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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
June 26, 2016

Publication: Windows on Eurasia
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Illarionov on ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’ as a Way of Avoiding It
Staunton, VA, June 26, 2016 - Most of the time people think that tomorrow will be much like today, a reasonable assumption much of the time but one that blinds them to radical changes that do in fact happen. Thus, as Andrey Illarionov points out, experts sometimes engage in “brainstorming sessions” in which they engage in “thinking about the unthinkable.”

Such efforts are especially common when something previously “unthinkable” already has, in this case the British vote for leaving the European Union; and they may be particularly useful by calling attention to underlying trends that have been ignored or neglected and prompting actions to prevent the “unthinkable” from becoming the inevitable.

In the wake of the Brexit vote, the Russian economist says, it is thus important “to continue to reflect about what may be possible tomorrow that even a short time ago seemed almost or completely unreal.” To that end, he offers a series of possible future developments that many will dismiss as “unreal."

Before doing so, Illarionov offers the following “four disclaimers.” He doesn’t dispute the right of the British people to vote as they see fit. He isn’t too worried about the common future of England and Wales. His ideas about the future have no precise timetable. And what he is offering, he specifies, is “not a prediction but rather an irresponsible presentation of an unreal variant of one of the impossible scenarios of the fantastic development of a completely unthinkable and absolutely unpredictable future.”

Illarionov’s “impossible scenario” contains the following elements:

· Britain leaves the EU and Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibralter leave Great Britain in order to join the EU as “new independent states.”

· Scotland declares itself “a nuclear free zone” and talks begin on dividing up the military assets of Great Britain between the new states and Britain, which now includes “only England and Wales.”

· United Russia wins the parliamentary elections, and Sergey Ivanov becomes prime minister, with Dmitry Medvedev taking Ivanov’s old job as head of the Presidential Administration.

· Donald Trump wins the presidential elections in the US and declares that the US is pulling back from its international commitments and expects its allies to pay for their own defense.

· The Netherlands votes to leave the EU. Catalonia votes to leave Spain and join the EU. Belgium dissolves into two new states, Flanders and Wallonia, with the formation of “a common European District of Brussels.”

· The “’renewed European Union’” as a result includes 31 states and one special district – the current 28 minus Great Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium “plus Scotland, Northern Ireland, Gibralter, Flanders, Wallonia, Catalonia, and the District of Brussels.”

· “The external border of the renewed European Union begins to recall the borders of the territory controlled by the forces of the Anti-Comintern Pact as of November 25, 1941” except for those on the frontline in the USSR. “Evil tongues in London papers begin to call the renewed European Union ‘the Fourth Reich.’”

· Washington ends its participation in NATO and brings home its forces from around the world, given that it is focusing on “the construction of a Great Wall between the US and Mexico and the problems of financing it out of the Mexican budget.”

· President Trump meets his Russian counterpart Putin in Minsk and agree to Minsk-3, in which the US says it will end assistance to Ukraine and calls on Ukraine and Russia to resolve their differences.

· Trump agrees to a Russian plan for the resolution of the Syrian conflict.

· Germany elects a new chancellor, Zigmar Gabriel, who becomes “the informal leader of the renewed European Union.”

· The EU and the US lift sanctions on Russia.

· In Austria, the Freedom Party wins and declares that “Austrians are one of the inalienable parts of the German people.” Given the absence of Britain in the EU, the paralysis of NATO, and the disinterest of the US, “the process of uniting Germany and Austria into a single federal state” begins.

· “Anglo-Saxon influence in Europe weakens,” and “old” Europe is no longer that interested in what its “new” members in the east want, preferring instead to make deals with Russia.

· Vladimir Putin wins re-election as president with 56 percent of the vote. “Foreign observers note that the elections took place without significant violations and therefore can be recognized as confirmation of progress” toward democracy.

· The budgetary balance shifts from the members of the EU to the EU itself, and German and French replace English as the working language of EU institutions.

· The German leader of “the renewed EU” and the Russian leader of “renewed Russia” agree to a strategic partnership on the basis of “the noble traditions of preceding agreements achieved at one time in Yalta and Potsdam.”

· Not only do these leaders commit to recognizing German-Austrian unification, but they recognize “the inalienable right of the peoples of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Transdniestria, Abkhazia, South Osetia, the LDNR, the Narva Peoples Republic, the Latgale Peoples Republic, and the Peoples Republic of Semireche” to unite for “the flourishing of their peoples.”

· At a press conference after these accords are reached, the leaders of Europe and Russia “with regret note that the Anglo-Saxon countries of Britain and the US … by their own actions have excluded themselves from participation in Eurasian affairs.”
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Putin Using Western Values to Destroy Those Values and the West, Moscow Analyst Says
Staunton, VA, June 26, 2016 - Moscow commentator Andrey Malgin delivers a warning that no one should ignore:  Vladimir Putin, he argues, “will use Western values like direct democracy (referenda), freedom of speech and assembly and all the rest for the destruction of the West and these things which are its values."

The Kremlin leader understands perfectly well, he says, that he will not be able to defeat the West by economic or military means and thus must choose an indirect approach, one that judo-style exploits the West’s strengths against it. Putin will thus promote populist anger in Western countries with the goal of “converting any vote into a protest.”
There can be “no doubts,” Malgin says, “that Putin’s agents will now push for referenda wherever possible” and on whatever subject, left, right or center, with the goal of achieving the most “destructive” outcome possible. And to that end, he will step up his propaganda directed at Western countries.

Anyone who objects as some have and more will, he continues, Moscow will challenge with the question “Are you against freedom of speech, respected ‘partners’?” To be sure, Russia Today is “not taken seriously” by many. But it is useful for Putin because of the impact it has on Western journalists who cite it in the name of balance, the current standard of objectivity, and thus spread “Lubyanka fakes” to their audiences.

Sometimes, of course, this will be exposed; but the work is “so total that individual failures will not be able to have an essential impact on the results” the Kremlin seeks, Malgin says, adding ominously that this is the way “the third world war” is being fought, even if one side refuses to acknowledge that fact.

Kirill Martynov, the political editor of Moscow’s Novaya Gazeta, offers an explanation for why Putin is being so successful in this effort because he appears to understand something that many in the West do not: the way in which the Internet revolution has spread contempt for all elites and expert opinion.

In recent years, he says, “there have been many arguments about what changes the Internet promises us,” especially in the wake of the impact of Twitter on the Arab Spring and the supposedly “liberating potential of new media.” But, he continues, “only now are we beginning to understand how these changes work in fact.”

“It is possible that the main thing that the Internet teaches people is distrust in their own elites,” he argues, noting that “it is difficult to imagine the Trump phenomenon of the ‘incorrect’ voting on Brexit in an era of television” alone. But the Internet in both cases has done its destructive work.

“Now in the new media, we see experts much closer up and in more detail than ever before,” Martynov says. “We observe representatives of the establishment as living people who make mistakes, say stupid things and are laughable.” As a result, “voters in the West no longer want to subordinate themselves to the directives of ‘the empty suits.’”

And that in turn means, he concludes, that “a revision of the social contract in the entire world awaits us.” Such a process will entail many “risks,” including “the collapse of old political alliances and the coming to power of populists.” Those who are banking on this like Putin may thus win particularly if those he wants to defeat do not recognize the challenge.