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From: "Dimitri Devyatkin" <devyatkin@earthlink.net>
Subject: Putin's Ten Blows
Date: Sat, 15 Dec 2001

Putin's Ten Blows
by Vyacheslav Tetekin

This article originally appeared in Russian in "Sovietskaya Rossia" (Soviet Russia) on 10 November 2001.
Vyacheslav Tetekin, pronounced 'Tetyokin,' is a leading Russian writer on foreign affairs. "Sovietskaya Rossia" is the most influential left-patriotic daily in Russia.].


President Putin's recent visit to the USA finalised a major turn in Russian foreign policy towards full subordination to the West. The symptoms of this major turn were evident right from the start of Mr. Putin's term in office. One may recall the ratification of the START-2 treaty that might deprive Russia of its heavy missiles - the cornerstone of our security. But the presidential decisions to support US operation in Afghanistan, and to close Russian bases in Vietnam and Cuba made the sharp turn in the Kremlin's foreign policy evident.

It becomes clear that the intention to join NATO expressed by Mr. Putin in an offhand manner last year reflected a long-matured idea of a far deeper (than in Mr. Gorbachev's or Mr. Yeltsin's case) "integration into the world community". It fact the intention is to squeeze Russia into the Western economic, political and military system. Even as a junior partner. Even at the price of sacrificing independent foreign policy.

For the time being Mr. Putin was just testing the ground. Evidently he was waiting for a pretext to make a strategic turn publicly. The terrorist attacks in the USA provided such a pretext. The commitment to joint struggle against "international terrorism" signaled the move to "the other side". Of course the Kremlin will deny even the idea that they have dropped an independent foreign policy. But their actions speak to the contrary.

A recent statement by a group of public and political figures referred to "Putin's Ten blows" against Russia, i.e. destructive 'reforms' of land, labour, education, health, housing, the military, energy, transportation and other systems.

Now one can talk of 'Putin's ten blows' against Russia's international interests.


The main threat to Russia's security originates not from 'international terrorism' but from NATO expansion to the East. (1)

The November, 2002 NATO summit in Prague will obviously admit a number of East European countries including Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to the Alliance. If this happens we shall get NATO air bases close to Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other centers of Russia. This is very dangerous. The sad experience of Yugoslavia confirms that quite convincingly. (2)

But the Kremlin does not even show signs of real opposition to NATO expansion. More than that, Mr. Putin's statements during his recent visit to Helsinki were perceived as a go-ahead for NATO membership not only for the Baltic States but also for traditionally neutral Finland and Sweden.


The threat to Russia's security is increasingly felt from the South. And not from the Muslim world but from NATO which is penetrating the zones of Russia's vital interests in the Balkans (3), in Transcaucasia and in Central Asia. But instead of reinforcing our Southern frontiers the Kremlin is withdrawing Russian troops from Abkhazia, Adjaria and Transnistria despite protests of the population, which is anxious to retain an alliance with Russia. There is an impression that the recent fighting in Abkhazia was a long-awaited pretext for the Kremlin to speed up its departure from that strategically important region.


Yugoslavia was Russia's only ally in Europe. Mr. Yeltsin contributed to its defeat by refusing to supply anti-aircraft weapons. Mr. Putin refused Yugoslavia political and economic support by cutting gas supplies right before the 2000 presidential elections. (4) Slobodan Milosevic, committed to friendship with Russia, landed in prison. Power in Belgrade was taken over by persons fully dependent on the West, primarily Germany. The present Germany achieved what Hitler failed to achieve, i.e. the conquest of Yugoslavia. And then the Kremlin declares 'a new stage of relations with Yugoslavia.' Absurd? No. It reflects a strategy aimed at Russia's withdrawal from the Balkans.


In the Middle East the Kremlin's inconsistent policy in the Arab-Israel conflict pushes further away traditionally friendly Arab countries allowing Israel to play 'the Russian card' against both Arabs and the West, which is no longer prepared to unconditionally support Israel.


Opening Russian air space for the U.S. Air force and supplying intelligence information, as well as the silent agreement to allow recruitment of mercenaries in Russia, means the Kremlin is directly involved in the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The Americans have gotten the Kremlin's backing for a permanent U.S. presence in Central Asia - that is, in the zone of Russia's vital interests. Russia is being encircled by U.S. military bases.

The premature and unconditional support by the Russian president of US retaliatory action is a major foreign policy error as he failed to assess even the short-term consequences. It is evident that the Muslim world is angrily protesting the US repressions against their brothers and that U.S. Western allies are trying to avoid participation in the 'operation' by all means. Meanwhile, the main deliveries of drugs into Russia comes not from the Taliban but from the 'friendly' Northern Alliance.


Another major blunder is Mr. Putin's intention to close the Russian Naval base in Vietnam and the Electronic Surveillance Center in Cuba. It is impossible to think of a bigger gift to the USA. Russian public opinion is shocked. The damage to Russia's interests is so great that even the pro-presidential newspapers find it quite difficult to explain these decisions.


Let's add Mr. Putin's nearly religious desire to get Russia into the World Trade Organization (WTO) which will completely open Russian borders for the expansion of powerful Western capital and will totally eliminate Russian industry and agriculture already only half alive as a result of 'reforms' started by Yeltsin and continued by Putin. (5)


There is no doubt that sooner or later the Kremlin will stop resisting 'modification' of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, i.e. will simply agree to creation of this Star Wars system. Naive attempts to get a simultaneous reduction of U.S. nuclear warheads will lead nowhere. U.S. leaders are well aware of the pitiful state of the Russian nuclear force. Soon even without any treaty Russia will not be able to have more than 1.5 thousand warheads. Why should the US reduce its nuclear arsenal if the Russian arsenal will collapse by itself?


Russian-Chinese relations will inevitably be spoiled as Russia previously promised China to take a firm position on NATO and ABMT. China is obviously watching with deep concern Russia's surrendering of these positions as well as the appearance of the U.S. Air Force close to its borders in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyz. One does not easily forget such things.

Everything that Mr. Putin has earned by spectacular improvement of relations with China, India, Vietnam, Cuba and some other countries collapsed nearly overnight. What has surfaced was Gorbachev's primitive concept of 'common human values' - i.e. subordination of Russia's interests to those of the West.

Recently Mr. Putin visited Germany and Belgium. We have not seen for a long time such an overt desire to please the West. It was a vintage Gorbachev - like 1989 when he surrendered everything to the applause of Mrs. Thatcher. The humiliating desire of the current host of the Kremlin to get the acceptance of the West has become completely shameful. (6)

We have not yet returned to the 19th century Sacred Alliance in the framework of which the Emperor Alexander I put the interests of European monarchies above those of Russia. But when the head of the Russian State plunges into the creation of the alliance against "international terrorism," one recalls that the Sacred Alliance led to the 1854 Crimean War of Britain, France and Turkey against Russia.

The West readily accepts this no-lose game. The artificial flattery of the Russian leader, who staunchly marches into the mousetrap, allows the West to solve strategic tasks without spending an extra penny, without endangering the lives of their soldiers.

Furthermore the flow of money from Russia to Western banks continues non-stop, softening the effects of the economic crisis in the West.

And what does Russia get in return? Nothing. The Kremlin seems to enjoy demonstrating a selflessness that confuses even cynical pro-presidential journalists.

But it doesn't smell of selflessness. It smells of a secret agenda that obviously corresponds to Mr. Putin's long-term personal interests. Of course he has started thinking about the 2004 presidential elections. A favourable attitude by the West will be beneficial…

So what is behind the radical changes in Russian foreign policy? Nothing special. Mr. Putin has simply thrown away the veil of statements about the protection of Russian national interests. His policy acquires a clearly expressed class character. Pragmatism, the defense of some 'national interests' that Mr. Putin likes to talk about at press conferences - this is just for fools. In fact we are observing a clear shift to a policy defined by the interests of the Russian oligarchs very closely connected with Western transnationals and completely dependent on their Western counterparts.

If one can privatize whole branches of industry why can't one privatize foreign policy? The Land Code allowing the sale of lands to foreigners and the opening of Russian air space to the U.S. air force are links in a chain. Having handed over the national economy to Mr. Chubais, Hodorkovsky, Fridman and Co., one should forget about an independent foreign policy. But the Kremlin hardly thinks about that. The outer expressions of independence (receiving a red-carpet reception, and so on) are sufficient.

Russian public opinion is clearly reluctant to recognize the West as a friend. But the Kremlin behaves like a girl in a fairy tale who, with wonderful persistence, fails to see the sharp ears and even sharper teeth of the wolf that has just eaten her grandmother. Mr. Putin's main principle of running the State is, "If one mustn't do something but wants it very much then he\she can do it". Russia will not travel far on this principle. The president should better recall the plight of his predecessor, Mr. Gorbachev, who at the top of his popularity did what he wanted without any regard for the country's interests. The real hatred that the nation now feels for Mr. Gorbachev should at least make Mr. Putin think a bit.

They say that in his youth Mr. Putin was a judo expert. He does not look like one. He is far more skillful in playing into the hands of the other side.

(c) "Sovietskaya Rossia" 2001 * Reprinted for Fair Use Only

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