In today’s “they’re back” news, Russia was kicked out of the G8 today, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has been trying to rehabilitate the image of former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
Stalin killed, by conservative estimates, four to ten million Russians during his tenure (some estimates go as high as 60 million killed).
First the G8, I mean G7
The G7 is an organization representing the world’s most industrialized nations. It includes the US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and Italy – and added Russia in 1998, to become the G8.
Today that changed, and they’re back to the G7, with Russia kicked out for its invasion and annexation of Ukrainian Crimea.
Per a larger declaration from a meeting of those leaders today in the Hague:
This Group came together because of shared beliefs and shared responsibilities. Russia’s actions in recent weeks are not consistent with them. Under these circumstances, we will not participate in the planned Sochi Summit. We will suspend our participation in the G-8 until Russia changes course and the environment comes back to where the G-8 is able to have a meaningful discussion and will meet again in G-7 format at the same time as planned, in June 2014, in Brussels, to discuss the broad agenda we have together. We have also advised our Foreign Ministers not to attend the April meeting in Moscow. In addition, we have decided that G-7 Energy Ministers will meet to discuss ways to strengthen our collective energy security.
While it may be only symbolic, it is at least strongly symbolic. Russia had been wanting for a while to be accepted into the big-boys’ club of world leaders, including membership in the G8. So while his expulsion from the group won’t get Putin out of Crimea, it does exact a real cost on Russia’s overall aspirations to be viewed as a world power, rather than a sclerotic pariah.
Julia Ioffe at the New Republic has an interesting take on this, and what’s going on with Russia overall of late:
And there’s the rub: For the entirety of his 14-year reign, Vladimir Putin has wanted to have it both ways. To be part of the West, but not of the West. To sit at the big boys’ table and be considered a big boy player himself, but to be able, at any point, to opt out of their ultimately foreign rules. To claim cultural, historical, economic, and geopolitical kinship with the West while simultaneously claiming utter non-Western uniqueness.
Speaking of sclerotic pariahs… Stalin, huh?
Reuters reports that Putin has intentionally manipulated Stalin’s image to support his larger goal of centralizing power in Russia under his tutelage. While Putin’s cronies admit that Stalin did a few bad things – like the mass murder of millions – he also had his admirable traits.
But Lev Gudkov, director of independent Levada Center polling group, said the biggest shift occurred after Putin came to power in 2000 and “launched a comprehensive program to ideologically reeducate society”.
“Putin’s spin doctors did not deny that Stalin’s regime had conducted mass arrests and executions but tried to minimize these events … while emphasizing as far as possible the merits of Stalin as a military commander and statesman who had modernized the country and turned it into one of the world’s two superpowers,” Gudkov wrote.
Could be worse. Could be Hitler. Oh, right…
Then again, why should anyone be surprised that Russian leaders are now embracing one of history’s greatest mass-murderers?
Russia lost between 18 and 24 million people to the Nazis during World War II. But that hasn’t stopped President Putin from letting neo-Nazi gangs organize nationwide for going on two years now.
Since the Nazis gangs are kidnappings gays, Jews and blacks, the Russian authorities aren’t terrible concerned about them — since the Kremlin doesn’t particularly like those groups either. So Putin lets the neo-Nazis continue their abductions, unfettered, while Russian social media networks controlled by Putin’s cronies let the neo-Nazis use their sites to organize their crimes against gays, Jews and blacks, among other undesirable minorities.
The network in question, VKontakte (aka VK.com) — controlled by Putin ally, and richest man in Russia, Alisher Usmanov – let’s neo-Nazis use its service to organize kidnappings. VK is an affiliate of Russian cell carrier MegaFon and Internet company Mail.ru — all of which are controlled by Usmanov.
The state and city of New York hold investments in MegaFon, and have to date refused requests to divest from the Putin-allied hate site affiliates.