Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Power Vertical

Putin Wants To Party Like It's 1815

Vladimir Putin is a holy alliance of one.
Vladimir Putin is a holy alliance of one.
By Brian Whitmore

You just knew it was going to happen. There was no way it couldn't.

It was just a matter of time before a senior Russian official openly accused the United States of orchestrating a coup in Armenia, where thousands of demonstrators are protesting electricity price hikes.

And as if on cue, lawmaker Igor Morozov, a member of the Federation Council's International Relations Committee, delivered the goods

"The U.S. Embassy in Armenia is actively involved in the current events in Yerevan," Morozov told RIA Novosti on June 24. 

"Armenia is on the brink of an armed putsch. This will happen if President Serzh Sarkisian has not learned the lessons from the Ukrainian Maidan and drawn the correct conclusions."

Morozov didn't offer any evidence. But, then again, he didn't have to.

Senior Russian officials just know that any uprising anywhere against a Moscow ally in the former Soviet space -- or even beyond -- is orchestrated in Washington. It doesn't matter if it's Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, or Armenia.

Call it "fear of orange" or call it "the taming of the rose." But by whatever name, the Kremlin's colored-revolution phobia may be paranoid, but it is very real -- and has been dialed up to 11.

"Western politicians imagine the Kremlin’s anxiety about color revolutions is rhetorical, not real. But Mr. Putin and his colleagues believe what they say: that street protests are stage-managed by Russia’s bitterest enemies," political analyst Ivan Krastev, head of the Sofia-based Center for Liberal Studies, wrote recently in the Financial Times

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has even commissioned "a study on the phenomenon of color revolutions and the military’s role in their prevention."  The general staff began working on the research this week.

General MIkhail Smyslov, head of army personnel, called the colored-revolution threat "real and long-term," adding that the military needed to "understand how to counter it." 

Think of it as Moscow's policy of containment -- of democracy.

In a recent commentary, Christopher Walker, executive director of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, wrote that Putin's Russia has turned George Kennan's ideas about containing communism on their head by "seeking to contain the spread of democracy rather than the growth of totalitarianism."

"Having come to the conclusion that their regime security is under perpetual threat in the era of globalization, they have decided to go after democracy before it comes after them," Walker wrote.

And this has historical precedent. You just need to go back to the early 19th century to find it.

The Kremlin's antirevolutionary fervor is reminiscent of the Holy Alliance, the partnership among the monarchies of Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Prussia in the aftermath of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. 

And why not? Vladimir Putin has long expressed admiration for Tsar Alexander I, who founded the alliance, and Nicholas I, who continued it.

And now the Kremlin leader wants to party like it's 1815. 

Then, as now, Russia was concerned with containing popular revolutions and republicanism. The alliance helped suppress antimonarchist uprisings in Naples and Piedmont in 1821 and in Spain in 1822. It also managed to roll back the revolutions of 1848 across Europe.

Then, as now, Moscow was seeking to uphold "traditional values" amid a rising tide of secularism. The Holy Alliance's stated purpose was to protect the divine right of kings and instill Christian values in Europe.

But then -- in stark contrast to today -- Russia's aims were largely shared by other European rulers and it had the backing of two of the continent's strongest powers in its antirevolutionary crusade.

Today the Kremlin is moving sharply against Europe's mainstream and has to settle for support from fringe politicians like France's Marine Le Pen and rogue leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

By the mid-to-late 19th century, the Holy Alliance was clearly a lost cause. But it's a cause Moscow is still clinging to more than a century later.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Ian Hague from: New York, NY
June 24, 2015 16:50
Hey Brian.

Its Marine Le Pen. Not "Marie".

Otherwise you are spot on.

In Response

by: Editors
June 24, 2015 17:00
Oops! Thanks, fixed.
In Response

by: Brian Whitmore from: Prague
June 25, 2015 07:11
Thanks Ian! That'll teach me to proofread more carefully :-)

by: Europe
June 24, 2015 18:17
All nations are nationalistic per definition. All nations that own their own currency and who can finance social programs through the printing press are socialists. That covers most nations in the world.

Europe is the exeption. European nations that joined the EU gave away their national power to the European Union. European nations that joined the Eurozone gave away their financial power as well.

The Euro introduced capitalism to Europe. While rich nations still can afford social programs, the weak nations get crushed. A European prime minister (who favors the Euro) called the Euro a Darwinistic currency.
In Response

by: Giorgio, Canada from: Toronto
June 25, 2015 19:17
1) A simplistic and harsh assessment. Nationalism is not a trait of all nations if by nationalism you understand a willingness to trample others. 2) Few nations in Europe are crushed - the word means being passive victims of the crusher. Rather, those in trouble used the credit card too much while being on unemployment benefits. Being stupid is not being crushed by others - words have meaning.
In Response

by: Europe
June 25, 2015 22:42
There are of course degrees in Nationalism, but in princip: a nation state is based on Nationalism.

The poorer nations are hoping against hope that they will survive the hard competion with richer nations, and will go bankrupt if they are stupid enough to try to finance social wellfare with the credit card.

The point I was trying to make is that Europe has changed. Europe is today a "Capitalist" continent in a world dominated by "National-Socialist" states (if you allow me to take the point to the extreme).

by: Mike Hunt from: North America
June 24, 2015 22:02
Say my name real fast!

When would you predict Herr Putin and his capo's to begin wearing aluminum pots on their heads to prevent American inspired mind control?

How is Herr Putin's granddaughter Alina these days?

by: Jack Kastel from: Meghri, Armenia
June 25, 2015 00:39
Eu wants to party like it's 1789.
In Response

by: Brian Whitmore from: Prague
June 25, 2015 17:01
That might be the cleverest troll comment I've ever received. Congratulations! You're smarter than the average troll!

by: Clint from: Doha
June 25, 2015 04:42
Was not Alexander I against the Carlsbad Decrees?

by: Sasha from: Indiana, USA
June 25, 2015 15:05
Chilling insinuation of "CORRECT conclusions" from federation official by the said name... pan intended.

by: Petr from: UK
June 25, 2015 16:20
For goodness sake, if you are leading an informational contest as you did throughout the whole cold war, be efficient. Start running a TV news channel in Russian broadcast to Russia by internet and satellite.

This is no longer the 1980's, the relevant medium for Russia is not the radio, it's the TV. And for sure, let BBC do it. They are less Russophobic.
In Response

by: Giorgio, Canada from: Toronto
June 25, 2015 19:21
Being Russo-critic is not Russo-phobic. An essential difference as being critical is necessary but phobic is a sign of sickness.
In Response

by: Brian Whitmore from: Prague
June 26, 2015 12:14
Dear Petr from UK, I suggest you check your facts before commenting in the future. It's a wise practice that protects you from looking foolish. Meanwhile, check out this link:
In Response

by: Petr Sidlo from: UK
June 27, 2015 10:37
Hi Brian and thanks for your comment.

Current Times is a good beginning but 30 minutes on internet is not enough. Similarly BBC's snippets.

RFE/RL was from the very beginning meant as a full-scale surrogate radio station and so should there be also a full-scale surrogate Russian TV news station. Mr. Putin managed to eliminate all easily accessible informational content in Russia (in particular terrestrially distributed TV and radio stations, in case of TV perhaps the most influential source on information nowadays).

It would be much more expensive than RL but it's also much cheaper and helpful for everybody to spend tens of millions of USD yearly on a full-scale Russian TV news station than increasing military budgets for defense against misinformed and manipulated Russians.

Also, although I read it's being prepared, it is vital that the TV is broadcast not just on the net but also via a satellite link, like RL is. There are some 25 percent households in Russia owning a satellite connection and by its nature it will probably be households outside towns which are less likely to have internet. These household will also be more likely in support of Mr. Putin so addressing them could have more impact than addressing town people used to watch youtube. Secondly, older people are not used to watch TV online on a computer so a more classical satellite link to an ordinary TV set will be more digestible for them.

As for my BBC remark, well, it is my opinion that until Ukraine admits that Donbass or Crimea inhabitants are equal to western Ukrainians and therefore have the same right of self-determination as western Ukrainians (and so do the Russians in the Baltic states, but that's another Pandora's box. Similarly, German and Hungarian minorities in your host state, former Czechoslovakia but that's past now.), there will be a conflict. It in no way justifies annexation or support of a civil war but someone has to be the first to start behaving rationally if it's not Russia. It has nothing to do with Russian behaviour to its own minorities or Mr Putin's manipulation of Russians. It has more to do with the people on the spot in Donbass and Crimea and their wishes. For the same purpose the said TV station should address Ukrainians as well as Russians. And BBC was, in my opinion, more able to reflect this opinion than other media I have access to.

Best regards and thanks for Power Vertical, it's very good.


by: Sean Durns
June 26, 2015 15:47
Phenomenal post and spot on. Love this site - keep up the great work

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or