
b) Russia needs a strong government lead by a strong leader. 
c) Russian "liberals" (in the modern Russian use of the word) are a small degenerate group of US-worshiping intellectuals who hate Russia.
d) Russia has to be a "social state" and the "pure" capitalist model is both morally wrong and fundamentally unsustainable, as shown by the current financial crisis.
e) The democratic system is a fraud used by the rich for their own interests.

So far so good, but what is the alternative?

Historically, there used to be a traditionalist model which said that Russia needed to be an Christian Orthodox country, where the highest secular power needed to be vested in a Tsar, whose power must be kept in check by a powerful and autonomous Church, and where the people's will would be expressed in a Zemskii Sobor, a "Council of the Land", something like a Parliament with a primarily consultative function.  This idea was expressed by philosophers and writers such as Khomiakov, Tikhomirov, Rozanov, Solonevich, Iliin, Solzhenitsyn, Ogurtsov and many others.

With many caveats and disclaimers, I would say that this would be the Russian Orthodox version of the type of regime we see today in the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Not a theocracy, of course, but a regime in which the fundamental structure, nature, function and goal of the state is to uphold spiritual values.  A regime with a strong democratic component, but whose popular will can, when needed, be vetoed by the highest spiritual authorities.  I would call such a system a "directed democracy", in which the tactical decisions are left to the will of the majority of the people, but whose strategic direction is set and cannot be replaced by another one.

The big difference between Russia and Iran is that in Iran the Islamic model is clearly fully endorsed by a strong majority of the population.  In contrast, in Russia even most nominally Orthodox Christians would have great reservations about attempting to establish such a "Orthodox Republic".  Its hard to come by any credible figure, but my personal gut feeling is that no more than 10% of Russians would feel comfortable with such a proposition.  In other words, the idea of the establishment of an "Orthodox Republic" would probably be opposed by 90% of the people.

I personally deplore this state of affairs, if only because this is the model which I believe would be best for Russia, but politics being the science of the possible, it makes no sense to stubbornly latch on an impossibility.

Then what?  What are the other options?

The currently "visible" choice of political parties is both reflective of the main currents in society and, at the same time, rather misleading.  Let's look at what these parties are:

1) "United Russia". Putin's party.  I would describe it as moderately patriotic (but not nationalistic), definitely committed to a strong Russia, "social" in economic terms, "independent" in international relations.

2) The "Liberal Democratic Party of Russia".  Lead by Vladimir Zhironovski, it is vehemently anti-Communist and anti-Soviet, nationalistic in a buffoon-like manner, also "social" in economic terms, plain crazy in international relations.

3) The Communist Party of Russia.  Lead by Gennadii Ziuganov, this is a pathetically reactionary party which openly claims to be the successor of the former CPSU, it is lead by a "boar" like politician who could be sitting right next to Brezhnev or Chernenko.  It has no real vision, except for nostalgia for the USSR.

4) "Just Russia".  Lead by Sergei Mironov, a former paratrooper turned Social-Democrat, it is a moderately "left center" version of "United Russia", its a 'nice' party which will never make any real difference.

5) All the pro-US parties which could no even make it into the Duma, and whose protests and demonstrations rapidly fizzled out.  They are fundamentally irrelevant.

What does all this mean in reality?

There is only one party in Russia - the "United Russia" party of Putin and Medvedev.  Both the Liberal Democrats and the Communists are just here to provide a safety valve function for the unhappy.  While these parties do absorb a big chunk of the people who oppose Putin and United Russia, in the Duma these parties always end up voting with the Kremlin.  This is also pretty much true for "Just Russia" which is so small anyway, that it does not really matter.  The other useful function of the Liberal Democrats and the Communist, is that it keeps the "crazies" away from the Kremlin.  The hysterical nationalists and the nostalgic Communists are absorbed by these two parties and that makes them instantly irrelevant.

I feel that it is important to stress here that there are smart, well educated and articulate nationalists and communists who do NOT belong to the Liberal Democratic or Communist parties.  I am thinking of nationalists like Dmitri Rogozin (who is currently the Deputy Premier of Russian Government in charge of defense and space industry) or Stalinists such as Nikolai Starikov (the head of the Union of Citizens of Russia).  Frankly, smart people say away from these two parties.

The reality is that there is only one game in town: United Russia and its non-party "All-Russia People's Front", created by Putin as a political movement for new ideas.  Everything else is pretty much a way of making the system look "democratic" and legitimate.

Let's sum it all up.

Russia is a multi-ethnic country which currently lack any kind of  unifying ideology or spirituality, lead by a single group of people whose ideology can be summed up by mix or pragmatism, patriotism, modern socialism, and multilateralism in international relations.  Most importantly,

Modern Russia is neither the Imperial Russia of pre-1917 nor is it the Soviet Union and it would be fundamentally wrong the seek parallels in the past to understand the current nature of the relationship of Russia and Islam.

This is a big temptation, into which the vast majority of western observers always falls: to seek parallels between current events and past events.  While it is true that an understanding of the past if often the key to the understanding of the present, in the case of Russia and Islam this is not an appropriate approach.  For example, to compare the wars in Chechnia under Eltsin and then Putin, to the way Stalin dealt with Chechens or to the way Russia invaded the Caucasus under Alexander I can only fundamentally mislead, bring to wholly inapplicable parallels, and result in deeply mistaken conclusions. 

Modern Russia does not have a clear definition of itself.  Lacking that type of definition, it is unable to articulate some kind of consensual view on what Islam means for Russia.

Some Russians see in Islam a very dangerous enemy, others see Islam as a natural ally.  This is all made even more complicated by the fact that Islam itself is hardly a unified phenomenon and that each time we think of Islam we need to be specific on what type and even what aspect of Islam we are talking about.

For Russia, Islam represents a mix of risks and opportunities in many aspects, including spiritual, political, social, economic, historical and geostrategic aspects. To be fully understood, the topic of "Russia and Islam" needs to be looked at in each and every one of these aspects and what we will see then is that there are different "currents" inside Russia who very much disagree with each other on whether Islam is a risk or an opportunity in every single one of these aspects.  So rather than to speak of "risks and opportunities", I will refer to the spiritual, political, social, economic, historical and geostrategic "challenges" which Islam represents for Russia.  This will be the topic of the next installment.


Russia and Islam, part four: "Islam" as a threat

The first thing to which I would like to draw your attention to is that in the title Russia and Islam, part four: "Islam" as a threat I put the word "Islam" in quotation marks.  This is very important, as most of the issues I will be discussing today are not directly linked to Islam at all.  However, in the minds of many Russians, these issues are linked to Islam and it is therefore simply impossible to analyze the topic of "Russia and Islam" without taking a long hard look at the connection which a lot of Russians make between some issues (with no direct relationship to Islam) and Islam itself.

The use of words can be very tricky in this context.  Take the word "Muslim", what does it really mean?  In Bosnia, the word "Muslim" was really used to describe a "non-Orthodox and non-Catholic Bosnian" since both Croats and Serbs often were natives of Bosnia and since Bosnian-Croats, Bosnian-Serbs and Bosnian-Muslims are all of the exact same ethnic stock (hence the fallacy of speaking of "ethnic cleansing" in the Bosnian context).  Later, the rather inept term "Bosniac" was coined, as opposed to "Bosnian" because to use "Muslim" or "Bosnian" just made no sense.  Regardless, by fiat of some politicians, what used to be called "Muslim" became "Bosniac" overnight.

Likewise, in Ireland, the "troubles" were supposed to oppose Catholics and Protestants, but did the IRA or the Ulster Volunteers really care about the Papacy or Martin Luther?  Did these denominations really play a relevant role in this conflict?

This is hardly a new issue.  In the past, both the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire assimilated religious groups to ethnic minorities hence the Karaites in Russia were not considered as Jews while the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople was referred to by the Ottomans as "Millet-Bashi" or "ethnarc".  In modern France there is a "problem" of the Muslim immigration and its effects on the suburbs of many French cities.  But taking a closer look at these (mostly Algerian) immigrants one could legitimately wonder to what degree this is an "Islamic" problem.  This confusion between "Islam" (as a faith, a religion), "Muslim" (used as both a sign of religious and, often, ethnic affiliation)  is as frequent in modern Russia as it is in France.  Keeping all these caveats in mind, let's look at the type of issues which makes many Russians see "Islam" (in quotation marks) as a threat.

a) Immigration and crime.

Ever since the dissolution of the former Soviet Union there as been a steady flow of immigrants from some former Soviet republics (Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, etc.) towards big Russian cities.  In parallel to that, a large number of immigrants from the Caucasus (Chechens, Dagestani, etc.)  also emigrated to central parts of Russia.  The combination of these to migratory flow resulted in a vast increase of immigrants in every major Russia city.  As is so often the case, while some of these immigrants came looking for a job, there were enough criminal elements amongst them to strongly tie the issue of immigration and crime to each other.  Typically, these immigrants from the south were composed of a mix of four groups:

a) Law-abiding and hard working workers, often ruthlessly exploited and treated as quasi-slaves by their local employers.
b) Arrogant and very poorly educated young men who, while not necessarily criminals, act in highly provocative and offensive manners.
c) Petty thugs who combine an official job with petty criminal activities.
d) Hardened criminals who are deeply involved in drugs, prostitution, illegal casinos, etc.

Typically, the first group is bigger than the second which, in turn, is bigger than the third, while the fourth group is the smallest of all.  And yet, that explosive combination achieves in Russia exactly the same effect as it does in France: it associates crime and immigration in the mind of many, if not most, people.

Furthermore, since most of these immigrants come from historically Muslim countries and since many of them consider themselves as Muslims, many Russians experience their first or most frequent interaction with putative "Muslims" in a criminal situation.  As for the fact that in the vast majority of these cases these "Muslim thugs" know absolutely nothing about Islam is not at all apparent, in particular from a Russian point of view.

The French author and philosopher Alain Soral, who is very actively engaged in efforts to reconcile and unite all French citizens against the NWO, including Christians and Muslims, speaks of "Islamo-racaille" ("Islamo-scum"): young loud thugs, wearing "rapper-gangsta" gear, with NYC baseball-hats and who speak of Allah and Kufars while driving around in sports cars - often high or drunk - looking for somebody to rob, rape or abuse.  As Soral points out - these people are not exactly the type you would see coming out of a mosque and  the very same is true of Russia.  Still, it is undeniable that many Russians still make the association "Islam" <-> crime.

b) Wahabism - internal

The wars in Chechnia and the Islamic terrorism in Dagestan and many other part of Russia have had a huge impact upon the Russian public opinion.  The two was in Chechnia, in particular, resulted a a deep aversion for the Chechen insurgents and any other Islamic terrorist group which could be described as "Wahabi".  Initially, the combined propaganda tsunami of the Western corporate media and the Russian "liberal" media left people confused as to what was really going on, but soon the horrible events on the ground become impossible to suppress:  the Chechen insurgents combined the very worst of the Wahabi extremism with the worst of Chechen thuggery.  Thousands of people were summarily executed, women raped, Russian soldiers and even civilians were tortured to death, crucified, skinned alive, raped and beheaded.  Hostages were kidnapped from all over southern Russia and a slave market was working each day in downtown Grozny.  And all these horrors were committed by bearded man, brandishing green and black flags embroidered with suras of the Kuran, and to the constant screams of Allahu Akbar.  And since the Chechen insurgents loved to use their cellphones to videotape their atrocities, a steady stream of blood-curling videos make it to the Russian TV and Internet sites.  By 2000 the Russian public opinion was ripe to give no quarter to any Islamic terrorist or anybody supporting them.

To make things worse, the Chechen insurgency had the support of the vast majority of the Muslim world which, just as in Bosnia or Kosovo, automatically sided with the "Muslim" party no matter what (I call this the "My Umma -  right or wrong" position).  That knee-jerk support for the Muslim side, even if it is largely composed of Wahabi terrorists and criminals, put a big stain on the image of Islam in Russia and gave a lot of weight to the "conflict of civilizations" paradigm which the West and its supporters in Russia wanted to impose upon the Russian public opinion.

If under Eltsin the Russian state proved completely incapable of taking any kind of measures to deal with this situation, under Putin things changed extremely rapidly as shown by the 2nd Chechen war which basically crushed the insurgency.  Subsequently, the combined efforts of a completely re-vamped Russian security establishment and the coming to power of Akhmad and, later, Ramazan Kadyrov completely changed the situation.  Grozny was rebuilt in a record time, and Chechnia became of the of safest republics of the entire Caucasus (at the expense of Dagestan where the situation got worse).    The cost in human lives and suffering was absolutely horrendous, both for Russians (almost all those who survived left Chechnia) and for Chechens who died in huge numbers.  The main scar left by this war though is that Russia has become a society with zero tolerance for any form of Wahabism and the Russian people have fully endorsed what I call the "Putin doctrine" of dealing with Wahabis: "change your ways or expect to be annihilated".  This, by the way, applies to both individuals and ethnic groups: against a Wahabi enemy the Russian people will support the harshest possible military methods of warfare, something which a lot of Muslim communities are acutely aware of (more about that later).

In Chechnia itself, Ramzan Kadyrov instituted an even harsher anti-Wahabi policy than in the rest of Russia.  During the 2nd Chechen war, foreign mercenaries and preachers were interrogated and then summarily executed by both Russian and Chechen forces and ever since Saudi, Yemeni or Pakistani preachers are simply barred from entering Chechnia.

Contrary to the predictions of most "experts", the Kremlin did successfully deal with the situation in Chechnia, but one inevitable side effect of this success was that a lot of the Wahabi extremists were flushed out of Chechnia into neighboring Dagestan and even the rest of Russia.  And that second problem is far from solved.  While the USA and the UK have now toned down their pro-Chechen rhetoric, the Saudis are still pushing Wahabi-Islam into Russia, although in a more discrete manner.

First, they train preachers in Saudi Arabia and send them back to Russia.  Then these preachers form small communities, often inside mosques, were the faithful are recruited for social and religious activities.  During that phase, the candidates for the next step are carefully investigated, vetted and selected for the next phase: the establishment of weapons caches, safehouses, training grounds, and the like.  Eventually, the new recruits are used to attack police stations, banks, murder traditional (anti-Wahabi) clergymen, and opposing Mafia gangs.  Russian security services have observed that sequence in Dagestan, Kazan or Stavropol (regions with large Muslim minorities), but also in Saint Petersburg, a city with a very small and very traditionalist Muslim population.  So far, the security services have managed to say one step ahead, but this is far from over and that kind of penetration efforts can last a very long time.

( Note from Jan Verheul: I made the above passage bold myself. 
Sibel Edmonds tells us about the US who gives enoprmous support for Fetulla Gulen who lives in the US now, who receives 20 billion $ ( Sibel thinks its money from the US, mr Gulen says its from his supporters) and builds madrassas and mosks all over Centra Asia.  
I would not be surprised when there the same steppin- stone technique is used: create a base and se which elements can be used for your goals.)  

One of the crucial aspects of this dynamic is the reaction of the local, traditional, Muslim spiritual leaders.  First, as I have mentioned above, no Russian Muslims want to have a "2nd Chechen war" happen in their own town or region, because they have no doubts whatsoever about the outcome of such a situation.  Second, traditional Muslim spiritual leaders are themselves the first victims of the Wahabi infiltrators who often begin their "active" phase of operations by murdering the local imams.  Third, Muslims in Russia are often very rapidly disillusioned with the Saudi version of Islam which declares as "un-Islamic" many customs and traditions which are at the core of the cultural identity of many Muslim groups in Russia.  Fourth, for all the thugs from the Caucasus behaving in obnoxious and vulgar manners in Central Russia, the fact is that the Muslim communities these young people come from are often very conservative and peaceful and that the older generation deeply disapproves of the kind of behavior which, in their opinion, brings shame upon their people.  Fifth one should not under-estimate the legacy of the Soviet period which promoted both secularism and modernism and which has left a strong mark on the local elites.  These elites are both outraged and horrified when they are told by Wahabi preachers that they have to completely abandon their way of life and begin living according to medieval precepts.  Finally, there is an inherent tension between any form of nationalism and the Saudi style Wahabism being imported to Russia.  This tension is one of the key elements which turned the Kadyrov clan against the various Wahabi warlords in Chechnia which were viewed by the more nationalist Chechen leaders as arrogant foreigners who were enemies of the Chechen ancestral  traditions.  For all these reasons, there is a lot of push-back on the part of the local Muslim communities and Muslim leaders against the type of Wahabi style Islam the Saudis have been trying to export to Russia.

c) Wahabism - external

Wahabism is not only an internal threat for Russia, it is also a major external threat.  According to Russian analysts, the Obama Administration has brought with itself a fundamentally new set of imperialist policies which are now being implemented.  During the Bush era, the USA exercised direct control, mostly by means of military interventions, over the Middle-East and Africa.  This "direct" approach is the way the Jewish Lobby and the Neocons believed that the USA should maintain its global empire.  Obama represents a very different type of constituency (old "Anglo" money) which is vehemently opposed to the Neocons and which will agree to pay lip service to the Israel-firsters but, in reality, places US strategic interests far ahead of any Zionist priorities.  In practical terms, this means that the Obama administration will withdraw as many US troops as possible and relinquish the direct control over contested regions, and that it will secure its domination over a country or region by means of chaos.  This is a policy of indirect imperial control.

After all, why invade and occupy a country, thereby loosing US blood and money, when one can use proxies to create a situation of absolute chaos inside that country?    In the best of cases, chaos leads to a Libyan-style "regime change" and in the worst case, a civil war like the one taking place in Syria.  But in either case, undesirable heads of state like Gaddifi or Assad have been "de-fanged" and their countries removed from any possible anti-US alliance.  As for the "good guys" of the day (say Abdullah in Jordan or Hamad in Bahrein), they are protected from the surrounding chaos at rather very limited costs.

According to Russian analysts, the Wahabi and "al-Qaeda" types are the foot soldiers of this new US imperial policy.  The US simply "injects" them in any society it wants to subvert and then it sits on the sidelines without much else to do than to send in special forces to assist here and there, depending on the needs of the moment.  In this situation, the CIA agent is the puppeteer and the Wahabi crazy the puppet, whether it is aware of that or not.

The big fear of Russian analysts is that this US strategy will be used to remove Assad and then that it will be used against Iran.  True, Syria has a large Sunni population, whereas Iran is predominantly Shia, whom the Wahabis hate with a special seething loathing.  Still, Iran does have small Kurdish, Turkmen and Balochi (Sunni) minorities which, combined with pro-Western "Gucci revolutionaries" of the upper classes can pose a real risk to the regime.  And, if not, there is always the option of triggering a war between Iran and some Sunni country.  Most Russians analysts believe that Iran is strong enough to resist such attempts at destabilizing it, but they remain very attentive to the situation because they agree that if Iran was to be engulfed into some form of US-sponsored chaos this would directly affect the southern regions of Russia.

Some analysts also see this US "indirect" or "control through chaos" strategy as a "win-win" for the USA even if their Wahabi proxies are defeated.  They ask a simple question: what will happen if Assad convincingly wins the war in Syria? Where will the Wahabis go next?  Back to Mali, which they temporarily left to avoid engaging the French?  Or into Algeria, to start a civil war there?  Or maybe into Kosovo or even southern France?  And what if these Wahabis decided to "test the waters" in Kazakhstan?

This type of concerns brings some Russian security specialists to actually see a positive aspect to the war in Syria. Simply put - Assad is killing a lot of al-Qaeda types and every Wahabi crazy killed in Syria is one less candidate for a transfer to another holy war in another part of the world.

We now can clearly distinguish the rationale behind the Russian policy not to threaten to shut down NATO supply lines over Russia, regardless of the amount of obnoxious and hostile pronouncements and actions from the US side: the Russians want the Americans to remain in Afghanistan as long as possible to give time to Russia and its allies like Tajikistan to prepare for a Taliban regime back in power in Kabul.  In the meantime, Russia is strengthening its powerful 201 Russian Military Base (ex- 201 Motor-Rifle Division) in Tadjikistan and providing technical assistance to the Tajik Border Guards.

As part of the recent reforms of the Russian Armed Fores the entire Russian military has been reorganized into four Strategic Commands, each capable of independently waging a regional defensive war independently by directly controlling practically all the military forces and resources in its area.  It is interesting to note that while the Southern Strategic Command is the smallest one in size, it is by far the most combat ready.  If there is anything which the 08.08.08 war with Georgia has convincingly shown, it is the lightening speed at which the 58th Army and the Black Sea Fleet were ready to go to war (and that even though it took the Kremlin quite some time to finally react).  It is quite clear that following the Russian successes in Chechnia and Georgia Moscow is most definitely not letting its guard down and that it will remain ready to engage in a wide spectrum of military operations ranging from local clashes to a full-scale regional war.

d) Islam through the prism of the "clash of civilizations" 

This aspect of the "Islamic threat" is fundamentally different from all the other ones as it is predicated on a thesis which is never really tested, but only proclaimed: that there is a "clash of civilizations" taking place between, roughly, "Christian Europe" on one side and the "Eastern" or "Arab" Islam on the other.  Nevermind the fact that Europe has lost almost all signs of Christianity many years ago, nevermind that Islam is neither primarily "Eastern" nor  primarily "Arab", nevermind that Islam includes very different civilizations (from Morocco to Indonesia) and nevermind that no Muslim or Islamic "civilization" has attacked any Western interests since a very long time.  By the way- proponents of this theory will include a theocratic and racist country such as Israel in the "Western", if not "Christian European", camp while ignoring the key role Muslim Turkey plays in NATO.  Simply put - this view is 100% ideology, no facts are needed.  And yet, there are quite a few groups in Russia which are happy to promote this worldview:

a) The Communists.  In the bad old Soviet mentality, Islam is, as any other religion, an ideological enemy.  If Ziuganov & Co. do not speak of "opium of the people" it is because they are afraid to antagonize their Orthodox Christian members, in particular since nowadays being "Orthodox" gives you "patriotic" credentials.  But being Muslim gives you exactly *zero* credentials with the Communists.  If anything, they would be inclined to see Islam and Muslims as agents for foreign interests.

b) Zionists: contrary to the popular belief, there are still plenty of Zionists in Russia, including in the media, and they never miss the opportunity to fan the flames of Islamophobia.  One of their favorite tricks is to always and deliberately conflate all forms of Islam, with the deeds of any "Muslim" whether actually religious or not and draw the conclusion that "Islam is our common moral enemy".  For these people, Russia and Israel are natural allies against the common Islamic foe, and even Iran is not to be trusted.  Needless to say, the Israelis go out of their way to court these circles and promote an image of "you had the Chechens, we have the Palestinians".

c) Russian neo-Nazi racists: this is really a small group, but an extremely vocal one.  These are the famous Russian skinheads who feel that they are defending the "White Race" when they beat up a Tadjk in the subway.  Some of them claim to be Orthodox, though a majority like to seek their roots into some distant "pagan Russia" populated by blue eyed White warriors.  These groups exist mostly on the Internet, but they sometimes gather in remote places to "train" for the "conflict to come".

Recently a group of real Russian patriots got together and began quietly investigating these groups.  It turns out that the most vocal and racist of them all usually had IP numbers in the USA, Canda and Israel.  Russian security services strongly suspect that these groups are quietly supported by US and other Western intelligences services to create ethnic tensions in Russia.  Unsurprisingly, since Putin came to power most leaders of these groups have landed in jail, or are hiding abroad.

d) Roman Catholics and Orthodox Ecumenists: both of these groups share a common belief: whatever "minor" differences they "might" have had in the past, Orthodox Russia belongs with the "Christian West", if only because both are "threatened" by a "common enemy".  These people carefully avoid ever mentioning the undeniable fact that Russia has always chosen Asia over Europe or Islam over the Papacy, if only because of all the wars of conquest which were waged by the West against Russia.  This group has no traction in the masses of people, but it has some following in the pro-US circles in the big cities.

Individually, these groups are not very powerful, with the notable exception of the Zionist one.  And they do not officially work together.  But if there are no signs of a conspiracy, there is an objective collusion between these groups when it comes to demonize Islam in all its forms, even the most moderate ones.  This, in turn, means that there is a minority of the Russian population which will always view Islam as a threat, no matter what.

The good news is that these groups are counter-balanced by far more influential forces which see Islam as a potential (if  not yet actual) natural ally of Russia.  This will be the topic of the next installment.


Russia and Islam, part five: "Islam" as an ally

Russia has become the first enemy of Islam and Muslims because it has stood against the Syrian people; more than 30,000 Syrians have been killed by the weapons supplied by Russia"

Reading the words of al-Qaradawi, who is arguably one of the most influential Muslim clerics on the planet whose TV show is followed by 60 million Muslims, one might wonder how anybody could ever think of Islam as an ally of Russia.  But then, reading the rest of the article which quoted him, we see that he also "called on pilgrims to pray for topple (sic) of Bashar al Assad, elimination of Syrian army, Iran, Hezbollah, China and Russia".  If we think of the logic of his own words, the list of enemies he names, and if we consider that he believes that Russia is the worst of them, does that not indicate that Russia must therefore be the main force behind of the others, behind Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and China?  If so, then unless we assume that the Russians are irrational, we can probably conclude that Russia sees Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and China as allies which, of course, it does.  And since Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are most definitely Muslim, this clearly shows two fundamental things:  there are many different brands of "Islam" out there (Hassan Nasrallah would definitely not agree with al-Qaradawi's point of view) and some of these brands of Islam are already objective allies of Russia. So, once again, we need to set aside the vast category of "Islam" and look a little deeper into what has been going on inside the Muslim world.

The following is a self-evident truism:

The Muslim world is not a united, coherent, entity with a common goal, ideology or ethos.  While some Muslims want to entertain that fiction, and while all Islamophobes are more than happy to support and propagate such claims, they are patently false.  While all Muslims share certain common beliefs, this list is extremely short.  In fact, all that is required to convert to Islam is a single heartfelt recitation of the Sahhadah: "there is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God".  Everything else is left to the interpretation of the various of various sects and schools of jurisprudence.  This is why all the usual generalizations about Islam are so misleading - they ignore the immense diversity of Islam, from Morocco to Indonesia, from Saudi Wahabism to Kazakh Sufism.

And yet, some generalizations can be made, even if accompanied by various disclaimers and caveats.

The first is that the richest segment of the Muslim world is definitely the one of the type of Sunni Islam found around the Persian Gulf, in particular the one represented by the Saudi type of Wahabism.  This Saudi brand of Islam combines three separate elements into one explosive mix: a primitive but extremely aggressive ideologyimmense disposable income and a militant dedication to proselytism and expansion.

Second, Sunni Muslims are all potential targets of Saudi/Wahabi indoctrination and recruitment efforts.  This does not mean that all Sunnis will turn into al-Qaeda types, but that Saudi/Wahabi recruitment efforts have already been successful in pretty much all Sunni groups, regardless of geography or tradition.  Conversely, this also means that for traditional Sunni Islam the brand of Wahabism the Saudis are spreading is a most dangerous foe.

Third, The United States have to be credited with the following: they took a local, largely irrelevant, sect and, with the complicity of the House of Saud, they literally federated all the Wahabi crazies worldwide into if not one organization, then at least one movement.  While the USA initially wanted to organize the resistance against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, they have since always commanded, if not always controlled, these movements worldwide, and they still are doing so today.  From the US and Turkish "black flights" in Bosnia, to the arming of the KLA in Kosovo, to 9/11, to the uprisings in Libya and Syria, the United States have always directed the Wahabi crazies towards the enemies of the US global Empire.

Fourth, in contrast to the rest of the Islamic world, the Shia have always been a determined opponent of Wahabi Islam and the US Empire.  Conversely, this also means that for the US Empire and the Wahabi crazies, the Shia are at the top of their enemy list and that they will spare no efforts into weakening, subverting or destroying any Shia movement or country.  Remarkably, so far they have failed and that in itself is a testimony to the formidable intelligence, courage and resilience of the Shia people.

What does that mean for Russia?

While there are some circles which fully subscribe to the "clash of civilization" theory and who consider Islam as a threat (see in my previous installment the "Islam through the prism of the "clash of civilizations"  section), there are also several influential groups who very much see Islam as a natural ally:

a) Orthodox patriots: best represented by the views of the well-known journalist Maksim Shevchenko, these are Russians nationals who as patriots, but not Russian nationalists, believe that Russia has a vocation to be an multi-ethnic country and civilization and who, as Orthodox Christians, believe that traditional Islam shares most, if not all, of the key values of Orthodox Christianity.  Shevchenko, who is a long-time Orthodox activist, is also a specialist of the Caucasus region who has extensive contacts in the various Muslim communities in Russia.  Unlike the "Orthodox Ecumenists", Shevchenko has no interest at all in finding some theological common ground with Islam, for him the value of Islam is in what it stands for culturally and politically.  The fundamental belief of Shevchenko and those who support his ideas is that traditional Islam is the natural ally of Orthodox Christianity and the Russian civilization in its struggle against both Western imperialism and Wahabi extremism.  Needless to say, Russian Islamophobes absolutely despise Shevchenko and they regularly spread rumors about his (totally fictional) conversion to Islam.

b) The security services: Russian security services have enough analysts and experts to fully realize the potential of an Orthodox-Muslim alliance against their common enemies.  It is not a coincidence that a former KGB officer like Putin put so much efforts in supporting the Kadyrov clan in Chechnia.  There is an old tradition in the Russian security services to seek alliances with some Muslim movements against common enemies.  From the long-standing alliance of the Soviet GRU with Ahmad Shah Massoud, to the SVR's support for Assad, to the FSB's support for Akhmad and Ramzan Kadyrov - the Russian security services have always sought allies in the Muslim world.  They have always done that due to a mix of pragmatic considerations and real admiration for their counterparts (I can personally attest to the real and sincere admiration in which Massoud was held by commanders of the Kaskad/Vympel Spetsnaz force).  Putin has personally stated many time that the traditional Muslim communities can count on the absolute support of the Russian state and that this support for traditional Russian Islam is a key strategic objective of the Russian state.

c) Orthodox traditionalists: take a look at this photo, it shows some of the dresses which would be considered traditional Orthodox dresses in modern Russia.  Though not exactly identical, they are very similar to what many Muslim women would wear, are they not?  Now compare that with the kind of civilization model the various Pussy Riots, Gay Pride parades and otherLGBT movements present.  The fact is that traditional Islamic and traditional Christian Orthodox ethics are very similar, and that they stand for the same values: traditional families, moderate patriotism, social responsibility, modesty, sobriety, charity, honor and respect for traditions including for other traditions.  At a time when most Russian TV stations are spewing a constant stream of immorality, materialism and outright filth, Orthodox Christians look with understanding and admiration at those Muslim families who raise their children with respect for the elders and the traditions they represent. 

Recently, there have been a few high visibility scandals around the issue of whether Muslim girls should be wearing a scarf over their heads in public schools.  Just like in France, some Russians felt threatened by such religious displays, in particular in the southern regions of Russia were immigration is a big problem, but interestingly the traditionalist Orthodox commentators sided with the Muslim girls saying that they are actually giving a good example to Russian Orthodox girls too.  It is a fact that before the Bolshevik Revolution almost all rural Russian women wore a headscarf which is very much a traditional Russian way of dressing (those doubting this are welcome to check any Russian matrioshka doll).

d) The Russian foreign policy establishment, while not necessarily as pro-Islamic as the Russian security services, is also largely convinced of the importance of supporting countries such as Syria and, in particular, Iran, which most Russian diplomats see as a key Russian ally in the Middle-East.  There also is, however, a strong pro-Western minority in the Russian foreign service which does believe that Iran has to submit to the orders of the UNSC even in cases where the UNSC takes decisions which are highly unfavorible to Russia.  This is also the group which prevailed at the time when Russia betrayed Gaddafi and did not veto a resolution which was clearly designed to allow a US/NATO agression on Libya (Russia also betrayed Iran on several occasions at the UNSC).  Still, the prevailing thought, in particular since Putin's return to power, is that Iran is an important ally that Russia must support.

The Russian state, as a whole, is not a unitary actor.  In fact, there is a lot of very intense infighting taking place right now, and there is strong evidence that at least two clans, one associated with Medvedev and one associated with Putin, are now in the midst of a covert war against each other.  This topic, and what that means for Islam, will be the subject of the next installment of this series.


Russia and Islam, part six: the Kremlin

This is a topic which I have been most hesitant to cover for many reasons, including the fact that my views on this topic have come to change, and that they did so not as a result of the discovery of indisputable facts, but under the combined action of  much "in between the lines" readings of events, many indirect events pointing in the same direction, combined with a very strong, but inevitably subjective, gut feeling.  To state my thesis bluntly, I have come to the conclusion that for many years already there have been several interest groups fighting against each other in the Kremlin and that one group has decided to break cover and engage in a quiet but still visible attack against the other.  As a result of that, a profound revolution has now begun in Russia and that the next 4-5 years will see either huge changes or a major power struggle inside the Kremlin.

The Muslim world and the "Islamic factor" inside Russia play little or no role in this struggle, but the result of this struggle will define Russian policies both towards Muslims inside Russia and towards the Middle-East and the rest of the world.  This is why I have decided to address this issue now.

In the past, I was of the opinion that Putin and Medvedev were the representatives of the same interest group which could be loosely described as a mix of security services and big money.  I credited this group with very skillfully deceiving the US-controlled regime of Eltsin and his Jewish oligarchs only to systematically crush it as soon as Putin came to power.  I still believe that this model is fundamentally correct, but I now also have come to realize that it has a deeper dimension which I have missed in the past.

First, I used to see the events of 1999-2000 as basically a victory of the "Putin people" against the Jewish oligarchy (which it was) and against US interests.  The latter is not so simple.  Yes, when Putin came to power he did basically "decapitate" the top figures of the oligarchy, but he simply did not have the means to change the system which the oligarchs and their US sponsors put in place.  The people were changed, the system remained fundamentally the same.  Berezovsky and Gusinsky fled Russia, Khodorkovsky was offered a much deserved trip to tree logging camp in Siberia, but the system these guys had built stayed: the media toned down some of its most obnoxious propaganda (in particular on Chechnia), the "New Russian" millionaires stopped trying to simply buy the Duma (like Khodorkovsky had), the various separatists groups decided to keep a low profile, and the Russian mob decided to be more careful in its actions.  But the basic laws, the Constitution, the system of government, all remained pretty much unchanged.   Furthermore, inside the "Putin people" there were some who very much wanted to deepen the integration of Russia into the West and its US-controlled international system.  Some were clearly CIA/MI6 paid agents of influence, others did that because they truly believed that this was the best course for Russia.  This type of people were often seen "near" Medvedev, "near" both physically and ideologically.  The 1990s also left a lot of these people in key positions in various government agencies, media groups and business interests.  No less important than who was "in" the power circles at the time is who was kept away.  Some extremely popular figures were sent far away from the centers of power.  This is well illustrated by the case of Dmitri Rogozin sent to Brussels.

So what we have witnessed between 2000 and 2012 is a grand balancing act, a compromise, between at the very least two interest groups:  I will call the first one the "Atlantic integrationists" and the second one the "Eurasian sovereignists".  The first groups wants Russia to be a respected strategic partner to the West while the second group aims at the creation of a multi-polar world in which no one country or alliance would hold supreme power.

Just as the late 1990s the "Putin & Medvedev" people succeeded in outwitting the Jewish oligarchy, in the past couple of years the "Putin" people have, apparently, succeeded in outmaneuvering the "Medvedev" camp.  I very much doubt that the people around Medvedev realized what they were doing when they let Putin run for President, officially under the argument that his popularity was higher than Medvedev's (which is true).  They probably were told that another 6 years of compromise and continuity were ahead, but in reality Putin has fundamentally change the course of Russia since he came to power a year ago.

In the past, cracks between the two camps had already appeared over a number of issues, including the S-300 sale to Iran, the UNSC Resolution or the response to the 08.08.08 war against Georgia, but these differences were always settled under the fundamental fact that the role of the President and the one of Head of Government ("Prime Minister") were clearly defined and each had to remain within his own sphere of competence.  Medvedev made the point himself when he publicly declared that the decision not to veto the UNSC Resolution on Libya allowing a US/NATO war was his personal one and that he personally instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  In contrast, Putin denounced this decision in no uncertain terms, but could do nothing about it.  Every time Medvedev and Putin butted heads over something, Medvedev's popularity sagged while Putin's rose.

This conflict came to a head around the person of Anatolii Serdiukov, the former, and now disgraced, Defense Minister.  I will skip all the well-known details about how Serdiukov was caught, but I will state one obvious fact: neither the journalists who "uncovered" Serdiukov's indiscretions nor the Investigative Committee which opened an investigation could have done so without the direct approval of the Presidential Administration.  Just like Obama had to "clear" (read: instigate) the Petraeus scandal to get rid of a powerful figure and replace him with a loyal ally, so did Putin really instigate the downfall of Serdiukov.  Let me add here that the widely held belief that Serduikov was Putin's man is based on nothing but journalistic clichés and is irrelevant anyway.  If, like I think, Serdiukov was imposed upon Putin by the "Atlantic integrationists" then Putin would inevitably be considered as co-responsible of Serdiukov's actions regardless of whether Putin wanted Serdiukov in the first place or not. And that made it very difficult for Putin to do something against "his" protégé.

The reason why I am focusing so much on Serdiukov is because in the Russian political system, the Minister of Defense is something of a mini-President: he runs what is truly a mini-state inside the bigger state, it is both highly autonomous and extremely powerful.  As a result, the position of Minister of Defense is one of the most powerful ones in Russia.  I find it also very plausible that the "Atlantic integrationists" could have agreed to have Putin as a President, provided that Medvedev is #2 and Serduikov #3.  Medvedev is still #2, but Serdiukov has been ejected and disgraced, and his successor, Sergey Shoigu, is his polar opposite in almost every conceivable aspect.

As soon as Shoigu took over the Ministry of Defense, he summarily kicked out Serdiukov's Chief of General Staff, General Makarov (a person of exceptional mediocrity), and replaced him with a highly talented and immensely respected combat officer, General Valerii Gerasimov who, in turn, brought back a long list of respected and highly competent generals to key positions in the Armed Forces.  Shoigu also immediately reversed some of the worst excesses of the so-called "Serduikov's reforms" in many fields including military education, medicine, command and control, etc.

Predictably, and unlike Serdiukov, Shoigu has excellent relations with key personalities like Dmitri Rogozin, Vice-premier of Russian Government in charge of defense industry, and Sergei Ivanov, Chief of Staff Presidential Administration of Russia (both of which are suspected by many observers to have played a key role in the downfall of Serdiukov).

There are also other signs of a potential shift in the top echelons of power in Russia.  More and more observers are speculating that Putin's All-Russia People's Front is being developed not only as a movement to generate new ideas, which is what it was supposed to be, but as a tool to influence and, if needed, replace the United Russia party which is seen as too much under the control of the "Atlantic integrationists".  Again, this is speculation, but there are more and more well-informed observers who are predicting that Medvedev might not remain as Head of Goverment all too long.  My personal take on that his that I get the feeling that Medvedev is a decent man, but of small political stature, who can be trusted to administer and manage, but without much of a vision.  Surrounded by powerful visionaries like Putin, Shoigu or Rogozin, he will do as he is told.  But yes, if he does not, he will probably be ejected fairly soon.

Before turning to the next aspect of this process, I  would like to introduce a thesis here which I rejected for a long while, but which I ended up accepting as true.

There is no doubt that in 1991 the Soviet Union lost the Cold War: the country was split into 15 separate pieces, the entire polity was brought down and the state practically ceased functioning, all the wealth of the country was brought under the control of Western interests and their proxies - Jewish oligarchs - poverty literally exploded, as did the mortality rate, NATO pushed forward its forces right up to the border of the Russian Federation, and American "advisers" literally created the new Russian state, the constitution, the system of government and most laws.  Now here is the key concept I want to submit: for all its external appearances of independence, the Russian Federation between 1991 and 2000 became a US colony, a US dependent territory, something similar to the status of Iraq following the withdrawal of most American forces or the status of, say, Poland or maybe Romania during the Soviet era.   Anyone who has any doubts about this needs to carefully study the events of 1993 when the comparatively legitimate Parliament of Russia was shot at by tanks with the full "support" (read: under the control of), the USA acting through its embassy in Moscow which during those days literally became the command post for the entire crackdown on the opposition.  I personally was present in Moscow during these events, and I had first-rate information about what was really going on at the time. I can, for example, attest to the following two facts: a) the number of victims was grossly under reported and b) the scope in time and space of the repression was also grossly under reported.  The true figures of casualties are close to 5'000 (five thousand) people and it took 5-6 days of combat in the entire Moscow metropolitan area (including areas outside the city proper) to eventually crush the opposition (I personally witness a intense firefight right under the windows of my apartment on the evening of the 5th day after the assault).  This entire bloodbath was directed and coordinated by the USA via its embassy in Moscow and most of the atrocities were not committed by government forces in uniform, but by hired guns in plainclothes (including mobsters and Beitar squads) and without any legal authority.  Does that not remind you of another capital?  Yes, of course, that could have been Baghdad.   Predictably the entire Western corporate press presented these events as a victory of democracy and freedom against the dark forces of revanchism, nationalism and communism.

If we accept the thesis that Russia was de-facto a US controlled territory until 2000, we can then immediately understand the next key implication: the coming to power of Putin did not, in itself, magically change this reality.  Think of other examples like Saddam Hussein or Noriega who used to be loyal US-puppets who eventually decided to take a more independent course?  Did their countries change overnight?  Of course not.  The difference with Russia is, of course, that the US did not have the means to wage war on Russia, much less so occupy it and install another puppet regime.  Even the terminally weakened and dysfunctional Russian state of the 1993-1999 years still had the means to transform all US major cites into a rubble of radio-active ashes. And yet, the Russian state could not even get together enough regiments to deal with the Chechen insurgency.  All that the Russians could send to deal with the Chechen insurgency was a limited amount of so-called "Mixed Regiment" (сводный полк - really mixed *battalions*), a mishmash of hastily clobbered together subunits which often had no military training at all.  Thus, by the time Putin came to power Russia has a quasi-dead state fully controlled by the USA.

And yet, Putin achieved some kind of miracle.  First he skillfully crushed the Chechen insurgency.  Then, he ejected the Jewish oligarchs which resulted in an immediate change in the tone of the media coverage of the war in Chechnia.  Then he began to reassemble the state piece by piece and while rebuilding what he called the "verticality of power", meaning that he re-subordinated the various regions of Russia to the central government: mobsters were ejected from the gubernatorial seats they had purchased, the regions began to pay taxes to the Federal government (most had stopped) and Presidential envoys were sent out to restore order in the regions.  If all this was a bitter pill to swallow for the British who had been deeply involved in breaking up Russia into many smaller pieces, it was really no big deal for the Americans who, at the time, and more pressing issues to deal with: the Neocons had just successfully pulled-off 9/11 and the Global War On Terror (GWOT) was in full swing.  Besides, externally, Russia was playing it all very nice, actually helping the USA in Afghanistan.  Logically, while the press in the UK was frantically cooking up all sorts of hysterically anti-Russian propaganda, the US press did not care very much.

I don't think that the Americans really liked Putin, but they probably saw him as a reliable partner that they could keep in check and who would not given them too much grief.  Sure, he prevented the final break-up of Russia, but every good thing has an end and it would have been unrealistic by 2000 to expect another decade of Eltsin-like chaos and collapse.  Besides, its not like Russia really had tossed off the American yoke: the system which the USA had created was still in place and there is only that much that Putin could legally do.

So between 2000 and 2012 Putin and Medvedev began a very gradual step-by-step process of internal reconstruction.  In foreign relations Russia did a lot of zig-zagging, sometimes acting in a way mildly irritating to the Americans, but always subservient when things got really important.

And then the USA did two truly dumb things: feeling buoyed by a sense of omnipotence and imperial hubris, the Americans let Georgia attack Russian forces in Ossetia and then they fully sided with the aggressor.  That, combined with the maniacal insistence on deploying an anti-missile system around Russia resulted in a wave of anti-American anger in Russia which Putin fully exploited.  The Americans probably figured that, sure Medvedev was better, but Putin they had already seen in power, and it was no biggie - they could handle him too.  Except that "Putin 2.0" was quite a different one from the original version.

There had been a warning sign which the West dismissed as just a political speech: Putin's speech at the 2007  Munich Conference on Security Policy (full text here) in which he unambiguously stated that the USA's planetary empire  was the number one cause of all the worlds major problems:
The history of humanity certainly has gone through unipolar periods and seen aspirations to world supremacy. And what hasn’t happened in world history?

However, what is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making.

It is world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.

And this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority.

Incidentally, Russia – we – are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves.

I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. And this is not only because if there was individual leadership in today’s – and precisely in today’s – world, then the military, political and economic resources would not suffice. What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilisation. 
This speech with its unusually candid type of language did create an initial moment of shock, but it was soon dismissed and forgotten.  The Western reaction was basically "fine, you don't like us, but watcha gonna do about it?!" and a shrug.

What Putin did about it is continue to systematically strengthen the state, launching the economy on a multi-year boom which even overcame the 2008 crisis, and slowly educating the people inside Russia on a new concept: "sovereignization" (суверенизация).

Sovereignization is a powerful concept because it combines a diagnostic (we are not really sovereign) with a goal (we need to become sovereign).  It is not directed against anybody, but anybody openly opposing it immediately looks bad (how can anybody legitimately oppose sovereignization?).  Furthermore, by introducing the concept of sovereignization, Putin pushed the people to ask key questions which had never been asked in the past: if we are not sovereign, why not?  How did it happen that we are not sovereign?  And who is really sovereign then?  And what about those who oppose sovereignization, whose interests are they defending?

By the time the Americans realized that the genie had been let out of the bottle it was literally too late: by a single conceptual push the entire political discourse in Russia had been altered from a state of catatonic stupor to a potentially very dangerous cocktail of opinions.

And this time Putin did not stop at words: he also passed laws demanding that any foreign-financed NGO sign-up as a "foreign agent" and that any government employee with money or real estate abroad either justify its origin or resign.  And these are just test runs, the big stuff is all ahead: Putin now wants to change the laws regulating the activities of the mass media, he plans to implement new legislation making it possible to incorporate major industries inside Russia (currently they are all incorporated aboard), he intends to change the taxation system of major foreign multinationals and, eventually and inevitably, he will have to initiate a revision of the Russian Constitution.  Step by step, Putin is now using his power to change the system, cutting off each instrument of foreign control over Russia one after the other.  Last, but not least, Putin has now openly embared on a process to establish a new Common Eurasian Economic Realm (Единое Евразийское Экономическое Пространство) with any former Soviet Republic willing to join (Belarus and Kazakhstan are already in) which will eventually become a new Eurasian Union (Евразийский Союз).  This, of course, is utterly unacceptable to the USA, which is why Hillary Clinton took the unprecedented step to openly announce that the USA would do everything in its power to either prevent this outcome or, at the very least, to delay it:
"There is a move to re-Sovietize the region. It's not going to be called that. It's going to be called customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that. But let's make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it."
This time around, however, it was Russia's turn to say "fine, you don't like us, but watcha gonna do about it?!".

The fact of the matter is that there is precious little the USA can do about it.   Oh sure, the US did raise a big stink about "stolen elections", the Pussy Riot movement, the Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, and Hillary made her threats.  But all that was way too little and way too late, by the time the Americans came to realize that they had yet another major problem on their hands, there was nothing much they could do about it.

This is not to say that there is nothing that they will do about it in the years to come.  First and foremost, we can expect a surge in the number of terrorist attacks in the Caucasus and the rest of Russia.  If Chechnia seems to be safe, at least for the time being, the situation in the neighboring republic of Dagestan is still very dangerous.  Second, we can expect the anti-Putin propaganda to reach new heights.  Third, the US CIA and MI6 will return to their Cold War practices of covertly funding and directing a dissident movement.  Finally, and if all else fails, the West might try to find some crazy "lone gunman" to get rid of Putin himself.

Putin and his "Eurasian sovereignists" supporters are probably not a majority of the people at this time.  Yes, they are in key positions of power and they can use what is euphemistically called the "administrative resource" (административный ресурс - the power of the state bureaucracy) to promote their agenda, but they will have to deal with a Russian intelligentia which is still fiercely anti-Putin and with a media which is even more hostile to any idea of sovereignization.  And yet, as long as Putin does not engage into any excesses, it will be awfully hard for the media to openly trash a political program aiming at the sovereignization of the Russian nation.  This is why when Putin repeatedly referred to this idea in his Message to the Federal Assembly (full text here) the media either ignored it, or played it down.  And yet, gradually, this topic is becoming more and more common in the Russian political discourse, lead by the very active Russian Internet (known as RuNet).

At this moment Putin has a very strong control of the state apparatus and most key positions in the Kremlin are in the hands of his allies.  The state itself is in halfway decent condition, still plagued by corruption and a legal system designed to make it ineffective, it will work when needed, but it is still far from being a well-oiled machine.  The Russian economy is doing pretty well, in particular compared to others, but it is still very heavy, often ineffective, and most revenue is still channeled abroad.  Likewise, the Russian society is mostly happy that the 1990s are over, but the vast majority of people still are faced with many difficulties and hope for a better future.  Finally, the Russian armed forces have suffered a great deal under Serdiukov, but they are already definitely capable of dealing with any realistically imaginable conflict and they are gradually working on restoring their full-spectrum deterrent capability.  In this context, Putin's chances are overall good, but this is far from a done deal and it would be very naive to underestimate all the potential responses the US Empire could come up with to deal with this emerging threat to its domination.

The time frame to see what will happen is relatively short, 4-6 years max.  If by the end of his term Putin does not succeed in his sovereignization program then all bets are off for Russia and since all parties, including the "Atlantic integrationists", realize that, the struggle inside the Kremlin is likely to only heat up.  We can be sure that the next months and years will see a lot of political upheavals in Russia, possibly beginning by an open fallout between Putin and Medvedev.

And Islam in all that?

As I wrote above, neither the Muslim world nor the "Islamic factor" inside Russia are going to have any influence on the outcome of this struggle.  At the most, the USA and their "Atlantic integrationists" allies will use Islamic terrorists to destabilize Russia.  But as long as the state remains organized and solid, no amount of terrorism will be sufficient to truly influence the course of events.  Besides, a resurgence of Islamic terrorism in Russia might have the exactly opposite effect: it might convince even more Russians that they need a powerful and independent regime to protect the country.

However, the outcome of this struggle might have a deep effect not only on the "Islamic factor" inside Russia, but on the Muslim world in general: "Atlantic integrationists" are by and large anti-Muslim and pro-Israeli; they want to integrate Russia into a Western system of security as opposed to a Islamic one.  To one degree or another, "Atlantic integrationists" are always the proponents of the "clash of civilizations" paradigm.  In contrast, the "Eurasian sovereignists", while not all necessarily pro-Islamic in any way, are all for a multi-polar world and they have no problem at all with the idea that one of these poles of power would be an Islamic one.  In other words, the only circumstance when "Eurasian sovereignists" see a threat in Islam is when Islam is used by the US Empire as a tool to destabilize those countries who dare resist the USA.  From this point of view there is an "Islam" in Bosnia, in Kosovo or in Chechnia which is a clear enemy of Russia, but there is an Islam in Iran, Lebanon or Kadyrov's Chechnia which is an objective ally of Russia.  It is characteristic that the "Atlantic integrationists" always see Israel as Russia's natural ally in the Middle-East while the  "Eurasian sovereignists" always name Iran.

As long as these two forces continue to fight each other for the control of the Kremlin and Russia the Russian policies towards Islam inside Russia and the Muslim world will be inconsistent, at times indecisive, and therefore only moderately predictable.  My personal sense is that Putin and his  "Eurasian sovereignists" are currently in a much stronger position than their opponents and that is definitely good news for the Arab and Muslim world, in particular for Syria.  This process is far from over and it would be unwise to make too many predictions about what Russia might do, or to count on Russia to do the "right thing" just because logic would indicate that it should.  The appalling example of Russia essentially given the US/NATO a green light at the UNSC to invade Libya should serve as a reminder that Russia is still not a truly sovereign and that it cannot be counted on the always resist the USA's immense power.


Russia and Islam, part seven: the weatherman's cop out

In the bad old days when I used to do analysis for a living, I had a boss which always insisted that I offer him several possible outcomes.  He wanted me to tell him, "either X or Y could happen, but if not, then Z is a definite possibility".  In his mind, by covering all the possible outcomes our department's "analysis" would never be wrong, and he would ways been seen as "systematic" and "competent" by his bosses.  I always hated that.  From my point of view, this is exactly what the local weatherman does when he predicts "a hot mostly sunny day, with some clouds and possible afternoons showers with local thunderstorms".  This, of course, describes almost *any* day in Florida, but this is hardly an acceptable cop out for an analyst who, I strongly believe, should be paid not to list all the possibilities, but to make a prediction based on his knowledge and expertise.  I still believe that the difference between a real expert and a ignorant "pundit" is that the former has the skills to make the right call, and yet I am about to do exactly what I dislike pundits so much for: I will mention possible events, some general trends, but without making any firm prediction. And I will do that for exactly the same reasons as the pundits: I am simply unable to confidently predict what will actually happen.

I can, however, draw a few basic conclusions from the preceding installments, the most important one is that Russia is in a state of high instability and of constant change.

To illustrate what I mean by that, I have written two descriptions of modern Russia which appear to be contradictory or even mutually exclusive, but which both contain more than a few factual truths.

Russia version one: 

Russia is: a country which is in the process of finally breaking off from the Western domination which, depending of whom you ask, began in the 17th century, February 1917, November 1917 or 1991.  Between 1991 and 2000 the entire political system was re-designed according to US orders (all key ministries at the time were literally crowded with US "advisers" who basically told their subservient Russian "Ministers" "do this, sign that").  As for the Russian economy, it was totally controlled by the Jewish oligarchs which basically plundered it sharing the proceeds with their US patrons.  As soon as Putin came to power he embarked on a massive program to get rid of US "advisers" and Jewish oligarchs and that, of course, earned him the eternal hatred of the West.  As part of this national liberation process, Putin has also given the full support of the state to the main traditional/historical religions of Russia, which in practical terms means Christian Orthodoxy and Islam (nominally about 40% and 7% of the population respectively, only a much smaller proportion of which are truly religious).  Pro-Western religions (Papism, Protestantism and Judaism taken together account for less than 0.5% of the population).  Likewise, there are no pro-Western political parties in the Russian Duma, not because of any "stolen" elections, but simply because these parties could not even make the needed 5% to get a single representative.  In other words, it is reasonable to assume that only about 5% of the population of Russia has any sympathies with the Western cultural, economic, political or societal model and 95% of Russians clearly want another course for their country.

The example of Chechnia has proven that the combined efforts of local traditional Muslim forces and of the Federal authorities are capable of dealing even with the worst forms of Wahabi extremism.  As a result of this, patriotic (but not nationalist) Russians and Muslims are joining forces against a common enemy: the Anglo intelligence services (CIA/MI6 & Co.) and their proxies, the Wahabi preachers and guerrillas.

The reelection of Vladimir Putin to the Presidency has now triggered a deepening and acceleration of the movement initiated under his presidency during his first terms: following US advisers and Jewish oligarchs, it is now the turn of the proponents of the "Atlantic integrationist"  viewpoint to be given the boot: the process which began with the now disgraced ex-Minister of Defense Serdiukov might well end with a dismissal of Premier Medvedev who, in many ways, is the lead representative of this "Atlantic integrationist" worldview.  Should that happen, and should the "Eurasian sovereignists" gain full control over Russia's foreign policy, this will result is a major shift of Russian policies towards Iran whom the Eurasian sovereignists always cite as the natural ally of Russia in the Middle-East.

Along a revamping of relations with Iran,  Russian foreign policy priorities will be, in order of importance, the establishment of a Eurasian Union, the deepening of the political collaboration with the SCO member countries and the BRICS, in particular China and India.  While Russia will continue to see the EU as an important economic partner, it will keep this relationship purely on a economically mutually beneficial basis with only "symbolic shows of togetherness".   In the Middle-East, Russia will continue to staunchly support Iran and Syria with all available means short of overt military intervention.

Russia number two:

Historically, Russia has always been an objective ally of Western imperialism, and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.  The main reason why Putin gave the boot to US advisers and Jewish oligarchs has little to do with some deeply-felt political beliefs and has everything to do with a typically Russian power struggle inside the Kremlin.  The various factions in the Kremlin are now skillfully impersonating a conflict between pro-Western and nationalistic groups.  This purely rhetorical propaganda campaign makes it possible for the Russian elites to remain in power.  Once we realize that elites are only interested in one thing - their own power and wealth - we also can easily predict their view of the West.  For these Russian elites the West is primarily a source of more wealth and power, a giant which can be played against your opponents, an overlord which will let you share in the spoils of the vicious exploitation of Russia and its people as long has the West's interests are not truly threatened.  Thus, is is equally obvious that the Kremlin will never openly challenge the West, much less so do something which could truly trigger a determined response from the West.

Take the example of Chechnia: this conflict was "resolved" only when the West, busy with 9/11 and the GWOT, gave the "green light" to the Russian forces to butcher the Chechen people and install their own puppet-thug Kadyrov.  The Russians have learned that simple lesson: as long as the West considers you "their SOB" then you are free to do pretty much anything at home but if you decide to take an independent course, you end up like Noriega, Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad (this threat was openly made by demonstrators during the recent color-coded revolution attempt in Russia).

Yes, most of the highly visible Jewish oligarchs have been exiled and one, Khodorkovsky, is in jail.  But what does really mean?  That these oligarchs, tired of a their decade long pillaging of Russia, have decided to follow the example of a satiated tick, and simply fell-off from their host, to go and happily digest their orgy of blood in a friendlier place: Israel, the UK or somewhere else in Europe.  Every departing Jewish oligarch has now been replaced with another, equally predatory and cynical, oligarch (either Jewish or Russian).  The system of predatory bloodsucking of Russia and its people is still very much in place and is unlikely to ever change.

As for religions - they are practically irrelevant to Russia.   Each religious denomination in Russia has a traditionalist wing which is too small to ever make a difference, while the rest of the country is populated by people who are either wholly lukewarm or even hostile to any religion.  The Orthodox propaganda finds some followers in Russia only because it provides for a "patriotic" substitute for the now discredited Marxism-Leninism.  As for the Wahabi propaganda, the only reason why it is popular in some nominally Muslim ethnicities is because it gives a cachet of religious legitimacy to what could only be referred to as the basic thuggery of some ethnic groups which have lived from crime and robbery for centuries.

As for Russian foreign policy, it will continue to be a bizarre mix of petty grandstanding and grand collaboration with the USA and whoever has enough power to pressure the Russian elites.  The only "natural ally" of Russia in the Middle-East is Israel, if only because both countries are run by pragmatic thugs who skillfully impersonate nationalists.  The Russian mob and the Jewish Mafia are, for all practical purposes, one and the same phenomenon, and they have never ceased working together for their mutual benefit.  Religion or ethnicity are irrelevant for these people whose only loyalty is to themselves.

So which version of Russia do you prefer?  Which one do you believe is correct?

Personally, it is pretty clear that I think that version number one is the correct overall description of what is taking place.  I cannot deny, however, that version two still has a lot of factual basis behind it.  In fact, version two is very much the version which "Atlantic integrationists" are instinctively comfortable with.  And as long as the "Atlantic integrationists" will remain a powerful segment of Russian society Russia number two will remain a reality, at least in part.

What does that mean for Muslims in Russia and abroad?

From a pragmatic point of view, there is really very little Muslims can do to affect the processes currently taking place in Russia.  Inside Russia Muslims have no other option than to support the regime in power for a very basic reason: any "success" of Wahabi Islam in Russia will inevitably turn into a total disaster for all the Muslims affected by it.  First, because Wahabi Islam is a direct threat to the traditions and culture of Muslims in Russia.  Second because, unlike what happened during the first Chechen war, Russia now has all the means to crush any separatist or extremist movement at any stage of its development, ranging from effective counter-intelligence work to the engagement of fully armed and trained units and formations in a spectrum of operations ranging from counter-insurgency to combined arms operations.  Yes, there still are Wahabi terrorist attack in Dagestan and southern Russia, and there are Wahabi preachers still involved in all kids of murders of traditionalist Muslims, primarily in the region of Kazan but also in other parts of Russia.  The primarily reason why this is still taking place is that the nuisance of these attacks is below the "reaction threshold" of the main Russian "power ministries" (State Security, Defense) and are dealt with mostly by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (sometimes assisted by local elements of State Security).  After all, the murder of a few policemen or clerics is hardly a reason to justify the involvement of special forces or the military - the regular cops and courts should learn how to deal with this.  But should the situation get out of control then the "Federals" will show up and deal with it, rapidly and ruthlessly.

Outside Russia, Muslims are all more or less stuck into doing more of the same.  Iran, Syria and Hezbollah can only keep hoping that Putin's Russia will be a better ally or partner than Medvedev's, while the bulk of the rest of the Islamic countries does not need to give Russia much thought at all, if only  because pretty much all of the Muslim countries on the planet besides Iran and Syria are now firmly under the control of Uncle Sam who, of course, will tell them what to think, say or do.

The main paradox

I wrote this series of articles on the topic of Russia and Islam because I saw both of these categories as a part of what I would call the global resistance against the West's imperialism.  And most of my discussion has been focused on trying to see whether Russia would ever turn into a consistent part of this resistance or not.  And my conclusion is, in this respect, a very hopeful one because I very much believe that Russia will not only turn into a consistent part of this resistance, but because I even see it as the most important and powerful actor in this movement (what other major country today has a population with only 5% of pro-Western elements and sits on top of a booming economy?).  In contrast, it appears to me that most of the Islamic Ummah is now firmly in the hands of the West, either openly (Jordan, Morocco, Indonesia, etc.) or through its Wahabi proxies (Qatar, Libya, Pakistan, etc.).  In this context, the differences between the Egyptian Ikhwan, the "Syrian" FSA, the Palestinian Hamas, the Albanian thugs in Kosovo or the al-Qaeda constellation make very little difference to me.  Fundamentally, they all,  I repeat *ALL*, have been co-opted and are controlled by the USA, at least to a degree sufficient to be manipulated and used as proxies.  Thus, from the Russian point of view, they are all potential, if not actual, enemies at least as much, if not more, then the regime of Saakashvili in Georgia or the Latvian and Estonian nationalists.

As far as I can tell, the Shia are the only Muslims still resisting the West's imperialism.  And when I look at the actions of the Iraqi government, I cannot even say that all Shia resist, as even nominally Shia politicians can be found amongst Western collaborators.  Finally, just one thought about what could have happened in Iran if the Gucci Revolution of Rafsanjani & Co. would have toppled the Islamic Republic immediately tells me that even the Shia world is not nearly as stable and contradictions-free as I wish it was. 

Personalizing ideas

I will now do something else which is usually a bad idea.  I will speak of people rather than ideas.  But I will do this only to illustrate a simple point.  My belief is that Vladimir Putin, Ayatollah Khamenei and Hassan Nasrallah are, or at the very least, should be, natural allies.  By extension, I would say that what these three people individually stand for should naturally bring them to support each other and join their efforts.  The question is whether these political leaders will survive long enough to join forces.

My focus on "Russia and Islam" was probably flawed from the outset since it looked primarily at two high-level concepts whereas the most interesting developments are happening at a deeper, sub-national, level. Still, if my prediction about Russia proves to be correct, resistance in Russia to the West will soon go from sub-national to national, and if by that time the Islamic Republic is still in power in Iran, and I believe that it will be, the potential of a Russian-Iranian alliance could become truly immense, in particular if it is supported by other countries elsewhere (Venezuela at the OPEC or China at the BRICS).  Such an alliance could not only save Syria, but also protect Lebanon - via Hezbollah - from a foreign takeover.

This last segment concludes my series on Russia and Islam.  I am sorry that I was unable to give some kind of confident and optimistic prediction.  My hope is that at the very least I might have contributed to the dispelling of some myths and clichés, an admittedly far more modest goal.  For example, if I have succeeded in showing that while Russia and France both struggle with seemingly similar problems (immigration, extremism, crime, separatism, etc.) they are doing so in very different contexts and one should not think of Russia as some kind of "bigger France in the East".  Muslims, in particular, should refrain from transposing Western realities to a fundamentally non-Western context.

My only confident prediction is that Russia in 10 years will be dramatically different from the Russia of today.  Whether that will be for the better or the worse is, unfortunately, not something I can predict with confidence, though my personal and very strong feeling is that it will be for the better, and possibly even for the much better.  

As always, time will show.

The Saker