20 Years of Leading Analysis
 
  • Heirs of the ’93 Russian White House

    Posted by: Thomas de Waal July 23, 2014

    In the fall of 1993, as a young newspaper reporter in Moscow, I made several visits to the besieged White House building where supporters of the Supreme Soviet had set up camp and were resisting Boris Yeltsin’s order of September 21 to dissolve the legislature.

    At the time, it felt like a last stand. Extreme politicians of all stripes had gathered there, from the ultra-rightist Alexander Barkashov to the ultra-leftist Viktor Anpilov to the writer-radical Eduard Limonov. Around them were dozens of men of uncertain provenance in camouflage fatigues carrying small weapons. They were self-proclaimed defenders of the constitution, enjoying this moment of defiance in the center of Moscow.

    These men had completely different political goals, but were united by a general rage that they had lost their country, the Soviet Union, to a regime acting on the orders of the enemy, the West.

    The walls around the besieged building were covered in angry graffiti that reflected this in the crudest terms. One, I recall, read “Rossiya, vyidi iz zhidomasonskogo OON!,” or “Russia, get out of the Judeo-Masonic UN!”

    On October 4, 1993, White House rebels were crushed by Boris Yeltsin, brutally. They seemed to have been swept away into history.

    That was not the case of course. The armed men in camouflage did not disappear, they relocated. Some fought in Russia’s wars in Chechnya. Others found a haven in the pro-Russian enclave of Transnistria, which had broken away from Moldova in 1992.

    Under Vladimir Putin, the marginal narrative of blaming the West for a conspiracy against Russia became first acceptable and then mainstream. But Putin himself has always steered clear of the sensitive issue of October 1993, maintaining his double identity as both Yeltsin’s heir and anti-Yeltsin. Back then, after all, he was working for the pro-Yeltsin mayor of St Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak and he doubtless approved of the crushing of a group of armed anti-state rebels.

    Fast forward to Donetsk and Luhansk in 2014.The two main leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Borodai and Igor Strelkov, are both Russian citizens who worked for the intelligence services, fought in Chechnya, spent time in Transnistria and worked for the ultra-nationalist newspaper, Zavtra.

    There has been much debate about the degree of autonomy these men enjoy. In a persuasive article, security expert Mark Galeotti describes Strelkov as a “a loyal Russian well off the reservation,” speculating that he got involved in Crimea and Donetsk on his own initiative but has been coordinating his actions with the security establishment in Moscow.

    Which brings us back to October 1993. Borodai was there. Writing for Zavtra, he calls the siege, when he was a “White House defender” at the age of just 19, the defining moment of his biography. He reflects that Putin’s regime lacks legitimacy because it is the successor of Yeltsin’s, but gives it some credit for correcting Russia’s course.

    There is a growing and appalling body of evidence that suggests these men were responsible for the shooting down of an international airliner. Even without that, President Putin must know that they have become a toxic liability and that their views are sufficiently different from his own that they might resist orders to stand down.

    In the longer run, Borodai’s and Strelkov’s agenda is to establish a “patriotic regime” in Russia akin to the one that failed to come to power in Moscow in 1993. Hearing their words, you get the impression that they would be happy to do so either with Putin or without him.

     
     
     
  • Is There a Solution?

    Posted by: Sergei Aleksashenko Tuesday, July 22, 2014

    Ukraine’s position as an important transport corridor for Russian gas has resulted in various periods of conflict between Ukraine and Russian-state owned gas companies. But, even though both recognize they will not reach a long-term agreement quickly, one can easily see that the number of disagreements between them is not great. Both realize the need to compromise.

     
     
  • Midsummer Blues

    Posted by: Dmitri Trenin Monday, July 21, 2014

    MH17 may well be a turning point in the Ukraine conflict, but President Putin remains unlikely to back down despite economic pressure from the West. Russians may look back to the summer of 2014 years from now as a game changer.

     
     
  • Malaysia and Ukraine

    Posted by: Dmitri Trenin Friday, July 18, 2014 1

    The downing of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane over Eastern Ukraine catapults the crisis there onto the global plane. The tragic and sudden loss of so many innocent lives should put a final point to the armed conflict—or it may put the international conflict over Ukraine on a much higher and more dangerous level.

     
     
  • Time for Russia to Reconsider Its Arctic Strategy

    Posted by: Brock Bodine Thursday, July 17, 2014

    Tensions in Ukraine threaten to alter the security environment in the Arctic. Russia must, therefore, proceed with caution if it wants to maintain previous levels of cooperation. Only time will tell if the hawks in the Kremlin will be willing to engage in cooperation rather than see the region as a zero-sum game.

     
     
  • EU and Ukraine: Bumpy Road Ahead

    Posted by: Balázs Jarábik Wednesday, July 16, 2014

    Ukraine is certainly a different country compared to seven months ago. The challenges of implementing the EU Association Agreement that it signed on June 27 are still tremendous, though. Reform, management of expectations, and reality is what is needed now.

     
     
  • In Time of Sharp Tensions, Islamist Extremism Continues to Unite Russia and the United States

    Posted by: Alexei Arbatov Tuesday, July 15, 2014

    The problems arising across the globe from militant radical Islam cannot be dealt with at a later date. Russia and the West have vital mutual interests, since they share this common enemy. Given the extent of its involvement, Russia should take the initiative.

     
     
  • Putin in Latin

    Posted by: Dmitri Trenin Monday, July 14, 2014

    Vladimir Putin's trip to Latin America is aimed to demonstrate several things, both geopolitically and economically. Latin America will undoubtedly add to the agenda of U.S.-Russian relations.

     
     
  • From Fallujah to Kandahar? Avoiding an Iraqi Mistake in Afghanistan

    Posted by: David Kelm Friday, July 11, 2014

    Some say the chaos in western Iraq is foreshadowing of what awaits post-2014 Afghanistan. But Kabul knows its vulnerabilities and will not shun outside help.

     
     
  • Is Germany Really Becoming a More Independent Power? A Response to Dmitri Trenin

    Posted by: Ulrich Speck Thursday, July 10, 2014 1

    A more confident, post-modern Germany that sees the world in a very different way than Russia is emerging. While illusions are gone, however, interests remain, and they incentivize both sides to work together on a range of issues.

     
     

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