from Russia with bias


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How many political prisoners are there in Russia? Around 50. Only a handful of them are genuine pro-democracy activists, while many are suspected jihadists and far-right extremists, who were naturally denied fair trial, just because it is Russia.

Now the number of people arrested in the aftermath of the failed Turkish coup is estimated at around 70 thousand, though some of them have been freed. The clampdown on the alleged “Gülenists” does smack of Stalin’s purges of the “Troskyists” in the 1930s. Most of the prisoners had nothing to do with Trotsky, it’s just that Stalin needed an enemy brand to rally his supporters by inciting fear and hatred.

There is a great irony in the fact that a NATO member and a country that once was just a step away from joining the EU (under the same government) is now more repressive than the much-feared Russia. More than that, the duo is now forging an alliance, as exemplified by the gas pipeline agreement announced today.

Just 20 years ago Russia was also a very different country, with a population naively enthusiastic about integrating with the West and ending the Cold War. But having been shown in every kind of away that it can’t hope for the same treatment as other Eastern bloc countries, it found itself in a cultural and political vacuum that has produced a monster called Vladimir Putin. Now it’s Turkey’s turn to create its own monster.

What unites Turkey and Russia is that they were both denied the possibility of integration in Euro-Atlantic structures not because of their merits or the lack of thereof but because of xenophobia and ancient animosities promoted by nationalists in EU member countries.

There are only two ideas that allow leaders to rally masses of people in most of Europe, especially in the east. One is nationalism, with its appeal to archaic tribal instincts of sticking with the kin and hating neighbours. The other is European integration.

When they come together – magic things happen, like Maidan revolution in Ukraine and velvet revolutions of 1989. When the integration component is missing, an authoritarian form of nationalism takes hold.

That’s because those who genuinely care about liberal democracy are never a majority. Not just in Russia or Turkey, but even in the US, as the current election shows.

There are various ways of stopping Putin’s and Erdogan’s brinkmanship as well as them building a Eurasian political alliance hostile to the EU. But there is only one that will ultimately work, if complemented by other methods, such as sanctions.

It is to appeal to the people and elites in both countries, over the head of their leaders, that they are welcome in the united Europe, provided they implement a set of conditions that include a thorough democratization and – in the case of Russia – withdrawing from Ukraine plus a complete overhaul of all corruption-ridden institutes. Leadership change is also a fair, though not necessarily practical demand.

This plan certainly sounds utopian now that various EU nations are now threatening to degrade into 20th century nation states, surrounded by barbed wire and customs posts. But the wind will change and EU expansion will be back on the table.

Written by fullofbias

October 10, 2016 at 8:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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