Letter From the Editors

As the articles in this week’s CDRP went to press, the US presidential race had not yet been called. While the American public was on tenterhooks, Russian experts agreed that Donald Trump and Joe Biden would be equally bad for Russia, because both have to work within the Washington elite, which perceive Russia as an adversary and a threat. The only possible advantage of having Trump in the Oval Office, wrote Anna Arutunyan, is “making Putin look like the adult on the global stage. This is precisely what Russian media at home have been milking for the last four years. . . . What could be better for domestic propaganda than gawking at the dysfunction of your opponent?”

An element of opposition that’s no laughing matter is arms control. In the absence of the INF Treaty, Russia offered its latest proposal to limit intermediate- and shorter-range missiles in Europe. Konstantin Kosachov, chairman of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, acknowledged that the US and NATO might work out some compromise on that front, but speculated that Washington’s real military interests lie in Asia: “Washington will begin to surround China with missiles in earnest, turning a nuclear threat into a form of pressure on the rising competitor.” The senator called for “creating a peace coalition in defense of security and stability” in both Europe and Asia. “Otherwise we will soon wake up in a world teeming with nuclear missiles with five minutes’ flight time to Eurasian capitals.”

Andrei Sinitsyn sees such overtures as just another attempt by the Kremlin to scare the world with threats and then to try to sell its own services as a protector. It uses the same tactics with its own people: “As everybody knows, the Russian administrative market runs on threats.”

As if to prove the point, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev at a Moscow conference this week ran through a litany of menaces to youth, ranging from drug use to protest projects (funded by foreign NGOs, of course) to extremist religious movements – including neo-Paganism, radical Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientology. To combat these threats, Patrushev said that adults should instill positive values in young people: “Love for and devotion to one’s country, creativity and creative endeavors are all things that should underlie the structure of our work with the younger generation of Russian citizens.”Unfortunately, French teacher Samuel Paty’s attempt to instill the value of freedom of expression in his middle school students had a tragic outcome. When word got around that he had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published by Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo, Chechen-born terrorist Abdoullakh Anzorov killed and beheaded him. Russian journalist Oleg Kashin expresses outrage at Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s incendiary reaction to the killing (“He had it coming”). Kashin also calls out the Russian government for not holding Kadyrov accountable in any way for his remarks, including his allegation that French President Emmanuel Macron is “inducing terrorism.”

In a similar vein, Fyodor Krasheninnikov criticizes the Putin administration’s response (or lack thereof) to the Paty incident. Press secretary Dmitry Peskov released an official statement that even seemed to justify the attack: “It is unacceptable to insult believers’ religious feelings, and at the same time it is unacceptable to kill people. Both these things***are absolutely unacceptable.”

The insight that Krasheninnikov draws from the above statement is that Russia is trying to establish solidarity with those who reject Western values: “What the Kremlin wants is to bring together all those who do not like the West for one reason or another.” However, he warns, the radical extremists whom Moscow hesitates to condemn could just as easily turn against Russians as against Westerners. Maybe Kosachov’s proposed “peace coalition” isn’t such a bad idea.