English Pages, 13. 6. 2014
On May 30, 2014, the Czech internet server Echo24 published a story with a title: Why does Klaus repeat Kremlin's lies? Putin's critic wonders. It is an interview with Andrei Illarionov, Russian economist and former close collaborator of Russian president Vladimir Putin, who shortly after falling out of favor with the regime at home, moved to the USA and now shocks the world with anti-Russian propaganda and bizarre media declarations about how Russia now "focuses" on the Baltics and Finland as the next victim after Ukraine.
And because the Czech media seem to consider him an expert in the Czech debate about the Ukrainian crisis, giving him ample space without any critical evaluation of his person or his views, we consider it necessary to respond to the content of this interview.
Many a view, incomprehensible at first sight, can become quite logical when given the proper context of personal history and personal interests. The statements of Andrei Illarionov, former Putin's economic consultant, are a textbook example of such views.
He was a member of Putin's presidential team, implemented Putin's economic policies, preached Putin's propaganda and pursued Putin's political goals. Having parted ways with Putin eventually, he left for the United States, where he became a well sought-after commodity. Following his conflict with Putin, he was willing to say anything against his former employer, while maintaining his trademark of an insider, a man knowledgeable about the inner functioning of the Kremlin and president Putin.
Immediately, Illarionov realized which position will ensure him the necessary popularity and what views will be the most profitable in his new homeland. That is why he does not bother to analyze the context of current developments in Ukraine, for example. His new donors would find it difficult to understand, should he try to explain to them that the situation is not as simple. They will much rather hear the confirmation of their prejudiced and simplified views. And that is exactly what Illarionov gives them.
He understands well that depicting Putin as an new usurper of Europe from Finland to the Baltics is exactly what is expected of him. He, who has earned money being loyal to Putin for years, does not hesitate to compare him to Castro or the North Korean regime.
On the one hand, one can see Illarionov's life story through the eyes of a psychoanalyst as a textbook example of love rejected that pays off eventually, by joining pleasure and profit in one. But such pleasing stance has also its malignant consequences. It contributes to the climate in which decisions of American foreign policy makers take place.
Should we believe that there is no problem, that having overthrown the Yanukovych monster the whole country will march into the paradise of the free world, we will necessarily lose good orientation in the complex Ukraininan crisis.
We would be convinced that all it takes is to put pressure on Russia and the Ukrainian problem will disappear. It will not. It has its roots deep in contemporary Ukraine, the heterogeneous nature of the whole country, the controversial way through which current Ukrainian elites have assumed their power, and the fact that the loyalty of the south and east of the country to the central powers in Kiev is reduced not only for linguistic, historical or political reasons, but also for reasons of economic and social nature.
All that has to be respected as a contemporary given, as the state of Ukrainian reality today. It is the only way to avoid the escalation of conflict and facilitate a stable solution, that could be accepted by the various interest groups involved.
Illarionov is not concerned with any of that. This would not help him to score points with those who want to hear simple answers only. That is why he keeps repeating his theses of external (Russian) causes of the Ukrainian conflict.
After all, probably to prove that the conversion of a former Putin's career expert into an enemy of Putin has been completed, he resorts to personal attacks, hoping it will secure him the necessary popularity with the media and the political mainstream.
He accuses Václav Klaus of preaching Putin's propaganda. He says Klaus repeatedly claimed that Georgia attacked Russia in 2008. How silly! A small country like Georgia with four million inhabitants attacking a nuclear giant with 150 million people according to Klaus!
The problem is Klaus never said anything like that. He only said what many other observers, journalists, diplomats (including the US ambassador there) knew. Namely that big Georgia of four million attacked tiny South Ossetia of eighty thousand. The South Ossetia that had been forcibly incorporated into Georgia by Stalin, Georgia's native son, the southern Ossetia that had never felt like a part of Georgia, seeking independence or unity with North Ossetia ever since the 1990's. It was the Sakashvili regime that has attacked the sleeping civilian housing estate in the southern Ossetian city of Tskhinvali with Grad missiles on the first day of the Olympic Games.
Stating the obvious facts has nothing to do with our position on Russia or its president Putin. It is nothing but an expression of respect to the truth, to the fact that simple propaganda labels will never help understanding of problems.
The Ukrainian issue is similar. Illarionov claims Klaus said that the Ukrainians have provoked Putin into annexing the Crimea. He never said anything resembling such a trivial fairy tale. It is obviously too complicated for Illarionov's grateful listeners to describe the authentic fears and concerns the people of Crimea had about the new Maidan regime, which showed its ideas of strengthening Ukrainian unity elsewhere around the country.
It is not dignified for people to distort facts, attack those with different views and put a false face on reality, out of inferiority complex rooted in their own past, and the yearning to please their new friends. The real problem is, that decisions that will be motivated by cheap claims of people like Illarionov will lead to further suffering in the many crises to come.
Ladislav Jakl, Jiří Weigl, Václav Klaus Institute, 13. 6. 2014
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