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Color Revolution

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Though it is Catalonia and Iraqi Kurdistan that have dominated the news these past two weeks, this month also saw a flare-up in separatist sentiment in Brazil.

The referendum was organised a week after a similar vote in Catalonia by a secessionist movement called “The South Is My Country”.

The movement said it set up polls in more than 1,000 municipalities across the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Paraná.

brazil-separatism

This region apparently has a have a fleeting historical experience of independence:

The south of Brazil has expressed secessionist tendencies before, ever since Italy’s Giuseppe Garibaldi helped it achieve a short-lived semi-independence in 1836.

Last year a similar vote in October 2016 organised by “The South Is My Country” gathered 617,500 votes. Over 95% of the voters in the three states said they were in favour of separation.

They are the the whitest states:

map-brazil-race

State White (%) Brown (%) Black (%) Asian or Amerindian (%)
Santa Catarina 86,6 9,4 3,6 0,4
Rio Grande do Sul 82,3 11,4 5,9 0,4
Paraná 70,3 25,5 3,0 1,1
São Paulo 70,2 22,4 6,2 1,3
Rio de Janeiro 54,5 32,4 12,6 0,4

And the most developed and cognitively gifted ones.

kirkegaard-brazil-s-factor

Emil Kirkegaard: The S factor in Brazilian states

Brazil is not in any danger of breaking up anytime soon – while the referendums in the three “separatist” provinces register overwhelming support for independence, turnout is very low, indicating that a majority are either opposed or at the very least don’t care all that much.

However, what is true today may no longer be true the case tomorrow, because the centrifugal forces that break nations apart are gathering strength at the global level.

Historical perspective: One of the strongest and most consistent geopolitical trends of the past 200 years has been an explosion in national entities.

historical-number-of-countries

We went from less than 50 polities in 1800 to around 200 today.

But it wasn’t always like this. I don’t know if anybody has quantified this precisely, but the number of states or state-like entities in the world must have constituted many thousands during the medieval and Early Modern periods.

Just the territories of the Holy Roman Empire at times accounted for more than a thousand!

map-holy-roman-empire

The Holy Roman Empire during the time of the Hohenstaufen Emperors.

Then the rise of the great gunpowder empires and European colonialism rapidly whittled down the numbers of independent states to a few dozens, with even the Latin American independence movements of the 19th century making nary a blimp at the global level.

But then the 20th century saw the collapse of the European monarchic empires, the emergence of national self-determination as a legitimate consideration in international law, the decolonization of the Third World, and the collapse of Communist federative states such as Yugoslavia and the USSR. The number of independent states, including unrecognized de facto polities, now numbers over 200.

As the cliodynamician Peter Turchin points out, the optimal size of a polity has varied throughout history:

We know empirically that the optimal size of a European state took a step up following 1500. As a result, the number of independent polities in Europe decreased from many hundreds in 1500 to just over 30 in 1900. The reason was the introduction of gunpowder that greatly elevated war intensity. The new evolutionary regime eliminated almost all of the small states, apart from a few special cases (like the Papacy or Monaco).

In today’s Europe, however, war has ceased to be an evolutionary force. It may change, but since 1945 the success or failure of European polities has been largely determined by their ability to deliver high levels of living standards to their citizens.

Consequently, under a liberal globalism that is true to its ideals, that is, one free of authoritarian coercion or Malthusian selection for big strong states, it appears that runaway national fragmentation is inevitable.

And these aren’t even the only trends militating against national consolidation.

1. Clever, high-functioning regions breaking away from stupid, corrupt regions. The classic example of this is, of course, Italy, where the 103 IQ, highly productive north has gotten increasingly fed up with the 93 IQ nepotistic, lackadaisical south.

There are variants of this in other countries as well. Catalonia is the headline example as of the time of writing. There is evidence this could become an issue in Brazil. Even the Russian nationalist slogan “Stop feeding the Caucasus” is an implicit statement of separatism.

The industrialized Donbass, at any rate, has already had it feeding the rest of the Ukraine (this wasn’t the main reason for the rebellion, but it was a reason).

Although there are many “experts” who parrot the idea that separatism is economically ruinous, that doesn’t seem to be at all obvious. All else equal, it would instead seem to be that, say, a Northern Italy freed of the obligation of having to pay extra taxes to feed their southern neighbors will allow them to spend more money on their own infrastructure, or to save it up; being more intelligent and less clannish, they will also likely create better institutions without the “contributions” of their southern former countrymen. Nor will the companies of the new North Italian states lose the markets of the states they break away from, since they will all remain within the single European economic space (at least in an ideal, non-hypocritical world; after all, protectionism is bad, according to liberal globalism).

This is important, because with the Liberal-Left’s discreditation of “nationalist” justifications for the existence of current nation-states, we are left with just the materialist, economic ones. But they are not necessarily in their favor!

map-europe-separatism

Sputnik i Pogrom map of European separatist movements.

2. The rediscovery of ancient local identities. The collapse of “artificial” Communist constructs in the face of resurgent nationalisms hid the fact that the modern nation-state is also in many ways a relatively new and pretty artificial construct based on a shared literary corpus, Tombs of the Unknown Soldier, and sappy tales about semi-mythical heroes of yore like the Yellow Emperor, Barbarossa, Joan D’Arc, Ivan Susanin, and Paul Revere. A construct that was competitive in the past 200 years, to be sure, but will not necessarily remain so in a 21st century more characterized by a resurgence of ancient local identities and alternate models of sovereignty.

The drive towards Italian and German unification began at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and cultimated by the 1870s, a blink of an eye in historical terms. The rise of a strong American national consciousness dates to the late 18th century, and is now being actively deconstructed by Leftist and Black nationalist ideologues (e.g. stressing that the Founding Fathers were slave-owners, that Columbus was an occupier, etc). The way is being cleared for the disintegration of the United States and its replacement by its constituent ethno-cultural units.

English, French, and Russian national identity is considerably older, and have a long history of centralization around London, Paris, and Moscow as opposed to the more distributed arrangements of Germany, Italy, or Spain, so they might be expected to hold out the longest in Europe. However, even their “core” territories have regions with distinct local identities – Cornwall, the North, and the region around London in England; Britanny, the Vendée, and the South in France; Ingria, Idel-Ural, “Green Ukraine”, and the Kuban in Russia. These units, though very much underneath the surfaces, are still recognizable and some of them have even made themselves felt in past civil wars, so their reemergence during this century is not out of the question.

3. The globalist population replacement project. As one Italian has recently told me, separatist sentiment in the North has ebbed somewhat in the past couple of years, thanks to Merkel’s immigrants helping them realize that they still have so much in common. However, I suspect this will be a short-term and fleeting phenomenon.

angry-black-manly-knight

BBC: We wuz lords.

new-germans

Meet the new Germans.

When you affirm that any African or Asian can be a Briton or a German, you implicitly devalue those very national identities – at least relative to both localized and globalist alternatives to sovereignty (which is what really matters). This is because all nation-states have at least an implicit ethnonationalist basis. Increasingly strident denial of this fact, backed up by hate speech legislation, may be a short-term way of short up the legitimacy of the new multi-cultural chimeras popping up in Europe, but at the same time it will doom their long-term prospects – unless they abandon pretenses and start outright apeing the United States (and the USSR) by becoming explicit “proposition” nations. But too bad for them, the EU already has that “niche” cornered.

4. The rise of alternate models of sovereignty. These include:

  • Regional economic blocs, such as Mercosur, the African Union, and of course the most advanced example of this, the European Union.
  • Corporate-friendly globalist trading agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Outright global government in the form of the United Nations.

The utopian globalist option enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the immediate wake of WW2, but was soon displaced by the cynical realitities of the Cold War.

The regionalist and corporatist options really began to flourish from the 1970s and haven’t looked back since, minor disruptions such as Brexit and Trump regardless. The EU is now arguably more influential than any single European country.

This is a very important development because the existence of massively supra-national and globalist frameworks nullify many of the economic arguments against localist separatism.

5. It only takes one domino. New polities tend to emerge in waves – as Lenin pointed out, “There are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen.” This is unlikely to change in the future.

Jose Ricon spells this out with reference to Catalonia:

So the referendum lacks any sort of legal backing. But what is being attempted in Catalonia, if successful, could serve as a precedent for the future. If unilateral independence is possible by peaceful means, and the international community eventually recognised Catalonia as a State, this would move the state of the interpretation of the right to self-determination more towards the side of Liechtenstein: That any territory, if it just feels like it, can become independent by passing a vote. This is what is being attempted, even though it is not being made explicit: to appeal to what is considered right to change what is considered legal.

This principle would also allow for the independence of Barcelona, or of London, for example, if recognised in a non-hypocritical way. …

This could be just another footnote in a history book, or an opening passage in the chapter that explains how you got an explosion in the number of states that began around 2017.

As local, pre-imperial identities are rediscovered, we could be looking at something like 400 states by 2100, if we project linearly, or closer to 1,000, if we project exponentially.

This is a very weird prospect to be sure, but stranger things have happened before.

After all, there are still no shortage of countries riven by ethnic identity – Wilsonian self-determination taken to its logical conclusions should product at least another 100 states in Europe and the former Soviet Union, another 100 in the Middle East, several dozen in India, and who knows how many in Africa.

map-africa-borders-ethnic

If African borders correlated to ethnic identity.

There are also no shortages of wealth gradients even in mono-ethnic regions of the world. Such a result is indeed expected in countries that cover several latitudes by dint of Richard Lynn’s Cold Winters Theory of IQ. As GDP per capita hews closer and closer to the levels predicted by average population IQs, as we can expect to see in our future biorealistic world, the pressures for separation will grow ever more manifest, everywhere.

And since national breakup is coterminous with the march of liberal globalism – which enjoys the near unanimous support of the cognitive elites – can it even be stopped?

Perhaps one of the key arenas of international competition in the coming century, apart from dealing with global warming and the race towards IQ augmentation and machine intelligence, will revolve around struggles to foment separatism in your neighbors before you fall apart yourself. With its authoritarian government and one billion strong Han core, I expect China to win this “race” as well.

And yet this world will not necessarily be a uniform mishmash of different races and colors and cuisines and dialects with no identity of their own. When you are a technocrat ruling over 80 million people, it is easy for you to listen to your economists and invite in millions of supposed “doctors and engineers” to augment your workforce, protestations from stupid racist hillbillies in the boondocks be damned. Quite a lot harder if you’re the mayor of a small city who has to justify his decisions to a combatative citizens’ gathering in a townhall – the bulk of opposition to Merkel’s immigration decrees was at the local level.

Besides, what is nationalism but globalism at a smaller level? The Duchy of Aquitaine and the Most Serene Republic of Venice had their own culture, their own identities, their own values – and there is no reason to expect things to be any different in the future world of city-states and corporate fiefdoms from the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to the Canton of Zurich.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brazil, Color Revolution, Futurism 
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catalonia-referendum-2017-results

Final results:
YES: 90.1%
NO: 7.9%
Turnout: ~42% of those counted (2,262,424), ~56% if including the confiscated ballot boxes (~770,000) out of 5,343,358 registered voters.

Assuming that the vote in “repressed” polling stations was similar, you can turnout * YES = ~51% support for independence, which tallies exactly with the last poll on the basis of which turnout was expected at 62% * expected 83% for YES = ~51%.

The police violence must have merely lowered turnout by around 7% points while raising the YES share of the vote by an analogous amount. That is, it accomplished precisely nothing, while generating horrific headlines and almost certainly hardening Catalan attitudes towards Madrid (which will be expressed soon enough).

Though the competition is certainly stiff, could Rajoy be the single most feckless Western leader?

I will defend Rajoy’s widely-panned “tone-deaf” speech. While the heavy-handed response to the referendum was a very bad idea, his speech, with its clear and unequivocal expression of support for the Guardia Civil, was not.

50% of all Catalan voters were already going to vote Yes, and after today’s events, they must have gained another 10% or 20% points. The local police refuse to obey central commands. They are for all intents and purposes now “lost” to Spain, at least for the time being.

Very soon the time will come when the Catalonian parliament declares independence. At that point, if Spain wishes to remain whole, there will have to be mass arrests of their government and replacement with a caretaker administration. The security forces tasked with carrying this out must be absolutely loyal for the operation to be successful. The sense that the political elites have their backs is a prerequisite of police loyalty. If they feel that they are going to be stabbed in the back by weak politicians concerned at the first signs of pressure, then they are not going to be able to fulfill their orders with the requisite degree of decisiveness and ruthlessness. They are instead going to fold once their encounter serious resistance and Madrid will have no choice but to make its peace with an independent Catalonia.

This is what happened with Yanukovych in the Ukraine in 2013-14, who stabbed the security men charged with keeping his regime in power in the back by refusing to provide them support once things got too hot. This totally demoralized them and ensured the triumph of the Euromaidan.

In opinion polls, Spaniards consistently tie with Swedes for the most liberal positions in areas like LGBT and immigration in Europe. But today it’s as if they’ve all gone hardcore Falangist on Catalan separatism, at least judging from the Spanish responses to the Catalonia discussion on /r/europe. Not really much to say here, just an observation. I assume there remain “triggers” such as seeing the prospect of rebellion that awaken primal reflexes in even the most derooted peoples.

So far as Western countries go, I suppose Spain deserves this far less than most. It was the only major Western country not to recognize Kosovo, even though in most other respects it toed the American line on bombing Serbia, the embargo, no-fly zone, etc. Still, credit where it’s due.

Eurocrats and Globalism Inc. are predictably unanimous in opposing Catalan separatism. This is perfectly understandable. Spain is part of NATO. The loss of Spain’s biggest donor region will hit its revenues and perhaps reignite its simmering debt crisis.

Curiously, the Alt Right (Spencer wing) is also skeptical about Catalonia. As with their opposition to Brexit, they decry the indulgence of petty nationalisms as obstacles to global white unity; besides, as they point out, Catalonia is liberal-leftist even by Spanish standards, so why should nationalists support them anyway? So that they can invite in refugees even faster? This is, of course, in their eyes buttressed by Catalonia’s historical role as the heartland of the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War.

Leaving aside the merits of their ideological slant, this begs a couple of counter-arguments. First, does this mean that only “based” nations should have a right to national self-determination? Because there are very few such European countries left, anyway. Second, as Alt Left points out, getting rid of political dead weight (e.g. California in the US) would actually raise the ability of the rest of the country to push forwards the sort of political change that the Alt Right advocates.

At a formal level, it need hardly be said that Russia needs to maintain the principle of absolute state sovereignty with respect to Madrid. However, it is also evidently in its interests for its soft power interests to approach the Catalan referendum with “understanding.” After all, if the Catalonia referendum does carry a certain legitimacy, then how are the repeated referendums for greater autonomy and/or independence any less so? Who are Westerners who shut down a peaceful vote with rubber bullets to lecture Russia about democracy anyway?

Besides, the one certitude in our age of Russian Hackers and Fake News is that Russia is going to be held responsible anyway. Putin is no longer just the God of the Ukraine, responsible for all its mishaps and zradas; he is now Lord and Master of the American Empire and its satellites, puppetting everything and everyone from Drumpf and the Alt Right to BLM and Take the Knee and Catalan separatists. Since it’s doing time anyway, Russia might as well start doing the crime.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Color Revolution, Spain 
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The American Interest’s Karina Orlova writes:

A group of young independent filmmakers (Sota Vision) captured a moment that perfectly sums up not just what it was like yesterday in Moscow, but also what it’s like living in Russia these days. This is the reward you get for going out of your way to praise a dictator.

(Original).

His protestations of his “innocence” in the police van went unheeded.

Predictably, this video evokes a gushing flood of Schadenfreude amongst anti-Putinists, while pro-Putinists experience a jittery “there but for the grace of God go I” feeling.

But from a neutral perspective, how exactly does this reflect badly on “teh regime.”

What we see in it is unsanctioned protesters getting treated the same under the law, regardless of their fealty or lack thereof to the national leader.

This is the marker of civilization.

Let’s compare and contrast to Ukraine, the country where Navalnyites won – and what the Western elites want for Russia.

There, anti-war protesters are not only arrested, but jailed, whereas on the rare occasions that much more aggressive Maidanist “activists” are arrested they are let off with apologies soon after.

In fact, in Ukraine, so long as you belong to the appropriate faction, you can even shoot taxi drivers with pneumatic pistols for refusing to chant “Glory to Ukraine” along with you and get off with just house arrest.

This is the marker of barbarism.

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Color Revolution, Law, Russia 
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The Russia wide protests organized by Navalny on June 12 were a flop.

This was not unexpected, given the lack of enthusiasm on social networks – in Moscow, there were 20% fewer people expressing interest in going to this event relative to the March 26th protest on Facebook. The earlier event had translated into 8,000 people, which is pretty much a “fail” so far as a 13 million population metropolis is concerned.

In the smaller Russian cities, where the June 12 protests went ahead as agreed with the local authorities, turnout was unimpressive, typically numbering in the low 100′s.

Pavel Gladkov has collected some photos (h/t melanf):

The protest in Novosibirsk, the third biggest Russian city (1.5 million) and unofficial capital of Siberia, gathered 2,000 people, which is about the same as in March.

Turnout has in general been similar to the March 26 rallies. This implies Navalny’s support on the streets – as in the polls – hasn’t improved since then.

Which, I suppose, explains why Navalny decided to sabotage his own protests in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.

Quick recap:

The Moscow city authorities gave Navalny permission to stage a meeting at prospekt Sakharova, a relatively central and spacious location. In Saint-Petersburg, they offered a location at Udelnaya, which is less central, but still spacious and easily accessible by metro.

In the last few hours before the protests, Navalny made a location change, to Tverskaya in Moscow and The Field of Mars in Saint-Petersburg, both of which are at the very centers of those cities. Moreover, Tverskaya in particular was already hosting a massive historical reconstruction festival.

sakahrov-speakers Before the protests, many observers, including myself, had expressed skepticism about Navalny’s claims that stage and sound suppliers had been pressured not to service his event. Navalny used this “insult” as the formal explanation for why he was moving the location of the protest.

However, the only evidence he provided was a phone conversation between two anonymous people. Moreover, as the liberal blogger Ilya Varlamov pointed out, why couldn’t he have bought speakers at a store and then returned/resold them?

Then on the day of the event itself it emerged that a sound and speaker system did emerge on prospekt Sakharova anyway, which should blow up anyone’s suspicion meter through the roof.

The weight of the evidence thus indicates that the sound and speaker blockade reason was bogus.

The likeliest alternative explanation is that Team Navalny, aware that attendance numbers were going to be unimpressive – in the event, an accurate assessment – decided that the only way to get into the news cycle would be to create an interesting spectacle for make benefit of Western cameras.

Unfortunately, due to the very low quality – or malicious competence – of the Western media, he largely succeeded in this, as RT’s Bryan MacDonald points out:

macdonald-crap-russia-journalism Then there were the blatant misrepresentations. Such as when New York Times’ bureau chief Neil MacFarquhar and Financial Times’ Eastern Europe Editor Neil Buckley both attempted to depict barriers clearly erected as props for the military history show as “traps” to impede protesters. Tweets they later deleted, in fairness. Nevertheless, this particular “fake news” tweet by the anti-Russia activist Alex Kokcharov has been shared hundreds of times, enjoying retweets from the likes of Economist magazine editor Edward Lucas and Anders Aslund of NATO’s Atlantic Council adjunct.

Almost every correspondent refused to tell followers how the event was “unsanctioned” and “illegal,” instead preferring to act as cheerleaders. Some examples included hacks from Foreign Policy, the Guardian, BBC and the Moscow Times. Meanwhile, Associated Press, the Washington Post, ABC and Fox all managed to omit any mention of the history festival in their reaction to the change of location.

And then there was CNN, always good for a laugh on this beat, breathlessly telling its viewers that hundreds of thousands of demonstrators could be mobilized. When in reality it was around 5,000 in Moscow.

Unfortunately for Navalny, the Russian electorate are not Western audiences, and these stunts are unlikely to work out well for him.

The March 26 meeting was an essentially harmless affair, perhaps a minor inconvenience to some Muscovites, but one that was adequately compensated by the entirely voluntary personal risk the protesters took by participating in an unauthorized gathering.

It was the protesters’ choice to come there and effect non-violent resistance (for the most part) in service of a cause they believed in. It was OMON’s choice to uphold the letter of the law and clear out an unsanctioned protest; they are well-compensated for their trouble. It was my own choice to risk arrest by covering it as a “citizen journalist” of sorts; as with Vincent Law, my greater fear is not getting arrested per se, nor the fines, nor a day or two in detention; it’s the fact of getting arrested *at a Navalny protest*.

The important thing is that the risk of innocent passersby getting caught up was minimal.

This time round, Navalny and his crew purposefully crashed a separate event where people wanted to cosplay historical battles, not participate in an actual one against the police. This would have been irresponsible and unethical course of action for anyone with pretenses to serious politics. That this was very likely based on a lie makes it outright disgraceful. These are the actions of a two bit rabblerouser.

For instance, here is one account of how Navalny supporters ruined the day of one reconstructor who wanted to show Muscovites how medieval Russians made decorative beads (h/t E for partial translation):

They [the liberals] yelled into the faces of myself, the musicians and historical reconstructionists that we were “traitors”, that what we’re doing is useless sh*t, that we should instead be having meetings, that we are paid-off varmints who were placed there in order to disrupt their meetings. To our protests that we’re teaching people crafts and history, we received the reply: “Nobody needs any of that sh*t! We need to have meetings and create a revolution!”. I really wanted to bash these people’s faces in, but people were yelling at us that we shouldn’t give in to provocation, because EVERYTHING was CONSTANTLY being filmed by dozens of cameras.

In the end, the programme continued after a several-hour interruption. Of course, I didn’t make any more beads, because I needed to heat up my oven again and there wasn’t much time left.
In one of the camps, they took down and broke a pavilion, and broke the tent in another. But the reconstructionists, having armed themselves with shields, saved the most important places from total destruction. I understand how difficult it must have been not to grab the spears and axes, as well.

By all rights, this should finally finish off Navalny’s portrayal of himself as a champion of honesty and transparency in politics.

As his recent interview with Ksenia Sobchak confirmed, this is a non too bright man who does not know elementary facts and figures about the state of the Russian economy or public health. He is a one-trick pony who is only any good on corruption, or at least coming up with catchy slogans about it. However, even on corruption, it just so often happens that Navalny’s demonstrated behavior is at odds with his purported principles and beliefs, with this latest episode being just the latest example.

That said, Navalny is undoubtedly extremely talented at playing the democratic martyr for the Western cameras.

Therefore, the main part of his constituency – Western consumers of CNN and Buzzfeed – will have to keep on wondering why the collapse of the Putin regime keeps failing to pan out for the nth time.

 
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Navalny has just moved the planned June 12 protest from Prospekt Sakharova, a fairly central and very spacious location, to Tverskaya, which is minutes away from the Kremlin, at the last minute.

The former event was officially sanctioned by the city authorities.

The new one is *not*.

Navalny claims that this was done because the Moscow city administration pressured sound and stage suppliers not to participate in his event. This makes it impossible for him to give a speech to a large crowd. As evidence, he attached a recording between one of the suppliers and what is presumably one of his staff members, in which the supplier sheepishly explains that he has received instructions from on high not to service the event.

This is his version of the story.

There is however an alternate theory.

The Tverskaya protests on March 26 were unsanctioned, meaning that the more timid and “respectable” avoided showing up. Attendance at a sanctioned meeting, all other things equal, should be considerably higher (the middle-aged office plankton who form a considerable percentage of Navalny’s support base aren’t keen on risking arrest by participating in illegal gatherings). But with less than 12 hours to go, the the number of people saying they are “going” on Facebook stands at a modest 4,000. In contrast, 5,200 say they “went” to the Tverskaya protest in March, which translated to an actual turnout of about 8,000. Assuming the correlation holds, we are looking at similar figures this June. This is decidedly embarassing, especially in light of the anti-khrushchevki demolition protests this May, which gathered 20,000 people – and at the very place where Navalny was supposed to hold his meeting, to add to the humiliation.

Ordinary Muscovites evidently care more about their khrushchevki – and for that matter their summer sojourns to their dachas – than staying behind in Moscow to hear more about Navalny’s latest beef with Uzbek oligarchs. Not good!

So this is where the alternate explanation comes in. Since the original protest looked like it was going to be a flop anyway, why not make a last minute change to “illegalize” it, inviting a potentially heavy police response for the delectation of Navalny’s YouTube fans and Western videocameras?

preobrazhensky-polk

There is an additional fact that makes this version of events both more plausible, and more potentially dangerous. June 12 is a national holiday (Russia Day), and there is already another event planned for the Tverskaya location – the last day of a 12 day historical reconstruction festival that has been advertised for weeks, and is expected to draw up to 150,000 visitors.

The last day of the reconstruction festival will be dedicated to the defense of Sevastopol in the Crimean War.

So imagine the spectacle of Preobrazhensky Regiment riflemen coming from all over Russia and abroad to support Navalny – and having to pit their “reconstruction skills” against the truncheons of the OMON.

headlines-ready As noted by one Twitter user: “Cameras and headlines are ready.

Not a lot more to add. Now we wait and see.

Hopefully, the Russian police exercise appropriate restraint, so that we don’t actually have to find out whether the bayonet is a fine lad. They are well funded and quite professional these days, so I don’t think it’s likely things will get out of hand.

It is also worth underlining that it is grossly irresponsible and unethical for someone who pretends to be a serious politician to push his agenda on people who didn’t ask for it, and who only want to watch pretend battles, not risk being caught up in a real one. This applies tenfold if Navalny misrepresented the situation with the stage and sound suppliers to justify his planned hijacking of the reconstruction festival (if so this would not be the first time that he has bent the truth to serve his own narrative).

Though who cares about any of that when there is clickbait to be written about the latest crimes of the Putler regime.

EDIT June 12, 1330 Moscow time: On Reddit (1, 2) a couple of people have criticized me for not using VK.com attendance data. I copy my response:

What matters is not absolute numbers who say they are going to attend, but relative numbers from event to event.

Assuming that a similar multiple of Facebook “goings” translate into visitors from event to event, then comparing the previous event to the later event on just one social media platform is legitimate.

Anyhow, there is a banal reason I didn’t include VK – while this current protest does indeed have 15K, I was simply unable to locate the VK event page for the March 26 protest.

Moreover. List of event pages for the March 26 protest. But Moscow links takes us here, which now advertises today’s event. This is not an event page, but as I understand a group page.

Was the counter actually reset to zero after the last event? This is a critical question that I don’t know the answer to (I don’t use VK much and am not very familiar with its fine workings), so using VK data would have been doubly unrealistic.

Anyhow, if anybody can’t answer the two questions above – whether or not the counter reset to zero after the March event, and if it did, what was the peak “going” figure for it – that would be much appreciated.

EDIT 2: It now emerges that a sound & stage system *was* installed at prospekt Sakharova after all (1, 2), which would appear to invalidate Navalny’s claim that suppliers were forced to pull out.

 
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There have been three significant political protests in Moscow in the past few months, and each in their own way – and in their relation to each other – say a lot about the state of Russia today.

It’s not that great for the Kremlin.

But not for the reasons the Western media would have you believe.

moscow-protest-tverskaya-4

“He Is Not Dimon” / Navalny, March 26

This unsanctioned protest in response to Navalny’s video about Medvedev’s corruption gathered about 8,000 people, mostly young people and university students, with some seasoned color revolution veterans sprinkled in.

It also got by far the most Western coverage, even though 8,000 people is less than 0.1% of Moscow’s population.

This is reflected in Navalny’s poll numbers, which remain very low – firmly in the single digits, though in an election – on the off chance he is allowed to run – I suspect he might eke out as much as 10%, if he overperforms expectations as he did in the 2013 Moscow elections.

I am not going to write much more about Navalny and his protests, since I already have several blog posts about that. My goal here is to look at the alternatives on offer.

enough-protest

“Enough” / Khodorkovsky, April 29

That Navalny is head and shoulders above any other Westernist liberal figure is proved by the embarassingly low turnout at the “Enough” protests called for by Khodorkovsky’s “Open Russia” NGO.

There were perhaps 200 people there. As RT’s Bryan MacDonald noted, “I have honestly seen bigger crowds at bus stops in Russia than what has assembled for Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s march today.” Their guerilla advertising strategy – the graffiti in the photo above appeared on the sidewalk close to my apartment – evidently didn’t work out.

Khodorkovsky himself was quite sad about this, whining on May 1 that it is dangerous to “have a monopoly on opposition” in a transparent dig against Navalny. My advice to him would be just stick to what he does best, such as inserting anti-Putin op-eds into English language papers and single-handedly providing a living for about half the world’s Russia-specialized neocons.

Anyhow, the bottom line is that if Navalny’s anti-corruption populism at least enjoys some degree of mass appeal, Khodorkovsky doesn’t even have that. There just aren’t that many Russians outside a 100 meter radius of Echo of Moscow HQ willing to rise up on hearing the clarion call for more sanctions against their own country on the pages of Politico and The World Affairs Journal.

There wasn’t that much coverage of this protest in the West. I suppose it was just too humiliatingly small for it to be worth giving any further exposure.

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Credit: George Malets, martin_camera

Anti-Khrushchevki Demolition Protest / Evgenia Vinokurova, May 14

In 1955, Khrushchev began a massive program of urban housing construction – an urgent priority at the time, what with the massive influx of peasants into the cities. On the plus side, the program succeeded, and the USSR consequently avoided the slums typical of the urbanizing Third World. On the negative side, these “khrushchevki” were cramped and poorly constructed, both by the standards of Stalinist housing (which mostly catered to the elites) and even of the later Soviet apartment blocks of the 1970s-80s.

Moscow’s mayoralty has recently announced that renovating this housing stock is unfeasible, and it will instead be demolished over the course of the next ten years at a cost of 3.5 trillion rubles ($60 billion), or twice the city’s annual budget income. The current residents will be compensated with more modern housing, of which there is a surplus in the wake of the last construction bust. On paper, everyone will benefit: People will get apartments with working plumbing and internal wiring; the politically connected real estate lobby won’t lose money; and many officials will doubtless be enriched.

But not everyone is happy with this deal. Some have invested considerable amounts of money into renovating their apartments. Others have grown attached to their neighborhoods. Although khrushchevki are bottom tier housing stock, the districts that contain them do tend to have a certain verdant vibrancy to them. They are walkable, they have plenty of greenery, and ecosystems of shops, schools, and other services have long evolved around them. In contrast, the new blocks tend to be massive, gray concrete monoliths on flat, gray plains criss-crossed with asphalt and more concrete.

What’s more, they tend to be farther from the nearest metro station, and at the outskirts of Moscow, if not entirely outside it. Moscow property prices depend far more on location than on building quality, and since the exchanges are square meter for square meter, not ruble for ruble, it is easy to imagine cases where people would stand to actually lose asset value in absolute terms.

And some of those people reacted. Around 20,000 people protested on Sakharov Avenue on May 14 against the khrushchevki plans – more than twice as much as at Navalny’s protest, and a couple of orders of magnitude more than at Khodorkovsky’s.

Moreover, these protesters weren’t kreakl hipsters, or professional revolutionaries, or Ukrainian nationalists, or the assorted other weirdos that tend to fill out Moscow protests against the regime. They were pensioners, housewives, and office plankton, many of them with children, who made their voice heard about a matter of real world concern to them. In other words, they and people like them are the closest thing there currently is to a genuine Russian civil society – and though the situation is currently fluid, it currently appears that officials are seriously engaging with their demands.

And of course the Western media pretty much ignored them.

Incidentally, as Maxim Kononenko points out, Navalny’s response to this protest is also very telling as to his agenda.

Initially, Navalny and his staff largely ignored the anti-demolition campaign, unable to believe that political nobodies campaigning on some boring socio-economic issue could be more successful than the undisputed leader of the “real” Russian opposition with its cult following, massive online presence, and lack of any serious competitors in the professional color revolution industry. But once it emerged that this protest was going to be a big hit after all, Navalny hurriedly dressed up as a very concerned khrushchevka resident and set off for the protest meeting. (As one online wit commented, “Whom hasn’t Navalny roleplayed as?: An owner of a mortgage in foreign currency; a Moscow stall owner; a Dagestani truck driver; a Chechen gay. Now he is a khrushchevka resident”).

Navalny proceeded to request a speaking slot at the meeting. The organizers refused, for the understandable reason that Navalny had no part in organizing them. Shocked by their impudence, Navalny and his acolytes decided to blame this epic zrada on Evgenia Vinokurova, one of the dozen largely female organizers of the protest. She made for an easy target: She has ties with both Putinist patriot-conservatives (she is friends with Kris Potupchik, a former spokeswoman for the youth movement Nashi) and more hardcore nationalists (she is an open Sputnik and Pogrom reader, Russia’s premier nationalist publication), all of which makes her completely “unhandshakeworthy” in the respectable Westernist circles to whom Navalny owes his ultimate loyalty.

So Navalny got an excuse for his failure there – he was sabotaged by a Putler agent. Still, the old problem of said respectable circles remains as acute as ever: Their inability to get any significant number of Russians out into the streets.

 
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As one of the world’s leading activists against the Putin regime, I had no choice but to show up on Tverskaya Street today, to fight for your freedom and mine.

As expected, turnout wasn’t particularly high. Although the area around the Pushkin Monument was crowded, it only extended to half a block in every direction. The regime loyalist I was with estimated there were about 5,000 protesters. A guy with a Ukrainian flag lapel badge whom I asked for his opinion said 10,000. Taking the average estimate from supporters and detractors was a good strategy for estimating crowd size in 2011-12, and coincidentally enough, the resulting figure of 7,500 coincided exactly with the police estimate of 7,000-8,000 protesters. This is not altogether bad, thought quite insubstantial in a city of 12 million.

To be sure, this was an unsanctioned protest, and as I pointed out earlier, a lot of the risk-averse office plankton who form the bulk of Navalny’s support don’t turn up to such protests. They don’t want to run the risk of getting arrested, not when it could impact on their employment. Still, this is about 3x fewer participants than in the last big protest of the 2012 wave, which was also unsanctioned, the farcical “March of the Millions” of May 6 to which about 25,000 turned up.

With the lack of office workers in the crowd, the demographics were heavily tilted towards young people and university students, though there were quite a few older people with that Soviet intelligentsia look.

Definitely lots of Euromaidan supporters – apart from Ukrainian flag lapel badge guy, there was another man, who had the look of a protest veteran about him, who regaled a small crowd with tales of his adventures fighting the police in Khabarovsk, in Kiev in 2014, and afterwards, in Kharkov (the local police there was hostile, and they had to wait it out long enough for them to get reinforcements from Poltava and further west; putting things together, he was one of the people who helped preempt the formation of a Kharkov People’s Republic). However, the Ukrainophilia wasn’t quite as noticeable as in Ekaterinburg, where the crowd chanted, “He who doesn’t jump is Dimon” (a riff on “he who doesn’t jump is a Moskal,” a rallying cry for the “Glory to Ukraine” crowd).

(Incidentally, this is one reason of many as to why the protests in Russia are unlikely to amount to much – the Ukrainians, at least, advanced into bullets for their own nationalism during Euromaidan; in contrast, the pro-Ukrainian Russians at these protests are “cucking” for someone else’s nationalism. Come to think of it, trolling the protesters by shouting “Glory to Russia” at the next protest might be a good idea).

There were also, as expected, plenty of journalists. Most of them were local media; I observed a couple from the opposition TV channel Dozhd, as well as a group from some state TV company. Incidentally, contrary to some reports, the protest was covered in the Russian state media, both in Russian and English. There did not seem to be many foreign journalists (perhaps its too early in the political season for that). However, one of them, The Guardian’s Alec Luhn, did manage to get himself arrested and charged with an administration violation, which he understandably complained about. On the other hand, such “heavy-handedness is hardly exclusive to Russia (e.g. six RT journalists were charged for covering violence at Trump’s inauguration).

About 30 minutes after the announced start of the march, the police and the OMON started arresting people, darting into the crowds and hauling people off into the waiting police buses. Navalny was also arrested, not having even made it as far as the Pushkin Momument, let alone the Kremlin that was his destination.

The arrests were for the most part non-violent, though there were several hundreds of them, and one policemen was hospitalized for a traumatic head injury following a kick to the head from a protester.

While I’m myself rather indifferent to arrest – as a committed NEET, I have no need to worry about any repercussions on my employment or education prospects, and if anything it would provide me with nice new content – I certainly don’t want my first arrest in Russia to happen at a fucking Navalny demo of all places, so I began skulking away as soon as the arrests started. I spent the next couple of hours drinking at a bar with my regime loyalist friend.

Towards the evening, I returned to Pushkin Square. It was much less crowded now, though there were still throngs of people discussing the days’ events, with the police swooping down on them every so often to enquire as to whether they were protesting, and ensuing philosophical debates between them and the police about the semantics of group discussion versus group protest, and the precise point at which the former transitioned into the latter.

I descended into the Metro.

***

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• Category: Ideology • Tags: Color Revolution, Moscow, Russia, The AK 
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With a bit less than a year left to Russia’s Presidential elections in 2018, the general contours of this cycle’s protest movement against Putin are already coalescing.

Alexey Navalny has called a march for tomorrow along Tverskaya Street, a central boulevard that leads to the Kremlin. The Moscow mayoralty refused to allow it, and Navalny in turn refused its offer of alternative venues, so the march is going to be unsanctioned. These events tend to come with a high journalist to protester ratio, because Navalny’s office plankton constituency doesn’t like events where there is a non-negligible chance they’ll be roughed up by the police. So I don’t expect much to come out of it. But we’ll see. I’ll probably go myself to observe it first hand.

As in 2011-2012, when he coined the term “The Party of Thieves and Scoundrels” to describe United Russia, the brunt of Navalny’s attacks are going to be on corruption in the Kremlin. It appears that the centerpiece this time around is going to be a massive investigation carried out by Anti-Corruption Fund on Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev, and released early this March:

In Russia, even amongst liberals, Medvedev has a reputation as a cuddly, affable, and absent-minded sort of fellow, often nodding off at meetings, but endowed with a hip, modernist outlook that will take “Russia forwards” into the clean, prosperous, sponsored content clicking future. This expresses itself in things such as appreciation for Deep Purple, support for the Skolkovo technology hub, and an obsession with hip electronic gadgets – the latter of which earned him his nickname, iPhonchik. Another of his nicknames is his diminutive, “Dimon,” which became very popular after his press secretary told Russia’s bloggers, commenters, and online trolls not to use that name: “He is not Dimon to you.” That worked on the Internet! (Not).

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But according to Navalny’s investigation, which builds on earlier work by Russian journalists, the nice, professorial teddy bear is a mere mask for a deeply corrupt swindler; not so much a fan of hi-tech Apple gadgets as of big money and elite properties. Piecing together documents, his team constructed a convoluted web of charitable funds directed by Medvedev’s friends, classmates, and even relatives that don’t seem to do much in the way of genuine charity work, but do maintain a sprawling network of elite real estate for make benefit of the Prime Minister.

This includes an elite estate in Moscow’s Rublevka district and a luxury ski resort in Krasnodar, each of which is valued at about $100 million; a big estate and agro holding compnay in his ancestral homeland of Kursk oblast; two yachts, both named after the Orthodox version of his wife’s name; an elite apartment in Saint-Petersburg; and even a wineyard and villa in Tuscany, Italy, bought in 2012-13 for $120 million. There is strong evidence, including from Medvedev’s Instagram account, that he has stayed at many of these properties, and partaken of his yachts.

These “charitable funds” are sponsored by a bevy of Kremlin-friendly oligarchs and state banks. For instance, one of them was funded by Novatek’s Simanovsky and Mikhelson, who contributed $500 million. The Uzbek oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who spent six years in a Soviet prison in the 1980s for financial fraud, appears to have funded the acquisition of the Rublevka property. Gazprombank is on record giving a loan of $200 million in 2007. Its Deputy Chairman at the time? Ilya Eliseev, a classmate of Medvedev’s from his time at Saint-Petersburg State University, who also happens to be listed as the current chairman of most of these charitable funds. In total, documented “contributions” run to about 70 billion rubles, or more than $1 billion.

Even a small fraction of this would sound the death knell for any politician in a country within the Hajnal Line.

In Russia, however, this is not atypical for the elites. Everybody knows that they are stealing, and if Russians didn’t move to overthrow them in 2011-12, in the aftermath of massively fraudulent elections in Moscow and at a time when Putin was at a trough in his popularity, they are certainly not going to do so now; not when Putin’s approval rating remains north of 80% in the long afterglow of the Crimea euphoria. Moreover, Navalny’s own reputation has since become tarnished, due to his own corruption scandal (which might disqualify from running for the Presidency entirely), and due to his ardent pro-Ukrainian rhetoric, which has driven off most of his former nationalist supporters.

This, at least, is my impression.

Anyhow, March 26 will be an opportunity to more directly gauge his support at the level of the streets.

 
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Russian human rights lawyer Matthew Tszen speculates:

I suspect that the global Womens March was originally conceived of as a sort of victory parade to mark the inauguration of the first US female president (Hillary Clinton). And only the unexpected victory of Trump forced them to change not even so much its character, as its tone – from that of a festive victory, to a protest. This is evidenced by its own international character – for instance, the concept that “French women are celebrating the election of a woman to the US Presidency” makes sense, but the concept of “French women protesting against the election of President Trump” is practically meaningless. Not to mention the fact the the “protesters” aren’t really able to formulate what, exactly, they are protesting, and what their demands are. Some of their slogans, e.g. “pussy grabs back,” would have looked much more natural against the background of a Clinton victory.

I still think it was organized largely after the fact by a panicking Soros, but this is an interesting theory.

It would tie in well with my speculations that a great deal of fireworks – both literal and figurative – were painstakingly choreographed to go off on Hillary Clinton’s election, possibly including a serious purge of “fake news” instead of the decidedly slapstick affair we actually got.

I am getting the distinct impression that this is a very well planned information operation that was that was meant to kick into high gear upon Hillary Clinton’s election, perhaps in conjunction with the “Russia bombed The Last Hospital in Aleppo” meme to set up the groundwork for a showdown in Syria (there are hints that this is indeed what Hillary Clinton was planning upon assuming the Presidency).

I suppose we now don’t really have any choice but to continue speculating, at least until some new whistleblower comes along to leak the deep state’s secrets to Wikileaks. Still, that’s far preferable to having had them play out in reality.

 
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I noticed a very interesting trend in recent days.

Kenneth “Russians bombed the last hospital in Aleppo” Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch:

Julia “people who disagree with me are cattle” Ioffe, professional Soviet refugee and Ivanka Trump’s secret admirer:

The New York Times:

It’s like they’re all working from the same script: Nobody came out to support the Kremlin puppet Trump, while a true “march of the millions” came out against him.

There’s just one problem: It’s all #FAKENEWS.

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And it’s not like a new invention or anything. To the contrary, its been a staple of the color revolution handbook from the Arab world to Ukraine and Russia – which has now made its way to America.

For instance, back during the 2012 protests against the Kremlin, the single biggest demonstration was actually *in support of* Putin – the Anti-Orange Meeting at Poklonnaya Gora, February 4th.

But you’d have never learned that from the Western media:

Whereas the opposition’s 100,000+ attendance figures are mostly taken at face value, the same favour is rarely extended to pro-Kremlin ones, on the few occasions they are mentioned at all. For instance, the Anti-Orange Meeting on February 4 at Poklonnaya had a densely packed crowd about 200-300 meters wide, and stretching more than half a kilometer into the distance; according to calculations by the geodesic engineer Nikolai Pomeshchenko, there were around 80,000 people there. But the most quoted figure in the Western press was 20,000, which Patrick Armstrong tracked down to a single AP article which was shamelessly copied by outlets as diverse as The Guardian, FOX, and Salon. Does this photo look like 20,000 to you? Who are you going to believe, AP or your lying eyes? (But I guess that’s still marginally better than Le Parisien, which tried to pass off Poklonnaya as an anti-Putin rally).

In contrast, there is a distinct lack of any critical questioning of figures issued by the opposition. Again, let’s ask Pomeshchenko: Using spatio-mathematical methods, he estimated opposition protests of 60,000 on December 10 (at Bolotnaya), 56,000+ on December 24 (at Prospekt Sakharova), and 62,000 on February 4 (again, at Bolotnaya). They are intuitively reliable, being halfway between the estimates of the police and the opposition, both of which have a dog in the fight.

There are a variety of ways to “delegitimize” a globalist-disapproved politician using the crowd numbers game. The tried and true method is just understating attendance at meetings in his support, such as by emphasizing photos taken from unflattering angles, or early in the morning before the main mass of people had shown up. Meetings and protests against him should of course be amped up as much as possible (though within reason; you don’t want to be too blatant about it, especially now that you’ve so conveniently sown the “fake news” meme).

More “advanced” methods, which we might well see in the not too distance future, is to photograph concentrations of nearby buses or other mass transit vehicles as “proof” that the bad guy’s supporters, who are all brainwashed alcoholics anyway (substitute with “opiate addicts” for the Trump Edition), were all transported in on pain of losing their jobs. Extra points if this is projection of your own behavior!

eye-of-soros That the globalists would adopt the same dirty tricks against Trump, apart from demonstrating that they are really SEETHING MAD at this turn of events, also hints are something interesting.

And by “hints” I mean it has Soros’ grubby claws all over it.

Let’s have a Muslim feminist from the New York Times, someone far less deplorable than myself, flesh out this outrageous conspiracy theory:

The Guardian has touted the “Women’s March on Washington” as a “spontaneous” action for women’s rights. Another liberal media outlet, Vox, talks about the “huge, spontaneous groundswell” behind the march. On its website, organizers of the march are promoting their work as “a grassroots effort” with “independent” organizers. Even my local yoga studio, Beloved Yoga, is renting a bus and offering seats for $35. The march’s manifesto says magnificently, “The Rise of the Woman = The Rise of the Nation.”

It’s an idea that I, a liberal feminist, would embrace. But I know — and most of America knows — that the organizers of the march haven’t put into their manifesto: the march really isn’t a “women’s march.” It’s a march for women who are anti-Trump.

By my draft research, which I’m opening up for crowd-sourcing on GoogleDocs, Soros has funded, or has close relationships with, at least 56 of the march’s “partners,” including “key partners” Planned Parenthood, which opposes Trump’s anti-abortion policy, and the National Resource Defense Council, which opposes Trump’s environmental policies. The other Soros ties with “Women’s March” organizations include the partisan MoveOn.org (which was fiercely pro-Clinton), the National Action Network (which has a former executive director lauded by Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett as “a leader of tomorrow” as a march co-chair and another official as “the head of logistics”). Other Soros grantees who are “partners” in the march are the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. March organizers and the organizations identified here haven’t yet returned queries for comment.

It’s a very, very familiar script that has at long last made its way back to its original homeland.

 
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“The churches are our barracks, the bells are our helmets, the Kremlin spires are our bayonets, and Putin trolls are our soldiers…”

… Well, it doesn’t have quite the ring of the better known poem that, having once landed Erdogan in jail, has now ensured his survival.

So people are now asking: Without Erdogan’s closer ties to a religion far more passionary than Orthodox Christianity, without his allegedly superior democratic credentials, would anyone actually bother out to defend the Dark Lord of the Kremlin cometh the Great Day of his Reckoning that every second Russia think-tank analyst in London and Washington D.C. has been prophesying for more than a decade?

Of course not. I even feel a bit stupid for putting fingers to keyboard to write this post. But nonsense has to be cleared up.

I

The first problem with thinking about a prospective Russian coup is finding even a semi-plausible candidate to play the plotters’ part.

The actors that immediately come to mind are the generals – but they are also the unlikeliest group to move against Putin. The last time the Russian armed forces had regularly played kingmaker was during the 17th century, when the streltsy acted as a kind of Praetorian guard to the Tsars. The last successful coup that relied on military support took place more than two century ago, when Catherine the Great deposed the wildly unpopular Peter III, an 18th century Wehraboo who had withdrawn Russia from a hard-fought but successful war against Prussia on account of his boyhood fascination with Frederick the Great and the Prussian Army. The Russian military would never again be politically influential. The Kornilov putsch in 1917 failed. In both 1991 and 1993, the Armed Forces remained loyal to their respective heads of state, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, even though neither man enjoyed their respect. Despite the frailty of post-Soviet polities, the entire region would only see three military coups after 1991: One successful coup in Georgia, and two coups in Azerbaijan, of which one was successful. Azerbaijan is, of course, the closest “relative” to Turkey – with its seven coups this past century alone – in the former USSR, so it is unlikely that its experience would be much extensible to Russia.

In contrast to both Gorbachev and Yeltsin, Putin has enjoyed consistently high approval ratings, and the respect of the military and siloviks in particular. He can speak their language and has furnished lavish spending on both the military and the security services. The current Defense Minister, Sergey Shoigu, is highly popular without harboring much in the way of personal political ambitions of his own. This is in contrast to his predecessor Anatoly Serdyukov, who was highly unpopular for his questionable reforms and blatant corruption. He was eventually dismissed from his post, but the corruption investigation went nowhere and was eventually quietly shut down. Although the legal impunity of the Russian political elites is one of the few real sources of popular discontent with Putinism, it may also play a role as a political safety valve. Bureaucrats who steal too much – Serdyukov, Yakunin, Luzhkov, etc. – might get dismissed, but don’t tend to go overtly hostile because, apart from their low chances of success and high risk of ruin, they also know that the next regime might not be so forgiving towards them.

It is ultimately the oligarchs who are the most credible threat to Putin’s power. After all, it was the oligarchs who were instrumental in keeping an ailing Yeltsin in power in 1996, who ruled it for a time as the Semibankirschina, and who eased the transition towards a Putin Presidency (upon which he promptly told them to get out of politics). They also played a huge role in the political life of the other post-Soviet states. In Georgia, it was essentially an oligarchic coup by the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili that doomed Saakashvili’s attempts to set himself up for permanent rule in late 2012. In Ukraine, it was above all the defection of several key oligarchs critical to the coalition supporting Viktor Yanukovych – together with their media assets and bought up Rada MPs – that ensured the success of Euromaidan (though a false flag helped). Moldova is essentially a playground for various oligarchic and nationalist factions. So oligarchs have a record of successfully influencing politics throughout the former USSR, and moreover, as a class they have no particular reasons to love Putin. So how much of a threat are they?

They are a bigger threat than any other force, but still not all that dangerous. First, there has already been stringent selection for loyalty; recalcitrants (Gusinsky, Berezovsky, Khodorkovsky, etc.) have long been purged or exiled abroad. The 1990s class of oligarchs, who have the most reason to hate Putin, now have very little institutional influence. Khodorkovsky tried to infiltrate the system by buying up Duma MPs in the early 2000s, which no doubt contributed to the decision to bring down the hammer of the law against him. Since his release he has said he wants to lead Russia (thus once again breaking his promise not to go into politics), but his main political asset is but a slick PR campaign centered almost exclusively on the West. How that could translate into meaningful political power in Russia is unclear to say the least.

Meanwhile, the large class of billionaires created in the 2000s has no particular reason to dislike Putin, especially since he was the man who enabled many of them to acquire or expand their fortunes; nor do they have much in the way of political influence, since staying out of politics was a condition of them being allowed to do large-scale business in the first place (Mikhail Prokhorov’s 2008 Presidential run was a mutually agreed upon exception). The supportive political role of the AKP-linked construction barons in Erdogan’s Turkey, who have gotten rich on providing homes and malls for Anatolians moving to the western cities, is in Russia played by a small group of Putin’s friends, who get privileged contracts in return for their loyalty and helping out with projects of national importance. Is this corrupt? Sure. But on the flip side, nobody apart from the Roternbergs was rushing to build a bridge to Crimea, because they have too many assets tied up in the West. Incidentally, speaking of the West, far from destabilizing Putin’s domestic position as initially hoped for, the sanctions on Russian figures close to Putin have only strengthened Putin’s position, since they are more reliant on his favor than ever before now that the option of fleeing to Londongrad has been foreclosed.

II

But okay, let’s put all that aside and wave a magic wand.

While Putin is away at a UN summit, his approval at a record low due to a recent crab-related sex scandal, a group of oligarchs manage to buy off the directors of most of the main TV channels, a large chunk of United Russia MPs, and the head of the Moscow police and OMON. Putin’s Cabinet are taken into custody. Khodorkovsky and the rest of his merry revolutionaries jet in, while Putin’s plane is discovered to have mechanical problems (a group of men are seen furtively sneaking out of the hangar), delaying his return to Russia for a number of critical hours.

In this scenario, will the coup go ahead successfully, the now liberal-controlled state TV brainwashing vatnik brains overnight into avid becoming avid supporters of Khodorkovsky and holding a gay parade in his honor, or will they take to the streets to preserve their democratically elected President/evil totalitarian regime (cross out as appropriate)?

Well, the first and most obvious “problem” is that Putin’s approval rating has hovered at a steady 60%-90% through the 16 years of his rule.

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Color revolutions, even coups, are pretty much impossible with these kinds of ratings. Yanukovych was in his 20%’s on the eve of Euromaidan (similar to Poroshenko today), and even lower in Kiev. Even the failed recent coup against Erdogan occured when he was in his 40%’s. All three of the post-Soviet coups came at a time of double-digit annual GDP collapse and civil war/failed war against Armenia. Despite political crises in 1961 and 1968, there was never a successful coup against France’s Charles de Gaulle, the postwar West European leader with whom Putin perhaps has the most commonalities; between 1958 and 1969, De Gaulle’s approval ratings averaged 60% (Putin: 75%), and never dipped below 42% (Putin: Low 60%’s).

One popular theory advanced by Daniel Treisman used to explain Putin’s Teflon-like popularity (and popularized in his book The Return) tied Putin’s (and Yeltsin’s) approval ratings to economic performance.

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However, as it later emerged, this tight correlation must have been an artifact. It broke down to the downside during the 2011-12 protests over electoral falsifications, even though the economy then was chugging along more or less normally; and it veered sharply upwards after the incorporation of Crimea in 2014, even as the economy went into a long recession.

So you can’t rely on sanctions and/or The Next Recession to torpedo Putin’s ratings.

Another popular theory is that Russian pollsters are unreliable. It is also incredibly illogical, since the Levada Center is for all intents and purposes an oppositional organization, and because even Western pollsters consistently confirm Putin’s high approval ratings.

The most nuanced critique is the “mile wide but inch deep” theory of post-Soviet politics, which as repeatedly applied to Putin’s Russia means that the population is too afraid to answer pollsters truthfully, and/or supports Putin but without much enthusiasm, such that they will all defect from him once his sorceror’s spell is broken, and the mind-control Towers of Saraksh crumble. (There is also of course an ideological component here as well, namely the unwillingness of Western elites to come to terms with democratic choices that they disapprove of, as has been blatantly demonstrated in the past year by their reactions to Brexit and Trump).

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This theory, however, has been conclusively debunked by Timothy Frye et al. in 2015, who used a double list experiment – a clever way of gauging attitudes towards a potentially controversial topic without respondents having to answer it directly – to confirm that Putin’s approval ratings as measured by mainstream pollsters were accurate to at least within 10 percentage points, and concluded that the “main obstacle at present to the emergence of a widespread opposition movement to Putin is not that Russians are afraid to voice their disapproval of Putin, but that Putin is in fact quite popular.”

III

Leonid Bershidsky identifies three reasons why a coup might have better prospects against Putin than against Erdogan.

First, Bershidsky claims that as an “essentially one-party democracy,” Russian voters will not be under any great incentive to defend their votes: “Putin’s supporters are passive and often dependent on government largesse – which might still be available from whoever tries to depose the president.” This is a dangerous assumption for the coup plotters, and as shown above, almost certainly a false one.

Second, Turkey has allowed foreign media to operate widely: “As a result, it wasn’t state television but the secularist, private Dogan media group, which owns the CNN Turk TV channel, that put Erdogan on the air first so he could tell the nation he was fighting the coup attempt.” Because of course the Western media is well known for its impartiality towards Putin and its absolute respect for democracy. It’s not like they’ve spent the past sixteen years relentlessly smearing Putin and denying the democratic choices of the Russian people.

Third, Bershidsky points out that “vibrant connection to organized religion is another strength of the Erdogan regime.” Although Putin has a good relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church, it is true that that nobody is going to come out even if they were to ring their bells. However, Russia does have a means of instantly politically mobilizing its population: “Patriotic” websites and social media.

Within an hour, if not minutes, of a hostile coup, patriotic bloggers such as Nikolay Starikov are going to call their readers out into the streets. So will Sergey Kurginyan’s patriotic-Communist “Essence of Time” movement. They will have a huge immediate audience because Internet penetration in Moscow is at 80%, and close to 70% in the rest of Russia.

This is barely mentioned or remembered nowadays, but it is worth mentioning that during the 2011-12 wave of protests, when Putin’s approval ratings were at their nadir, the Kurginyanites still managed to pull off the single biggest (counter)protest of that entire electoral cycle, and they did it in the country’s most oppositional city at the time.

Even if, at the time of the coup, Putin’s approval rating were to drop to a historic low of 50%, that would still leave 16% of Russians whose “Putinism Quotient” is +1 S.D. above the average – perhaps, many of the 16% of Russians who today either have or want to acquire a portrait or sculpture of Putin – who are strong Putin supporters and who would spill over into the streets, like the 800,000 Parisians who marched against a Communist revolution and in support of Charles de Gaulle on May 30, 1968.

The 2% of Russians whose PQ is +2 S.D. above the mean – i.e., easily 100,000 Muscovites alone – would be the ones lynching coup sympathizers on the streets and engaging in battles with the Traitor Legions.

And there does exist a group of people, the +3 S.D. types, too embarassingly fanatical to be overtly associated even for your average Putin supporter, small in percentage terms but nonetheless substantial in absolute numbers, who can more or less fairly be described as Putin cultists:

The path laid by the father is not one of argument with him, but rather argument with the open world laying before us, an argument in which we are together with the father, at one with him,” it says. “We don’t fight with the power of the father, we share it, we learn the power, we master the power, together with the father we direct its energy toward our present and future.

Presumably, they will most certainly not take the coup lying down (unless it’s in front of a tank).

This is ultimately all just bell curve dynamics.

It is almost impossible that the Army or any significant portion of the security agencies would support the coupists. The Russian Armed Forces are a mix of conscripts and professionals. Conscripts tend to come from poorer, working-class families – i.e., more patriotic than hipsters who avoid service – and the professional soldiers are self-selected for greater patriotism, as with militaries almost anywhere. As for the generals, as mentioned above, it is hard to see them ditching the reliable Putin they know for an unelected emigre and convicted financial fraudster from Switzerland.

With neither the people nor the Army behind them, the coup will fail. And that is also why it will almost certainly never start.

There are several conceivable ways in which the Putin regime could end prematurely – an accident or assassination, a huge geopolitical defeat, or perhaps a liberalization of the political system that veers out of control – but a coup is not one of them under both the current and most conceivable future circumstances.

 
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Turkey has a proud and rich history of military coups. As analysts tirelessly point out, they are even sanctioned by the Constitution as a means of preserving secularism.

However, those days have come to an end.

The abortive coup of the past few days was in all likelihood the dying gasp of 20th century Turkey.

I

In Western op-eds over the years, there has been rising disquiet over the AKP’s “Islamization” of Turkish society, including the education system. However, if opinion polls are anything to go by, the Islamization effect has been slight.

According to the World Values Survey, a comprehensive survey of global cultural values that runs in multiyear “waves,” there has been no very significant rise in religious fervor in Turkish society from the first wave in 1989-1993 to the last wave in 2010-2014. A mere 1% of Turks disbelieve in God, but that is barely different from 2% in the mid-1990s (and exactly analogous to the US in the early 1980s and Poland in the early 1990s). The percentage of Turks who listed “religious faith” as one of the more desirable traits for their children fell from 44% to 40% in the last 25 years, and while the percentage of Turks who consider religious faith to be “very important” rose from 60% in the early 1990s to around 80% through the rest of the 1990s and 2000s, in the very last wave of surveys that number fell back to 68%. The percentage of Turks considering themselves to be a “religious person” rose from 73% in the early 1990s, but has remained stable at around 80%-85% ever since. And despite all the mosque building under the AKP, religious attendance has virtually no changes over the past quarter century and only 1% of Turks say they are members of a religious organization.

The banal reality is that Turkey has consistently been a conservative and strongly religious society (even if it is nothing on the scale of Arab countries where half or more of the population supports the death penalty for adultery and apostasy). Some 70% of Turks agree that in conflicts between religious and science, the former is “always” right. This is lower than the 90%+ agreement rate you see in Arab Muslim countries for this question, but is considerably higher than in the more religious Western countries such as the US (39%) and Poland (25%) – or for that matter in Russia (22%), for all the rhetoric about it becoming a theocracy.

On the other hand, a generation ago, masses of bearded men would not have come out onto the streets of Istanbul, charging rifle tanks and putting themselves in the way of tanks, to defend an Islamist President against a military coup. They would not have then proceeded to beat up and in some cases lynch surrending soldiers, most of whom – as it now emerges – were hapless conscripts who were not even aware that they were participating in a coup.

But if this wasn’t a case of the AKP’s Islamization campaign generating many more hardcore Islamists, what actually changed?

II

The answer ultimately lies in Turkish demographics: In short, the devout Muslims have migrated to the cities.

In the past generation, Turkey has urbanized at breakneck speeds. The urban population share of Turkey has increased from 44% in 1980, the data of the last major successful coup, to 73% today. In absolute numbers, this translated in an increase from 20 million to 55 million urban denizens during this period, including a fivefold increase in Istanbul from 3 million to 15 million. The other western coastal cities and Ankara also saw major increases.

From 1965 to today, the share of the Turkish population residing in richer, more heavily urbanized Western Turkey soared from a third to a half, while poorer and more rural Central Turkey and Eastern Turkey fell from a third each to 23% and 28%, respectively. However, Western Turkey also has the country’s lowest fertility rates, at less than the replacement level rate of 2.1 and comparable to those seen in the North-Eastern USA.

turkey-fertility-rate-2000

Total fertility rates in Turkey in 2000.

So where did their new denizens come from?

turkey-internal-migration

Internal migration in Turkey.

They came from the Anatolian hinterlands, whose fertility rates – almost one expected child more in Marmara and the Aegean coast – are comparable to that of Utah, not New England. They are much more conservative, much more religious, and less socioeconomically advanced (Western coastal Turkey has a GDP per capita comparable to Greece, whereas Central Turkey is more comparable to Romania and the Kurdish triangle to the southest converges to more overtly Third World conditions).

These people of Middle Turkey, derided as backwards country bumpkins and Islamist retrogrades by coastal Kemalist latte-sipping urbanites, have their own political vision…

turkey-2011-elections-results

Typical Turkish electoral map (2011 elections).

… which is centered on the social conservatism and political “Islamism Lite” of Erdogan and the AKP. And they continue to have many more babies than the traditional westcoasters, even after moving there: Whereas in 2003 the TFR of urban natives across all of Turkey was a mere 1.68 children per woman, considerably lower than the all Turkish average of 2.23 children per woman, for rural-to-urban migrants it was 2.82 children per women, and only modestly lower than the 3.28 rate for rural natives.

Incidentally, this also explains the strong Islamism, low socioeconomic status, high fertility rates (higher than back home!), and high degree of Erdogan support amongst German Turks. The Gastarbeiters primarily hailed from Middle Turkey, and the migration to Germany was just one aspect of the mass population movement from there to more advanced areas in the second part of the 20th century.

III

And all this, possibly more so than contingent factors like poor planning or the failure to eliminate Erdogan, explains why the military coup failed.

First off, this internal migration of virile Islamists created a class of urbanites in Ankara and especially Istanbul who were ready to go out for and in some cases to lay their lives down for their beliefs. While historically rapid urbanization was associated with political instability and revolution, the major difference is that in Turkey, it is Erdogan who is the candidate of the sans-culottes and of the factory workers. In previous coups, the military could take control to reinstate secularism at will, and what was an aggrieved Muslim in the Anatolian boondocks to do about it? Stew in his own juices. But now, those same people could flood into the streets, having been rapidly mobilized by their neighborhood imams and Erdogan pleading for help on social media.

Second, it should be noted that the economic effects of Anatolian urbanization have worked strongly to the Islamists’ favor. Apart from the direct benefits to people’s pockets that came with the fusion of political Islam and economic liberalization, the construction projects associated with the mass Anatolian relocation to Ionia and Marmara, as well as the industries that sprang up to service their needs (retail, credit, etc.), has created a class of Turkish oligarchs. Moreover, unlike in say Russia, where the oil & gas oligarch class remains somewhat resentful of Putin for circumscribing their power after the 1990s free-for-all when not expropriating their ill-gotten gains outright, the Turkish oligarchs created in the 1990s generally have more reasons to remain loyal to the regime:

The names of those allegedly involved reads like a Who’s Who of Turkey’s ­government-linked oligarchy, whose firms have profited in recent years from the more than $100bn-worth of public contracts awarded by the AKP. Nepotism in the awarding of tenders has long been one of the most visible signs of corruption in Turkey, and in the AKP’s years a coterie of construction firms has risen up around it.

A hostile oligarch class combined with an independent military makes for a highly unstable polity and has been the traditional bane of populist governments in Latin America. Erdogan, however, has successfully coopted the oligarch class through the same mechanisms that won him the support of a critical mass of people in Turkey’s twin capitals.

IV

It is now increasingly evident that a political transformation of cardinal proportions is taking place in Turkey. As of the time of writing, around 30 governors, 100 generals, 2,700 judges, 3,000 soldiers, and 8,000 police have been dismissed or arrested – in short, something like a third of Turkey’s high-level apparat has been purged. Although there remain good grounds to continue to doubt that the coup was “planned” by Erdogan, it’s pretty clear that the Black Book was written long beforehand for just such an occasion.

If Erdogan now uses the opportunity to take Turkey in a much more Islamist direction what do the demographic trends indicate about his chances of longterm success?

First off, it was not that the incidence of religiosity has increased in Turkey. In fact, DESPITE the much higher fertility rates of the Islamists, and more than a decade’s worth of active Islamization, religiosity in Turkey has only modestly increased during the 2000s and actually seems to have started falling again by the time of the fifth WVS (see above). This is quite stunning in that it implies that the global secular trend towards secularism (LOL) is incredibly strong, in that even in Turkey it has succeeded in holding its own against very powerful demographic and propaganda countercurrents. Even if Turkey went so far as to delink itself from the Council of Europe and NATO, it’s not clear why these secularizing forces should stop acting on it.

Second, there is the Kurdish factor. Although the oft made case for similarities between Putin and Erdogan have tended to be overstated, there is one sphere in which I think where the comparison is legitimate: Ethnic policy. Both are “manynationals” who are using ideology to try to glue their country together – Islam is basically the Turkish version of Russia’s WW2 Victory cult with a small dose of “spiritual buckles” like the anti-LGBT law. But if anything Turkey’s problems are more acute. Russia’s only truly “problematic” region in that it combines an aggrieved ethnicity with a high total fertility rate – which at 2.9 children per woman is not even that high – is Chechnya, which only has 1% of Russia’s population. In contrast, Kurdish Turkestan has more than 10% of the Turkish population and almost all of its provinces have a fertility rate of greater than 3 children per woman. Will an even more rigorous Islamization campaign keep them within Turkey or will the gravitational attraction of the incipient Rojava state prove to be unavoidable?

On that particular front, there are few grounds for optimism. It is above all Erdogan’s own foreign policy that enabled the rise of Rojava and it is too late to put the lid on it; certainly it is beyond the capabilities of the SAA itself, which has enough problems dealing with Al Nusra and Islamic State to say nothing of an SDF that is now supported by US airpower. And Turkey’s own military capabilities have, at least in the short-term, been sharply curtailed by Erdogan own purge of as many high-ranking officers (percentage wise) within a couple of days as Stalin only managed to do over the course of a year.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Color Revolution, Demographics, Turkey 
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Three hours after this story began to break it’s increasingly clear that we are seeing the biggest Happening of 2016 to date, far overshading the Nice terrorist attacks yesterday. As Lenin purportedly said, “Sometimes decades pass and nothing happens; and then sometimes weeks pass and decades happen.”

The initial regime response was to blame the Gulenists, but it is clear now that it is in fact a Kemalist faction within the military (their branding of themselves as a “peace at home council” is a direct allusion to Kemal’s foreign policy). A key question going forwards is to what extent the military is united against Erdogan, or whether it is just the officer ranks taking the lead (in which case rumors of Erdogan’s demise might be “highly exaggerated”). That the head of the General Staff, instead of making statements as the coup leader, has instead been detained, suggests that the second interpretation is closer to the mark. However, it’s well known that Erdogan had replaced the upper ranks of the General Staff with his own loyalists. The question then becomes to what extent the changes percolated down the ranks.

It appears they haven’t – not enough, at any rate, to avert the seventh Turkish military coup since 1913. Ankara and Istanbul are apparently under military control, as are most of the airports and state TV channels. The military has surrounded government buildings across Turkey, including the Parliament and the Presidential Palace, in what currently appears to be an extremely well-executed coup that could not have been carried out if the military had truly been significantly divided. The F-16s seen in the air indicates that the Air Force supports the Army. Erdogan has been reduced to calling on social media for people to go out into the streets, even though the AKP ruling party itself had ironically repeatedly banned both social media and street protests in the past. Even as he calls for this supporters to go out into the streets, latest rumors have Erdogan asking for asylum in Berlin and/or London (there are jokes on Runet that he could soon be the ProFFesor’s new neighbor in Rostov).

The next key question, then, is what will be the response of the other actors in Turkish society and abroad: The people, military units stationed outside Istanbul/Ankara, the Kurds, and the “international community” (aka the US and its allies).

Despite the well publicized problems of its tourist sector, as the Russians boycotted Turkish beaches after the Su-24 shootdown and Europeans increasingly stayed away out of terrorism fears, the wider Turkish economy has not been doing at all badly – growth was 4% in 2015, rising to 4.8% in Q1 2016. In contrast, the last coup in 1980 had been preceeded by one of the worst crises in Turkish economic history, featuring a multi-year recession and triple digit inflation. Erdogan’s approval rating in 2015, at 39%, was still quite respectable, even if significantly down from 62% in 2013. It was also higher than Yanukovych’s 28% approval rating on the eve of Euromaidan. It is reasonable to expect a large level of popular opposition to his ouster, though given the overt violence and military curfews, we might not see the sort of mass marches in support of Erdogan that helped return Charles de Gaulle to power after the insurrections of 1968 (who had in the meantime fled to a French military base in Germany in a curious parallel to Erdogan’s rumored asylum request).

Although a low-intensity civil war against the PKK has reignited under Erdogan, so far as official politics are concerned, the Kurds remain supportive of Erdogan – who at least stresses a more inclusive Islamic “many-national” identity for Turkish citizens (much like official Putinism with regards to Russian minorities) as opposed to the more overtly Turkish civic nationalist Kemalists who oppose him.

Finally, Turkey is a member of NATO, and friends look out for each other. Obama has already stated that all parties in Turkey should “support the democratically elected government of Turkey,” a sentiment that was conspicuously lacking during Euromaidan, even though Yanykovych was just as democratically elected as Erdogan and not any more corrupt, but unlike the Turkish strongman imprisoned zero journalists to Erdogan’s dozens, wasn’t anywhere near as violent at breaking up protests, and hasn’t had family members implicated in buying oil from ISIS. But US double standards on which regimes deserve color revolutions and which do not is hardly breaking news but a long well known and banal reality. And it matters as well. In the event that the coup does end up succeeding, with Turkey’s financial indicators cliff-diving, the position of the military junta will be precaurious and isolated, which might well lead it to strongly reaffirm its loyalty to its Western allies and supranational institutions.

Which probably means that, understandable as it might for Russia to celebrate, doing so might well be a premature. The obvious reason is that the success of the coup is not yet a done deal (indeed, even as I write this, momentum seems to have shifted again as compared with several paragraphs previously).

But another reason is that a Kemalist military junta will not necessarily be any better for Russia (and Syria) than Erdogan, and quite possibly, worse.

Up until the Syrian Civil War, there was a lot of BRICS/”Rise of the Rest”-style triumphalist fanfare over strengthening ties between Turkey and Russia, expressed in Russian tourism to the beaches of Antalya, burgeoning gas projects, and nuclear power plant construction. These sentiments completely reversed after the Turks shot down a Su-24 for crossing into its borders for a few seconds. In recent weeks, however, it appears the Turkish and Russian leadership agreed to bury their differences, with Erdogan sending his apology(-but-not-really) letter to Putin, and Russia lifting the ban on charter holidays to Turkey. And as if on cue, Kremlin propagandists have gone from “remove kebab” mode to hailing yet another victory of Putin and waxing lyrical about the prospects for renewed cooperation.

Observed on a longer timescale, relations between Putin’s Russia and Erdogan’s Turkey have been characterized by pragmatism – or at least as near can be considering the absurdly large scope for geopolitical hostility between them, regardless of which particular faction rules either country.

Consider the following contested spheres of influence:

Central Asia: Especially Azerbaijan, which is closely related to Turkey, while Russia backs Turkey’s bugbear Armenia along with Iran; as well as the Turkic peoples of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, where Turkey is also interested in extending its influence. Clashes here can be expected to accentuate when Russian Eurasianism and/or Turkish Pan-Turanism strengthens.

The Balkans: Turkey is historically a sponsor of its Muslim coreligionists there, while Russia is a historical sponsor of the Orthodox, especially Serbia. The situation there is now fairly calm there, but this might not last whenever the Balkans enters one of its periodic flareups of instability, especially if Russian Pan-Slavism and/or Turkish Islamism becomes more influential.

Crimea: Turkey is a historical sponsor of the Crimean Tatars, who have a divided (if not hostile) relation to Russia. The Ukraine has warmed up greatly to Erdogan’s Turkey, especially after the Su-24 incident (to be expected of a country whose politicians call on ISIS to behead Russian airmen). Not an issue while Russia remains strong, but liable to be a subject of Turkish demands or even claims should Russia’s position weaken, e.g. if Putin is replaced by pro-Western liberals.

Syria: The most recent focal point, as Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman and Russia’s “warm water ports”-national focus both spiked at the same time. There is also a nationalist and Turanist element in this for Turkey; the guy who shot the Russian fighter pilot as he was parachuting down was not an Islamist, but a “Gray Wolf” nationalist and the son of a nationalist MHP politician.

Note that the MHP itself is intimately connected with NATO, Operation Gladio, and the Turkish “deep state” that Erdogan has repressed, but none of which can be at all described as friends of Russia (except perhaps a few marginal Duginist Eurasians). Indeed, it is rather curious that this “Khaki Revolution” has come at the precise time when we are seeing a sort of “Erdosliv,” or the apparent surrender on Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman and Turanian pretensions in Syria (Turkish equivalent of Putinsliv, the much prophesied but as yet unrealized Russian betrayal of the LDNR), which took the form of the restoration of ties with Russia, followed by making up with Israel and amazingly, Syria itself in recent days.

Now if Erdogan was to be now replaced by a military junta, as per above, the new regime will find itself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Not much is known about the motivations of the coup plotters, but let us play a thought experiment. An easy way of (re)gaining favor with the West, as well as appease hostile sentiment within Turkey itself, would be to – ironically – reverse that very same Erdosliv, bearing in mind that the State Department hawks themselves have been in no rush to normalize relations with Assad. In the short term, this might involve reopening munitions supplies to the rebels in Aleppo and Idlib, making the planned SAA offensive against them untenable. Once Hillary Clinton and her R2P/humanitarian bombing clique comes to power, comes to power, even more daring – and perhaps outright apocalyptic – provocations might ensue against Russian forces in Syria.

Or maybe – even probably – not.

Even so, this particular conjunction in Turkish foreign policy developments and the coup against Erdogan is probably not a complete coincidence. And while it is tempting to celebrate unreservedly the troubles of a man who has become close to universally disliked outside Turkey – his human rights abuses amongst liberals, his support of ISIS amongst conservatives, the downing of the Su-24 amongst Russians, his support for Islamists amongst Syrians – it is worth looking closely at what the alternatives to him would entail.

Ultimately, there is a reason that the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire fought a war pretty much every other decade. Exchanging Sultans and Tsars for Presidents is probably not going to alter the underlying geopolitical faultlines.

Now to be sure, Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman stance after Erdogan gave up on FM Ahmet Davutoglu’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy until a month ago did lead to competition with Russia along many fronts. But if Turkey was to change in a more Eurasian direction, unlikely as the prospect might be, tensions might diminish over the Balkans (more centered around religion) but might instead intensify over Azerbaijan and Central Asia (more centered around ethno-cultural identity). And if Turkey were to become more explicitly tied to Washington and NATO, especially under a Clinton Presidency, then that might be the worse outcome of them all for Russia, for Syria, and for world peace.

After all, even a hostile but independent Turkey can be feasibly played off against a hostile West, whereas a “nationalist” Turkey in thrall to the neocon globalist agenda might end up turning out to be but a copy, if a more powerful one, of Maidanist Ukraine to the north.

EDIT +6 HOURS AFTER COUP BEGAN

It does increasingly look like the coup has failed. The critical moment appears to have been the failure to arrest Erdogan and other senior members of the government from the outset (though since many of the coup plotters were officers, not generals, they presumably just didn’t have the necessary high level access… they did apparently bomb his hotel, but by that time, he had already left). And, as I suspected, Erdogan’s not insubstantial popularity played its role as well, with crowds coming out to protect him with their bodies and the conscripts doing the gruntwork of the coup being unwilling to get too bloody.

I suspect that Erdogan will now simply be too consumed with domestic factors to pay much heed to foreign policy in the months ahead. This is probably good.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Color Revolution, Geopolitics, Turkey 
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In recent days, some Armenians have been up in arms over increases in electricity tariffs by the evil Russian-owned electricity monopoly that will bring them up to… well, a level slightly higher than in Russia and about 2-3x lower than in most EU countries (don’t you love comparative context?). Discourse in both Russia and the West has now shifted to the familiar template of color revolution. Cookie girl Victoria Nuland was in Armenia last February in a closed meeting with NGOs, which is never a good sign, and the Maidanist Ukrainian elites are salivating over the prospect of a color revolution in Yerevan, with Interior Minister (and ethnic Armenian) Arsen Avakov going so far as to express his support for the “Electromaidan” couched in a bizarre anecdote about his adventures with a thermos in (Ukraine’s) Euromaidan.

Does this presage the overthrow of Russia’s colonial “puppet” in Armenia and its inevitable transition to the promised land of freedom, prosperity, and end-of-history that all such revolutions inevitably entail? At first, one might have cause to be skeptical. The numbers of protesters has been few so far: No more than 1% of Yerevan’s one million strong population. And while they do include the usual young pro-Western and anti-Russian types, there’s also plenty of older leftists and apoliticals, so for the most part it could be said to be a domestic political affair with no particular connection to questions such as Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union or its hosting of a Russian military base in Gyumri. In opinion polls, Armenians are highly positive towards Russia. On the other hand, pretty much of all of this could also have been said of Ukraine’s Euromaidan before November 2013.

There is however one very critical difference between Ukraine and Armenia and it is summarized in the following chart (figures are from SIPRI):

armenia-azerbaijan-military-spending

Azerbaijan does not much like Armenia. The two fought a war in the early 1990s soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was officially Azeri but populated by Armenians (thanks to Georgia’s Stalin). Occupying favorable defensive positions and enjoying high morale and funds from the diaspora, the Armenians got by far the better of the exchange, and Nagorno-Karabakh has since been de facto theirs, albeit that is hotly disputed by the Azeris and unrecognized by the world community. Azerbaijan is fully committed to revanche, and relations between the two countries are poisonous to an almost slapstick degree. This is mostly amply demonstrated by the case of an Azeri military officer who murdered an Armenian counterpart while on a NATO exchange program in Hungary. Upon being sent back to Azerbaijan to serve the rest of his life sentence, he was immediately set free by Presidential decree, named a national hero, and given a free flat. Azerbaijan is backed to the hilt by Turkey, but is constrained by uncertainty over Russia’s possible response to overt aggression.

The two countries maintained a rough parity in military spending until the mid-2000s, with Armenia also benefitting from below market cost Russian weapon supplies. Since then, however, Azerbaijan has surged massively ahead, and its oil-fueled military spending is now higher than Armenia’s entire state budget. It now enjoys an approximately threefold preponderance in air and armor, and its equipment is on average more modern. Once relatively isolated, Azerbaijan now enjoys good relations with Turkey, Israel, the US (especially its neocon/corporatist nexus), and even Russia. A new war between them – absent Russian support – will almost certainly no longer be a repeat of the early 1990s when the Azeris suffered debacle after military debacle.

As a result, any even minimally sane Armenian administration will take great pains not to alienate Russia, even if they should come to power as a result of a color revolution. For a country surrounded by two avowed enemies (Azerbaijan and Turkey), a neutral (Georgia), and one lukewarm friend (Iran), alienating Russia would be so phenomenally stupid and counterproductive that it would be functionally close to treason. The discomfiting thing, though, is that said stupidity and chiliastic fanaticism is a feature of all Maidan-like movements in Eurasia. If the Washington Obkom commands them to sacrifice their national interests just to spite and undercut Russia, they will generally do so with pleasure – as happened in Saakashvili’s Georgia and (twice) in Maidanist Ukraine – since if worst comes to worst ,they can always retire to a comfortable position at Columbia University, while it is the ordinary people who are left to pick up the pieces.

 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.


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