Thursday, January 18, 2018

Moscow Not Only Undercutting North Korean Sanctions but Also Backing Pyongyang on Nuclear Blackmail, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 18 – US President Donald Trump says that Moscow is not just failing to help the US on North Korea but is undermining the impact of sanctions China among others has agreed to. But the situation is even worse, Kseniya Kirillova says. The Kremlin has sent a clear message that it is ready to continue to support Pyongyang’s nuclear blackmail tactics.

            Various analysts have suggested that Washington would seek Moscow’s assistance on North Korea, the US-based Russian journalist says, but that apparently has not happened. Instead, the US hoped that Russia would go along with the internationally approved sanctions regime (

                And Moscow is angry at being ignored or sidelined from a conflict in which it believed it would be a key player and that it could use as leverage on the United States about other issues, including possibly a softening or even a lifting of sanctions.  Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the US, implied as much in a speech in San Francisco.

            The American decision not to appeal to Moscow was made even more stinging for the Kremlin by Washington’s achievement of an agreement on North Korea with Beijing, Kirillova argues. In support of her argument, she offers a detailed discussion of a new article by Andrey Lankov, perhaps Russia’s most prominent specialist on the Koreas.

            On the portal of the Carnegie Moscow Center, he said that China not Russia has been the one that has made current sanctions ineffective and that any new sanctions would “not in any case correspond to the interests of Russia” ( China too had been against sanctions, Lankov said, but now it is conforming to American demands.

            But it is what the St. Petersburg-based analyst says next that is critical: He describes “an apocalyptic picture” in which sanctions will produce an economic crisis in North Korea but instead of forcing Pyongyang to back down, that will only make it more committed to developing its nuclear and missile programs – and possibly to use the results.

            According to Kirillova, “behind these words is a completely clear message to the West and china: If broad new sanctions toward North Korea are introduced without Moscow’s opinion being taken into account, Russia will use to the maximum degree its influence in Pyongyang to strengthen the Korean efforts at nuclear blackmail.”

            If new sanctions lead to popular risings, Pyongyang won’t back down as it has the Libyan case very much in mind, Kirillova says. Instead, having been pushed into a corner, it “may try to provoke a conflict with the outside world” and if that should prove the case, Lankov’s words suggest, it may strike out even with nuclear weapons at its neighbors.

            But the St. Petersburg analyst warns that even if the sanctions worked as intended and led to the overthrow of the Kim family dictatorship in North Korea, that would not be a good thing but would mark “the beginning of an extremely complex period which would touch not only both Koreas and all neighboring countries.”

            Because of this, Kirillova says, Lankov gives the following specific advice to Russian diplomats at the UN: “seek the softening of resolutions on sanctions and in general do everything that china has been doing over the course of the last decade by including in the text of the resolution the maximum number of loopholes which would allow North Korea more or less freely to trade its non-military production.”

            From what one can tell, Kirillova says, “Russian diplomats have adopted this strategy even without Lankov’s advice.” Donald Trump has recognized part of this Moscow approach, but he has not yet pointed to the even more dangerous aspects of Russian policy on Pyongyang that very well may lie ahead.

Leningrad Blockade Veterans and Their Children have ‘Special Genes’ Russia Needs, New Film Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 18 – Seventy-five years ago today, Soviet forces broke the German blockade around Leningrad. In commemoration of that event, a new film, “Blockade Blood. Genetics” has been shown to selected audiences that makes a truly amazing and disturbing argument.

            As Yuliya Reprintseva of Novaya Gazeta reports, the film says “people who survived the Leiningrad blockade handed down an inheritance of special genes … to their children, among whom the film mentions Vladimir Putin … These genes,” the film adds, “have had a significance influence” on Russia (

            In the course of its 36 minute running time, the film declares that “those who survived the blockade like Daniil Granin, Valentina Maksimova, Artur Chilingarov, alias Freydlikh, Boris Strugatsky, Vikto Konetsky, Ilya Glazynov, Aleksandr Gorodetsky or the children of the victors as well as representatives of the first post-war generation born there – Vladimir Putin, Patriarch Kirill, Sergey Ivanov, Sergey Narushkin, and many others … are all connected by a single manner of behavior, high responsibility for what occurs in the country and the city.”

            “Why,” the film asks, “is such a large segment of the city’s people united in a single psychological-behavioral group?” and suggests that the answer is to be found in their common “roots” connected with the physical and moral tests of their ancestors.”

            Appearing in the film is Oleg Glotov, a biologist at St. Petersburg University.  He says that he and his colleagues have come to the conclusion that “the study of the residents of blockade Leningrad … can help reveal certain mechanisms and answer questions that allowed us to survey and what these mechanisms are” – including genetic ones.

            Glotov has been pushing this genetic approach, one that resembles the notorious Soviet-era pseudo-scholar Trofim Lysenko’s ideas about the heritability of acquired characteristics, something that Soviet ideology welcomed as confirming its own notions but that has been rejected in almost all cases by scholars without an ideological agenda.

            That it is now at the center of a film supported by the Just Russia Party and that it is being used to promote the notion that Vladimir Putin is somehow genetically superior because of the experience of his parents during the blockade is truly disturbing, another unfortunate example of the triumph of ideological requirements over genuine science in Russia today. 

Baltic Countries Must Make Seven Fundamental Changes for Good Relations with Russia, Nosovich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 18 – The Baltic countries say they would like to revive their economic cooperation with Russia while their policies toward Moscow remain unchanged, but Aleksandr Nosovich says that Moscow has no interest in ending its economic blockade unless Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania change themselves in seven fundamental ways.

            Nosovich, notorious in the Baltic countries for his criticism of these states and celebrated by some of the most hardline Russian officials and activists in Moscow for the same reason, provides a list that no Baltic country could accept in toto without putting itself at risk of national suicide (

            It is unlikely that the Kremlin is going to push this entire list, but many of Nosovich’s suggestions are probably very much part of the discussion in the upper reaches of the Russian government.  And they are thus worthy of note in order to better understand what Moscow is really about in this region.

            First of all, Nosovich says, all three Baltic countries must restore and protect the rights of their Russian-speaking populations if they hope to see a return of Russian trade and transit.  The Russian language “must receive official status,” Russian schools must remain untouched, and “the right of children from Russian families to study their native language guaranteed.

            Second, the Lithuanian “blockade” of Kaliningrad must be lifted. Residents of the Russian enclave must be allowed to travel across Lithuania without visas to reach the rest of Russia, and Vilnius must stop all moves to have trade go through its ports rather than through the ones in Kaliningrad.

            Third, the three countries must end what Nosovich calls “anti-Russian hysteria.”  They must not work to “block a visa free regime between Russia and the EU, to maintain ‘black lists’ of Russian citizens, to demand the continuation and broadening of sanctions, to prohibit Russian media … and to oppose the Northern Flow gas pipeline.”

            Fourth, the three must revisit and revise their memberships in the Eastern Partnership.  They must, Nosovich says, end their acceptance of the EU’s understanding of this policy, “according to which the post-Soviet republics are an object of geopolitical competition between the West and Russia and their rapprochement with the EU is needed to weaken Moscow.”

            Like the other countries taking part in the Eastern Partnership, he continues, the Baltic states “must not ignore Russia and the interests of pro-Russian groups of the population in these countries must be considered.”  They must end their “interference in the internal affairs of other countries in the name of ‘spreading democracy.’”

            According to the Russian commentator, “Russia must be recognized as an inalienable part of a United Europe” and the EU must officially acknowledge that.  Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania can’t count on cooperation from Moscow so that they can benefit from the Chinese project of the New Silk Road.”

            Fifth, the Baltic countries must block their historians from politicizing history and using it “as an instrument of struggle with Russia. If the Baltic countries want to do business with Russia, then they must stop calculating ‘losses from the Soviet occupation’ and presenting Moscow with demands for hundreds of billions of euros in compensation.

            Moreover, they must end all efforts to equate communism and Nazism and stop efforts to convene “’a second Nuremburg’” in which Russia would be the defendant “as the legal successor to the USSR.” And the war against Soviet monuments must end and Baltic citizens should cease being told that the Soviet period was “an occupation.” 

            Sixth, there must be an exit from public life of “professional Russophobes.” Moscow will never develop good relations with politicians “who have made their careers on the basis of hatred to Russia and Russians. If the Baltics want economic cooperation, then in their coalitions and governments there must not be national radicals” of any kind.

                And seventh, the three Baltic countries must move to end their membership in NATO and declare their “military-political neutrality.”  According to Nosovich, Russia doesn’t need anything more from them than that, something the Baltic leaders should carefully reflect upon in making decisions about the future.