The Putinverstehers’ Misconceived Charge of Russophobia: How Western Apology for the Kremlin’s Current Behavior Contradicts Russian National Interests

Wall paint with Putin the peace maker, courtesy duncan c/flickr

This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review on 21 January 2016.

A frequent rebuttal by apologists of Putin’s policies, in debates on Western approaches to Eastern Europe, is the allegation of Russophobia. Interpreters of contemporary Russian affairs, who present themselves as Putinversteher (German for “those who understand Putin”), accuse critics of Moscow’s recent foreign and domestic policies of a lack of empathy for, or even of xenophobia towards, the Russian nation, as well as its traditions, worries, and views. Such allegations are usually accompanied by a reference to Vladimir Putin’s impressive performance in Russian public opinion polls. These interpretations are often embedded in historical-philosophical deliberations about the role of Russia in Europe and the world – for example, about the history of, and lessons from, Russian-Western collaboration in the past. » More

Interview – Ivan Krastev

Merged Europe and Russia flag


This interview was originally published by E-International Relations on 16 December, 2015.

Ivan Krastev is chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia, Bulgaria and Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna (IWM), Austria. A founding board member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, he is also a member of the global advisory board of Open Society Foundations, and of the advisory council of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) and the European Cultural Foundation (ECF). Mr. Krastev is also associate editor of Europe’s World and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Democracy and Transit – Europäische Revue. He has written extensively on democracy, Eastern Europe, the politics of his native Bulgaria and relations between Russia and the West.

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Russia’s New National Security Strategy: Familiar Themes, Gaudy Rhetoric

Putin stencils, courtesy by Jonathan Davis/flickr

This article was originally published by the War on the Rocks on 4 January, 2016.

On the last day of 2015, Vladimir Putin put his signature on the decree adopting Russia’s new National Security Strategy out to 2020. Inevitably it is something to pore over looking for clues about Putin’s future intentions and the Kremlin’s assessment of the risks and opportunities ahead. The document can be downloaded as a PDF from the Kremlin website, and there is a pretty decent overview of the main points from RT.

In comparison with the last strategy, adopted in 2009, it comes across at first blush as pretty extreme. The new document contains fiercer and more explicit criticism of the West. The key issue is what Moscow calls the West’s efforts to “levers of tension in the Eurasian region” in order to undermine Russian national interests. In particular, the strategy condemns “the support of the United States and the European Union of an unconstitutional government coup in Ukraine which has led to a deep schism in Ukrainian society and the outbreak of armed conflict.”

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Russian Airstrikes in Syria: November 25 – December 2, 2015

Russian Airstrikes in Syria (click to enlarge). Map: Genevieve Casagrande & Jodi Brignola/Institute for the Study of War

This map was originally published by the Institute for the Study of War on 4 December, 2015.

Russian air operations in Syria continue to pursue the preservation of the Assad regime. Spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve Colonel Steve Warren commented on Russia’s most recent statements regarding its operations in Syria, stating that “Everything they are doing is to support Assad, to keep Assad in power… Every time the Russians conduct an operation that extends or helps extend Assad’s hold on power is yet another day that Syrian civilians will suffer under the boot of Bashar al-Assad.” » More

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Russian Applications For US Asylum Skyrocket In 2015

LGBT activists marching for gay rights in Moscow. Image: Bogomolov.PL/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on 12 November, 2015.

The number of new U.S. asylum applications by Russians has reached its highest level in more than two decades, a surge that immigration lawyers link to the Kremlin’s tightening grip on politics, pervasive corruption, and discrimination and violence against sexual minorities.

Russian nationals filed 1,454 new asylum applications in the 2015 fiscal year ending September 30, up 50 percent from the previous year and more than double the number filed in 2012, when President Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin after a four-year stint as prime minister, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security data obtained by RFE/RL under the Freedom Of Information Act. » More

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